The Best Restaurants in Nashville
Nashville is a culinary treasure, known for meat-and-three diners, fiery fried chicken and fluffy biscuits as well as a strong farm-to-table community. Eat like a local with this guide to some of the best places to eat and drink in Music City.
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Hot Chicken: Hattie B’s Hot Chicken
If you’re coming to Nashville to eat, put hot chicken at the top of your list. Made legendary by Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack in North Nashville, the fiery fowl is fried, then basted in a nostril-burning spice mix. Hattie B’s brings the local dish to several neighborhoods in Nashville and beyond in a fast-casual setting where you can order your bird in five different heat levels, from Southern (no spice) to Shut the Cluck Up (not for the faint of heart). They also offer comforting Southern sides, like black-eyed pea salad and pimento mac and cheese, plus a small selection of beers on draft or in the can, which you can enjoy on the spacious, year-round patios at their Midtown, Charlotte Avenue, and 8th Avenue locations.
Breakfast: Biscuit Love
Born of a beloved local food-truck concept, Biscuit Love is the brick-and-mortar extension of chef-owners Karl and Sarah Worley’s passion for biscuit-focused Southern fare. At any of the three locations (the Gulch, Hillsboro Village, or downtown Franklin), order at the counter, choosing from a selection of breakfast and lunch items, like the Lily, which is a biscuit-fied version of French toast, or a Wash Park, a burger between biscuits. John’s Ham Bar offers a selection of regional cured hams served with cracker-like beaten biscuits. Waits can get heavy on the weekends at all of the locations, but there’s a selection of curated local merchandise to browse while you wait.
Hangout: Pinewood Social
Nowhere else in Nashville (or most places, really) can you find a bowling alley, two outdoor pools, a bocce court, roomy booths and a dedicated Airstream trailer bar, not to mention excellent food and a full coffee shop. Pinewood Social is a cool, laid-back all-day-playhouse adults. The space serves New American fare at breakfast, lunch and dinner, with snacks available anytime, and pool-bar options like an excellent lobster roll. The cocktail program is also top-notch: Go for the To Infinity and Beyond, an exotic, tequila-based concoction that’s loaded with fruit juices like lime, grapefruit and guava.
Hot Spot: Folk
Five years after opening the acclaimed pasta-centric Rolf and Daughters, chef Philip Krajeck took a pivot, opening the pizza-focused neighborhood spot Folk in East Nashville. Once an elevator manufactory, the space’s exposed brick walls and high ceilings are now dressed with paper lantern globes, potted greens and succulents. A wood-fired oven blisters the airy, flavorful crusts of Krajeck’s inventive pizzas — the clam, laced with bonito, chiles and hints of lemon, is a must. For the full experience, don’t skip the seafood, like royal red fish with old bay, or the mussel toast, along with an expertly mixed cocktail.
Barbecue: Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint
Few pitmasters carry the torch for whole-hog barbecue. But it’s a dying art that Pat Martin aims to uphold through his barbecue restaurants in Nashville and beyond. With customized pits in each of his joints, Martin smokes whole hogs every day, serving up tangles of the sweet, smoky meat and charred bits by the platter. The selection goes wider with wet and dry ribs, an addictively fatty brisket, spicy sausage and smoked turkey, plus an array of the pitmaster’s homemade sides, like broccoli salad and baked beans. At the Downtown location, you’ll also find a sprawling, landscaped beer garden.
Go to: Martin's Bar-B-Que Joint
Icon: Husk Nashville
Building on the tremendous success the restaurant had seen in Charleston, Neighborhood Dining Group opened Husk Nashville with then-chef Sean Brock in 2013, bringing the strictly Southern, contemporary concept to Music City. Now under the eye of executive chef Katie Coss, the menu hasn’t veered much. Ingredients still come from around the region, as well as the on-site garden of the restaurant, housed in a historic 1880s-era mansion. Coss’ team changes the menu constantly, but mainstays, like the lunchtime fried chicken, and Southern Plate of Vegetables, can usually be found, along with an extensive selection of bourbons and whiskeys.
Meat and Three: Arnold’s Country Kitchen
The truest taste of Nashville can be found on a red tray at Arnold’s Country Kitchen. Since 1982, it’s stood as one of city’s most beloved meat and threes — a place where you can get an affordable, filling, Southern midday meal of a protein and three side dishes, plus a drink and dessert, served cafeteria-style. It’s still run by the Arnold family, including mom Rose and son Kahlil, who offer up some of the city’s warmest hospitality. As you walk down the serving line, you’ll choose from-scratch staples like roast beef, meatloaf and fried catfish, to go along with sides like long-cooked turnip greens, fried apples and mac and cheese.
Neighborhood Hang: Lockeland Table Community Kitchen and Bar
The vibe inside East Nashville’s Lockeland Table Community Kitchen and Bar is always neighborly. But that’s especially true during Community Hour, weeknights from 4 to 6 p.m., when a selection of small plates, like chicken wings and deviled eggs with chow chow, are just $6 and kids are welcome. Co-owners Cara Graham and Chef Hal Holden-Bache have worked hard to create a welcoming space inside their brick storefront restaurant. A portion of Community Hour proceeds is donated to local school PTOs, and a beer brewed in collaboration with a local brewery is on tap. At all times, the wood-fired pizzas and Holden-Bache’s locally minded menu keep locals and visitors coming back time and again.
Patio: Butchertown Hall
With its modern, minimalist aesthetic and deliciously smoky aroma, Butchertown Hall was met with rave reviews when it opened in Germantown in February 2015. Combining the “Texo-German” mash-up cuisine found in Texas Hill Country (which also includes Mexican and barbecue influences) and a solid, European-heavy beer list, Butchertown is the ideal casual place to gather with friends. Menu stars include the beef brisket plate, served with pickles, onions and Texas toast or tortillas, as well as any of the housemade sausages, in German, Czech and Mexican styles. Beer curator Dan King collaborates closely local importers to put a steady rotation of limited release brews at the top of his draft list, too.
Pasta: Rolf & Daughters
From the industrial-chic décor to the casually hip staff, Rolf & Daughters has set the tone for the “new Nashville” dining scene since opening in 2012. The food, crafted with old-world techniques by Chef Philip Krajeck, steps things up, starting with the inventive pastas, all made in-house. There might be a squid-ink paccheri laced with nuggets of octopus and breadcrumbs, or sweet corn agnolotti tinged with jalapeno. Larger plates might put together lamb sausage with eggplant, or chicken liver on toast. The cocktails don’t take themselves too seriously, but the wine list offers a tightly edited selection of small producers and unique varietals.
Neighborhood Bar: Walden
It was fortuitous that the owners of Walden, Katie MacLachlan and Robyn Donnelly, found a space that had once been a beer bar. Instead of ripping out the wall of taps for their neighborhood cocktail-bar concept, they adapted, and dedicated the menu to draft cocktails. The 36 taps now pour batched drinks, like the Pink Pepper G&T, based on Old Dominick American dry gin, or a smooth and sippable margarita. There’s also wine, beer and cider, as well as a tight menu of bar snacks. Your visit should start with a seat on the patio for a gin-based Eastside Sunset paired with a fig-and-brie grilled cheese.
Middle Eastern: Butcher & Bee
Opened in late 2015, the Nashville offshoot of Charleston restaurant Butcher & Bee puts a Southern spin on Middle Eastern cuisine. With exposed beams and decorative tiling, it’s a vibrant, airy room, but can feel intimate at the cozy bar or inside the spacious booths. At the helm, Chef Bryan Lee Weaver crafts a menu of small and shareable plates, many of which tie together many regional cuisines. Carolina Gold crispy rice becomes the base for collard greens, avocado, peanuts, and chiles; local Bear Creek beef meatballs are set over a tomato and eggplant sugo. The whipped feta with fermented honey is a crowd pleaser, as are the mezze-sized bacon-wrapped dates.
Coffee and Pastries: Killebrew
The Thompson Hotel gets big use out of the small coffee shop space set at the base of their Gulch location. Killebrew has a neighborhood vibe, despite being set in the bustling center of town. Grab a spot at one of the handful of tables and head to the counter where pastry chef Lisa Marie White’s daily offerings might range from fat and buttery biscuit sandwiches to muffins, biscotti and inventive daily quiches. Hit them on a Monday for the irresistible glazed doughnuts. House drips and espresso drinks are fuel for the day, while a turmeric chai latte alongside a savory hand tart will power you through an afternoon.
Tasting Menu: Catbird Seat
Nashville’s first tasting-menu-only restaurant, the Catbird Seat is a jewel box of a dining room with bar seating around an open kitchen, and chefs serving diners directly. Since its 2011 start, the chefs have changed (chefs Will Aghajanian and Liz Johnson are now in charge) but the succession of dishes is better than ever. With an artistic flare that takes into account all of the senses, the experience is clever and outside of the norm. There might be marlin belly that’s been aged in a ham barn sliced and served, to be eaten with your hands, or an orb filled with the unlikely combo of sea urchin, banana and black truffle. (Trust us, it works.) Along the way, you start to see that the dishes, utensils, music, and minimalist design are all meant to enhance the exceptional food.
Modern Middle Eastern: Lyra
Chef Hrant Arakelian has built his career cooking all types of cuisines across a range of Nashville restaurants. When it was time to open his own, the Lebanese-born chef returned to his roots, and then updated them. At Lyra, he puts a modern interpretation on Middle Eastern cuisine, meaning a kibbe dish is made not from raw meat but carrots, and the puffy, steam-filled pita breads might arrive with a lamb merguez-dotted hummus. Go for the reinterpreted classic dishes, like the lamb kefta or an outstanding, whole roasted baba ghanoush, which is satisfyingly familiar and full of rich and earthy spices.
Hotel Restaurant: Tavern at Bobby
With a cool, retro vibe that matches the interior hotel lobby it occupies, Tavern at Bobby is much more than a watering hole. Edgy décor in the form of subway lights, tiling, salvaged wood, and a long canopy bar set the stage for classic cocktails and American-tavern-influenced fare. Snag a couch seat in the lounge, or opt for a more-intimate leather banquette in the dining room before diving into hand-held grilled chicken wings smothered in a sorghum barbecue sauce, a sturdy pan-roasted salmon over succotash or one of the robust meat and cheese boards. Open breakfast through dinner, it’s a stylish stopping point before hitting the honkytonks on Broadway.
Whiskey List: The 404 Kitchen
At the 404 Kitchen, Chef Matt Bolus has curated one of the city’s largest and most-comprehensive whiskey lists, with more than 600 different labels, including 30 private barrel selections. Suffice to say: This an official hangout for aficionados. Their Whiskey Society gives members access to a liquor locker on site, along with first dibs on whiskey tastings and dinners. Bolus’ New American menu matches the theme, with dishes like Hudson Valley duck leg nestled beside brown butter cauliflower; lamb sugo over housemade pasta; and scallop toast with avocado as slid complements to the bourbon-centric list.
Speakeasy: Black Rabbit
The historic setting — a 120-year-old building near Nashville’s Printer’s Alley — adds intrigue to Black Rabbit, a sophisticated yet comfortable speakeasy-style cocktail bar. Nestle in to one of the leather seats or the velvet sofa by the fireplace and take in a three-piece jazz band while you sip on something from the shrub-heavy drinks list, like the Josephine, made with a strawberry shrub, vodka and dry cider. A robust list of small plates makes this an ideal stop before or after dinner, but you could also make a meal of rabbit rolls, charred peppers with six-month-old-ham, and a plate of carnitas.
Izakaya: Bar Otaku
Inspired by an izakaya, or Japanese pub, Bar Otaku brings good food, great drinks, and a lively atmosphere to the Gulch. The space is lit with paper lanterns, and walls are lined with anime-inspired art, commissioned from local graffiti artists, making it feel both cozy and casual, whether you’re sitting at the broad bar up front, or intimate, screen-separated tables in the back. To drink, there are sakes, Japanese beers and a selection of refreshing highballs and whiskey-based cocktails. On the menu, dishes are meant to be shared. Tuck into the sturdy pork dumplings, a crispy, umami-driven okonomiyaki or a selection of yakimono skewers — all good for snacking with a group while toasting the end of the work day.
All-Day Space: Café Roze
Behind the Depression-era façade of a shotgun storefront, life unfolds in a cool, casual way at Café Roze. The East Nashville all-day hang, opened by Employees Only executive chef Julia Jaksic, gets busy first thing, so find a seat at the narrow tables for egg bowls laced with cucumber and feta bulgur and lemon yogurt, or the café’s delightful golden turmeric steamer. At lunch, load up on grass-fed burgers or the flavor-packed Hard-Boiled B.L.T. As night slides in, the food is heartier — pork schnitzel, steak frites — and the bar sets up a solid selection of craft cocktails, beer and wine. Cozy and healthfully minded, it’s a space that’s made to last.
Cheap Eat: GReKo Greek Street Food
Athens, Greece, may be halfway around the world, but here, in the Athens of the South, you can get a taste via GReKo Greek Street Food in East Nashville. Awash in street art and graffiti, with Greek hip-hop music blaring, GReKo pumps out a flavor-packed selection of freshly made, charcoal-fired meats, like lamb, beef, pork and octopus, either on a skewer and wrapped in fluffy pitas. There’s roast chicken hit with oregano and cumin served over seasoned fries, or with a side of cold sautéed greens, and frozen Greek yogurt for dessert. Put together by first-generation cousins Bill and Tony Darsinos, the restaurant imports olive oil, salt and even wine from their homeland.
Fine Dining: Capitol Grille
Tucked into the lower level of the elegant and historical Hermitage Hotel, the Capitol Grille and its adjoining Oak Bar recall the gilded age of Southern dining. Under an arched ceiling and surrounded by images of other Nashville monuments, diners are treated to outstanding service, one of the region’s best whiskey lists and a refined play on Southern classics. The main theme here is upscale Southern, with a dinnertime emphasis on steaks. They’re simply prepared and served with locally sourced sides like fried okra with creole aioli. The kitchen also leans heavily on local farmers — as well as the produce raised at Glen Leven Farm, which is part of The Land Trust for Tennessee — to produce beautiful dishes like a roasted lamb chop served with lamb sausage and a navy bean puree or the restaurant’s famed sweet onion bisque.
Pizza: Nicky's Coal Fired
At the heart of Nicky’s Coal Fired, an upscale pizza joint in The Nations, sits a blistering-hot oven, lovingly named Enrico. The glowing-red inferno perfectly sears artisanal pizzas, and also cooks up a collection of small plates and pastas, which round out the menu, including chicken thighs and brussels sprouts. Chef Tony Galzin, a Chicago native, brings his Italian heritage to the forefront, making his pastas and charcuterie in-house. The pizzas, arguably the stars of the menu, are based on either red or white sauce and might be topped with anchovies and capers or potatoes, cured egg yolk, and mozzarella. A selection of vermouths, wines on tap, and a strong cocktail list add to the fun.
Oyster Bar and Seafood: Henrietta Red
Against a backdrop of white-tiled floors, blonde wood and navy banquettes, Henrietta Red serves a menu of seafood- and vegetable-heavy shareable small plates, as well as a robust raw bar selection. The menu stands out both for its simplicity and its clever take on classics. A bar room up front is lively and communal, while the dining room is a space designed for lingering and looking into the open kitchen with its wood-burning oven. Seats at the oyster bar offer a show as shuckers open the 15 or more varieties on hand every night. Chef Julia Sullivan manages to coax big flavors out of dishes like roasted cauliflower, chicken liver pate and smoked mussel toast.
Ribs and Nachos: Peg Leg Porker
Pitmaster Carey Bringle (aka the Peg Leg Porker) knows good barbecue. After decades racking up awards and accolades on the competition circuit, the experienced pitmaster, who has deep roots in Tennessee barbecue, decided to open his own joint in the heart of Nashville’s Gulch neighborhood. After a recent update, the space is now sprawling, with a second-story patio and two full bars. Bringle’s dry ribs are some of the best in town, heavy on the seasoning and smoke. But don’t skip over the BBQ nachos, loaded with pulled pork, cheese sauce, and jalapenos, or the frozen drinks, some made with the pitmaster’s award-winning Peg Leg Porker Tennessee Straight Bourbon Whiskey.
Tànsuǒ is pushing Nashville’s international culinary options into new territory. A partnership between New York dumpling chef Chris Cheung and Chopped judge Maneet Chauhan, the upscale, contemporary Chinese restaurant is housed in a large, dimly lit room accented with mod paper lanterns. Serving lunch, dinner and brunch, the menus offer riffs on traditional Chinese and Chinese-American classics, like beef chow fun and open-face pork dumplings. The dim sum brunch is a standout: The selections arrive on a cart from which you can pull small plates of star-shaped lobster dumplings, pork belly bao buns and mapo tofu.
Upscale Indian: Chauhan Ale & Masala House
Blending traditional Indian cuisine with Southern touches, Chauhan Ale & Masala House embraces its Nashville roots. Chef Maneet Chauhan, a judge on Chopped, seamlessly marries her two cultures in dishes like a black-eyed pea tikki burger and an Indian “meat and three,” which puts a meat dish alongside three vegetable sides. Chauhan has its own signature beers —including a fragrant Saffron IPA — thanks to its own brewery, Mantra Artisan Ales; the cocktails also incorporate Indian spices and herbs. The brick-walled space is romantic, too, with low lighting and colorful lanterns hanging throughout the space.
Cocktail Bar: The Patterson House
One of Nashville’s first serious cocktail bars, the Patterson House is still its best. The reservation-only policy means that there’s never a chaotic scene around the rectangular island bar at the center of the room. A library motif, antique chandeliers, and an army of well-dressed barmen are there to greet you, but don’t let the serious scene intimidate you — the staff is just as happy to pour a gin and housemade tonic as to mix a custom craft cocktail. The menu is organized by spirit, with drinks listed from least to most potent. There’s a small food menu, including mini burgers, truffled deviled eggs and roasted bar nuts.
Local Institution: City House
Tandy Wilson’s passion for cooking very good food in all the right ways makes him one of the most-likable, city-supporting chefs in town. Wilson helped put Nashville on the map when he opened his Italian-by-way-of-Tennessee restaurant in Germantown years before it became the hot-spot neighborhood it is today. From an open kitchen accented with pig paraphernalia, Wilson and his trucker-hat-sporting crew plate up a form of homey Italian nonna cooking, with dishes like yellow corn grits with clams and smoked sausage, and half of a chicken crusted with a red-onion Jezebel sauce. There are tender, puffy-crusted pizzas from a brick oven, a well-edited wine list and fresh-baked cookies for dessert.
Worth the Drive: Loveless Cafe
From downtown Nashville, it’s only about 17 miles to the Loveless Cafe, but when you travel off highway and meander down the scenic side roads, it can be one of the prettiest, most leisurely drives. Serving continuously since 1951, the Loveless carries on the down-home tradition of a classic “meat and three” — a plate with a protein and three sides — with its crispy fried chicken, gooey mac and cheese, collard greens and unending supplies of sweet tea. The service is warm and friendly, and there’s never a shortage of fantastic biscuits. Next door, there’s also the Hams & Jams country market, where you can pick up pounds of barbecue as well as preserves, kitchen goods and Loveless gear to take home.
Dinner Party: Tailor
Tailor started as a wildly popular pop-up dinner party called VEA Supper Club, which was hosted at various restaurants and venues around Nashville. Now in a permanent location with just 40 seats, founder and chef Vivek Surti has crafted an ambiance that matches the original intent — you feel like you’re eating great, home-cooked, South Asian American dishes inside a friend’s stylish home. A set menu of eight courses is served during two seatings, Thursday through Sunday nights. The menu leads from light snacks like dhokla with mustard seed, coconut, and sesame to salads, a fish and meat course that might include local trout or lamb with chiles and mint, to a rice, then desserts. Along the way, Surti puts a personal touch on the experience, sharing anecdotes and stories behind each dish.
Honky Tonk: Robert’s Western World
Up and down Music City’s main thoroughfare, you’ll find live music, cold beers and maybe a good snack. But it’s inside Robert’s Western World where you’ll actually find locals, too. This long-standing Broadway bar, run by proprietor and performer JesseLee Jones of the band Brazilbilly, is known for keeping things real by bringing in well-respected musicians, some of whom built their careers touring with big guns like Loretta Lynn or Vince Gill, to play traditional country and western and classic honky tunes. Find a spot near the dance floor and order up the famous recession special: a fried bologna sandwich, chips and a PBR for $6. And don’t forget to tip your musicians.
Best Second Date Spot: Margot Café & Bar
Quaint and comfortable, Margot Café is Nashville’s perfect interpretation of a neighborhood bistro. The daily menu of simple, French- and Italian-inspired dishes runs from small plates, like a plate of cheeses, salads and soups, to composed main courses, like cornmeal-dusted trout or green bean casserole with an arugula salad. In the kitchen, you’ll find Margot McCormack, one of the city’s trailblazing female chefs, who has etched out her role as a committed anchor in the community and mentor to many, and is still in the kitchen each night.
Dinner and a Show: City Winery
Nashville may be packed with great music venues, but City Winery brings the added dynamic of great food, intimate seating and a strong selection of great wines. Thanks in part to its other locations, in New York, Chicago and Napa, the restaurant-venue-winery draws a steady list of hitmakers, meaning you might find blues artist Booker T. Jones one night and indie band Blitzen Trapper the next. On the menu, there are both show-friendly snack fare (duck tacos; risotto balls) as well as a full dinner menu that includes items like balsamic bbq chicken steelhead trout with a zucchini latke. And, of course, the wine list is packed with a mix of heavy-hitting labels, small independent producers, housemade draft wines and a number of bargains.
Rock Star Chef: Deb Paquette
Power Lunch: The Farm House
Thanks to its convenient-to-everything downtown location, the Farm House can play the power-lunch locale for both locals who are stopping in for a midday meeting and visitors trying to tackle the many historical music sites nearby — it’s a stone’s throw from the Country Music Hall of Fame. Whatever the occasion, Chef Trey Cioccia is up for it, serving snacks like a pimento-cheese beignet or pork belly toaster pastry, along with inventive daily blue plates that might feature a catfish sandwich or wings with an Alabama white sauce. And don’t miss dessert: There’s always a solid lineup of housemade ice creams and sorbets.