Music City Eats: Best Restaurants in Nashville
By Stacie Standifer
Nashville Local Expert
The dining scene in Music City is constantly evolving. Recently, it has become more eclectic and noteworthy than ever. The addition of award-winning regional chefs and a focus on more organic ingredients has earned national attention and praise.
You can still find an array of fantastic hot chicken and barbeque joints, and some of those are not to be missed. Another popular tradition is gatherings at food trucks serving handmade Southern fare – they seem to be everywhere. There’s a passion for cooking, serving and sharing that’s alive in every location.
Overall, dining choices have elevated to a more sophisticated level. These are the locations showcasing some of the most exciting culinary talents and tastes in Nashville that have been established for a year or more (some, like Arnolds, for decades). For a great meal, you can’t miss with any of these local favorites.
You feel a bit like you're in an NYC neighborhood with a country accent in this bustling East Nashville favorite. An open kitchen and easy view of the bar set the tone for a shared dining experience that complements the chef's experiments with classic dishes. The daily specials are always the top thing to order, although regulars swear by a number of items on the menu. Prices are affordable and preparation is on point, which is why locals love it. The Happy Hour is one of the best in the city, with similar pricing and offerings at sister restaurants, Park Cafe and Pomodoro East. ((615) 627-1088)
Arnold's Country Kitchen
If you're seeking a bit of love on your plate along with a lively, old-school atmosphere, Arnold's is the place to be. The family run institution isn't fancy, but is always filled by the city's leaders and foodies. The menu changes based on fresh ingredients, but staples like meatloaf, roast beef and the chocolate pie are served up cafeteria-style daily with a good selection of vegetables. Everything is made from scratch, priced well and reflects the vibe of what Nashville is, both past and present. ((615) 256-4455)
When Sean Brock opened an outpost of his famed Charleston restaurant, HUSK, in a historic home near downtown, the food news went wild. And for many reasons, the buzz continues. There's such a sense of tradition in the space, and Southern favorites like fried chicken are always on the menu. Depending on what's available and fresh, you will sample a true taste of local cuisine prepared by one of the top rated chefs in the nation. ((615) 256-6565)
Giovanni Ristorante - Nashville
When the famous New York City Italian eatery moved to mid-town Nashville, locals were in love at first bite. This Italian fine dining spot is where you will see big stars enjoying bold red wines along with handmade pastas and cheeses. The sauces are unbelievable and there's always a fresh treat on the pastry menu. The dining room has intimate corner tables while the bar has become the regular place for the area's most famous rock musicians to sample vino from the extensive list. It's also the ideal spot for a truly romantic evening. (6157605932)
The Catbird Seat
For a truly memorable dining experience, score a seat with full view of the chefs at this second-story boutique restaurant. This isn't just a meal, but a form of entertainment, where menus don't really exist and prix-set meals and libation pairings are full of delight and surprise. It's not for those who like to play it safe with food, but a treat for foodies and adventure seekers. (615-810-8200)
Chef Tandy Wilson is often cited by national food writers and publications for having a fun approach to classics. The Italian influence is evident in the rustic dining room, and a true love for cuisine is evident in the pizzas, with delicate touches like house made ham on top. The destination is also known for some of the most interesting craft cocktails in town and a very long list of bourbons and whiskeys for sampling. The somewhat hipster crowd that gathers regularly in the Germantown haunt is always peppered with celebrities, food writers and executives. (6157365838)
Set in the lower level of the gorgeous Hermitage Hotel, this is one of the best dining rooms in the city. Chef Tyler Wilson creates a menu that is approachable and very reflective of the city while still being attractive to the most discriminating palates. A great value is the daily 'blue plate' lunch with choices like barbeque, creamed chicken or buttermilk-mashed potatoes. The locale is also widely recognized for the most elegant but hearty breakfast dishes in town and amazing menus for holiday celebrations. (615-345-7116)
Within steps from Music City Center and other top attractions, Etch's location is perfect for anyone staying downtown seeking a true foodie treat. Chef Deb Paquette has been well known in the area for years, particularly for her talent with vegetables. When Etch opened their doors, city residents could not wait to get inside to sample her soups, sides and always-changing main courses. Vegetarians love this spot, but items like her short ribs make the cover of the city magazine. There's something for every palate and diet, and always something new to try. The classically styled dining room is modern and welcoming, just like the chef and her team. ((615) 522-0685)
The gorgeous view of the skyline from the Gulch and the expansive bar viewing the historic train station are just an introduction on what to expect here. A top tier wine list accompanies the most inventive steakhouse menu in the city. From specialty cuts of Wagyu beef to an array of gourmet side dishes like corn crème brulee meant for sharing, this is a gathering place for foodies of all ages. Gorgeous presentation, and an inventive menu of fish dishes, salads and other light choices on the menu are a perfect complement to the rustic, romantic décor. This is part of the MStreet group and district, which is a dining destination that includes top restaurant choices for casual American, Italian, upscale Mexican and the city's top rated Sushi and Japanese restaurant. ((615) 259-0050)
Rolf and Daughters
This Germantown dining hotspot has gained a slew of national attention including one of the top 10 new restaurants in the US for 2013. It's quaint and casual, favored by artistic types and celebrities and features many locally sourced offerings on an eclectic menu of creative modern plates. Sharing a few of the starters at one of the communal tables is a wonderful way to start. Pasta plates are also fun to share, as you will want to try more than one. But do save room for dessert, as nightly offerings are too good to pass up. It's also a fun place to be with a quietly rowdy bar scene where cocktails are taken as seriously as the food. ((615) 866-9897)
About Stacie Standifer
As the founder of acclaimed titles Nashville Lifestyles, Nashville Weddings and AT HOME/NL, Stacie has been involved with every level of fashion, celebrity and home design in her city for over 14+ years. An avid traveler, she is a respected resource in sharing trends with thousands of followers in the South. Since selling her publications and ultimately leaving her publisher post in mid-2013, Stacie continues to freelance as a contributor and also acts as a consultant for select luxury retail and entertainment clients. Shopping, travel and entertaining tips are posted weekly on her popular website, SouthernSophisticate.com.
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