Nashville's Top Lunch Spots Shine Light On Sandwiches and More
By Hollie Deese
Lunch is an important meal. It get's us over the hump of the workday, symbolizing a time to take a break from your job and fuel yourself. Luckily, lunch spots in Nashville are abundant, and all of them aim to do more than simply give you enough energy to get going. They are angling to show Music City diners that fancy dinner plates have nothing on a hearty midday meal, prepared to perfect. At the classic Monell's, feed off the energy of your fellow diners as well as the delicious Southern soul food at the communal dining table. And over at Butterbean Bakery and Bistro in Gallatin, you can be assured that the ingredients couldn't be more fresh considering they came right out of the ground from the 33 acres out back. And at Woodland's on West End, people keep flocking to the vegetarian Indian buffet for some of the most flavorful plates of food to be had during the middle of the week. While most of these spots fill up quickly during the middle of the day, the service is great and the food is totally worth the wait. From gluten-free and vegan to Indian and soul, any craving can be met during your break.
Rae's Gourmet Sandwich Shoppe
Sometimes the only thing that will do is a sandwich. Prepared well, there can be no finer meal than some sandwiches, and the offerings at Rae's are just right. Deli classics like beef and cheddar, ham and Swiss and tuna are joined by hot options like decadent Monte Cristos, Reubens and hot browns. In addition to their regular menu, Rae's has daily specials as well, like crab cakes on Friday, shrimp po' boys on Tuesday and whatever the chef chooses on Monday. Soups also rotate daily and the offerings are a veritable tour of the US - think gumbo from New Orleans, beer and cheese from Wisconsin and, of course, New England clam chowder. (615-313-7237)
The Wild Cow
The Wild Cow is a restaurant on a mission. Serving vegetarian, vegan and sometimes gluten-free fare in casual East Nashville, the aim of the restaurant - other than to serve incredibly delicious food - is to make sure that food is cruelty-free and as local and organic as possible. Nearly all of their food is purchased in it's whole form, cooking everything on sight from sauces to soup stocks. In fact, they don't even have a microwave and their one freezer is only stocked with beer mugs and vegan ice cream. Menu items include Mexican options like sweet potato and black bean or chipotle seitan tacos and sandwiches so delicious you won't miss the meat. Don't believe us? Try the soy-free black bean patty burger animal style with onions and homemade Thousand Island dressing. Beverages run more toward hot tea, coconut water and kombucha than sugary sodas - they refuse to support corporations like Coke and Pepsi. Come during off-peak hours to avoid parking nightmares. (615-262-2717)
Monell's Dining and Catering
Monell's occupies n historic Victorian house in Germantown. Dining is communal, and long wooden tables and an all-you-eat menu (choices of entree, vegetables, breads, and desserts) set the scene. Simply ask fellow diners to pass around the family-style dishes and you'll have all you'll need while the attentive staff refills dishes chicken, green beans, cheese grits, cornbread, biscuits, pork chops or pot roast as it comes by, so don't even try. With multiple locations including Gallatin, the Cafe Monell's offers takeout meals seven days a week so you never have to go too long without. (615-248-4747, 615-726-4938)
Mitchell Delicatessen first opened its doors in 2008 with the idea to provide East Nashville with a full service delicatessen that only used the highest quality, natural ingredients from local sources. Residents responded - they ran out of food their first day - and Mitchell's has been bustling ever since. Their sandwiches are what made them famous, including the Reuben with locally-raised corned beef and turkey, apple and brie with jalapeno-cranberry relish. Most of their meats are cured or smoked in house and they even hand make their own sausages and roast beef. A small selection of carefully picked cheeses, dairy, fresh fruit and vegetables from local farms are also available, as it a self-serve salad bar. Mitchell Deli is also available for catering weddings and special events. (615-262-9862)
Swanky, elegant, and eclectic, Germantown Cafe showcases straightforward cuisine is at its best. The fresh, delectable cuisine comes at affordable prices and they are known for their classics with a twist - like the BrieLT with fried green tomatoes, lettuce, bacon and brie on Tuscan bread with red pepper sauce, served with a black bean salad. Situated just blocks from downtown, Germantown is the perfect place to start a night out, or cap a night off with one of their lip-smacking-good desserts. At lunch, try their classic French onion soup, simmered to salty-gooey perfection. (615-242-3226)
At Burger Up you won't find anything but the utmost respect for the meat. The menu and ingredients revolve around the notion of thoughtful consuming, sourcing as many products as possible from local sustainable farms, with new locales and their goodies added all the time. Start with fried oysters with spicy lemon-lime remoulade and seasonal cheese plate, then move on to one of the burgers that includes more than beef. Guests can enjoy turkey, veggie, salmon, bison and lamb burgers too. Custom cocktails are a draw all their own, but of course go down great with a burger too. The Doc Holiday with Bellemeade bourbon, muddled orange and cherry goes down smooth, as does the Humphrey's Primm's Cup. (615-279-3767)
Located in a charming little house on Thompson Lane, The Yellow Porch features intimate indoor and outdoor dining options. Diners enjoy mains like Black Angus filet mignon, Greek salad, Mediterranean vegetable lasagna, and paella complemented by an extensive by-the-glass wine list. While a great place for dinner, locals also flock here for lunch to escape the work day, and after some tuna carpaccio and portabella sandwich on grilled Tuscan bread with spinach, tomatoes, caramelized onions and Dijon mustard it is easy to see why. In fact, go ahead and finish your meal with the bananas Foster white chocolate pudding and take the rest of the afternoon off. (615-386-0260)
Butterbean Bakery and Bistro
You don't get more fresh than your own backyard, and since Butterbean is located on 33 green acres in Gallatin, you can bet the ingredients used in the completely gluten-free menu are as fresh as you can get. Chef Meredith Jones is committed to keeping everything as local as possible, and even meets with area schools at the start of the growing season to learn what she will be able to buy from what the students grow in class, then makes sure not to plant those items herself. The Miss Piggy with caramelized bacon, fresh spinach, tomato and avocado is the perfect mix of salty and sweet while the Gettin' Figgy With It panini capitalizes on the delicious combo of prosciutto, fig preserves, caramelized onions and brie. With a cup of the homemade soup like creamy corn and poblano, Butterbean is mouthwatering. (615-452-4877)
Tiny and quaint - seating is very limited - diners have been lined up out the door ever since this spot opened in 2009. They began with sandwiches and added more entrees throughout the years, which are farm fresh and delicious. But it is still their sandwiches that shine tasty and bright. One of the most popular options is the Bird, with grilled chicken breast, sun-dried tomato, avocado, bacon and peppered goat cheese on wholegrain bread. Hot sandwiches like the Pink Panther with house-smoked beef brisket, gorgonzola, kale, carrot and cabbage slaw with horseradish aioli and toasted hoagie will carry you past lunch and all the way through dinner, especially if you top it off with the sweet reverse Cowgirl - a flourless dark chocolate torte, white chocolate espresso sauce, blackberry coulis and hazelnuts. Yum. (615-915-0757)
Woodland's Indian Vegetarian Cusine
Ordering off the menu at Woodland's can be intimidating, so go ahead and ask for recommendations. Or, go crazy and just guess - the food is really that good that you will not be disappointed. Some can't fail picks include the samosa chat topped with onion, tomtatos, mint, tamrind, yogurt and crispy noodles, or the aloo gobi curry, with cubes of potato and cauliflower cooked in the tomato and onion sauce. Trying it out a few times at lunch for the buffet is the most delicious introduction you will get. Servers are quick with the water refills as long as its not slammed, and at some point they will drop enough dosas (a huge crepe with potato filling) so everyone at the table has one. There are also gluten-free and vegan options a plenty. (615-463-3005)
About Hollie Deese
Hollie Deese is a Nashville-based writer who has spent the past 10 years falling in love with the sights, sounds and flavors of Music City. Hollie has 15 years experience as a writer and editor for regional and national publications, including The Tennessean, USA Today, Nashville Interiors, and the Nashville Ledger.
Read more about Hollie Deese here.