Whether you are native to Nashville but just live in a different part of town, or are staying in the area for business or some special occasion like an event at LP Field, take it as the perfect opportunity to sample some of the best downtown restaurants offering some of the tastiest, most authentic fare in the whole city. Right on Broadway, Jack's Bar-B-Que beckons diners with its neon sign and award-winning sauce, while further up the street, Capitol Grille is a can't-miss experience for any serious foodie. There are so many great places to grab a bite near LP Field, it can be just as fun trying to cross all of them off your list when staying in the core of the city, and altogether they sum up some of the best that Music City has to offer - fine dining, regional meat-and-three and even pizza. Before the big event or after the home team's victory, fuel up on everything from fried chicken to chili. Call in a carryout order for the ultimate in tasty tailgating, book a table for a celebratory meal, or even walk through the cafeteria line and then slide into an unassuming booth at Arnold's Country Kitchen for some of the best meat-and-three anywhere in the South.
Manny's House of Pizza
Searching for pizza places in downtown? Manny's House of Pizza serves some of the best pies in the city. Located in the historic Arcade Building, this restaurant serves up home-made pizzas with all your favorite toppings. Besides pizza, the menu includes rolls made with mozzarella and romano cheeses, calzones made with ricotta, mozzarella and romano cheese, and an assortment of pastas, salads and subs. There are also Italian favorites like their practically addictive five-layer lasagna, spaghetti and meatballs, and some of the best cannolis around. In-the-know fans call up two-days ahead to pick up dozens of specially-ordered Arancini, seasoned rice stuffed with a savory beef filling, then coated in bread crumbs and lightly fried to perfection. Yum! (615-242-7144)
Puckett's 5th & Church
Founded by the Puckett family in the 1950s, the original Lieper's Fork Puckett's has served as a country store to several communities in Williamson County for decades. From fresh groceries and a good southern meal to a tank of gas and a place to catch up with friends, Puckett's has it all. A few more locations later, this downtown Nashville location opened much to the overwhelming delight of brown-bag business lunchers for blocks around. Sure, it's busy at lunch, but the service is swift and professional, and the food is more than worth it. Breakfast and dinner are also hopping, and diners just can't get enough of patty melts, pimento and cheese sandwiches or perfectly-crispy fried green tomatoes. ((615) 770-2772)
While part of a national chain, this locale is considered a city icon. A lively environment at both lunch and dinner, the experience never disappoints. The people-watching is as good as the premium cocktails, and lots of local and visiting celebrities have found themselves in the subtly-lit dining room, indulging in one of their signature drinks. Classic steakhouse dishes shine, like clams casino and jumbo lump crabcakes, but their delicious desserts are always a great bet too, especially when they include a bag of warm cinnamon sugar donuts with chocolate and raspberry dipping sauce. No matter how full you are, how can you say now to that? (615-742-7256)
Varallo's Chile Parlor & Restaurant
The first hard decision you'll have to make is whether to get the chili or meat-and-three plated lunch. Of course, you can always get both with one of their combos. The chili comes "straight," "three way" with tamale and spaghetti, or any combination of them all. Meatballs and beef stew join the ranks among catfish and fried chicken in the meat and three options. Chess, pecan and fudge pie are always on the menu, as well as a rotating options of other sweet endings. Todd Varallo is the fourth-generation owner and you can expect him or another member of the family there on a daily basis. (615-256-1907)
The Catbird Seat
For a truly memorable dining experience, score one of 32 seats 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 multi-course meals and drink 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)
Jack's Bar – B – Que
Nashville's only a few hours drive from Memphis, the home of BBQ, and at Jack's they're giving Elvis' hometown a run for their money. Award winning and finger-lickin', Jack's doesn't shy from sharing the secret to their success: After applying their dry rub (spices and herbs), meat is smoked for 18 hours at 250 degrees. "Pit to plate" is sliced and chopped before serving, and you will notice a pink smoke ring. That's the real signature of hickory smoked barbecue. When the restaurant opened its doors, the area was not in the best of shape, so Jack's is credited with being a ringleader in revitalizing downtown. (615-254-5715, 615-726-2111)
The Southern Steak and Oyster
Located in the heart of the SoBro district downtown, The Southern Steak and Oyster does all kinds of things just right. Take their Bananas Foster bread pudding for example. Perfectly fine to order in the morning, but you should maybe start with some of their delicious coffee first. Then, move on to chicken and waffles or steak Benedict. Other winners are the oh-so-southern deviled eggs and barbecue shrimp. They take grits to another level when they go red and sweet thanks to berries, tapioca and creme anglaise. The atmosphere is lively but it can tend to be on the cold side the hotter it gets outside. Bring a jacket. (615-724-1762)
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)
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. Don't let the line out the door scare you off - that's how you know it's good. Plus, the cafeteria-style services quickly moves the throngs along. (615-256-4455)
Set in the lower level of the gorgeous Hermitage Hotel, this is one of the best dining rooms in the city. Chef Tyler Brown 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. Most of the vegetables are from the chef's garden, harvested at the Double H Farms garden just four miles from the hotel and - the epitome of sustainable Southern cuisine. (615-345-7116)
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.
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