Best Restaurants in Nashville

Music City Eats: Best Restaurants in Nashville

Nashville has always been known for its music. Not so its food, unless you wanted to dine exclusively on biscuits and BBQ (not that there's anything wrong with that…). As Nashville has grown in recent years, its food scene has evolved, and continues to do so. Chefs from across the country have migrated to Music City to open their own kitchens. And the rest of the country is taking notice. Now you'll find award-winning regional chefs and a focus on more organic ingredients as well as the time-honored Southern specialties. National attention, awards and praise have followed.

You can still find an array of fantastic hot chicken and BBQ joints, and some of those are not to be missed. Another popular tradition is gathering around food trucks serving handmade Southern fare – they're everywhere these days. But what locals like best is the influx of new, higher-end, sophisticated dining, the likes of which had been scarce in the past. No matter which way your budget and palate guides you, you can’t miss with any of these local favorites.


Capitol Grille
Photo courtesy of Capitol Grille

Set in the lower level of the historic 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 BBQ, 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 own garden, harvested at the Double H Farms garden just four miles from the hotel and - the epitome of sustainable Southern cuisine.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: It may be in a hotel, but even locals flock here for the uber-locally grown ingredients and perfectly prepared food.

Margaret's expert tip: This will be a meal to savor: Plan to take your time to take it all in.

Read more about Capitol Grille →

There's no fussy, trendy cuisine to be found here, but Arnold's is still a food lover's fantasy. Pick up a tray and make your way down the cafeteria-style line and choose from meat-and-three or a vegetable plate. The choices change by the day, but locals fill up on choices such as macaroni and cheese, turnip greens, mashed potatoes, roast beef, chicken and dumplings, fried chicken and more. When it is crowded you may end up sharing your table with strangers. But this is the south; they won't be strangers for long. Arnold's is one of the few Nashville mainstays that has stayed popular for more than 30 years. You really could run into almost anyone while here.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Get a taste of the true Nashville meat and three in this bright red cafeteria that has been a local favorite for more than three decades.

Margaret's expert tip: Local etiquette dictates, you stand in line and then look for a seat afterwards. Don't worry about finding a table. It Arnold's magic. There is always one when you need it.

Read more about Arnold's Country Kitchen →

Mas Tacos Por Favor

This much-loved food truck also serves its soups, tacos and other Mexican specialties at a quirky, popular East Nashville brick-and-mortar location, too. Specials change throughout the week, but no matter the day, you're sure to get something solid and surprisingly good. The fried avocado and fried tilapia tacos are favorites, as is the spicy, tortilla soup. The sweet potato quinoa taco isn't something you'll find just anywhere. Don't let the line intimidate you. It will move quickly. Custom dictates: Wait in the line to order before grabbing a table for your party. There are a few tables outside on the side patio, too.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Yes, they're "just" tacos. But they are among the most delicious, authentic tacos you've eaten.

Margaret's expert tip: Don't be scared off if there's a crowd at the ordering window; the line tends to move quickly.

Read more about Mas Tacos Por Favor →

Adele's Nashville
Photo courtesy of Derek Lee

Thanks to a location in a former Gulch auto garage, Adele's has an airy, welcoming feel that reflects its California inspiration. Founder and celebrity chef Jonathan Waxman named the joint after his mom, and the result is contemporary California cuisine that feels as familiar as your best friend's kitchen. The menu changes by season, but favorites include the JW signature chicken and the JW potatoes, which are crispy on the outside. If you are lucky enough to be at Adele's when the cauliflower is in season, order it. Adele's is that rare space that is appropriate for dinner out with the kids early in the evening and dinner out without them later on.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Adele's Nashville offers a neighborhood vibe, tasty cocktails and delicious dishes. It isn't complicated, but it is always good.

Margaret's expert tip: There's always something fantastic in season on the menu, but the JW Chicken is the a year-round hit.

Read more about Adele's Nashville →

Pinewood Social
Photo courtesy of Ellen Pelletier

This indoor-outdoor venue is a fantastical hybrid of coffee house, bowling alley and beer garden. It sounds weird, but it works. Outdoors, cool off with frozen drinks served from a vintage Airstream bar, bocce ball or a dip in the swimming pool (yes, there is indeed a pool). Inside, find six bowling lanes and more space for eating, drinking and socializing. Deal get done here: It is close to the Entrepreneur Center and Jack White has been spotted in a booth more than once. But it is also the place locals go to play. Sometimes it all happens on the same day.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: In just a few short years Pinewood Social has become the city's watering hole.

Margaret's expert tip: Don't miss the fried broccoli or the fried chicken.

Read more about Pinewood Social →

Butchertown Hall's meat-centric menu honors the historical butcher shops of its neighborhood, Germantown and draws meat lovers and paleo dieters alike. Get your protein fix with street tacos, sausages, ribs and burgers, among other meaty offerings. The modern interior (think subway tile, sleek fixtures) and bustling scene isn't well-suited for intimate conversation (In other words, it can get pretty loud), but the outdoor patio is. Unlike many other meat-focus menus, street tacos and other dishes let you get a taste without feeling like you ate the whole cow.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: This rustic, yet sleek, spot serves some of the city's tastiest meats (and cocktails)

Margaret's expert tip: If you want to be part of the scene, wait for an indoor table. If you want a quieter dining option, opt for a seat on the patio.

Read more about Butchertown Hall →

When it opened in 2013, Husk was one of the most anticipated restaurants in Nashville, and reservations are still in demand, despite the fact that it is no longer new. Inside a former mayoral home in Rutledge Hill, chef Sean Brock's menu changes daily depending on what seasonal produce and proteins are available locally – and that includes the restaurant's very own garden. The ingredients are Southern, and the influences from this part of the country, but the tastes are wide and varied. This is the kind of place that offers you the chance to pick your own steak knife before your steak arrives.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: The Nashville outpost of this Charleston, South Carolina restaurant is not a knockoff. Instead, it offers knock-your-socks-off food and service.

Margaret's expert tip: Come twice: Once for dinner and once for brunch. Both meals deserve your attention.

Read more about Husk Nashville →

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. Chicago's Ryan Poli is taking the reigns at Catbird and locals are looking forward to his interpretation of this national favorite.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: This is a one-of-a-kind dining experience, with the chef bringing meticulous care and expertise into every bite, and likely serving it to you himself.

Margaret's expert tip: Think of your dinner as a culinary theater experience, not a mere meal.

Read more about The Catbird Seat →


Meet Margaret Littman

Journalist Margaret Littman is a both a relative newcomer to Nashville as well as an old-timer, having returned to what once was her college town as an adult. 

She is the author of many...  More About Margaret