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Wandering Chef: Sean Brock in Nashville

Chef Sean Brock lived and cooked in Nashville before he returned to Charleston and became famous for his cooking at McCrady’s and Husk. “Charleston is my home, and will always be my home,” says the Southern chef. “But Nashville is a different part of the South and I fell in love with Nashville,” he says. “I love music as much as I love food so it’s the perfect city for me.” Brock has been spending a lot more time in Nashville recently, preparing for May opening of Husk Nashville. “There’s a very cool, Portland, Oregon-type vibe in the city right now with lots of restaurants and bars popping up. Beyond food, you have all of these incredibly talented artisans all over the city making unbelievable ties, hats, boots, chairs, and tables. Everyone is really embracing where they are and using native products. We’ve sourced locally made dinnerware to use at the restaurant and of course coffee—there is a huge coffee movement. People are really embracing the city for what it is, and it’s not just about music anymore. I think that’s fantastic.” Here, Brock shares his favorite Nashville haunts.

Nashville Farmers’ Market
I think this city has one of most impressive farmers’ markets in country. The market is held seven days a week and is unbelievable. There are artisans who have been there forever and you can find all sorts of specialties. One purveyor might have a table of cured pork ears, fatback hams, salt pork, or bacon. In the next booth you’ll find a lady who specializes in black-eyed peas and she’s hulling them right there. Tennessee as a state produces so many wonderful products. We even use some of them at the Husk in Charleston, so when I decided to open a second Husk I didn’t even think of any other city.” 900 Rosa L Parks Blvd., (615) 880-2001, Nashville, nashvillefarmersmarket.org

Arnold’s Country Kitchen
“Arnold’s is one of my favorite places. It’s a meat-and-three and is only open for lunch. This place is the real deal. The owner, Jack, started this place nearly 30 years ago and he and his wife and kids are in the kitchen cooking every day. The line usually wraps around the block. The food is incredibly delicious and super cheap and fast. You are in and out in 15 minutes. It’s a tray service style place like a cafeteria so you point at what you want and they load your tray up. It’s straight up soul food—perfect braised green beans, mashed potatoes, unbelievable sweet peas, fried chicken. It just hits the spot. I swear they put crack in the food. You can’t stop thinking about it. I arrive in Nashville and B-line it to Arnold’s. I mean, I’ve probably eaten there 100 times and still can’t stop thinking about it. They are also the nicest, coolest people. You want to support them and hang out with them after lunch.” 605 8th Ave. South., Nashville (615) 256-4455

Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack
“I’m currently obsessed with hot chicken. It’s so hot I mean it is like burn-your-mouth-for-two-days hot; like hallucination hot. But it’s so good that you can’t stop eating it so you devour this fried chicken that’s covered in cayenne pepper paste and ignore the fact that your mouth is on fire. Prince’s is the spot to got for hot chicken. Restaurants all over the city now do their version of it, but Prince’s is the original. If you’ve never had hot chicken, the other spots are amazing, but Prince’s has the atmosphere. People from all walks of life are there. In the parking lot you see beat-up cars alongside Rolls-Royces. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you are from, the food speaks to everyone. Prince’s is the church of hot chicken and everyone is there to worship it in this tiny place. When you go, you need to order it extra hot. Don’t mess around. If you ask for extra hot they look at you like you are out of your mind. Order a Mountain Dew or sweet tea to wash it down. Man, I want to go there right now.” 123 Ewing Dr., Nashville, (615) 226-9442

Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint
“Pat Martin is one of the greatest pitmasters in America. He’s just a few minutes outside of Nashville. He’ll cook up a whole hog in the middle of the dining room. He only does it on certain days at certain times—he announces it on Twitter or Facebook and he’ll say something like, ‘the pig just went on and will be ready at 2 p.m.’ So you really have to follow him if you want to know when the pig will be ready and then run over as fast as you can and ask for the belly meat. That long, super moist pork belly Pat pulls is known by locals as ‘redneck spaghetti’ because the sauces he coats them in are insane. In addition to the pig, I love the chicken wings he serves and the redneck taco, which is a corn cake, topped with pulled pork, slaw, and barbecue sauce. His ribs with Alabama white sauce are unbelievable too. And you can’t beat the atmosphere. It’s such a funky place with pictures of Dolly Parton and The Dukes of Hazzard hanging on the walls.” 7238 Nolensville Rd., Nolensville, (615) 776-1856, martinsbbqjoint.com

Robert’s Western World
“There is only room for one honky-tonk in my heart and that’s Robert’s. Robert’s Western World is one of the last true, classic honky-tonk bars in America. There are honky-tonks all over Nashville that play new country, but you go to Robert’s to hear and dance to real honky-tonk music. If you need to find me in Nashville, just to go Robert’s. I’m there almost every night. I have their hats, t-shirts, beer koozies. PBR, my favorite beer, is the official beer of Robert’s. They have a little counter, like a diner counter, and the dude in the back makes a kick ass fried bologna sandwich.” 416 Broadway, Nashville, (615) 244-9552, robertswesternworld.com 

City House
“This place is so rock solid and amazing. You never get a bad dish here. Good luck trying to get in though. It’s known for its consistency and everyone wants a reservation. The chef, Tandy Wilson, is behind the line, his hat turned backwards, working the wood burning oven making unbelievable pizza with clams and anchovies, gnocchi, and incredible bread. He does magic with octopus. The restaurant has a cool little bar with cocktails and a great bourbon selection.” 1222 4th Ave. N, Nashville, (615) 736-5838, cityhousenashville.com

Rolf & Daughters
“This is a cool little neighborhood place that has really spent a lot of time on the aesthetics of the interiors. You’ll find reclaimed wood, and they’ve sourced things made by Nashville artisans. There is a huge bar that serves classic cocktails and the food is clean and beautiful. I can’t stop thinking about the pastas. I’ve never had better pasta anywhere in America. The first time I ate here it was so good that I went back the next night again. That’s the type of impression it leaves.” 700 Taylor St., (615) 866-9897, rolfanddaughters.com

Photo by Peter Frank Edwards