Most people know Nashville as Music City; fewer people know about the emerging food scene in this up-and-coming city for chefs. The eclectic Southern center has always emphasized creativity in the music that emerges from it, and now the restaurant business is following suit. Bryan Lee Weaver left Los Angeles almost a year ago to become executive chef at Nashville’s Butcher & Bee, a cosmopolitan sandwich bistro with a Middle Eastern influence. Weaver works closely with local farmers, all within 50 miles of Nashville, changing the restaurant’s menu depending on what’s available.
We spoke with Weaver over the phone about the blossoming culinary culture in Nashville, and he gave us a glimpse into just what the city’s food-and-drink scene has to offer. “I get surprised all the time when I go out that it’s not just Southern comfort food. You can get it if you want it, but there’s a lot of opportunity [here] for people to be creative,” Weaver explained. “From a chef’s perspective, there’s a lot of freedom. It’s like the Wild West of the South.” Here, he shares his favorite places to drink bourbon, eat gourmet pizza, and more in Nashville.
“[Chef] Tandy is one of the first chefs I met when I moved here. He was a super nice guy right off the bat. I’ve been to his restaurant many times, and [his food] just feels like an extension of his personality; it’s really straightforward and delicious. They have a great Italian wine list and a pizza with belly ham [pork], mozzarella, grana padano, oregano, and chilies; I get that one every time.”
“I’ve probably tried 20 different taco trucks and shops in Nashville, and Taqueria San Luis is the best one. They make their own tortillas—which is really nice—and they source their meat really well. It’s definitely the closest thing I’ve had to what I could get in California.”
“At No. 308, they approach their cocktails sort of like we do our food; they keep stuff seasonal. Everyone that works there is really talented, so it’s nice to order something that feels personalized from them. I usually have a drink at No. 308 and then go right next door to Dino’s and have a beer and a burger.”
“Dino’s has been in Nashville for a really long time. Before I moved here, they were bought out and everyone was worried it was going to change, but I guess they’ve really kept it the same. When you walk inside, it really feels like a dive bar. You know what you’re getting when you go there, and it’s a really fun place to be. I usually get the classic: a burger and fries.”
“Every time I go to The Treehouse it feels like we’re just going for a snack after work, and then we end up with a really beautifully composed dished in front of us. Last time I was there I ordered the Squid Ink Tempura Spanish Octopus, served with kabocha squash and chili butter. It was the perfect texture and a beautiful dish. It’s an impressive spot.”
“One of the servers at Rolf and Daughters used to work at Butcher & Bee, and he was working one night I was there. He came by and told me to order the grilled onion dish, served with a spicy mix of salsa and chimichurri. It was one of those moments when you’re eating, especially as another chef, when you’re like, ‘This is just a pile of onions on my plate. . . . That’s genius.’ It was so delicious, we couldn’t stop eating it.”