The Best Restaurants in Nashville
Nashville may be known as Music City, but its reputation for inventive cuisine is catching up at a galloping pace that a rockabilly drummer would recognize. Southern staples like biscuits, fried chicken, and macaroni and cheese have been revisited by Nashville’s chefs and transformed into something divine.
37 Rutledge St, Nashville, TN 37210, USA
With his high-concept McCrady’s and his more rustic Husk—both in Charleston—chef Sean Brock transformed perceptions of Southern cooking from heavy, simple fare to a culinary tradition that is rich, complex, and filled with history. He worked with experts to resuscitate countless heirloom vegetables and grains lost to the agriculture industry, many of which reflect the region’s deep immigration roots (rice varieties from China; spices from Africa). He also changed the game with this simple rule: No ingredient north of the Mason-Dixon may enter the kitchen. Husk Nashville, which Brock opened in 2013, applies the same philosophy, but this time the menu is a nod to the bounty of inland Tennessee. In a 19th-century former residence in downtown Nashville, the James Beard Award–winning chef serves up his modern spin on classics such as pimento cheese, paired here with benne wafers, pickled jalapeños, and chipped beef. The Tennessee-raised pork prime rib, paired with cabbage, pecan butter, and molasses vinegar, is impossibly tender. Leave room for the vegetable plate, which highlights the best of the season’s produce.
605 8th Ave S, Nashville, TN 37203, USA
This American classic is the go-to meat-and-three restaurant in Nashville—that iconic staple of Southern cooking that consists of, well, a meat and three sides. All walks of life frequent this institution (the Dixie Chicks have been known to stop in every now and again), which is instantly recognizable from the street thanks to its painted redbrick exterior. Hungry customers queue up cafeteria-style, sliding their trays down to the register as they go, picking their protein (fried chicken, pork chops, roast beef, or the day’s special) and choosing from an array of sides (macaroni and cheese, fried green tomatoes, turnip greens). If you have any room left, don’t miss the banana pudding.
1017 Woodland Street
A pioneer of the East Nashville restaurant scene, Margot McCormack created this stylish spot in a repurposed service station in the heart of East Nashville’s Five Points long before the area was considered a destination for fine dining. The Nashville native, who moved away for the Culinary Institute of America and a stint at restaurants in New York City, serves from her collection of mismatched china in a cozy space with copper pots hanging from exposed brick walls. After more than a decade, the restaurant remains a favorite for dinner and Sunday brunch. The menu changes daily, but entrées might include pan-roasted scallops with parsnip purée, baby carrots, and preserved lemon, or house-made fettuccine with butternut squash, walnuts, and goat cheese.
1520 Woodland St, Nashville, TN 37206, USA
This comfortable neighborhood restaurant stays busy with regulars and newcomers alike, drawn by chef Hal Holden-Bache’s food and the welcoming vibe co-owner Cara Graham and staff foster at the front of the house. Arrive early for Community Hour—when a portion of the proceeds goes to the local parent-teacher organization—for snacks like Korean beef tacos and deviled eggs with chowchow. Dishes at dinner include stellar wood-fired pizzas and entrées like Porter Road Butcher dry-aged steaks with Chef Hal’s chimichurri, as well as seasonal pasta and fish options. Guests can finish on a sweet note with desserts like an old-fashioned sour-cream doughnut with Olive & Sinclair chocolate sauce, sorghum ice cream, and a crunch of popped caramel sorghum.
1711 Division St, Nashville, TN 37203, USA
It’s one of the hardest reservations to score in the country, but not just because of its diminutive size (22 seats in all) or limited days of operation (Wednesday to Saturday; dinner only). For one, the Catbird Seat feels both intimate and exclusive: Guests are seated at a U-shaped counter that surrounds a central open kitchen. Then, there’s the thrill of the unknown. Strategic Hospitality, the Nashville-based restaurant group started by homegrown entrepreneurs Ben and Max Goldberg, has hired a roster of notable chefs for extended stints, giving them carte blanche to create whatever inspires them during their tenure. Among them: Trevor Moran, an alumnus of Noma in Copenhagen. Since January 2016, Chicago-born chef Ryan Poli (another Noma vet, who also trained at the French Laundry) has held the reins, calling upon influences from his two-year stint working in kitchens around the world. A couple of recent hits: an umami-rich black truffle risotto made with sunflower seeds instead of rice, and noodles made with nori and spiked with zesty yuzu.
1222 4th Ave N, Nashville, TN 37208, USA
Locals love the Sunday Supper at City House, when chef-owner Tandy Wilson serves his highly creative Italian-influenced menu, but you really can’t go wrong any night here. Wilson, a 2016 James Beard Award winner, is a Nashville native who spent time in Italy and California before opening his restaurant in the former home of a sculptor in the trendy Germantown neighborhood. Since then, he’s been drawing visitors and locals alike with his belly ham pizzas, corn bread gnocchi, and main dishes like roasted chicken and corn meal–crusted catfish with peppers, garlic, anchovy, lemon, and parsley. Those in the know bookend their visits with a perfectly crafted cocktail at the bar and a dessert from pastry chef Rebekah Turshen, like the almond ricotta skillet cake with lemon marmalade and lemon ricotta gelato.
700 Taylor St, Nashville, TN 37208, USA
Rolf and Daughters opened in 2012 in the midst of a restaurant boom, but even with all the new options in Nashville, it has remained one of the hottest tables in town. Located in the 100-year-old Werthan factory building in Germantown, the restaurant feels welcoming with its dim lighting, brick walls, and locally made Holler Design furniture. Chef Philip Krajeck and team have called what they do “modern peasant food,” which feels a bit humble for dishes prepared so well. Options range from superb pastas like squid ink paccheri with octopus, chili, basil, and bread crumbs, to classics like chicken with preserved lemon and garlic confit. The cocktails are interesting and the wine list quirky, making this an experience that’s at once comfortable and exciting.
1210 McGavock St, Nashville, TN 37203, USA
Jonathan Waxman’s Nashville venture transformed an old tire shop in the Gulch into a comfortable and breezy open space. Two long bars -- one for drinking and another chef’s bar looking into the open kitchen -- anchor the two dining rooms in the large open room. A patio out front under white lights looks out over Nashville’s downtown. Named for Waxman’s mother Adele, the restaurant’s food also has a homey feel from Waxman’s roast chicken or meatballs over polenta to lighter options like deviled eggs and mounds of bright, shaved raw zucchini salad.
33 Peabody St, Nashville, TN 37210, USA
The Goldberg brothers gave Nashville acclaimed restaurants and bars such as the Catbird Seat and Patterson House, plus a kitschy honky-tonk on Lower Broad. In 2013, they did it again with Pinewood Social, a coffee shop, restaurant, bar, karaoke space, and, yes, bowling alley. There’s even an outdoor pool and bar for when the weather is nice. Amid all the fun, however, don’t forget about the food and drinks served morning, noon, and night, from pot roast and fried chicken to house-made tagliatelle with mushrooms, asparagus, and egg.
404 12th Ave S a, Nashville, TN 37203, USA
Built in a former auto garage in Nashville’s Gulch neighborhood, this five-room boutique hotel replaces industrial vibes with low-key sophistication: The whitewashed rooms—some with loft-style living spaces—feature high ceilings, custom furniture, and high-end amenities like Sferra linens and Turkish cotton robes, and the subway-tiled baths gleam with vintage taps. There is no front desk, but guests receive a passcode for the entry keypad before arrival, and a concierge service is always on call. Have some down time? A comfortable sitting area is set up with board games and a large sideboard stocked with complimentary refreshments and coffee throughout the day, which makes the 404 the perfect spot for urban explorers who like to come and go as they please. But don’t miss dinner at the 404 Kitchen. Housed in a shipping container and accessed through another keycode doorway, it’s one of the city’s top restaurants.
112 19th Ave S, Nashville, TN 37203, USA
Opened in 2012, Hattie B’s is the new kid on the block for hot chicken, Nashville’s most iconic dish. Still, what the restaurant lacks in history it makes up in flavor, proven by the long queues that don’t seem to diminish until the kitchen closes at midnight. The hot chicken, made in the traditional style with a hot cayenne paste, comes in a variety of forms, from wings to dark meat; order the half bird if you want to try a little of everything. Then decide how much you want to crank up the heat, which ranges from mild to “Shut the Cluck Up: Burn Notice.” Half the fun is choosing the sides, which include pimento mac and cheese, Southern greens, baked beans, and extra pickles.
123 Ewing Drive
According to legend, Nashville-style hot chicken began in the 1930s when Thornton Prince’s girlfriend dumped cayenne on his fried chicken to get revenge for his cheating ways. But he loved it instead, and eventually opened up a hot chicken shop of his own. The Prince family carries on the tradition today at their simple strip-mall space. Customers place their orders at a kitchen window for varying levels of heat, from mild to extra hot. The spicy paste is applied after the fried chicken comes out of cast-iron skillets, and then the bird is placed on white bread and served with pickles. The addictive combo of tastes has since spawned hot chicken joints and special menu items across Music City and beyond.
2100 West End Ave, Nashville, TN 37203, USA
Ever heard of a bonut? Neither had we until we visited Biscuit Love, a cult-favorite breakfast spot in Nashville‘s happening Gulch neighborhood, where morning queues often exceed an hour on weekends. And bonuts—deep-fried biscuit dough slathered in lemon mascarpone and balanced on a sticky heap of blueberry compote—are just one of the many hits on the menu. The restaurant had its origins in 2012 as a food truck, where husband-and-wife team Karl and Sarah Worley’s made-from-scratch biscuits made them an overnight success. In January 2015, they opened a brick-and-mortar restaurant, where Karl mans the stoves and Sarah runs the front of the house, making sure patrons get their Southern classics while they’re hot. Be sure to order a bonut, along with the sweet-and-spicy Chronic Bacon, shrimp and grits, and the off-menu Nasty Princess, a biscuit topped with Nashville-style hot chicken, gravy, pickles, mustard, and honey.
1796 21st Ave S, Nashville, TN 37212, USA
This Nashville institution often has a line out the door and wrapped around the building. (“It moves fast!” everyone will tell you.) Once inside, the scene is no-frills, but it’s not the atmosphere you’re here for—it’s the people, the tradition, and the pancakes, of course. You can choose from flavors like traditional buttermilk; Caribbean with shredded coconut, banana, and powdered sugar; Swiss chocolate chip; sweet potato; and many, many more. Everything is made from scratch, including non-pancake dishes like omelets, sandwiches, and salads.
8400 TN-100, Nashville, TN 37221, USA
You can eat other things at Loveless Cafe, but if you don’t try the flaky buttery biscuits, you’re missing out. Carol Fay Ellison started at Loveless as a dishwasher in 1979. She graduated to the stove a few years later and reigned supreme as The Biscuit Lady until her death in 2010. Fortunately, she passed her recipes for biscuits and preserves on to other capable hands, so her memories survive along with her portrait in the cafe. Loveless isn’t the same without her, but the biscuits are still incredible.
1200 4th Ave N, Nashville, TN 37208, USA
Chef Julia Sullivan grew up in Music City before moving away to study at the Culinary Institute of America and work at restaurants like New York’s Per Se and Blue Hill at Stone Barns. When she returned home, she opened Henrietta Red with sommelier Allie Poindexter in the culinary hotbed of Germantown. The women bring a strong oyster game to landlocked Tennessee as well as options like wood-roasted pork sausage with broccoli rabe and rhubarb mostarda. Diners can take a seat at the long marble bar for natural wines and craft cocktails or settle into the dining room, where white walls and wood tables create a bright, homey feel.
2316 12th Ave S, Nashville, TN 37204, USA
With Persian rugs, deep maroon banquettes, and antiqued mirrors along the wall, the dining room here feels warm and calm. Chef Andrew Little imparts his Pennsylvania Dutch roots with Tennessee flavor and ingredients, calling the cuisine American Farmhouse. Diners might begin with favorites like freshly baked soft pretzels with brown butter mustard and brussels sprouts and cherries with orange and peanut vinaigrette. Classically composed main dishes include rabbit with dumplings, duck, pork chop, and whole chicken for two. Pastry chef Kayla May offers seasonal creations for dessert, and don’t miss her sticky buns with pecan, orange, and cardamom at Sunday brunch.
401 11th Ave S, Nashville, TN 37203, USA
John Besh, the acclaimed chef and New Orleans restaurateur, has opened his first Nashville outpost on the ground floor of the Thompson Hotel in the Gulch neighborhood. He brings with him a love of fresh seafood and the distinctive taste of New Orleans—including his mother’s gumbo recipe—through dishes like red snapper court bouillon. The menu includes options from land, too, such as duck confit dirty rice, a Tennessee pork chop with collards and grits, and Mississippi rabbit over hand-cut pappardelle with wild mushrooms. The restaurant, accented with deep blue and touches of Nashville-casual denim, has a relaxed bistro vibe and a menu for every meal of the day. Don’t miss pastry chef Lisa White’s biscuits at breakfast or her after-dinner desserts like Cruze buttermilk cheesecake.
434 Houston St, Nashville, TN 37203, USA
Located in the former warehouse of the American Syrup & Preserving Company, Bastion offers customers a different experience depending on where they perch. On the bar side of the operation, one feels like a guest in the spacious digs of an artist, with mismatched furniture and lights strung from the rafters. Settle in and order craft cocktails and a platter of nachos gussied up with smoked meats. Or head to the other side, around the bar wall, where the staff prepares dinner in a warm, unpretentious space with chef Josh Habiger himself occasionally emerging from the kitchen to change the vinyl records. In lieu of menus, guests are handed bingolike cards with minimal descriptions (Monkfish Liver + Salsify or Black Sea Bass + Black Tea) and mark their choices there, placing their trust in the hands of Habiger and team cooking from an open kitchen.
410 4th Ave S, Nashville, TN 37201, USA
After studying the time-honored traditions of whole hog barbecue from old-timers in West Tennessee, Pat Martin brought the craft to the Nashville area. He opened his first joint in a repurposed auto-body shop in Nolensville, but now has achieved barbecue-empire status with multiple locations. The grandest branch, in downtown Nashville, includes a terrific backyard beer garden, with an open skeleton of steel beams overhead, the surrounding brick walls covered with bright murals and bric-a-brac from old license plates to portraits of Daisy Duke, and everywhere the perfume of pit smoke. It’s hard to make a poor choice from a menu that includes smoked wings in Alabama white sauce, pulled pork over hoecake with slaw (called the Redneck Taco), and simple slices of beef brisket.
903 Gleaves St, Nashville, TN 37203, USA
Carey Bringle hails from West Tennessee and grew up around serious barbecue culture. A photo on the wall of Peg Leg Porker, depicting his grandfather cooking hogs in the South Pacific during World War II, attests to that. It’s still a family affair at this Gulch restaurant: Bringle’s wife and kids work with him in the kitchen, dining room, and business office. The white box of a building on the edge of the Gulch has a no-frills, classic barbecue joint decor. Aside from family photos on the walls, the focus here is on the food—dry-rub ribs, pulled pork, and smoked chicken with sides like smoked green beans, slaw, potato salad, and mac and cheese.