Some people go to Nashville for the music. Or so I hear.
This second visit to Music City, however, was for me all about the food. My first time passing through, I had had my first mouth-burning bite of hot chicken, I sampled a meat-and-three, and then cooled said mouth off with a Jeni’s ice cream in Hillsboro Village (also, Pancake Pantry…hello!)
So one could say I whet my appetite for Nashville on that quick stop through a few years ago. When I found myself in Memphis this year, not a whole lot could stop me from going back — fork and knife in hand — for more.
From nights out in East Nashville to my first honky-tonk experience (ok, maybe it was also a little about the music,) to a Nashville Eats food tour and multiple stops at the same barbecue joint…it’s incredible how much you can learn about a city’s food scene in just a handful of days and 3-5 daily meals!
So, what are the classic must-haves for a foodie vacation to Nashville?
Here’s the list I wish someone had given me before I arrived.
Best Restaurants in Nashville
Where to Eat
410 4th Ave S (Peabody)
Why It’s Cool: One look at their BBQ pits (you can ask to take a peek,) and you’ll understand why this place is a legendary spot for Tennessee barbecue.
What To Get: Ribs, of course! Their wings were also excellent. Or get a sampler platter so you don’t have to choose. Ask for a side of all the sauces to taste them all.
The 404 Kitchen
404 12th Ave S
Why It’s Cool: A delicious + fresh menu with unique items like scallop toast and rabbit.
What To Get: The house-made burrata, chilled lamb salad, cornbread.
Rolf & Daughters
410 4th Ave S (Peabody)
Why It’s Cool: Widely acclaimed — this was probably the most recommended/highly rated restaurant recommended to me.
What To Get: Sourdough with seaweed butter, pasta, a cocktail!
Butcher & Bee
902 Main S
Why It’s Cool: If you’ve reached your breaking point for smoked meats and heavy sides and need some veggies, this seasonal spot is a welcome respite from your typical Southern eats.
What To Get: Whipped feta, shakshuka, avocado crispy rice.
250 5th Avenue S
Why It’s Cool: Nashville food writer and cookbook author Jennifer Justus calls this one of the best biscuits in the city.
What To Get: Buttermilk biscuits with butter and jam!
1796 21st Ave S
Why It’s Cool: If you love breakfast (and who doesn’t,) save room for this epic pancake spot with menu items like cornmeal pancakes cooked with green chilis or sweet potato pancakes.
What To Get: Classic or crazy pancakes as suits your taste/mood that day. Add bacon at your own risk.
Mas Tacos Por Favor
732 McFerrin Ave
Why It’s Cool: Never one to search for Mexican food outside of California, Texas, or Mexico, these tacos still rock and should be enjoyed no matter your taco location snobbery.
What To Get: Tacos! (Duh.) Though I also hear rave reviews for their chicken tortilla soup and elote.
2911 12th Ave S
Why It’s Cool: It’s literally cool to get one of these flavorful and fresh popsicles, especially on a hot day.
What To Get: The classic and more inventive flavors (I got avocado) seem to all be a hit. Take your popsicle to the park across the street if the mood strikes you!
1011 Clearview Ave
Why It’s Cool: You won’t find this at the top of most Nashville food lists, but for me (and my friends) this was a highlight of all the places we ate at in Nashville. The food here is fantastic — and the atmosphere is fun, relaxed, and inviting. They also serve late night (until 1am.)
What To Get: We loved the beef tartare and the ramp noodles most!
1520 Woodland St
Why It’s Cool: Another East Nashville favorite, it feels like a true neighborhood spot yet the place is chic and food and drink is delicious. Go for the happy hour (4-6pm,) which is actually a community hour supporting a local design center.
What To Get: Their wood-fired pizzas are a highlight. In the summer, the one with peaches on top was divine.
1102 Forrest Ave
Why It’s Cool: A fantastic East Nashville cocktail spot with a fun ambiance and likely a chill crowd.
What To Get: One of the house cocktails. Sit on the back patio!
37 Rutledge St
Why It’s Cool: Well, I’ve only been to the location in Charleston, but it’s still one of my favorite dining experiences. Expect inventive dishes with heirloom Southern ingredients.
What To Get: A reservation. Then anything from the menu.
Frothy Monkey Coffeehouse
235 5th Ave N
Why It’s Cool: Full of freelancers and cappuccino sippers, it’s a local favorite for a reason and they serve brunch until 5pm (enough said.)
What To Get: Choose from a creative coffee menu and delicious breakfast and sandwich options.
Five Daughters Bakery
1110 Caruthers Ave (12th S); 1900 Eastland Ave (East Nashville)
Why It’s Cool: Cute design and to-die-for donuts.
What To Get: Maple bacon (mmm.)
15 Hermitage Ave
Why It’s Cool: The best coffee I had in Nashville.
What To Get:Their coffee soda is unique, espresso is well-made, and the chai is quite good as well (if you’re feeling over-caffeinated!)
Woolworth on 5th
221 5th Ave
Why It’s Cool: A classic diner serving classic Southern eats with a large portion of history. This is where 1960s counter sit-ins of the civil rights movement took place.
What To Get: I loved their mac ‘n’ cheese and black-eyed peas. Many of the menu items have a story — so ask as you go!
Hattie B’s Hot Chicken
2222 8th Ave S
Why It’s Cool: It’s hot chicken. Take fried chicken, add cayenne pepper. Taste it, have water nearby, and see why the craze exists.
What To Get: Choose your spice level and your sides, buckle up, and get ready for a spicy ride.
Prince’s Hot Chicken
5814 Nolensville Pike; 123 Ewing Dr #3
Why It’s Cool: The O.G. hot chicken spot. Eat it and compare, because everyone is going to ask you to choose a favorite.
What To Get: Choose from mild, medium, hot, and extra hot (if you dare.)
Robert’s Western World
902 Main Street
Why It’s Cool: my reluctant adventure into honky tonks began here. I was surprised and delighted, and I’ll bet you would be too.
What To Get: they serve a $5 PBR and baloney sandwich with chips if you’re hungry…! Sip your drink of choice and soak up the atmosphere.
Other Highly Recommended Spots — on my list for next time:
- Patterson House
- The Catbird Seat
- Henrietta Red
- Arnold’s Country Kitchen
- Five Points Pizza
- Pinewood Social
Other Cool Things To Do (Besides eat, if you must:)
- Grand Ole Opry
- County Music Hall of Fame
- Ryman Auditorium
- Bluebird Cafe
- Radnor Lake
- Go mural hunting (clearly, we did.)
- Walk Eat Nashville Food Tour << a great overview and sampling of classic Nashville eats.
Where To Stay in Nashville
I loved my stay at SoBro Guesthouse. With a fully equipped kitchen, laundry, and even the option to have groceries delivered, it really felt like I had an apartment in the heart of Nashville. I liked the hands-on check-in (you receive a code) and the fact that you can text a concierge for any help needed, but otherwise, your stay is fairly independent.
The design here, both in the rooms and in the outdoor patio area, is beautiful — clean, colorful, hip, and comfortable. I especially liked the record player and old records — a nice vintage touch!
Most importantly, the SoBro Guesthouse is within walking distance to many of the things you’ll want to see/eat (with dangerous proximity to Martin’s BBQ.) The rest of Nashville is at your fingertips with a quick Uber or Lyft ride. And if you’re driving — there’s free parking.
(Note: I stayed as a guest of SoBro Guesthouse during my Nashville stay.)
Happy traveling and eating!
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