Sara Norris/Thrillist
Sara Norris/Thrillist

11. Classic Burger

Burger Up

Address and Info

There were three things that happened while in Burger Up worth relaying. The first is the fact that not one, but TWO separate groups of girls were asked to be bridesmaids by a bride-to-be while we ate. The second is that, as we were leaving, a man with amazing slicked-back American Psycho hair wearing a royal blue sport-coat walked in, looked around, winked at someone, and then walked back out. The third is that I ate a kale salad alongside my burger. It was very good. 

The fact that none of these things involves the burger is not totally an accident. The truth: The burger just wasn't fantastic. The grind was dense so the meat felt snappy, the patty was overcooked and under-salted, and the bun was dry and flaking in parts. The balance of the toppings was fine, and the acid from the pickle and yellow mustard gave some balance, but it just didn't do much.

I often find that, in burger shops with lots of stunt-y options (Up has 12 total burgers), the most basic burgers don't get the love they need to truly make them shine because the focus is on other tricks. But hopefully my experience was merely an outlier. 

Quinn Ballard/Thrillist

10. Family Wash Burger

The Family Wash

Address and Info

There were some guys "trying out some new stuff" onstage when Jennifer, Erin, and I got to Family Wash. That stuff they were trying was loud, but not great. The burger suffered from a similar problem. The jalapeño mayo was spicy and bold, and it melded with the cheese and patties to give this creamy, salty, spicy kick I dug, but the patties were overcooked, the bun was extremely dry, and the pickle did little to give it the proper balance. I'd heard that Executive Chef John Stephenson left a month or two before, and I couldn't help but wonder if that led to the inconsistency, but that is merely speculation. Cooked consistently and paired with a moist, well-griddled bun, this would be a burger worth seeking out.

Quinn Ballard/Thrillist

9. Pharmacy Burger

The Pharmacy Burger Parlor & Beer Garden

Address and Info

Other than Husk, no other burger establishment in Nashville received as much pre-trip hype as The Pharmacy. "You'll love the Pharmacy," said one cocky friend who travels to Nashville regularly, adding, "You can put beer mustard on your burger!" 

Perhaps this friend doesn't truly know me in his heart, because I DON'T CARE FOR BEER MUSTARD! But I digress, and admit that I had high hopes for the place named after where I purchase my Cetaphil. They cook the burgers medium-well as a standard, so I asked for medium, and possibly received something that split the difference, with just a faint pink coloring, though the meat was salty and had a pleasing loose grind. The mustard was intense, as were the sheer quantity of pickles. I rarely complain about there being too much acid to combat the fatty elements of the burger but this might be the one time it happens. Overall, it was a good burger, but not a mind-blowing one. And no, Nate, I didn't try the beer mustard.

Sara Norris/Thrillist

8. Singlewide Cheeseburger, Dressed

Paradise Park Trailer Resort

Address and Info

When we went to Paradise Park on Lower Broadway, right in the heart of the intense tourist action, it was empty except for three tourists from Ohio and two dudes who seemed to be auditioning for a real life version of James Franco's role in Spring Breakers. As we took this very photo of the burger you see above, one of the Franco brothers swaggered to our table. "Yo. My brother wants to see you."

Sara looked up from her camera, but he was talking to me. And when I looked back, his brother was sitting at the farthest table in the back of a very deep restaurant. He waved. 

Not knowing what else to do, I walked the 3,000 or so yards back to his table. Franco brother two said his name was "Gus with s's." He had a tattoo of a serpent wrapped around a lion on his hand. "You folks here to make videos?" he asked, not impolitely.

"No," I said, awkwardly. "We're just taking pics of the burger and trying it." I actually said "pics." It wasn't my best moment. Nashville James Franco Guss nodded. "I feel you. Y'all need any party snacks while I'm in town you let me know. I'm the man for parties." I nodded and thanked him and walked back to the front where a band was singing "Happy Birthday" to those tourists from Ohio. It was 4:45pm on a Wednesday. 

Anyway! The burger is actually pretty good. All the ingredients are right, the mayo blends in with the shredded lettuce, there is a good griddle on the meat, and the seeded bun is fresh, though not toasted, so it gets soggy. Plus, you know, it's nice knowing Guss is there if you need any party snacks. 

Sara Norris/Thrillist

7. The Cheeseburger on French Bread

Rotier's Restaurant

Address and Info

Does your favorite restaurant have a Kools cigarette machine? And a Galaga arcade game? And photocopied diplomas, and a neon red sign, and a green awning, and neon letters in the window that just say "Steak" and "Sea Food"? 

Rotier's, which has been around since 1945, does. The classic Nashville landmark is legendary both for being a great place to take your parents if you go to Vanderbilt, and also for serving a fantastic cheeseburger on French bread. And, if you look at that perfect composition in the photo, you can see why. There are issues with this fabled burger though. The meat, though loosely ground, is relatively unremarkable, the French bread is not toasted and gets soft and wet. The grilled onions are undercooked. And yet, when it all comes together, it works. The stack is so professional and smooth that biting through it gives you the full range of flavors, and that is marvelous enough in its own right. Oh, and don't forget: You get to play Galaga too. 

Sara Norris/Thrillist

6. Cheeseburger with Grilled Onions

Brown's Diner

Address and Info

Brown's Diner holds Nashville's oldest beer license, which might explain why we ordered beers there just after 11am on a weekday. Founded in 1927, the institution quickly became Casey's and my favorite restaurant in Nashville in terms of vibe: the green walls with the wood paneling, the blue seats at the bar that look like they survived the Depression, the menu featuring hush puppies for $1.75.

Our waitress, quite possibly the cutest older woman below the Mason-Dixon line, told us that she'd gone to the dentist that morning and the novocaine hadn't worn off so she was only able to half-smile and that made us love her all the more. She brought out the cheeseburger quickly, and I liked the looks -- the stack was handsome and well-composed. And the burger itself had some moves: It was salty and well-cooked with a loose grind, and the "standard" toppings (mayo, tomato, lettuce) provided just the right balance. The only real issue was the bun, which was not toasted (COME ON, NASHVILLE, TOAST YOUR BUNS, PLEASE) and too soft, so the top steamed up but the bottom got extremely soggy quickly. Still though, we were enchanted. 

"I want to live in this place for real," said Casey, and I couldn't really tell if he was kidding. 

Sara Norris/Thrillist

5. Capitol Grille Burger

Capitol Grille

Address and Info

If you've never been in the men's bathroom in the Hermitage Hotel in Nashville, you are missing out, friends. It's like walking through a Back to the Future time warp. I'm not even going to tell you more about it, but I implore you to go and check it out, and maybe even use it if you have to. 

ANYWAY, Capitol Grille was hopping when we got there, filled with mostly locals in Downtown business attire discussing industries I can't even pretend to understand. Casey nodded along to their conversations because he fancies himself "business savvy" but I could tell he was faking it. The burger, though, was the real deal. The Double H Farms beef was fantastic, cooked perfectly with a little bit of spice (ground red and black pepper, maybe?). The "HH sauce" also had a kick, and a tiny bit of BBQ twang, which complemented the white cheddar and peppery arugula. Even the fries were deliciously thin. I have no real complaints about the Capitol Grille burger, to be honest. It's just Nashville has a lot of good burgers. 

Sara Norris/Thrillist

4. Dino's Cheeseburger

Dino's Bar

Address and Info

Before eating this burger at 5pm with nary a buzz, I'd yet to meet someone who'd had Dino's burger sober. "It's amazing," said one friend, before adding "I've only ever had it after midnight so I'm not actually sure how true that is." Literally every single person I talked to said some variation of this same theme. 

But, as I keep trying to tell you guys, I'm a professional and that meant heading to Dino's in the early evening, before the late-night rush. The only people in the bar when Casey, Sara, and I got there were an older couple in the corner and a cardboard Dolly Parton on the wall. Groundhog Day played on the TV. Between sips of beer from a plastic cup, I tried the burger. The soft white bun was perfectly toasted; the meat was salty and cooked to a true medium. Every component did its job well. It's a conventionally great cheeseburger sober, so I can't even imagine the glory Dino's burger is to behold when you've had a few Yazoos. 

Sara Norris/Thrillist

3. The Seamus with American & Grilled Onions

Gabby's Burgers & Fries

Address and Info

We got to Gabby's early at around 11am on a weekday, expecting to be the only people there. We had miscalculated. Gabby's was half-full when we arrived, and completely full by 11:30am, teeming with construction workers and office people and parents looking to bribe their children into obedience, or scare them by setting them down by the haunting wall of Mr. Potato Heads. 

Now hawk-eyed readers might notice that the burger in the picture above is, in fact, the Gabby, whereas I'm recommending the single patty Seamus. The truth is, for one person, the Gabby is too much damn burger. But in a delicious way. The unique seasoning on the meat gave it almost a meatloaf flavor, but it was cooked perfectly, juicy and pink on the inside with a nice char, so it had the best elements of flavor from meatloaf without that trademark dryness from sitting in an oven. The bun wasn't toasted (come ON!) but still had good texture and didn't get too soggy, and the onions and cheese all melded with the meat, creating that perfect burger Voltron. Go to Gabby's, friends, but set your alarm clock before you do. 

Brita Britnel/Thrillist

2. The Burger

Little Octopus

Address and Info

When Jennifer and Erin recommended the burger at Little Octopus, I was suspicious. New restaurants tend to be towards the bottom of my burger list, mostly because I don't really care about trying a new place in a new city -- I just want the best. But their insistence won me over, and so we met for dinner at Little Octopus the first night I came to town.

Sitting up at the bar in the back, surrounded by ladies eating ceviche, I dug into a burger that basically broke most of my rules, what with the egg and exotic manchego cheese and TOMATO. But man, was it worth it. The Manchego is griddled, almost like its own crunchy grilled cheese within the sandwich. The char was incredible, the beef mixture was salty and juicy and loosely ground, the bun perfectly done, and the piquillo aioli had just enough tang to stand up to the other elements. Jennifer and Erin were right (again): This is a fantastic, nearly astounding burger, and it would've easily been the best in many of the cities I traveled to. Unfortunately for the small cephalopod mollusk, they happen to reside in the same city as a world-beater.  

Sara Norris/Thrillist

1. Husk Cheeseburger

Husk Nashville

Address and Info

As much as I love Sean Brock and all he's done for the Good Food Revival Movement in the US, I definitely didn't want to pick Husk's burger as number one. The burger is a hypebeast and when burgers tend to attract that much hype, they can't possibly live up to it. Plus my cynical, counter-intuitive nature makes picking something so obvious almost physically painful. It makes me nearly existential: What am I doing going around the country and eating burgers if I'm just going to re-confirm the status quo? What is the point of all this? WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE DIE? 

Well, I hope that when we die, we get to eat this cheeseburger every day. It's a marvel, a mutant superhuman burger that must've been created in a secret government lab and given special powers. The grind on that Bear Creek Farm beef was so loose, it almost felt like I was eating a sauce-less sloppy Joe, and yet it stayed together, if only by the grace of the almighty himself. The crust on the patty was remarkable and covered most of the surface area of the meat. The onions tucked in between the patties steamed and mixed with the American cheese for optimal melding. The pickles and mustard did their part in upholding the acid tenets. The sesame bun looks bulky to the eye but squishes easily when you bite. This is a flawless burger, the best in Nashville by several country miles, and a clear contender for best in America. Damn you, Sean Brock. If you need me, I'll be in line, waiting to kiss the ring. 

Up Next
Tansuo | Emily Hall
Food & Drink

Nashville's Best New Restaurants of 2017

Published On 11/13/2017
C ontrary to the established laws of supply and demand, new restaurants continue to open in Nashville at a furious rate. The latest hot spots seem to be pulling crowds away from the bustle of Downtown and into places like East Nashville, which has a new joint great for food from the Iberian peninsula or Germantown, where you can now satisfy a shellfish craving year-round or get fresh, hand-cranked sausages while watching a game. Whether you're a tourist or a local, Music City's appetite for great, new food is as bottomless as a cup of Waffle House coffee. Here are some of the latest, greatest Nashville restaurants where you should grab a table right now.
Magnus Lindqvist | GLINTstudios courtesy of 21c Museum Hotels

Gray & Dudley

Downtown

High-end comfort food you can watch being made through an open kitchen
Considering that Gray & Dudley is located inside the 21C Museum Hotel, it’s no surprise that the decor is modern and edgy with effigies of wolves and sheep hanging from the walls. However, the food on the plate is its own type of art, thanks to soulful presentations of elevated comfort food classics like the perfect diner-style thin pork chops grilled to the exacting doneness. If you get one thing, go for those pork chops, which are served with Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, pine honey, and delicious fermented chiles.

Oak Steakhouse Nashville

SoBro

A classic American steakhouse serious about its beef
This spin-off of a Charleston steakhouse offers a dramatic interior with soaring ceilings and a clubby environment befitting a shrine to red meat. Lots of places serve wet-aged steaks nowadays, but the dry-aged signature steaks at the Oak are revelatory: rich, slightly funky, and unlike any beef you’ll find at a national chain. If you want the best, get the 20-ounce Certified Angus Beef bone-in ribeye.

Andrew Thomas Lee

Henrietta Red

Germantown

High ceilings, seafood, and an unparalleled raw bar
Forget that old warning about not eating oysters unless there’s an “r” in the name of the month. Call it “Raugust” if that makes you feel better, but anytime is the right time to order bivalves from Henrietta Red’s menu of fantastic oysters and clams from around the country. If you don’t like it raw, the kitchen also demonstrates impressive expertise cooking all sorts of seafood.

Hemingway's Bar & Hideaway

Wedgewood/Houston

A delicious homage to the legendary writer, complete with a daiquiri tap
In addition to a tremendous cocktail menu, including the Papa’s eponymous version of the classic daiquiri available on tap, Hemingway’s serves up unpretentious food to soak up all that great booze. The king trumpet mushroom dish is ingeniously designed like a deconstructed pizza that will make you forget it’s vegetarian, made with charred cauliflower & sunchokes, parsnip puree, and roasted tomato vinaigrette.

Courtesy of Kimpton Hotels

Henley

Midtown

The best spot for big groups and New American cuisine
Bring some friends because Henley offers communal eating at its best. Between the snacks, like oysters and aged hams served from a rolling cart, the small plates suitable for mixing and matching, and the large-format communal platters heaped with chicken or beef, this is not a restaurant for selfish people. I guess you could always team up with the table next door if you don’t have enough dining buddies. You'll need them to enjoy the excellent short rib, which comes from Bear Creek Farm and is served with smoked and grilled broccoli.

Greko Street Food

East Nashville

Authentic, cheap Greek street fare served on large wood tables
The Darsino family came over from the old country almost 50 years ago, but this fast-casual Greek eatery is the first chance that many Nashvillians have had to sample their bold flavors and elevated street foods. Pick from a list of souvlakis or skewers of grilled octopus to taste the essence of Peloponnesian cuisine. The Korinthian lamb, which is served over hand-cut fries with oregano and mizithra cheese, is a rich, irreplaceable dish that you would probably never think to call street food.

Emily Hall

Tànsuŏ

Downtown

A warmly lit spot for contemporary Chinese and Chinese-American cuisine alike
While it’s not the straight-ahead, classic Chinese restaurant that some Nashvillians have been hollering for, Tànsuŏ, from celebrity chef Maneet Chauhan, is pretty impressive in its own right. The buzzing atmosphere and hip decor make it popular among the girls-night-out set, and the inventive takes on Cantonese cuisine will bring in the snobbier foodies, regardless of their proclivities to the party crowd. Try the lamb dumplings off the dim sum cart, Tànsuŏ's take on Chinese-American dishes like General Tso's, or give in to the party entirely and dig in to the Peking duck!

The Mockingbird

Midtown

A pun-filled, art deco diner that puts an international twist on American classics
Maneet Chauhan, celebrity chef and judge on Food Network’s Chopped, has now opened three restaurants in the same building in the North Gulch. Mockingbird joins Chauhan Ale & Masala House and the above-mentioned Tànsuŏ to offer a trio of stylish, internationally-inspired eateries. Mockingbird features a gorgeous art deco vibe and kitschy mismatched plates to serve up fancified diner classics with clever names like Don’t Worry, Brie Happy; Poultry in Motion; and Seoul Purpose. And while the names may be goofy puns, the food is seriously good. Don't miss out on The Bird is the Word: a plate of huge fried chicken thighs with chorizo decked out with white gravy and salsa verde mashed potatoes.

Phillip Fryman

Von Elrod's Beer Garden & Sausage House

Germantown

Hand-cranked sausages and 36 taps of cold beer to choose from
This convivial new beer hall and sausage emporium is conveniently located right next to the city's minor league ballpark, so baseball fans can stop by for a pre- or post-game beer and a snack. These sausages are some of the best of the wursts in town, and decadent poutine dishes served over Belgian fries smothered in gravy and cheese will delight everyone except your cardiologist. For my money, try the vanh mi Thai chicken sausage topped with quick pickles and tiki sauce.

Pastaria

West End

A casual Italian empire sticks the landing in Nashville
Chef Gerard Craft had already earned a vaunted reputation (and a James Beard Award) in St. Louis before bringing an outpost of his empire to Music City, but now that he’s here, he’s quickly becoming a local favorite. The bright and modern interior of his casual Italian restaurant is invigorating, and the atmosphere is family-friendly. Craft’s version of bolognese is decidedly old-school, thanks to the inclusion of earthy chicken livers just like Nonna would have added to her ragu, and the lasagna made with verde bolognese, spinach pasta, mozzarella, and bechamel tastes even better.

Courtesy of Peninsula Nashville

Peninsula

East Nashville

Spanish and Portuguese food from a menu that changes every day
This hip East Nashville tapas spot focuses on the food of the Iberian peninsula, which means you can expect plenty of excellent seafood dishes, exotic spices, and luscious Spanish hams. Order up a few small plates paired with a drink from their unique cocktail menu including eight (count ‘em, eight!) varieties of gin and tonics and a host of Old World wines for a dining experience that is literally foreign to the neighborhood. The menu shifts every day, but try to get there while their excellent braised rabbit with garlic broth and piment d’Espelette is still on offer.

Courtesy of Hugh Baby's

Hugh Baby's

Sylvan Park

A tight menu focused on BBQ and burgers, tailored for comfort and flavor
Pat Martin is best known as the pitmaster/owner of the wildly popular Martin’s Bar-B-Que chain, and he does serve a fine pulled pork sandwich at his new restaurant, Hugh Baby's. But the emphasis is on burgers, both the fresh-ground beef patties and the Friday-only special of Slugburgers -- a Mississippi tradition made with a deep-fried soy and a pork patty served with pickles, raw onion, and mustard. Don’t sleep on Hugh Baby's hot dogs, either! They’re exceptional. Hugh Baby's deliberately keeps its menu short and sweet, and the best thing to get is the double cheeseburger with American cheese, lettuce, pickle, onion, tomato, and comeback sauce.

Milk & Honey

The Gulch

A chic coffee shop best for enjoying the sweeter things in life
Brought to you by the team behind local favorites Taco Mamacita and Clyde’s on Church, Milk & Honey is all about the sweet stuff. Gelato, paletas, pastries, and a top-notch coffee program are natural draws during the morning meal, but the restaurant stays open late to satisfy your breakfast for dinner desires as well. Everything is made from scratch, so it’s fresh all day. If you get nothing else, try their Nutella latte.

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The Very Best Restaurants in Nashville Right Now

Updated On 04/23/2018 at 04:14PM EST