Don’t let its spare exterior fool you
This hole in the wall is the sort of place that friends don’t even tell friends about because they don’t want the secret to get out. Neither the tables nor the seats are what we'd call fancy, and the menu might be short and, but there’s not a bad item on it. Even the soup of the day is a safe bet, every day. Keep in mind that it's cash-only, though.
Enjoy the morning meal any time day or night
“La Ha” is one of the most popular Mexican restaurants in town, thanks in part to its on-site tortilla making. The menu is massive and affordable with plenty of combos and platters, but with breakfast served all day, can you really resist huevos con chorizo for dinner?
Best for Central American fare and the attached grocery store
If you walk in through the wrong door, you might think Las Americas is just a grocery store. But keep going to the next room, and you’ll discover some of the most delicious, inexpensive Central American food in town. It’s tough to spend more than 10 bucks before you’re full on tortas and pupusas. It's also got a handy little Central American and Hispanic grocery store attached where you can buy all sorts of supplies for your at-home flavor experiments.
For tripe tacos and micheladas, go no further
A favorite among the East Nashville crowd, El Jaliciense is known for serving old-school street tacos, wrapped with two corn tortillas and stuffed with traditional fillings like spicy pork and beef, as well as a veggie menu and more unconventional options like tripe or tongue. Be sure to try their popular micheladas, too.
Lingua and tinga cooked in a truck out back
A twist on the usual food truck operation, Taqueria Azteca is a small brick-and-mortar location where the food is cooked in a vehicle parked out back. Carnitas and spicy chicken tinga are the power move here, and you can always augment them with an order of sopes.
A hidden gem with live music in the Lowe's parking lot
You’ll have to drive to the back of a Lowe’s parking lot to find this spot, but you’ll be rewarded for your efforts with an extensive menu of Mexican specialties from cactus to huitlacoche quesadillas. That second dish is made with a delicious fungus that grows on corn and is sometimes referred to as “Mexican truffles.” If you’re there on the right night, you’ll be treated to live music.
A bounty of oceanic delights
Mariscos is Spanish for seafood, so that’s really the order of the day here. The restaurant’s version of a shrimp cocktail is probably the best deal, and the kitchen is pretty talented at frying fish. For landlubbers, the usually mundane dish of grilled chicken is a standout.
Legit Central American fare
Unless you speak Spanish, you’ll have to point and order from the menu at this fantastic Salvadoran joint. Fortunately, anything you randomly pick is most probably delicious. Look for the word “loroco,” an edible flower with a nutty green flavor that’s an exotic addition to some of the pupusas and platters.
Nashville’s new vibrant Latin American food hall
This colorful collection of Latin restaurants offers all sorts of excellent dining options specializing in tacos, churrasco, paletas, ceviche, and a fancier sit-down coffee shop and grill named Madera Cafe if you’re looking for a full meal. In addition to food, it's also got stores to browse and shop, a dance studio, and even an arcade for kids.
Step through the door into Tegucigalpa
The menu at this strip-mall cantina is heavy on stewed meats, beans, and cheese. The daily specials are always a good bet, and brave souls should ask for the secret house hot sauce to torque up the spice levels. For Honduran food, you can do no better in this town.
Tacos, yes, but also great soup
Everybody raves about the tacos (and rightly so), but don’t miss out on Mas Tacos’ amazing chicken tortilla soup or their pozole verde and its multiple levels of flavors, either. Of course, you should go ahead and order some tacos too, especially the cast iron chicken with salsa verde and sour cream. You'll get full and spend just about $10, but be sure to bring cash.
Piquant Puertorriqueño fare
Probably Nashville’s best spot for gorgeously plated empanadas and mofongo (a dish built on a mass of fried plantains, for those unfamiliar), this cozy spot is popular with Cummins Station workers or folks on the way to a show at nearby Mercy Lounge. They also host a festive happy hour with cheap boozy rum drinks.
Excellent margaritas with a side of snark
The prominent sign outside of this East Nashville fave is a frequent Instagram and Twitter feature thanks to the clever aphorisms they post on a regular basis. (Current Twitter profile pic: "Warning: Bad Hombres and Nasty Women Inside.") Maybe that’s what draws folks in, but it’s the exemplary (and strong) margaritas and spicy enchiladas that keep them coming back.
Authentic island food in an intimate space
From its legit ropa vieja -- a fully stacked presentation of rice, meat, and peppers -- to the lechon asado -- a rich whole hog preparation -- Back to Cuba Cafe offers the closest Nashville comes to Miami in both its ambiance and cuisine. There’s even a dedicated domino table by the front door of the dining room.
Steady Green Hills stalwart
The tony Green Hills neighborhood isn’t exactly known as a hotbed of ethnic diversity, but this local favorite still provides rice, beans, meat and cheese stuffed into tortillas in exactly all the combinations you’d expect. Sometimes all you want is a cheesy burrito for a cheap lunch, and in this neighborhood, you can't beat it.
Nothin’ fancy, and it's still the local chefs’ favorite
Boxy cinderblock building? Check. Decor consisting mainly of Corona banners? Yep. A long menu of combo plates served on huge platters? Correct. The combos all priced at $9? Heaven. You know you’re in a genuine Mexican humble diner, and local chefs count El Metate among their guilty pleasures.
Hip newcomer with primo queso
Part of a small regional chain, Nada serves upscale tacos in a glamorous setting. Its bar is hopping, and Nada's Queso Gringo rises above its snide name thanks to the addition of smoked Gouda, black bean puree, rajas con crema, and a spicy habanero salsa. The plush leather seating, sweeping ceilings, wood paneling, and exposed brick only add to the vibe.
The neighborhood's student favorite
Located across the street from Belmont University, Chago’s know their audience. They’ve introduced a generation of students to classic Latin American dishes that are flavorful without being too challenging, and they offer some of the best vegetarian Mexican options in town. It's also got two outdoor patios to enjoy.
You can smell the grill when you walk in
Grilled meat and seafood dishes are the specialty at La Terraza. If you can’t decide, get the Parrillada Mar y Tierra, a Mexican surf-and-turf plate of steak, chicken breast, shrimp, fish fillets, and chorizo. They also keep a great selection of tequila behind the bar, if you're feeling thirsty.
Meat, meat, and more meat
You know a place is old-school legit when the menu is painted on the cinder-block wall next to the small window for ordering. Street tacos and burritos are the order of the day at on Juan, and while people rightfully rave about the al pastor, don’t sleep on the spicy chorizo. Just look for the giant signs that say "TACOS" and "CARNICERIA."