The Best Restaurants in Nashville Right Now
These are the Nashville restaurants worth a reservation ASAP.
Nashville continues to shine on the national dining scene, garnering more than its share of nominees in this year’s James Beard Awards and welcoming new and notable restaurants every month. From down-home to upscale, diners can pick from great food at every price point, and some of Music City’s most talented cooks work in humble and affordable restaurants. Of course, if you want a splurge meal, Nashville has you covered there, too. You can’t go wrong with any of these choices.
Rolf & Daughters
When chefs visit Nashville from out of town, this Germantown eatery is almost always on their eat-inerary. Starting off with one of the most eclectic wine lists in Nashville designed to get your juices flowing for an extraordinary meal, Rolf & Daughters is a delight with salvo after salvo of small plates from the kitchen served in a welcoming space with a neighborhood vibe. Dishes exhibit unexpected bursts of flavor from ingredients preserved, fermented or pickled as part of chef Philip Krajeck’s culinary obsessions which change frequently.
Silver Sands Restaurant
If you’re one of the many Nashvillians still licking your wounds over the closure of the city’s most iconic meat-and-three restaurant, Arnold’s Country Kitchen, we may have an option to help you work through your sadness. Silver Sands Cafe also serves a rotating menu of delicious Southern classics from a steam table just like Arnold’s, and your choices of dishes are even more soulful. Daily dishes include fried chicken and fish along with pork chops and pig feet. Oxtails on Thursday and Friday are standouts worth marking your calendar for.
Butcher & Bee
Riffing on Mediterranean cuisine using Southern ingredients is the calling card of this popular East Side eatery that offers a variety of small mezze plates and dips as starters along with large-format dishes served family-style for the table. The whipped feta with fermented honey is the “can’t miss” appetizer, or diners can take advantage of the “Order Like a Pro” option and receive all the mezzes coursed out like a meal. Another fun opportunity is the “Eat Like a Chef” deal where the kitchen sends out a series of their current favorite dishes for a fixed price.
Chef Tony Mantuano earned Michelin stars for his work at Chicago’s gone-but-not-forgotten restaurant, Spiaggia, and now he has brought his immense talents with Italian food to Nashville at Yolan. Diners can choose from an à la carte menu or five-course or eight-course tasting menus for a seasonal culinary tour through Italy featuring desserts crafted by James Beard-nominated pastry chef Noelle Marchetti. For an even more intimate experience, opt for “La Tavola en la Cucina,” a table literally in the kitchen where you can watch the artists at work.
Chef Vivek Surti is a first-generation American of Indian descent who tells the story of his culinary journeys through prix fixe dining experiences that are really more like an intimate dinner party. The engaging chef introduces each course to the room, sharing the philosophy behind and the evolution of each dish, many of which combine spices and flavors he learned about cooking at his mother’s side in their home kitchen with modern techniques that elevate the cuisine to fine dining status. Thoughtful optional beverage pairings complement each plate, and they’re pretty much mandatory.
Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack
The legendary inventor of Nashville’s most iconic regional dish, hot chicken, is still the champion. The newest location in the Assembly Food Hall downtown makes it even more convenient to get your fix. Serving objectively fantastic fried chicken as a base (even if you order it “mild,” wimp), Prince’s has heat levels to please and punish any fan of the fiery fowl. Often described as a spiritual experience, eating the hottest levels of Prince’s chicken may actually make you feel like you have left your body.
Slim & Husky's Pizza Beeria
Their great pizza and craft beer offerings would be enough to land them on this list, but long-time high school friends Clinton Gray, Derrick Moore and Emanuel Reed have made a huge impact by focusing on bringing people and opportunities to neighborhoods around HBCUs like their alma mater, Tennessee State University. The result is the restaurant they cleverly call a “pizza beeria” because of its focus on custom-made pies and craft beers. The bold decor with hip-hop lyrics stenciled on the wall and the welcoming atmosphere really feels in and of the neighborhood. The trio has already expanded the concept to other Nashville neighborhoods, including the only Black-owned restaurant in the Lower Broad tourist district and new locations across the state and in Georgia and California.
Cleveland Park has turned into a dining destination thanks to the addition of this Middle Eastern eatery, where chef Hrant Arakelian draws on his Lebanese roots to present a seasonal menu of bold flavors featuring elevated versions of hummus, roasted vegetables and creative meat dishes. The chef is particularly adept with lamb and seafood, so put those at the top of your order and work backwards to the appetizers from there. An affordable wine and cocktail list offers excellent accompaniments to the nuanced elements of the food.
The bar and dining room at Lockeland Table is almost always full of neighborhood residents chatting to one another while enjoying fine food and drink, but even if you enter as a stranger, you’ll probably leave with some new friends from this convivial eatery. A roaring wood fire in the pizza oven further warms the ambiance, and the specialty pies that emerge from the infernal heat are ideal for splitting as an appetizer unless you’re too selfish to share. The rest of the menu features Southern fare with international accents like the mandatory app of chicken liver pâté on Tuscan bread or the rack of lamb with fava beans.
Drusie & Darr
The Nashville foodie community was set abuzz when the Hermitage Hotel announced that world class chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten would be the culinary genius behind their revamp of the hotel’s main restaurant option. The restaurant is named after the hotel’s former general manager’s children who grew up playing in the dramatic Beaux Arts lobby of the property. Jean-Georges plays in the kitchen to create a globally inspired menu featuring the abundant agricultural bounty of Tennessee, including some items grown on a local farm that The Hermitage partners with to work the land. For a magical experience, take the ride with Drusie & Darr’s tasting menu and prepare to be delighted by the whims of the chef.
The building that houses Hathorne was once the fellowship hall of the former Methodist church next door. The emphasis on welcoming hospitality is still quite evident in the lovely space that still shows off the church’s prayer rail as a room divider and repurposed pews for banquette seating. The menu revolves around seasonal vegetables accented with unexpected international touches like golden beets with a tahini/green onion puree, parmesan, and olive oil. Even meatier dishes like the fried chicken a la schnitzel feature delightful sides of sweet potato and spinach plus a bright hit of acid from the addition of a lemon vinaigrette. The return of Tuesday Burger Night with a rotating menu of specialty patties is worth marking on your calendar, and a new lunch service adds another excellent midday dining option for West Nashville.
There are few things more interesting than a really talented chef with an obsession. Trevor Moran fits both those criteria, and he’s turned his fascination with creating the perfect dumpling into a winner of a restaurant that was named the best in the country for 2022 by Food & Wine Magazine. You could write the menu on a matchbook, but every single item is worth your attention. Or go with a few friends and order everything for a meal of pork dumplings, shrimp pockets, beef tartare with the option of “too much caviar.” Don’t forget a finisher of kakigōri, a Japanese shaved-ice dish that can be topped with just about anything, and long as it’s delicious.
After waiting more than a year to open, even though construction was already complete on his massive McFerrin Park restaurant, Chef Sean Brock clearly hit the ground running with his Audrey. Highlighting the ingredients and cooking techniques of his native Appalachia, Brock and his team have created a fascinating tasting menu of artfully prepared dishes showcasing regional ingredients like country ham and heirloom beans made even more remarkable with subtle Japanese culinary influences.
This shrine to Southern cooking has survived, nay thrived, during executive chef changes through the years. Experienced pro Ben Norton now helms the kitchen, and he is maintaining the continued excellence stemming from the restaurant’s puritanical dedication to the use of seasonal regional ingredients. The plate of seasonal vegetables is often overlooked on the menu, but the quartet of composed plates that arrive at the table aren’t just a combination of side dishes. They are thoughtful venerations of the terroir of the South.
Have you ever wondered what it would have been like to dine at a grand hotel during the height of mid-20th century fine dining? Wonder no more, because Chef Sean Brock has created an homage to fancy food, meticulously plated and artfully prepared. From pâté en croûte and prime rib served off of rolling carts to oysters with caviar, it’s like taking a trip in a time machine to the Waldorf in 1965. And it’s obviously a trip, because reservations are really tough to score. The addition of a martini and caviar tasting experience at The Vesper Club makes a trip to The Continental even more special. The recent addition of brunch offers the opportunity to dine by daylight on weekends.
The Spaniards and Portuguese have this restaurant thing figured out. An evening of small clever plates of food paired with affordable wines and inventive gin and tonics is the perfect way to enjoy a social meal with friends. That’s also the model behind Peninsula, where you can cover your table with tapas described in the menu simply by listing a few fresh ingredients used in the plate’s preparation. Part of the fun is being surprised by what the kitchen does to combine the flavors into amazingly flavorful dishes.
Even though the popular 12South neighborhood is still sometimes overrun with gaggles of bachelorettes, Josephine remains an oasis of fine dining and refined service on the outskirts of Crazy Town. Chef Andy Little leads a talented kitchen staff as they prepare plates of innovative takes on Pennsylvania Dutch food prepared with classic techniques. From the bar staff that is attentive without being intrusive to the sweet treats they send patrons home with after paying the check, Josephine’s attention to gracious treatment is laudable, and the food is next-level good.
Bastion is back to its beloved model of offering either a multi-course family-style feast for parties of four to six or a chef’s table experience for smaller parties with plate after plate coming out of the kitchen and the genius minds of the culinary team. Either option is among the best in the city, so grab a friend or two to experience the fantastic seasonal food coming out of that uber-talented kitchen.
Chauhan Ale and Masala House
Unlike some celeb chefs you see on television that you imagine never set foot in their kitchens anymore, Maneet Chauhan is still one of the hardest-working cooks in town. She runs four restaurants, but Chauhan Ale & Masala House is her flagship. From the inventive cocktail program to cheeky takes on a hybrid of Indian and Southern food, Chauhan exudes creativity and precision in the preparation of the cuisine. Add in a sultry but not overly serious ambiance, and it’s the perfect date night destination.
After decades running kitchens in some of Nashville’s most beloved restaurants, chef Deb Paquette shows little sign of slowing down. She continues to tantalize the taste buds of local diners with multiple layers of exotic international flavors as part of a tight menu at lunch and dinner. A spot at the long chef’s bar watching the team at work is more entertaining than a front-row seat at a Titans game. Although entrees rotate frequently, the cultish following of her roasted cauliflower appetizer will not ever let Paquette take that off the menu.
Chef Sean Brock claims june may well be the last restaurant he ever opens. If this is indeed true, he has reached the culmination of his almost 30 years of crafting fascinating multi-course tasting menus. With june’s 20+ small plates, bites, and sips, patrons travel through a cohesive flavor experience featuring seasonal ingredients, many of which have been transformed in the restaurant’s exploratory research and development lab. The food scientists extract sweet, savory, salty, sour, and umami essences from unexpected sources for Brock and his staff to use in their artfully plated creations.
There’s not much use in checking the online menu at this cozy Five Points bistro built in a 1930’s building that was once a service station. That’s because for more than 20 years, the kitchen at Margot changes up the selections daily based on whatever fresh produce and proteins they find that meet the chef’s stringent specifications. Once they’ve picked out the best of the best, talented cooks craft dishes inspired by French cooking informed with Southern sensibilities. In addition to fun Sunday suppers, the restaurant also throws periodic theme dinners around chefs or cookbook authors who are admired by the kitchen staff.