Food & Drink

The Very Best Restaurants in Nashville Right Now

Updated On 04/23/2018 at 04:14PM EST Updated On 04/23/2018 at 04:14PM EST
emmy squared
emmy squared | Cole Saladino/Thrillist
best new openings
Woolworth on 5th

Woolworth on 5th

Downtown

Classic Southern fare in a historic setting
From the team who brought you The Southern, Acme and Fin & Pearl comes a new eatery which pays homage to the civil rights lunch counter protests that took place at that very same locale in the 1960s. With a fancy bar upstairs, a more casual lunch counter and booth seating on the main floor plus a music room featuring multiple genres of entertainment in the basement, there’s something for every appetite.

Sunda

Sunda New Asian

The Gulch

Upscale Southeast Asian bites in a chic space
Today show regular cooking segment guest and Chicago restaurateur Billy Dec has brought his brand of Asian fusion fare to Nashville with promises of creative and fresh sushi, modern takes on traditional Southeast Asian recipes and a premium beverage program. The sleek and modern interior (think leather seating and wood tables) raises the classiness level significantly, but that won’t keep the pedal tavern-riding bachelorettes away. Woo!

Geist

Geist

Germantown

Food and drink in a former blacksmiths' shop
Blacksmiths and metal workers were still forging tools in this location until 2006, more than a century since they stoked the first fire. Now chefs cook internationally inspired cuisine over smoldering embers while mixologists whip up crafty cocktails. The stunning interior is a melange of historic bricks and modern fixtures to raise the dramatic effect.

The Donut + Dog

Belmont/Hillsboro Village

Exactly what the name says, plus coffee and beer
Sometimes a menu that’s laser-focused is better than one that is broad and shallow, and the folks behind The Donut + Dog definitely know that. Here you'll eat gourmet donuts options that range from sweet to sweeter and are made with upscale ingredients like organic peanut butter powder, bourbon honey reductions, and pink Himalayan sea salt. The dogs are mainly internationally inspired, and most of them are wrapped in bacon. Wash it down with a craft beer for a perfect lazy lunch.

The Chef and I

The Chef & I on Ninth

The Gulch

Dinner and a show, all at once
After years as a secret favorite among foodies who visited their former location on the outskirts of town, chef Chris Rains and his staff have finally brought their entertaining show kitchen to the big city. Whether you sit at the chef's bar with a direct view of the kitchen or at one of the larger tables where you can track the action on television monitors, eating at The Chef & I is an immersive, interactive experience. Diners have a choice of various tasting menus or a la carte options to shape their own adventure.

Bare Bones Butcher

The Nations

You won't get fresher meat than straight from the butcher
While the focus of this quaint butcher shop and specialty grocery is carry-out staples to take home, you do not want to sleep on the tiny restaurant and beer bar tucked away in the corner. Well, you might want to sleep on it after enjoying what might just be the best roast beef sandwich in town, made from the shop’s aged beef with horseradish cream and caramelized onions. Add a side of beef-fat fried potatoes with garlic mayo, and it will be nighty-night time.

nada

Nada

Midtown

This newest link in a Mexican chainlet pulls its weight
Whether or not Nashville was necessarily looking for another upscale taqueria, it got a fancy one in Nada. Soaring ceilings, bright colorful patterns, and a huge bar filled with bottles twinkling like stained glass make the interior a stunner, and a menu of creative apps, enchiladas, and tricked-out tacos mean Nada stands out in a crowded field of competitors.

Cole Saladino/Thrillist

Emmy Squared

The Gulch

Pizzas and sandwiches, straight outta Brooklyn but inspired by Detroit
Nashvillagers are discovering that Detroit-style pizza is actually a thing, thanks to the rectangular crispy thick crusts of Emmy Squared. In their first foray beyond the Five Boroughs, the Emmy team has brought their brand of decadent sandwiches and inventive red and white pizzas to Music City and received grand acclaim for their efforts. Start a meal with a salad or an order of okonomi fries and end it with a shot of amaro for an ideal evening of gustatory excess.

best of the best
Ron Manville

The 404 Kitchen

Downtown

Modern takes European classics, now with legions of fans
The 404 Kitchen moved across the street from their former shipping container home into much larger digs, but the quality hasn’t fallen off by even one iota. Add in the new whiskey bar, Gertie’s on the ground floor, and you’ve got a one-stop shop for an evening of exceptional food and drink.

Etch

Etch

SoBro

Layers in flavors in every super-Instagrammable dish
In just a few years, Etch has become the go-to destination to either kick off or cap off an evening of Downtown fun for those looking for a fine dining experience near the various sporting and entertainment venues in the surrounding neighborhood. Chef Deb Paquette loves to have fun with her food and shares the joy by using bold spices and dramatic flavors to create exquisitely plated meals. A seat watching her kitchen from the chef’s bar is almost as exciting as watching the Preds play around the corner at Bridgestone Arena.

Courtesy of Husk

Husk

SoBro

The menus here change almost every day
Plenty of Nashville restaurants change their menus seasonally based on what ingredients are at their peak of ripeness, but Husk comes up with a new menu just about every day, both for lunch and for dinner. Self-described as “a celebration of Southern ingredients,” Husk benefits from the focus of chef Sean Brock in his adopted hometown. With Brock overseeing the talented staff, the minute details of the meticulous and delicious dishes are even better than when it first opened.

Josephine

Josephine

12South

Don’t ask how they make it, just get the scrapple
What do you get when you cross a casual bistro atmosphere with local ingredients and a talented chef with Pennsylvania Dutch sensibilities? An excellent restaurant called Josephine, that’s what. Chef Andy Little has turned 12South on its ear with his brand of cooking, and since the unfortunate closing of Prima, Little now focuses 100% of his attention on Josephine. Fact: Josephine's scrapple is legendary, and was a favorite of none other than the likes of iconic food writer Josh Ozersky, and you shouldn't leave without trying it.

Courtesy of Lockeland Table

Lockeland Table

East Nashville

Like dining in your nonna’s kitchen, if she made kick-ass cocktails
A true community restaurant and bar, Lockeland Table has quickly become the neighborhood clubhouse for Lockeland residents seeking a convivial atmosphere and soulful food. The menu at Lockeland is highlighted by Italian and American dishes (we love the white bean, fennel, and chard tortelloni), all with a Southern twist and an eye toward seasonal, sustainable, and local ingredients whenever possible. Most of all, the focus is on delicious food, but don't leave without trying one of the cocktails, too.

Courtesy of Arnold's Country Kitchen

Arnold's

Eighth Avenue

A hearty lunch that might make you sleep through dinner
The king of the “Meat & 3” meal for more than three decades, Arnold’s Country Kitchen continues to impress thanks to a combination of fresh ingredients, inspired takes on traditional soul food, and a varied clientele that is next to none in Nashville. Even the governor stands in line for fried chicken on Mondays, which makes sense to us. It's absolutely worth the wait.

Andrew Cebulka

Butcher & Bee

East Nashville

You'll want to order the whole locally sourced menu
This iteration of the popular Charleston eatery recently opened across the river in East Nashville and is serving up an inventive menu with a decidedly Mediterranean flair: think mezze, like bacon-wrapped dates and a delicious honey-hinted whipped feta with pita, and large plates, like the brisket and pork meatballs coated in a spicy green chile sauce. Add in an extensive bar program and you’ve got a perfect spot to meet up after work (or instead of work).

Treehouse

The Treehouse Restaurant

East Nashville

Where bartenders drink and chefs eat
Chef Jason Zygmont continues to impress with his internationally inspired menu of small plates for sharing (or hoarding) and family-style platters for passing. The scene gets a little more pleasantly rowdy at this late-night industry favorite, so time your visit based on your tolerance for frivolity.

The Farm House

The Farm House

Downtown

Farm-to-table is de rigueur here
Chef/owner Trey Cioccia believes that farm-to-table isn’t necessarily something to brag about; it’s just how things should be. Period. He creates a constantly-evolving menu of season dishes that showcases the best in produce and proteins that can be sourced locally. A well-stocked bar features strictly American products, so no scotch whiskey here, but Cioccia’s new restaurant, Black Rabbit will scratch that itch for you.

Andrea Behrends

City House

Germantown

A 10-year-old, award-winning Italian-American mainstay
Chef Tandy Wilson finally won the James Beard Award for Best Chef: Southeast that locals have believed he deserved for years. His casual but expert take on Italian food made with Southern staple ingredients like grits and country ham taking the place of polenta and prosciutto. Platters and pizzas made for sharing are wholly appropriate for the convivial family vibe of the dining room, where a spot at the bar looking into the open kitchen may be the hottest seat in town.

Margot

Margot Café & Bar

East Nashville

Still a pace-setting pioneer in East Nashville
Margot McCormick’s eponymous East Nashville bistro was a groundbreaker when she opened 15 years ago in a neighborhood that barely had access to anything more refined than liquor by the pint. She introduced classic European dishes and techniques as well as a bar program featuring interesting wines and crafty cocktails and was rewarded with years of rabid and ravenous fans of her cooking. Her kitchen has also served as a training ground from some of Nashville’s best young chefs, but she is still the cuisine queen of the east side of the river.

Robert Mendoza

The Catbird Seat

Music Row

The iconic local chef’s table continues to shine
It’s a family affair at The Catbird Seat with executive chef Ryan Poli handling the food preparation while his brother Matthew pairs the courses with wine, spirits and cocktails. With such a chef-driven tasting menu, the personality of the executive chef is critical to this renowned restaurant, still considered the toughest tickets in town. It’s worth staying up until midnight to jump on the reservations as soon as they open.

Danielle Atkins

Bastion

Wedgewood Houston

Fine food with zero fine dining pretentiousness
Speaking of The Catbird Seat, former opening chef Josh Habiger has recently opened his latest dining concept with Bastion, a restaurant which is sort of like a reverse speakeasy. Instead of having a bar secreted away behind a camouflaged door, Bastion hides an small dining room at the back of a happening cocktail emporium. Those in the know gain entry to Habiger’s new culinary playground where diners can either sit at a chef’s bar to enjoy a whimsical “Choose Your Own Adventure” tasting menu of small plates or family-style multi-course menus for larger groups. Either way you dine, expect a treat!

Urban Cowboy B&B

Urban Cowboy Public House

East Nashville

A cowboy kitchen where you'll watch meat char over a fire pit
Like any good cowboy kitchen, much of the cooking at Urban Cowboy Public House is done over open fires, in cauldrons, or grilled on iron grates. Patrons crowd around fire pits in the open seating area to enjoy meats, breads, pickled vegetables, and more, almost all kissed by the smoke and fire of the pit. A creative cocktail menu completes the experience at this hip outpost tucked into a quiet block of East Nashville.

Rolf & Daughters

Rolf & Daughters

Germantown

Pasta (and a patio) that will change your life
Since opening his first Nashville restaurant in Germantown in 2012, chef and owner Philip Krajeck has taken the title as one of the city’s most influential culinarians. Experimenting with novel fermentations, rustic pastas, premium seafood, and seasonal ingredients, the kitchen at Rolf & Daughters never rests on the laurels of glowing reviews from local and national publications. Thankfully, that wildly popular garganelli verde with pork ragout ain’t going anywhere.

Henrietta Red

Henrietta Red

Germantown

Where refined seafood meets Jell-O shots
The clean contemporary design of this attractive Germantown eatery reflects the gestalt of the menu as well. Focused on seafood-centric fare made using fresh, seasonal ingredients, Henrietta Red also features bars for drinking and eating a variety of oysters from around the country. Fun happy-hour deals include discounted buckets of beer, elevated Jell-O shots, or glasses of bubbles, but any hour at Henrietta Red is quite jovial.