Food & Drink

The Very Best Restaurants in Nashville Right Now

Updated On 01/11/2019 at 04:23PM EST Updated On 01/11/2019 at 04:23PM EST
the 404 kitchen
The 404 Kitchen | Andrea Behrends

best new openings

Folk

Folk

East Nashville

Pizza, pasta, and drinks -- oh my!
Chef Philip Krajeck is still on top of his game at this wildly popular new pizza and pasta eatery in East Nashville. Focusing on premium seasonal ingredients and innovative fermentation techniques, the menu at Folk showcases food cooked in wood fired ovens plated with precision. Krajeck’s clam and chili pizza should be the centerpiece of any table’s order, augmented with shareable plates of roasted veggies and clever meat snacks. As expected, the wine and spirits program is top-notch.

The Green Pheasant

The Green Pheasant

SoBro

High-end Japanese food with one of the best lunches in town
The husband-and-wife chef team of Trey Burnette and Jess Benefield build off their popularity at East Nashville izakaya Two Ten Jack with their second restaurant located on the ground floor of a new SoBro office tower. In addition to a dynamite bar program featuring sakes and whiskey, the chefs have developed a menu of delicious elevated Japanese dishes that will stretch the palates of Nashville diners. A new lunch offering should prove quite popular thanks to ramen and noodle dishes plus bento box-like sets of miso soup, tsukemono (literally “pickled things”) rice and a rotating roster of main dishes. They also serve a killer burger at the midday meal.

Lyra

Lyra

East Nashville

Exotic Middle Eastern cuisine in a burgeoning neighborhood
Cleveland Park has turned into a dining destination thanks to the addition of this exotic 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.

best of the best

The 404 Kitchen | Andrea Behrends

The 404 Kitchen

The Gulch

Same fine dining in a great new space
Part of the charm of The 404 Kitchen in its original space across the street from its new location was how tiny the kitchen was. Chef Matt Bolus once said, “The only way we get around in there is thanks to olive oil and bicycle pants!” Now with a much larger cooking and dining space, Bolus and his staff continue to present outstanding cuisine, highlighted by large format meat dishes like a whole roasted chicken, massive one and a half pound ribeye steak and a dry aged tri-tip, a cut of beef rarely seen around these parts. Gertie’s Bar on the main floor of 404 boasts the best whiskey collection in town.

Etch

Etch

SoBro

Elegantly plated flavors with international twists
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.

Courtesy of Husk

Husk

SoBro

A new chef breathes new life into an old Nashville favorite
With founding chef Sean Brock moving to emeritus status to investigate new restaurant options, Husk finds itself with a new top toque in the kitchen. Young chef Katie Coss is a Brock protégée, and she remains committed to maintaining the exacting quality standards and absolute dedication to Southern ingredients that have earned Husk national acclaim. Dining in the 19th century Italianate mansion that was once home to Nashville’s mayor is a trip through history, both of the city and the South’s culinary heritage. Even avowed carnivores admit that sometimes the plate of four veggies is the best choice on the whole menu, and that’s saying something.

Andrea Behrends

City House

Germantown

Southern and Italian food served out of an open kitchen
There’s always plenty of action in the main dining room at City House where the high ceilings reverberate with the sounds of forks clinking noisily into plates of pasta, meats, and vegetables coming out of the open kitchen -- which also contributes to the din. The festive environment is courtesy of City House’s no-fuss attitude toward creating soulful rustic Italian food featuring ingredients from the South. Sunday suppers are the best nights to visit when the kitchen goes off script to play around with new recipes.

Rolf & Daughters

Rolf & Daughters

Germantown

Top of the list for inventive rustic Mediterranean food
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 and an ingenious roster of creative cocktails designed to get your juices flowing for an extraordinary meal, an evening at 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. But that garganelli verde with pork ragout never seems to roll off the menu. Thankfully.

Josephine

Josephine

12South

Renewed focus from one of the city’s best chefs
After chef Andy Little returned to the kitchen at Josephine after a turn trying to revitalize the now-shuttered sister restaurant Prima, diners wondered how the bistro’s fare might be different after his time away. They needn’t have worried because Josephine keeps humming along serving Little’s take on American farmhouse cuisine spiced with the chef’s Pennsylvania Dutch upbringing and classical French cooking techniques. The same way that Little’s famous scrapple dish is an amalgam of the parts of the pig that didn’t make it into the sausage, his cooking is a melange of styles that results in stunning dishes like perfectly braised pork cheeks over grits, ideal for a cold winter night.

Courtesy of Arnold's Country Kitchen

Arnold's Country Kitchen

Eighth Avenue

Always exceptional Southern classics
Now that the beloved cinderblock Southern eatery has doubled the size of its dining area, even more people can brave the line to get in and order extraordinary meat-and-three offerings served from a steam table onto red plastic trays. Basically the only difference is that now the line can wait inside on cold days. Just remember the roster of daily specials: fried chicken on Monday, meatloaf on Tuesdays. Wednesday is for fried catfish, and Thursday is country-fried steak day. Chicken and dumplings are the play on Friday, or heck, just get the roast beef any day of the week.

Andrew Cebulka

Butcher & Bee

East Nashville

Shareable plates of delicious Israeli-inspired fare
Walking in the door at this East Nashville hang, patrons immediately notice two big bars, one wrapped around the open kitchen for dining with a view of the busy cooks and another facing a wall of draft beer taps, wine and fine spirits. A table of four can easily make a meal by ordering all the small plates, known as mezze in the Middle East, the inspiration for much of the cuisine at Butcher & Bee. However, taking that shortcuts means missing out on fantastic larger plates like avocado crispy rice, meatballs and grits, or grilled octopus. That would be a damned shame.

Margot

Margot Café & Bar

East Nashville

Neighborhood cafe helmed by a Nashville original
There’s not much use in checking the online menu at this cozy Five Points bistro built in a 1930s building that was once a service station. That’s because chef and owner Margot McCormack changes up the selections daily based on whatever fresh produce and proteins she finds that meet her stringent specifications. Once she has picked out the best of the best, McCormack crafts 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.

Robert Mendoza

The Catbird Seat

Music Row

More than a meal, a multi-sensory, intimate experience
This modern chef-driven eatery is now in its third incarnation of kitchen staff since opening seven years ago. True to the restaurant’s role as an incubator for talented chefs, ownership has announced that a new top toque will take over in 2019, but you can expect the dedication to innovative cuisine and presenting intense multi-course tasting menu experiences will remain the laser focus of everyone working at the restaurant. Occupying one of the 22 seats around the U-shaped table that surrounds the cooking area is like having a front row seat at a dramatic artistic performance as the chefs artfully prepare and plate individual courses. There’s usually some sort of thematic unifying element to the menu, but you might not figure it out until you’ve taken the entire culinary journey to dessert.

Danielle Atkins

Bastion

Wedgewood Houston

A semi-hidden room where Nashville’s best chefs feed you
The bar at Bastion only serves one food option: the best darned nachos in town. Enjoy them with a cocktail or a beer and call it a night. Or you could make a reservation to gain entrance to the semi-hidden back room at Bastion where the real magic happens. The dining area has a cool laid-back vibe with chefs temporarily interrupting their work to go change the album on the record player to fit their current mood. You want to keep them happy because that tiny kitchen is putting out some of the most inventive and delicious food in town. Small groups or solo diners order individual plates from a menu set up like a grid where they check off boxes that might only list 1-2 ingredients, or dine in groups of 4-6 for a large format family style dinner party they call “The Feast.” Either way, you can’t lose.

Henrietta Red

Henrietta Red

Germantown

Fantastic seafood served in sultry surroundings
Henrietta Red is divided into three discrete areas, each with a different ambiance. The lively bar near the front door hosts impromptu happy hour gatherings of friends and neighbors, enjoying nightly cocktail specials (including Jello Shot Thursdays) along with oysters and clams from the raw bar. The outdoor patio is another popular spot, especially since they don’t take reservations, so it’s first come-first served. The gorgeous dining room offers views into the dual kitchens, one for cold plates of shellfish from around the country and Crudos plus a hot side where the talented staff prepare fantastic vegetable and seafood dishes, many of which benefit from a roasting trip through a woodfired oven.

Nicky's Coal Fired

Nicky's Coal Fired

West Nashville

Coal-fired everything (and that’s a blessing)
Chef Tony Galzin named his massive imported coal oven “Enrico,” after his great grandfather who immigrated from Lazio, Italy. Enrico has earned a legion of local fans thanks to the amazing pizzas, breads, roasted vegetables, and pastas that emerge from the infernal maw of the oven. Everything is made in-house, including the traditional pastas, extensive charcuterie offerings and the addictive pizza dough made from a sourdough starter that has been in the family for more than eight years and which Galzin calls “Bert.” (The talented chef has a penchant for naming things, apparently.) In addition to a daily pie special, Nicky’s always features both red and white pizzas, but don’t skip the rest of the menu.