Everywhere You Need to Eat in Nashville Right Now
These are the Nashville restaurants worth a reservation ASAP.
The Nashville restaurant scene continues to be as hot as the asphalt downtown, with both new arrivals and old reliables bringing the heat, culinary-wise. From hot chicken to fine dining, Music City offers a myriad of choices for any craving or budget, so you’ve got options this summer. Here are some of the best:
Chef Philip Krajeck’s second Nashville restaurant continues to evolve as the talented kitchen staff experiments with local and regional seasonal ingredients to create innovative cuisine and wood-fired pizzas. Most of the menu demonstrates European influences, but Southern sensibilities shine through with the use of produce from Middle Tennessee farms. The popular bar is a gathering spot for neighbors who like creative cocktails, and the wine program offers a surprising emphasis on natural wines.
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.
Bringle’s Smoking Oasis
After his success at his first Nashville barbecue joint, Peg Leg Porker, pitmaster Carey Bringle takes diners deep in the heart of Texas with his new outpost. Leaning more toward brisket, beef ribs, and sirloin than his pork-centric original home, Bringle offers a rotating menu of fabulous smoked meats. You never know what will be on the menu, and when an item runs out, it’s gone for the day, because you can’t rush perfection. That’s exactly how it should be in a proper BBQ spot. If need be, pick another excellent option and retire to the expansive outdoor area to enjoy yard games, big screens, and cold drinks, especially now that the weather just begs for eating outside.
This opulent Italian steakhouse comes courtesy of acclaimed NYC-based chef Andrew Carmellini. With lots of dark woods and leather accents, Carne Mare exudes a clubby vibe. Showcasing impeccable service from food and wine professionals and a dramatic view into the kitchen where cooks work over open fire to create classic steakhouse fare, Carne Mare is both a throwback and something new and vibrant at the same time. Be sure to look for deeper cuts on the menu like a really special Gorgonzola-cured striploin, porchetta-spiced prime rib or a beautiful carpaccio of octopus.
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 grilled cucumbers with a dill emulsion, miso, and mustard 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.
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. 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 and vegetables with dipping salts. 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 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.
East Side Banh Mi
The husband and wife team behind East Side Banh Mi make sandwiches the way they think they should taste, not by any book. Their version of the classic pork pate banh mi comes to the table with ham hock terrine and smoked bologna. Their “cheffy” takes on sandwiches have inspired several other top chefs in town to come up with their own creations that live on the ESBM menu as specials.
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.
Arnold's Country Kitchen
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 just get the roast beef any day of the week. The “Arnold’s After Dark” adds evening service plus weekend hours, so there are even more chances to try their soulful Southern delicacies.
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.
Finally reopened after repairs from storm damage, 400 Degrees has returned to its lofty position in the top tier of Nashville hot chicken joints. The menu revolves around bone-in chicken quarters, wings, and tenders available from zero degrees (mild) to 400 degrees (HOTTTT), but most importantly, the chicken is fried perfectly golden brown and crispy before it ever hits the sauce. Menu secrets include a fantastic fried pork chop that can also be torqued up with spice and the fact that there’s a punishing 800 degree heat level if you ask owner Aqui Hines nicely. She won’t promise that the chicken will be nice back, though.
Spicy Boy’s Nashville
What happens when a Louisiana-bred cook moves to East Nashville? Cajun magic, that’s what. Spicy Boys is a no-fuss casual restaurant and a great addition to the neighborhood thanks to a short menu of Pelican State classics ranging from Cajun fare to the more urbane dishes of New Orleans. The boudin and meat pies will remind you of the best gas station food you’ve ever eaten, and that’s a good thing. Po’ boys are served on legit Leidenhiemer rolls topped with golden fried shrimp or catfish, roast beef covered with meaty gravy, or the surf and turf which combines the shrimp with the gravy.
The Pink Hermit
This casual all-day cafe attached to the Hermitage Hotel is the second project from world-renowned chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten at the opulent property. In addition to a menu of wines and cocktails served early to kickstart your morning, the kitchen offers decadent dishes like egg toast with caviar, crispy sushi, and charcuterie boards for nibbling while you while away the day.
Like the dessert it’s named for, this choose-your-own-adventure restaurant has different levels of distinct flavors. Each of its four floors has its own menu of food and drink, and only the third-floor main dining room is available for reservations to dine on the most traditional and extensive menu at Layer Cake. The ground floor is more of a hangout, with bar food and flatbreads plus all sorts of Instagrammable decor. The second level hosts live music, and the rooftop is clubbier with DJs and bottle service.
The luxurious Union Station Hotel harkens back to when the building was a connection site back when, y’know, passenger trains actually stopped in Nashville. Amtrak abandoned us back in 1979, but the hotel’s new restaurant is inspired by the days when rail travel was a treat. The open plan of the vaulted ceilings and expansive lobby are a treat for the eyes, and the menu of American fusion bistro fare will take you on a culinary journey across the country and around the world. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, you can dine anytime and never miss your train, err … Uber.
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.