Food & Drink

The Very Best Restaurants in Nashville Right Now

Updated On 07/01/2019 at 06:12PM EST Updated On 07/01/2019 at 06:12PM EST

new and noteworthy

Tequila Glazed Salmon | Pemrose

Pemrose

The Gulch

Seriously great seafood has come to Nashville
Nashville is completely landlocked, so residents have learned not to expect too much from local seafood restaurants. That’s changed thanks to Chef Matt Bolus from The 404 Kitchen with his latest offering, a kitchen dedicated to presenting the finest fish and other seafood that he can source from around the globe in his new restaurant, which he describes as being like a steakhouse for fish. Now that FedEx can deliver fresh fish to and from just about anywhere, Pemrose reigns as the local ruler of the seas. Like Aquaman, but with sushi.

Pelican & Pig

Pelican & Pig

East Nashville

Fine-casual dining featuring open fires
Husband/wife chef team Nick and Audra Guidry are a pretty powerful duo. He’s a master of open fire cooking, dangling chickens on a string above the flaming hearth, while she’s a popular pastry whiz. Their cozy eatery is located in a converted upholstery shop, and it’s as comfy as an overstuffed sofa. From creative cocktails through expertly prepared savory plates and, of course delectable desserts, a meal at Pelican & Pig is a journey that’s worth taking.

Chicken a la Schnitzel | Hathorne

Hathorne

West Nashville

Veggie-based cuisine to please even the most avid carnivore
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 roasted heirloom carrots and golden beets with tahini that are liable to convert ardent beetaphobes. Even meatier dishes like the pork, beef, and lamb meatballs benefit from a delightful mint pistou, which is a pesto that substitutes mint for basil.

L’Original Waffle with Fresh Berries | Liberty Common

Liberty Common

SoBro

Like a trip to Balthazar without the airfare
This bright, airy French bistro-inspired new restaurant definitely traces its lineage to the classic NYC eatery, but with a bit of a Southern accent. Serving brunch and dinner daily, Liberty Common is an all-day destination for classically prepared continental cuisine and regional favorites. Their fried chicken is exemplary, appearing in multiple manifestations on the menu ranging from chicken sandwiches and biscuits to a whole fried chicken you can eat in or carry out. The soaring ceilings and huge windows make for a lovely ambiance, and when the weather is nice, they open the windows for outdoor bar access from the patio and a dining experience like a sidewalk cafe in Paris.

Tailor Nashville

Tailor Nashville

Germantown

Enjoy one chef’s life journey on a plate
As a first generation American of Indian descent, Chef Vivek Surti loves to share aspects of his family’s culture and his own culinary experiences through his menu. The chef creates a multi-course tasting menu for two seatings a night, sharing the stories behind his food to diners in an intimate and personal environment. Surti changes the menu periodically, but no matter what he’s serving, you can expect bold spices and innovative preparations of a hybrid of Indian and Southern cuisine. It’s dinner and a show at the same time.

Chaatable

Chaatable

Sylvan Park

Indian Street food presented in a fanciful ambiance
Nashville’s favorite celebrity chef Maneet Chauhan has added to her restaurant empire with this cozy restaurant showcasing her whimsical takes on the Indian street food of her youth. The decor is an explosion of color with umbrellas hanging from the ceiling, a rainbow of bar stools, and an entire wall covered with colorful vintage bangles. Chauhan’s food is vibrant as well, with elements of sweet, sour, spicy, salty, crunchy and creamy to create a potpourri of flavors and textures on the palate. The menu features all sorts of punny names like “O.M. Ghee” and “Puff Puff Pass,” but don’t be misled by Chauhan’s delightful sense of humor. She’s dead serious about her food!

all time best

The 404 Kitchen | Andrea Behrends

The 404 Kitchen

Est. 2013 | The Gulch

Same fine dining in a great new space
Part of the charm of The 404 Kitchen when it was in its original space across the street from its current 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 steaks, 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

Est. 2012 | 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

Est. 2013 | SoBro

A new chef breathes new life into an old Nashville favorite
Sean Brock protégée Katie Coss has hit her stride running the kitchen at this important Southern restaurant, introducing her own spins on some of Husk’s iconic dishes. 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

Est. 2007 | 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

Est. 2012 | 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

Est. 2013 | 12South

Casual elegance and innovative cuisine
Even when the popular 12South neighborhood is often overrun with giggling 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, Josephine’s attention to gracious treatment is laudable, and the food is next-level good.

Courtesy of Arnold's Country Kitchen

Arnold's Country Kitchen

Est. 1982 | 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

Est. 2015 | 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 Cafe & Bar

Margot Café & Bar

Est. 2001 | 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

Est. 2011 | Music Row

More than a meal: a multi-sensory, intimate experience
The Catbird Seat refuses to rest on its laurels, preferring to focus on innovation and serving as an incubator for fantastic young chefs looking for their big break. The latest team in the kitchen is the fourth iteration, and they continue to push the envelope for modern fine dining in Nashville. 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 deftly prepare and plate individual courses. There’s usually some sort of unifying thematic element to the menu, but you might not figure it out until you’ve taken the entire culinary journey to dessert.

Danielle Atkins

Bastion

Est. 2016 | 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.

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.

Martin's BBQ Joint

Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint

Est. 2006 | Various

Whole Hog barbecue with a roadhouse vibe
Pitmaster Pat Martin is one of the last practitioners of the almost-forgotten art of whole hog cookery in Tennessee. Starting with a tiny restaurant in Nolensville more than a decade ago, Martin has expanded his porcine empire to multiple locations across four states, each with at least one pit dedicated to smoking whole pigs for a full day before pulling the meat to create some of the most succulent sandwiches you’ll ever encounter. The eclectic and fun (lack of) decor scheme in each location is unique, but they all reflect Martin’s loves of music, sports, and cooking with and for friends and family. Don’t sleep on his meats other than pork either; Martin’s brisket, burgers, catfish, and chicken are all fantastic, although you might need to sleep after sampling them all.
 

Peninsula Nashville

Peninsula

Est. 2017 | East Nashville

Check out this tiny kitchen pumping out amazing Iberian cuisine
Most diners would never believe how small the kitchen is and how few chefs it takes to put out the amazing plates of Spanish and Portuguese cuisine accented with French techniques that have earned this young restaurant such great acclaim. But size isn’t everything, and if you’re one of the diners lucky enough to grab one of the seats in this tiny eatery, you’ll be treated to a delicious culinary tour of the Iberian peninsula. The drink menu is also worth perusing with multiple varieties of exotic gin & tonics and other specialty cocktails plus Spanish wines and fine sherries.

Lockeland Table

Lockeland Table

Est. 2012 | East Nashville

The ultimate neighborhood hang
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.

Peg Leg Porker

Peg Leg Porker

Est. 2013 | The Gulch

Authentic West Tennessee-style barbecue in a fun environment
Carey Bringle, the Peg Leg Porker, comes by his nickname honestly having lost a leg to cancer as a teenager, but he doesn’t let that slow him down. Not only is he a champion competition pitmaster, he also has his own line of whiskey and operates one of the most successful restaurants in the hopping Gulch neighborhood near Downtown. Entering his cinder block shrine to smoked meats, you’d think the building had been a barbecue joint for generations instead of a relatively new operation. Intentionally and appropriately shabby, it’s the perfect spot to order up a rack of amazing Memphis-style dry ribs, some of the best chicken wings in town and a signature dish Bringle calls “Memphis sushi,” a platter of smoked sausage and cheese sprinkled with his proprietary dry rub and served with crackers. It’s the perfect lowbrow appetizer to lead off a barbecue feast.

Midtown Cafe

Est. 1987 | Midtown

Home of the best low-key power lunch in town
For more than 30 years, Midtown Cafe has been the spot for a proper business lunch, but also where everyone is welcome whether you’re wearing your casual clothes before a night out or are dressed to the nines for date night. Beloved Nashville restaurateur Randy Rayburn runs an experienced staff of cooks and servers who present classic American cuisine made using the finest ingredients available. The ambiance is comfortable and appropriately calm, the wine list is full of interesting and affordable choices, and they even run a shuttle from the restaurant to Downtown musical events at the Ryman, Schermerhorn, TPAC, etc. Why are you going anywhere else for dinner and a show?

Edley's Bar-B-Que

Edley’s Bar-B-Que

Est. 2011 | East Nashville, 12South, and Sylvan Park

Smoked meat and three, at its best
What? Three barbecue joints on this list? Nashville is approaching the pinnacle of the barbecue pantheon, challenging other meccas of smoke like Memphis, Texas, Kansas City, and North Carolina thanks to the rise of spots like Edley’s. In addition to slow-smoking some fine meats in the great Southern tradition, Edley’s also exhibits a little bit of a cheffy sensibility with creative sandwiches, tacos, and amazing side dishes. Of course, they do offer banana pudding as a side as well as a dessert, so we’re admittedly biased.

Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack

Est. 1945 | Nolensville Rd

The originator of Nashville hot chicken is still the king
Even though the beloved North Nashville location of Prince’s is still in the midst of renovations after an unfortunate fire, their outpost south of town continues to serve up the most flavorful fiery fowl in town. Now that Nashville hot chicken has officially entered the national zeitgeist, culinary tourists from around the country flock to Ground Zero where the iconic dish was invented. Heat levels range from mild, which is delicious but still a little spicy, to extra hot, which will (how shall we say?) burn you twice. Pick your poison and take the ride! (But maybe not the same day you plan to fly home.)