18 Essential Black-Owned Restaurants in Nashville
Celebrate an indispensable part of Nashville with some truly wonderful drinking and dining.
While they often don’t receive the spotlight they deserve, Black-owned restaurants are essential to Nashville’s culinary scene. Often drawing the majority of their clientele from nearby neighbors, a lot of these independent eateries don’t spend much money on advertising—but if you're not patronizing those spots, you're missing out on some of the absolute best dining in the city. Get out there and celebrate an indispensable part of Nashville with some truly wonderful drinking and dining at these Black-owned institutions.
It'z A Philly Thing
Zyhir Baker Elam is a graduate of Tennessee State University who wanted to bring a taste of Philadelphia to Music City. Starting out as a food truck named It’z a Philly Thing, he permanently parked the trailer in a strip mall lot in Bellevue so that his fans could more easily find his delectable cheesesteak sandwiches and Philly Water Ice, a refreshing slushy drink of frozen fruits and juices. While purists might argue that some of the sandwich options like buffalo chicken and BBQ aren’t authentic, that doesn’t mean they’re not delicious.
While the Germantown neighborhood continues to gentrify, this Black-owned business has continued to be a popular hang for all the nearby residents. Neighbors are drawn by excellent drink specials, elevated pub grub, and the convivial sports bar vibe. Seven different varieties of wings give you plenty of choices of flavors, and they’re all fantastic. Or you can order the trifecta for a sampling of their most popular spice levels.
City Farm Co.
Shavone Browning and Lakendra Davis started in the business catering at weddings and other events around the city, but when a restaurant space opened near Marathon Village, they jumped at the opportunity to plant roots. Their brand of Southern-inspired cuisine made from scratch demonstrates their creative talents in the kitchen. Updated versions of classic mac 'n cheese, fish and grits and pork and cornbread tacos shatter the boundaries of what down-home cooking can be.
For more than 30 years, this humble meat-and-three has been serving plate lunches off the steam table to diners looking for a great meal at a fair price. Many of them plan their weekly schedules based on Dandgure’s rotating menu of eclectic daily specials ranging from barbecue and fried chicken to spaghetti casserole or sausage and sauerkraut. Make sure to save room for pie at the end of the meal.
As an owner/operator of the sultry Sinema hot spot and convivial 8th & Roast coffee shops, Q-Juan Taylor is a consummate hospitality professional, leaning on years in the industry to create exemplary dining experiences for his patrons. Sinema’s ambiance is sheer Hollywood glam, appropriate since the building used to be one of Nashville’s grand movie houses. Taylor manages a food and bev staff that consistently puts out some of the most interesting plates and drinks in the city.
Willie B's Kitchen & Lounge
Willie B’s has been an important part of the revitalization of a stretch of Buchanan St. in North Nashville, a neighborhood known as “The Buc” from back in the days when it was once a center of the city’s arts, culture and music scene. With this sleek restaurant and lounge, Willie B’s draws in crowds for an active late-night scene with DJs and hookah service plus a menu of New Orleans-inspired cuisine. Named after chef/owner Chris Jones’ grandmother who taught him to cook in his childhood kitchen, Willie B. should be proud to have her name on this venue.
Prince's Hot Chicken Shack South
While the arguments rage on about who makes the best Nashville hot chicken in town, there can be no doubt as to who is the first family of fiery fowl. Andre Prince Jeffries' great uncle Thornton Prince is acknowledged as the founder of Nashville’s most famous contribution to the culinary canon, and the family still brings the heat with their secret recipes. First-time hot chicken eaters are recommended to aim for a heat level lower than you might think. You can always go hotter, but you might not recover.
The Local Distro
Will Radford saw the need for a community gathering space in the Salemtown neighborhood north of downtown, so he converted an old laundromat into a combination grocery store/restaurant with convenient grab-and-go options. He also offers plenty of space to just hang out and pass time with friends and neighbors, which has brought a new sense of community to Salemtown. A walk-up window is particularly popular for shoppers who like to take their dogs on a stroll, and a popular Monday jazz night has become a fine addition to the musical calendar.
Another big part of the revitalization of “The Buc” has been the rise of Minerva Avenue, an ultra-lounge that encourages guests to dress up and party down as they enjoy premium cocktails and elevated bar snacks and entrees in the attractive dining room or on the expansive outdoor deck. Owner Robert Higgins Jr. aimed to create a new space where guests could experience great food, drinks, music, and culture and even enjoy a fine cigar after dinner. Considering the crowds waiting to get in on weekends, he's succeeded.
Ouida and David Bradshaw have introduced a generation of Nashvillians to authentic Caribbean cuisine at their location inside the Market House at the Nashville Farmers’ Market. From jerk chicken to curry goat to a surprising array of vegetarian and vegan dishes, the variety of food served from a humble steam table is spectacular. A table of seriously spicy hot sauces sourced from various islands is a necessary stop on the way to your table if you want to experience the real deal.
Riddim N Spice
Ouida Bradshaw’s sons Kamal Kalokoh and Rashean Conaway added to the family legacy with a popular food truck and catering business before opening their own restaurant near Meharry Medical College. They also inherited their mother’s love of spice with escalating heat levels available in their seafood and chicken plates plus “build-your-own” Island Bowls. Paired with tropical juices squeezed fresh in-house, Riddim N Spice is a great way to take a quick trip to the islands for lunch or dinner.
Big Al's Deli
It didn’t take long for the word to get out about the fantastic diner-style breakfasts and lunches that Al Anderson was preparing on the flat top grill at his humble Salemtown diner. Before long, tables were full of neighbors sitting next to downtown businessmen tucking their expensive ties inside their shirts to keep from staining them with sausage gravy dripping off of Al’s golden biscuits. Inventive construction workers started bringing their own sawhorses and planks to set up makeshift tables in the grass to make sure they could sneak a full meal in during their short lunch hours.
Former Vanderbilt football standout linebacker Marcus Buggs traded his football uniform for a kitchen apron at his innovative savory waffle cone restaurant concept. Diners have their choice of chicken tenders or fried cauliflower as a base which can then be sauced with chipotle-ranch or varying heat levels of barbecue sauce. Finally, cap your creation with pineapple coleslaw, grits or mac 'n cheese for an ultimately portable treat. But don’t try to eat one while driving; you’ll need two hands.
This multi-generational Nashville icon has been serving soulful fare to the community since 1954, and the Swett family has welcomed a broad cross-section of Nashvillians to their tables long before that was common in the community. The historic meat-and-three also appeared in the first edition of the famous “Green Book” that alerted Black travelers to safe places to eat and sleep in the tense decades before integration. Today, lovers of great food from all parts of town know that Swett’s is a desired destination for down-home Southern cooking.
Silver Sands Restaurant
What’s the difference between a Southern “meat-and-three” and a soul food restaurant? Here’s a hint: If there are neck bones, oxtails, or chicken feet on the menu, you’ve probably stumbled into a soul food joint, and you should stay. And you should order them, especially if Sophia Vaughn is in the kitchen at this second-generation eatery.
Slim & Husky's Pizza Beeria
Long-time friends Clinton Gray, Derrick Moore, and Emanuel Reed met in high school and attended college together at Tennessee State University. After graduation, they decided to focus on bringing people and opportunities to the neighborhood around their alma mater. The result is the restaurant they cleverly call a “pizza beeria” because of its focus on custom-made pies and craft beers. In addition to excellent food, the bold decor with hip-hop lyrics stenciled on the wall and 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. They’ve also opened new locations across the state and in Georgia and California.
The Cupcake Collection
Mignon Francois opened her small bakery in the Germantown neighborhood in 2008, long before the area became a Nashville hotbed. Still, people from all over town flocked there for a taste of her cakes, particularly the addictive sweet potato cupcake topped with cream cheese buttercream frosting. She has also opened a second Cupcake Collection in her hometown of New Orleans and has become a popular inspirational speaker at events across the country.
The Southern V
Not many people know that there is a strong historical connection to vegan cooking among many members of the Black culinary community, and some of Nashville’s best vegetarian and vegan fare comes from these chefs. Tiffany and Clifton Hancock started to explore plant-based foods to deal with one of their children’s allergies and soon switched their lifestyles completely. Refusing to sacrifice flavor or soulfulness in their cooking, they prepare Southern food without the guilt and remain focused on the intentionality of their cuisine. Eating one of their “chik’n” sandwiches is no sacrifice at all, in fact.