Music City’s been getting some applause of its own recently for its unique and amazing food scene -- but that spotlight both giveth, and taketh away, and for every shiny new spot getting its day in the sun, there goes a classic eatery or an under-the-radar opening unfairly getting overlooked. Well, we’re here to redress the balance...
8 hugely underrated Nashville restaurants
Once upon a time, Randy Rayburn was among the hottest young restaurateurs in town. Sunset Grill was the place to hang out and see famous musicians & celebs. Of course, inevitably, time moved on, styles changed, and Reese Witherspoon started hanging out in Pinewood Social. But the food remains just as good as it ever was -- the “Classic” menu features the Voodoo Pasta and Coca-Cola ribs that fueled many misspent youths, while the rest of the menu offers an ever-evolving roster of modern American-style local goodness.
West End and Williamson County
Sometimes if a place has kids drawing on the paper tablecloths with crayons, people’s critical judgement can be (gasp!) unjustly compromised. This is one of those places. Doodling little ragamuffins aside, if you want a decent Italian meal, Amerigo will give you just that. Expect the delicious likes of Noble Springs Mac & Cheese made w/ regional pimento goat cheese, mozz, crispy country ham, and a panko-Parmesan crust.
It’s never helpful when you have to give directions to a restaurant using other dining options as landmarks, but unless you spend much time on Bransford Ave in Berry Hill, odds are you haven’t encountered Patrick’s Bistreaux (it’s across from Monell’s). Well, his Cajun/Creole menu is delicious, and he even gets Leidenheimer bread from New Orleans for po' boys with heaps of fried catfish, shrimp, chicken, or oysters (aided by bottles of Crystal hot sauce, available by request from his kitchen stash).
Lunch at Capitol Grille
Most people know the Capitol Grille at the Hermitage Hotel as a top-shelf fine diner serving fantastic food, and charging a top-shelf amount for it all. But what most people forget is that this is a hotel restaurant, and as such they serve lunch, too -- the Daily Blue Plate Specials feature the craft and care of the fancy dinners (with dishes like Double H Farms Meatloaf w/ buttermilk mashed pots on Weds, and Cornmeal Fried Catfish w/ Napa cabbage slaw & hush puppies on Fri), but at a mere $14. Plus? They’ll valet your car.
It’s tough to grab attention when you open a resto in between press-magnets Etch and Husk, so it’s no surprise that when Chef Trey Cioccia swung open the barn doors of The Farm House in '13, he had a little of his thunder undeservedly stolen. But his menu is still fantastic. And his favorite farmer? That would be himself, since he grows many of the ingredients for his kitchen in his own garden. Expect dishes like a Tennessee caprese w/ heirloom toms, compressed watermelon, and house-made mozzarella, and a hot chicken homage topped with biscuit puree, kohlrabi, and candied chicken skin.
While its Charlotte Pike-area neighbors Kien Giang and Miss Saigon might get more attention from Nashville fans of Viet fare, VN could actually be the best of the lot. And being partially hidden around the corner of a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it strip center, and protected by a suicide left turn across traffic upon exiting, VN almost seems like it’s trying to keep diners from finding it. But those who brave the journey discover a world of spicy wok-fried goodness and luscious bowls of pho, as well as deliciously unpronounceable dishes like Mi Xao Mem (Vietnamese stir-fried egg noodles) or Bun bo Hue (a beef & rice noodle soup).
Overshadowed by Prince’s to the North, and stripped down to the barest of amenities, Helen’s “Hella Hot” chicken is nevertheless delicious, and truly, scorchingly hot. Set up in an old construction trailer parked on the side of Rosa Parks Blvd North of the Nashville Farmers’ Market, the menu isn’t fancy, with the standard offering of breast or leg quarters, wings, and chicken tenders along with fries, pickles, and rolls as sides. Its only real downfall? It closes at 9pm.
We all know Nashville has a great and booming BBQ scene, and Papa T’s is frequently -- and a little unfairly -- left out in the cold (even by the most reputable publications). You really can’t miss it however, if you’re out in Hermitage, thanks to the huge smoker in the parking lot pumping out their first-rate pork ribs, shoulders, chicken, turkey legs, brisket, and even the occasional special of a smoked ribeye steak -- and if that wasn’t enough, an added bonus is Mama T, whose line of chess, chocolate, and pecan pies are sold across the midstate in grocery stores.
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1. Sunset Grill2001 Belcourt Ave, Nashville
2. Amerigo1920 West End Ave, Nashville
3. Patrick's Bistreaux2821 Bransford Ave, Nashville
4. Capitol Grille231 6th Ave N, Nashville
5. The Farm House210 Almond St, Nashville
6. VN Pho & Deli5906 Charlotte Pike, Nashville
7. Helen's Hot Chicken1222 Rosa L Parks Blvd, Nashville
8. Papa Turney's BBQ5851 Old Hickory Blvd, Hermitage
In addition to a well-curated wine list of affordable choices, the menu at this Hillsboro Village spot continues to innovate, while respecting the favorite dishes of a generation of locals. The “Classic” menu features the Voodoo Pasta and Coca-Cola ribs that fueled many misspent youths, while the rest of the menu offers an ever-evolving roster of modern American-style seafood fare, fresh salads, and main dishes prepared from locally sourced ingredients.
The menu at this Williamson County resto is rock solid, full of classic pasta dishes and inventive meat and seafood plates, but don’t overlook the Chef’s Seasonal Menu where the kitchen sources fresh ingredients from farmers markets to inspire entrees like a decadent Noble Springs Mac & Cheese made with regionally sourced pimento goat cheese, mozzarella, crispy country ham, fresh herbs, and a panko-Parmesan crust.
This attractive Berry Hill dining space is an excellent place to enjoy rich Creole dinner entrees (including outstaing po' boys with fried catfish, shrimp, chicken or oysters) paired with ponies of Miller High Life.
The Capitol Grille, attached the the Hermitage Hotel, has been featured in publications across the country both for their amazing food and the odd popularity of the men’s Art Deco-style bathroom. A large part of what makes this restaurant so unique, and all of its food so damn delicious, is that it’s a true example of farm to table. The Hermitage Hotel owns a 250-acre cattle farm as well as Double H Farms where much of their produce and vegetables are sourced. Needless to say, all of the food that you'll get at the Capitol Grille will be very fresh and creatively presented.
This farm-to-table favorite in SoBro serves up a mix of contemporary Southern fare featuring many ingredients from their own local garden. There’s a giant chalkboard hanging inside of the restaurant that tells you exactly where all of the food on your plate came from. Chef Cioccia is a Nashville native and has worked at quite a few local restaurants before opening up his own. Contemporary barn decor accents the space, from grand wooden doors to skillets used as plates.
Partially hidden around the corner of a blink-and-you’ll miss it strip center and protected by a suicide left turn across traffic upon exiting, VN almost seems like it’s trying to keep diners from finding it. But those who brave the journey discover a world of spicy wok-fried dishes and luscious bowls of pho at this Sylvan Park Viet-haven.
Overshadowed by Prince’s to the North, and stripped down to the barest of amenities, Helen’s “Hella Hot” chicken is nevertheless delicious, and truly, scorchingly hot. Set up in an old construction trailer parked on the side of Rosa Parks Blvd North of the Nashville Farmers’ Market, the menu isn’t fancy, with the standard offering of breast or leg quarters, wings and chicken tenders along with fries, pickles, and rolls as sides.
Papa T’s is frequently -- and a little unfairly -- left out in the cold when it comes to the area's best bbq, but you really can’t miss it however, if you’re out in Hermitage, thanks to the huge smoker in the parking lot pumping out their first-rate pork ribs, shoulders, chicken, turkey legs, brisket, and even the occasional special of a ridiculous smoked ribeye steak.