The Thrillist Awards: Nashville’s Best New Food, Drink & Everything Else
So, 2015 happened. You might not have noticed, because you were too busy eating, drinking, and generally cavorting at the dozens of amazing new Nashville spots that've opened in the past 12 months. But now that it's (pretty much) over, we can look back and unequivocally say that these were the places that won the year in Music City:
New upscale restaurant
Nashville welcomed quite a few new upscale restaurants to the scene in 2015 but 5th & Taylor was easily our favorite. Not only is the food great but the atmosphere is uniquely romantic. Their Beer Can Chicken alone is worth making a trip; it’s roasted, then soaked in one of the most delicious beer gravies you’ll ever eat in your life.
Best new music spotAscend Amphitheater (address and info)
For such a music loving city, it’s a wonder that it took Nashville so long to build an outdoor venue like Ascend Amphitheater. This live music site is located right on the riverfront and has a capacity of 6,800 people. If you haven’t made it to the amphitheater yet, you should definitely look into tickets for the 2016 live shows that start in April with artists ranging from Bryan Adams to Boyz II Men.
Best new burger place
Flip Burger Boutique brought a new kind of burger experience to Nashville that’s modern, sleek, and damn delicious. Their menu is extensive with burgers ranging from plain Angus beef burgers to bison burgers and even a tuna tartare burger. Don’t forget to order a milkshake as they’re easily some of the best in town.
Best new bakery
What started out as a holiday cookie pop-up turned into a full time bakery this year when Dozen opened up a permanent shop in February. They pride themselves in using only the best ingredients that are locally sourced and organic. Dozen also sources bread and pastries to lots of places in town including Pinewood Social, Crema, and Jackalope Brewery. Besides all of their muffins and scones and amazing bread, Dozen also serves lunch all week and brunch on the weekends.
Best new spot for good beer
Homegrown is Nashville’s newest neighborhood craft beer taproom located in Donelson. They serve wonderfully crafted beers as well as a full lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch menu. If you’re looking for a relaxed spot to grab a good craft beer and maybe a bite to eat, we highly recommend Homegrown Taproom.
Best new cocktail bar
We’ve mentioned our love for Savarino’s Cucina a time or two, so you can imagine how thrilled we were to find out that they are now utilizing the upstairs of the restaurant for a new speakeasy type lounge called Amari. There are no clear signs to get to Amari, which can be confusing (and maybe kind of the point). Just walk into Savarino’s Cucina, ask for Amari, and you’ll be led to the hidden staircase where you’ll inevitably enjoy some wonderfully inventive cocktails upstairs.
Best new outdoor activitySoar Adventure Tower (address and info)
Soar Adventure Tower is unlike anything else in the greater Nashville area. It’s quite literally a giant tower with multiple levels for varying degrees of adventure. Each participant is strapped into a safety harness using a belay system which allows you to challenge yourself on all of the various obstacles while staying safe 45ft above the ground. This is a great excuse to get yourself outside and do something adventurous.
Best new sports venueFirst Tennessee Park (address and info)
The Sounds aren’t new to Nashville but their fancy First Tennessee Park is. Located right in the heart of downtown, First Tennessee Park is a big upgrade from the previous home of the Sounds. It seats over 10,000 people and has some upgraded food options such as Pepperfire Hot Chicken (in case a plain hot dog and cracker jacks just won’t cut it for you). But don’t worry, the scoreboard is still shaped like a giant guitar.
Best new healthy food spot
If you’re looking for a healthy, vegan, gluten-free, and completely raw dish, Avo is the spot for you. They take classic dishes such as lasagna and bbq and re-make them in a way that’s light, healthy, and yet still completely delicious. Their lasagna is made with zucchini instead of traditional noodles and the BBQ sliders are made with smoked maitake mushrooms to create dishes that are tasty AND filled with things that are good for you.
Best new Mexican
This new Mexican and taco spot opened up earlier this year just inside of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and has a rather limited menu. You can’t go wrong with their tacos, though, and you’re also going to want to order one of their various margaritas to go with that and probably a bowl of guac.
Best new barbershopPioneer Gentlemen’s Barber (address and info)
This “turn of the century”-inspired barbershop opened up earlier this year with the mission of delivering a new and unique standard in men’s grooming. Men can enjoy a cold beverage while getting their shoes shined and their beard freshly trimmed. Best of all: every customer receives a free beverage, a complimentary neck and shoulder massage, as well as a scalp massage.
Best new coffee shop
Steadfast opened up in the heart of Germantown earlier this year and has quickly become one of our all time favorite coffee shops in the whole city. They have a great list of coffee drinks (including coffee soda which is an absolute must-try) and a wonderful breakfast, lunch, and dinner menu.
Best new nightlife spot
The Basement, originally located in Wedgewood, expanded this year to include a second music venue that opened up in East Nashville in April. The Basement East has a laid-back vibe that’s just perfect for live music. So if you’re looking for a new music venue with a relaxed vibe and cold beer, definitely check out The Basement East.
Best new pub
Double Dogs is a new casual dining spot and pub in Nashville and serves their take on classic American dishes such as buffalo chicken mac 'n’ cheese, hot chicken pot pie, and a nice long list of pizzas, burgers, and hot dogs. They also have a great beer list to go with your wings and burgers.
Best new food truck turned brick-and-mortar
Of all the new restaurants that opened in 2015, Biscuit Love Brunch might have made the biggest national splash. This wildly popular biscuit food truck opened doors to a trendy and spacious brick-and-mortar restaurant in early 2015 and hasn’t slowed down a bit since then. If you go at peak hours, the line can stretch well out the door but we’re here to tell you that it’s totally worth the wait for one of their pillowy soft, buttery biscuits.
Best new pop-upLittle Octopus (address and info)
After the huge success of Otaku Ramen (POPs first venture), Little Octopus was a much anticipated new restaurant opening for 2015. They pride themselves in serving cultural cuisine inspired from around the world with options for everyone including vegans and meat lovers alike.
Best new food truckMusic City Brisket (address and info)
Should you find this food truck parked near you for lunch, make no hesitation in jumping in line and ordering one of their smoked beef brisket sandwiches. Music City Brisket might be new to Nashville’s food truck scene but they’ve quickly become one of our favorites. Their award-winning deep fried avocado fries are also worthy of a mention.
Best new brunch
This new 12 South restaurant is the closest thing you’ll find to a ski lodge anywhere in the Nashville area. Designed to look like a scene straight from Aspen Mountain, Embers Ski Lodge is a very cozy place to enjoy brunch with friends by the fire. We recommend the ‘Every Day I’m Trufflin’ cocktail paired with a big plate of their drunken spiced peanut butter and banana stuffed french toast.
Best new place to camp out with your laptop
If you’re looking for a quiet little place to sit with your laptop and pretend to be getting work done, Slow Hand Coffee is perfect. Located right next to Cummins Station, this new coffee shop not only has great coffee but they also have an abundant supply of house-made pastries. You can find everything from classic scones to re-makes on old favorites, such as snowballs, retro cupcakes, and giant dino cookies. So, grab your laptop and a pastry and pretend to be working hard while really just watching cat videos.
The Family Wash has been an East Nashville favorite for well over 10 years, but in February of this year they closed their doors in order to prepare for a few changes and an updated location. Luckily we didn’t have to wait too long. In August, they opened back up, after partnering with the Garage Coffee Co, in a space that is much bigger and a menu that’s somehow even better than before. They easily have one of the best burgers in town, and there’s always good music playing.
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Brita Britnell is a Nashville-based food photographer and writer who's on a mission to discover the best burger in Nashville. Follow her at @BBritnell.