Nashville
1. Folk
East Nashville
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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.

2. Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack
Nolensville Rd. & Downtown
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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.

3. Slim & Husky's Pizza Beeria
Various locations
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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.

4. Lyra
East Nashville
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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.

5. Lockeland Table
East Nashville
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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.

6. Bringle’s Smoking Oasis
The Nations
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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.

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