Update August 24th, 2020: After months of being closed, Nashville restaurants have been allowed to reopen. Check out the list of Nashville Restaurants Reopened For Outdoor Dining for up-to-date info.
Nashville has long been home to plenty of hot chicken shops, honky tonks, and places that seem to have been created for the groups in matching outfits that descend on the city. And sure, odds are you’ll see a few roaming bike bars, but there are also countless restaurants and neighborhoods doing something totally different for when you want to escape all that.
So whether you’re here to take a country music tour of the Grand Ole Opry or you decided to come for a long weekend, you’ll have to be strategic. And that’s where we come in. We have you covered with everything from brunch and Indian street food to a remodeled historic lunch counter that serves Southern classics.
The New-ish spots everyone's talking about
The Mockingbird is one of the coolest looking restaurants in Nashville. From the geometric floors and ceilings to the large mirrored bird on the wall and exposed wood, it’s somewhere that’ll inspire you to start redecorating when you get home. Besides being a really nice place to hang out, this spot serves great diner-inspired dishes with names like “Rice, Rice Baby” and “Don’t Worry, Brie Happy,” and unique ingredient combos like barbacoa with parsnips and fennel, and mussels with Korean chili threads and chorizo. You can’t really go wrong here unless you skip whatever the pie of the day is or somehow don’t order a “Punchin’ Bag,” their grown-up take on a Capri Sun.
Woolworth on 5th, located inside a restored department store-turned-restaurant, is home to a famous lunch counter that was the site of some of the first Civil Rights Movement sit-ins. This place feels a bit like you’re walking into a museum exhibit, or that you accidentally time traveled back about 50 years, and the menu is centered around traditional Southern classics like deviled eggs, fried green tomatoes, and shrimp and grits. After dinner, order a Fifth Avenue Fizz or Susie Q - boozy versions of soda counter favorites - before you head downstairs to the Palladium Ballroom to catch some live soul, jazz, and funk.
Maybe you already bought Nashville snowglobes for every member of your extended family, or you covered the first round of drinks last night and know you’re not going to get paid back. Either way, when you want a place where you won’t have to spend a ton for great food, head to Lyra in East Nashville. All but three dishes at this Middle Eastern spot are under $20, so it’s easy to skip making too many decisions and just order a lot, like the octopus, manti (Turkish dumplings), and some hummus. Then get all of their four bread options coming out of their wood-fired oven to dip in everything. If you want something sweet post-feast, go for the tahini brownies or cardamom chocolate cake.
Pearl Diver is definitely island-themed, from the palm frond wallpaper and green booths to the mai tais and daiquiris on the menu. But instead of feeling like you’re at a child’s Hawaii-themed birthday party, you’re in East Nashville drinking cocktails that hold up against any other bar’s in town. When it’s warm enough, grab a spot on the patio or rent a private cabana with a group that promises not to make bad lei’d puns. This place also has a counter-service menu with Caribbean and Polynesian-inspired snacks like pork dumplings, yuca fries, and jerk chicken wings, in case you end up ordering one of their large format cocktails.
Chaatable feels a lot like the dream house of a seven-year-old whose favorite color is rainbow. This is definitely a place to bring a group who likes to share, but it also works well for people with dietary restrictions or who have decided not to eat meat on days that start with the letter “S.” Focus your order around the “chaat” (snacks), like samosas, moong dal, pav bhaji, and “build your own bhel,” a customizable puffed rice dish. If you need something bigger to split, there are also some larger dishes like curries and a significant number of vegetarian options too.
There’s no food more synonymous with Nashville than hot chicken and there are lots of places to get it around town. If you only go to one spot though, it should definitely be Hattie B’s. The menu is simple: order a two, three, or four piece, or a sandwich, along with some sides. There are six heat options to choose from, starting with no heat at all and going all the way to “Shut The Cluck Up.” We can’t recommend the latter, but in case you tempt fate, each of Hattie B’s three locations sells iced tea by the gallon, so at least you can get some temporary relief. And yes, there’s going to be a line, but it’s worth it.
For a taste of nostalgia and the best biscuits you’ve ever had, head to the Loveless Cafe 30 minutes southwest of downtown. Since it opened in 1951, people have come here at all hours of the day for huge plates of chicken-fried steak and smoked country ham, but it’s their legendary biscuits, which they bake more than 10,000 of daily, that turned this place into a local institution. Take a picture of their giant neon sign out front, but if you need another souvenir, make sure to buy some biscuit mix to take home.
Mas Tacos Por Favor is a small, cash-only taco shop in East Nashville that you’d think was in coastal California, if it weren’t for the lack of ocean and surfboards lined up outside. Along with the super colorful interior and overall beachy feel, they also serve the best tacos in the city. You can’t go wrong with any of them, but make sure to get some tortilla soup too, along with at least one elote per person. Stop by for lunch while exploring East Nashville or after you’ve had a few drinks at The Pharmacy beer garden next door.
One of the longest lines in Nashville isn’t to get into that new Broadway bar from another country star who happens to love beer, trucks, fishing, and beer - it’s for pancakes. Each weekend morning, people wrap around the block in front of the Pancake Pantry, which has been open since 1961. This daytime-only spot serves 23 varieties of pancakes, along with waffles, omelets, and sandwiches. Get the pecan or sweet potato pancakes, though if you had enough to drink last night that you ended up line dancing on a bar, the Pigs in a Blanket - three sausage links wrapped in fluffy buttermilk pancakes - should help you recover.
When you’re in Nashville for work and need to take clients out, or just have a corporate card at your disposal, go to Kayne Prime. This steakhouse in The Gulch serves high-quality cuts of red meat and has a huge wine list. But along with all of the wagyu you could ever want, it’s their unique sides and appetizers, like the cream corn brulée and maple cotton candy over bacon, that set this place apart.
If you only have one night in Nashville, be it for a layover or a 24-hour romantic getaway that seemed like a good idea at the time, Rolf and Daughters is the one place you absolutely need to go. This popular Germantown restaurant serves excellent small and shared plates, most of which are vaguely Italian or Spanish, though others use Chinese and Japanese ingredients. There’s no real theme to Rolf and Daughters’ constantly changing menu, but that, plus the great wine list, is what keeps us coming back. You could have a one-on-one dinner here, but it’s best with a group so you can try more of the menu. They also have a great garden patio, which has a summer dinner party feel to it.
Otaku Ramen was Nashville’s first solely ramen spot when it opened in 2016, and it remains one of the best places to eat it in the city. There are seven different options to choose from, like pork, chicken, miso, and mazeman (brothless), along with Southern twists like the Tennessee Tonkotsu with pork confit and hot chicken bao buns. There’s also a bar in the back where you can sample Japanese beers, sake, and whiskey cocktails while you wait or once you’re finished.
Husk is the Nashville spot you should make a reservation at before you even finish reading this because it’s both great and books up way in advance. Located in an old Victorian mansion in Rutledge Hill, this super popular spot serves refined Southern food and an all-time great burger. The menu is updated twice daily for lunch and dinner and reflects heavily what’s available from the on-site garden. And if you weren’t able to get a reservation, you can try winging it and head to the downstairs bar instead, which serves a huge selection of rare whiskeys and the full restaurant menu.
Henrietta Red is one of the nicest looking restaurants we’ve ever been to, with two very attractive bars and a dining room that’ll make you wonder, “Could I go to Ikea and recreate this in my apartment?” Besides it being beautiful though, this Germantown spot has a great raw bar and serves a variety of great Mediterranean food cooked in a wood-fired oven. It’s an ideal spot for getting a group of friends together when you need a place that everyone will undoubtedly like. If you’re visiting for the weekend and pressed for time or just come solo, head to the barroom instead for cocktails and oysters.
5th and Taylor feels like it was designed to make your bachelor or bachelorette party planner happy. Housed in an old Germantown warehouse, this spacious restaurant has banquette-style tables and a huge menu of Southern shared plates and entrees, along with enough beer, wine, and cocktails to please everyone in your group. It’s a great dinner spot, but even better for brunch - partially because of the sausage cheddar biscuits, but also because you can spend a few hours on their big patio afterward.
City House in Germantown combines two things we really like: Southern ingredients and Italian food. Two of our favorite examples of this are the belly ham pizza and catfish and sausage stew with fennel and focaccia, both of which we strongly suggest you try the next time you eat here. Get a reservation if you can, or just sit at the pizza counter, bar, or screened-in patio when you decide to drop in last minute.
Located on a residential street in East Nashville, Lockeland Table feels like you’re at a dinner party at a friend’s house. The food, though, is far beyond anything you’d expect any of your friends to prepare at home. Bring someone you’d like to lock eyes with across a table in a dimly-lit space, and start with the empanadas before splitting a few entrees and a pizza. Also, make sure to order the banana foster bread pudding. Frankly, it would be rude not to.
Marché in East Nashville is a great place to go for a low-key brunch. This bistro serves excellent pastries, crepes, and omelettes, along with a really good croque madame. If you can’t make it to Marché early enough, their sister restaurant Margot is located next door and serves really good French and Italian food for dinner, along with a wide variety of wines.
If there’s one place to see live music in Nashville, it’s Ryman Auditorium. However, if the Ryman is sold out that night or you’re after something more low-key, walk a block and a half down the street to Puckett’s instead. This place started out as a general store with a stage, but now it’s turned into one of the best venues in town with live music seven nights a week. They also serve really good food, like shrimp and grits and Cajun chicken and waffles.
For as much as Nashville’s food scene has changed, barbecue will always be a constant. This means there’s no shortage of options around town, but Edley’s is our favorite because everything from the pulled pork to the cornbread is prepared in-house. Bring a bunch of people and order as much of the menu as you can, but make sure to include some BBQ nachos. Their three locations all have great patios and Happy Hours, so if you want to drink a bourbon tea outside to work up an appetite first, that works too.
La Hacienda has been around for more than 25 years and is far enough from Broadway to avoid the pub crawlers, but still less than a $10 Uber ride from neighborhoods like Downtown and 12South. It feels a little bit celebratory at all times with its colorful walls, tiled fountains, and painted murals, but it’s family-friendly and has food options like barbacoa and seafood, burritos, tacos, and enchiladas. And since everything here is pretty affordable, finish off your meal with the churros, though you can also get flan, tres leches cake, or sopapillas.
Butchertown Hall in Germantown is a great place to go for a weekend brunch with a group. The menu includes dishes like pancakes and biscuits and gravy alongside Tex-Mex classics like queso, tacos, and really good barbecue for when you want something more substantial. They also have a wide selection of German beers and mezcal cocktails, both of which are great for sipping on as you completely bail on whatever else you had planned for the afternoon.
Maybe you need something quick and light for lunch because you have a big dinner planned later, or you’re just taking a short break from all things fried and buttery for one meal. Either way, go to Vui’s Kitchen in Berry Hill for some Vietnamese food. The menu is full of things like banh mi and pho, along with bone broth, rice paper rolls, and coconut pudding (and plenty of vegetarian options). With most dishes priced under $10, you’ll be able to afford that extra round of cocktails later or something buttery and fried to bring home and put out in the office kitchen.
This downtown meat-and-three spot serves a rotating menu of classic Southern dishes, like meatloaf and chicken and dumplings, along with lots of sides that you usually only eat once a year on Thanksgiving. When you order at the counter, make sure to grab a slice of chocolate pie for dessert too. Arnold’s is only open on weekdays between 10:30am-2:45pm and there’ll be a line out the door whenever you go, but it moves fast and there’s pie available once you get through, so just know it’s worth it.
Located between Vanderbilt’s campus and Music Row, Fido serves locally roasted coffee, all-day breakfast, and really good homemade pastries. It’s a great place to stop by on the weekend before doing some shopping in Hillsboro Village, though since they stay open until 11pm most nights and serve beer, wine, and more dinner-friendly food later on, it’s a great, casual spot to stop by any time of day.
Upper Broadway tends to be taken over by large groups of non-sober people going on bar crawls, but if you’re in the area and the thought of that makes you want to hide, head to Acme Feed & Seed, a four-story restaurant and bar located inside an old factory. The first floor features live music and a wide range of interesting bar food, while the second floor has a more upscale lounge and somewhat random sushi bar. The main reason to go to Acme though, is for the huge rooftop, which has one of the city’s best views of downtown. It’s a great spot for laid back day drinking or to stop by later in the night for more of a party-vibe with DJs upstairs and honky tonk dancing on the first floor.
Drinking and dancing at Robert’s Western World is a Nashville right of passage. This honky tonk on Lower Broadway has live music seven nights a week and serves fried bologna sandwiches and moon pies for whatever reason. You’re probably not going to spend a whole night here, although you certainly could, but any night out on Broadway is incomplete without a stop to dance to country and rockabilly at Robert’s.
There’s nothing flashy about Duke’s in East Nashville, which is exactly why we love it. The beer is cold and cheap, drinks are named after regulars, and it’s just the right amount of divey without making you wonder when the last time they cleaned the bathrooms was. Local DJs spin vinyl after 10pm every night and there’s also a sandwich counter with unique specials. Go dance, drink far too many High Lifes, have a snack, and be very happy that Duke’s exists.
The Patterson House is a great cocktail bar in Midtown with some very specific rules. No phones are allowed near the bar, except for a quick text, and you can only order drinks from a server. So you may have to wait for a seat, but it shouldn’t be long and you’ll be happy you did since most of the cocktails are around $12 and include things like celery bitters, orgeat, and black pepper. It’s a great place to go with a few friends when you want to drink something unique, eat some tater tots, and have a conversation without having to yell.
Unlike everywhere else in this guide, Earnest Bar & Hideaway is located in the more low-key Wedgewood-Houston area, which lacks some of the bar and restaurant options you’ll find in neighborhoods like Germantown and East Nashville. Don’t let that deter you though, because between their wine selection, excellent cocktails, and upscale comfort food, Earnest is one of our favorite places to eat and drink in town. It’s also open for weekend brunch and serves a small bar menu until 1am, so regardless of when you go, there’s always something good to eat here.