When I moved to Nashville from Savannah over a year ago, I was immediately impressed by the restaurant scene. While Savannah had historic charm and coastal/Southern cuisine, Nashville and its surrounding area proved to be a mecca for incredible dining, from upscale to dives. I think it has a lot to do with the eclectic mix of natives and transplants that flock to the city.
While this list is by no means comprehensive, here are a few of my favorites on the Nashville scene. Naming anything as “best” in Nashville always proves to be contentious (ex: get people in a debate about the best hot chicken), but my taste buds haven’t steered me wrong yet.
Best Burger: Burger Republic, in Lenox Village. What, you were expecting The Pharmacy in East Nashville? To me, Burger Republic has better meat quality and fixings. Everything from the bun to the fries is top-notch. I like a juicy, medium-well burger, even better if you give me bacon and fried egg on top. I still haven’t gotten a chance to try their “adult” milkshakes, but I’m determined to once the weather warms. Not to mention you don’t have the issues at BR with parking and a long wait like the Pharmacy. That said, I must give both credit for their great menus and beer selection, as well as trying to source from local farms as much as possible. Burger Up (with locations in 12 South and Franklin) deserves a mention as well, especially their truffle fries. I’ve also heard old local favorite Rotier’s makes a good burger too.
Best Hot Chicken: Hattie B’s, in Belmont/Vanderbilt. Okay crazy hot chicken fans, I still need to make a trip to Prince’s. But I have to give it to Hattie B’s in the meantime because it’s not in the ‘hood, it’s a great sit-down atmosphere, and it’s delicious. For those new to Nashville, BBQ is not the local specialty. Spicy fried chicken, a.k.a. hot chicken, is king. Hattie B’s nails both the chicken and delicious sides. There’s often a line out the door for this place, and for good reason. I would love to get in for Sunday brunch sometime (hello, chicken & waffles!) but I hear the line is even crazier than other days.
Best Live Music Dining: Puckett’s Grocery & Restaurant, in Franklin, Leiper’s Fork, or Downtown. Nashville is full of live music. Just walk down Broadway and listen to it stream out of the honky-tonks. But I love Puckett’s. You need a reservation on the nights they have live music (and you pay a cover) but the bands are great and the food is so good. Their brunch is also fantastic. If you don’t have reservations, expect a wait, but all of their locations have a great ambience and distinctly local feel. (Note: for a fancier dining/music experience, I must give an honorable mention to Sambuca in the Gulch. Their food is terrific and they have great jazz and other acts on their calendar all the time. Think dark and velvety decor.)
Best Downtown: The Southern. My only complaint about The Southern is that I don’t get to eat there more often. It’s walkable from Broadway, and I love that it’s not another cheesy touristy restaurant-with-fake-honkytonk. I can’t describe the cuisine precisely, though their catch phrase is “south of somewhere”. You can get a delicious steak or even oysters, all within a beautifully modern and posh setting. I feel like a happy foodie when I eat there, and they make amazing cocktails to boot!
Best in Franklin: Saffire. I live in Franklin, a charming little town just south of “the city”. There are some fantastic places to eat, but I just keep coming back to this gem in the Factory. First off, it’s in an awesome location; the historic Factory is a restored complex filled with stores, studios, and event space. Second, its modern take on Southern food, combined with local produce and meat, is well executed every time. It’s hard for me not to always order my standby, the Legendary Chicken Fried Chicken, just because it’s that good. There’s a piano player some nights too, adding to the ambience. My boyfriend loves their extensive whiskey/bourbon selection.
Nashville is a laid back city, so you can spot folks in (nice) jeans at even some of the more nice restaurants on any given evening. But if you’re looking to go out on a Friday or Saturday, I highly recommend reservations in advance! Even the locals love to dine out, so you’ll be in good company… and might even spot me indulging!
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