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Nashville

Our site initially started by us putting a list of Nashville restaurants together to entice a few family members and friends to come visit us in good ol’ Nashville.  Here are our local favorites.

The “25: 35 Short List” – these are the few establishments that we feel have a earned a special place of distinction in Nashville and to which we give our highest recommendation (they are also bolded and marked by “*” before the business name). The rest of our Nashville recommendations are listed below it.

*Rolf and Daughters -Self-described “modern peasant food” with Northern Italian and European influences in the renovated Werthan Lofts in Germantown from James Beard nominated Chef/Owner Philip Krajeck.  The restaurant hits all of the right notes – from the delicious cuisine to the exposed brick decor to their cocktails – and is one of our favorite restaurants in the country.  Be sure to get the Gargenelli verde pasta with pork ragout and their squid ink canestri – two of the best pasta dishes we have ever had.  The roasted heritage chicken is also a standout with crisp skin and preserved lemon.  But some of their best and most underrated dishes are the seasonally changing small plates, be sure to order several to try for the table. They also have one of the best cocktail programs in the city

Press: Steve’s article in Bearings Guide

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*City House – Rustic Italian food with Southern flare in a great Germantown building which used to be a sculptor’s studio.  Vibrant, open-space and high ceilings interior with an open wood burning oven where it is all prepared with several dining options: barstools at the chef’s table to sit and watch the chefs cook, separate bar area where you can eat the full menu, downstairs dining and upstairs (which is a little quieter).  It is a favorite restaurant of local chefs and critics (and us).  Chef/owner Tandy Wilson was a finalist in 2013 for the James Beard award Best Chef Southeast.  The thin crust pizzas are some of the best you will have anywhere and every Sunday night there is a unique menu with some great eats – pork meatballs, pork burger and Manilla clam pizza are all fantastic.  Recommend the ham/grana padano pizza, the clam pizza, the Kitchen Pie pizza, their amazing Half Chicken and any of their housemade pasta dishes.  The service, drinks and desserts are also consistently top notch.

Press: Nashville SceneBon Appetit

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*Barista Parlor and Barista Parlor {Golden Sound}  – third wave coffee shop in a former transmission center in East Nashville which opened up in May 2012 and instantly became one of the hottest spots in town. Sources coffee from highest quality roasters from around the country and masterfully prepares using several methods. Owner Andy Mumma has done an amazing job in collaborating with many other furniture, design, clothing designers in town as well as food from Porter Road Butcher next door. A must see and the food is the best breakfast in town.  Give Pop’s Waffles a try – they are light and delicious as well as The Southern Frenchman (buttermilk biscuit with jam, ham, and egg). The Salty Tennessee Whiskey Caramel Latte is one of the best lattes we’ve had anywhere.  They now have three locations total, the original in East Nashville, Barista Parlor x Golden Sound in the Gulch and Barista Parlor x Germantown which opened December 2015 . They are now roasting their own coffee beans in the Golden Sound shop.

*mas tacos por favor – formerly a mobile vendor in an old Winnebago truck, now a small quaint East Nashville Mexican restaurant with a distinct Austin vibe with great double layer corn tortilla tacos, soups, and occasionally tamales.  Recommend the chicken tortilla soup, sopa tarasca and chilaquiles but everything she makes tastes fantastic. They still bring out the truck for Supper and Song at imogene + willie and other special occasions. Check out their Saturday brunch, one of the best meals in town.

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*Marche Artisan Foods – European-style café in East Nashville from Chef Margot McCormack that serves artisanal breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner.  Everything on the menu is excellent, but their brunch is the most popular in town and can go toe-to-toe with any brunch anywhere.   Recommend the bread/cheese/fruit appetizer, Drew’s Brew’s French Roast coffee, steak and eggs, and croissant French toast. Known mostly for their brunch, check them out for dinner as well – truly one of the best food values in town.

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*Legato Gelato – wonderful gelato shop in Edgehill Village that opened Summer 2012. Beautiful light fixtures with beautiful mirrors adorn the ceiling and walls and a great wooden table sits in the middle of the small quaint store. All of the flavors are delicious – from the Local Honey with Chevre to Coffee to Graham Cracker to Stracciatella to Banana in addition to classics and ever changing flavors of the day. Literally, every flavor is great. They also have one of the best espressos in town using Counter Culture beans which tastes amazing as part of an affogato. Twitter

*Mitchell Delicatessen – the only thing we didn’t like about this fantastic sandwich shop in the Riverside Village area was how long it took to get there (think East Nashville and then keep going). They use local ingredients like Benton’s Bacon and Silke’s Old World Breads to make one of the best B.L.T.’s we’ve tasted.  Their take on the Banh Mi was also great as were the prices (most sandwiches around $6).  Moved locations to just a few doors down in Fall 2013. Still the best sandwiches in town, now much more room and high quality high gravity beer on tap.

*DeSano Pizza Bakery – first expansion site of the enormously popular Atlanta pizzeria, Antico Pizza.  This site also features three wood burning ovens, communal seating and delicious pizzas with a slightly charred crust.  The San Genarro with sausage and peppadew is their most famous pie – but our personal favorite is the equally great Diavola with spicy sopressata and Calabrian chiles. The DeSano Pizza with sausage and pepperoni and the Margherita pizza with pepperoni are also sensational.

*Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams – since Hot and Cold opened, we have been having frequent cravings for Ohio ice cream artisan Jeni Britton Bauer’s wonderfully creative and delicious ice creams and yogurts.  Her ice cream shop in East Nashville which debuted in 2011 is her first store outside of Ohio and is in a beautiful and prime location – right next door to the newly renovated and expanded Silly Goose.  Samples are strongly encouraged, so step in and step up to try her more than 30 Signature and Seasonal flavors.  Our faves are the Brown Butter Almond Brittle and Lemon Blueberry Frozen Yogurt (and the Black Coffee is great too).  Several locations now in Nashville – East Nashville, 12South, Hillsboro Village and at the Nashville Farmer’s Market.

*imogene + willie – Housed in a former service station in the 12South neighborhood, husband and wife team Matt and Carrie Eddmenson have created their own brand of high quality jeans and clothing. The emphasis is on high quality denim that is meant to be worn regularly and broken in to eventually create a custom look and perfect fit.  In addition to their denim, they have expanded their line to include custom print tees, dresses, shirts, jackets and they have expanded into the home goods and decor arena as well. Named by GQ as one of the Top 10 Independent Men’s Stores in the US, they have received a lot of national press. Check out their fantastic website and online store. Carrie and Matt (as well as everyone at the store) have helped add to the vibrant, unique and growing community in the 12South neighborhood.

Press: GQNashville SceneGoop, Park and Bond, NY Times

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*Emil Erwin – meticulously handmade amazing leather bags, belts and accessories. All with a lifetime guarantee. His style has evolved from Americana to more sleek and polished. The most commented on and most complimented item that we own? This Tote bag from Emil Erwin. Check out his gorgeous newly finished store near Germantown which also sells well curated home goods.

*Otis James – gorgeous hand crafted handmade caps in his new location near Germantown. Also has bowties and ties available. Featured  in the July 2012 GQ feature on Nashville.

 

Here are the rest of our Nashville recommendations:

 

Coffee Shops –

CREMA – artisan coffee shop just east of Downtown in Rutledge Hill area serving expertly prepared coffee and espresso drinks as well as local bagels and pastries.  Coffee brewing is taken seriously here and they now are roasting their own coffee in house and have expanded their space.  Their Cuban coffee and Iced Vietnamese coffee are both stellar.  Their coffee is also served at The Catbird Seat, Husk and also at Pinewood Social where they have their own coffee counter. Their avocado toast is one of our favorite breakfast items in the city.

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Fido –  Hillsboro Village coffee shop/artisanal restaurant in a former pet shop.  The mood is vibrant (i.e, often very busy) – recommend the yogurt parfait, the huevos cubanos, the Local Burger (one of the better burgers in town), and whatever is on the blackboard special that day. Previously the kitchen was helmed by the talented Chef Stephenson who left fido at the end of 2014 to become chef at the new location of Family Wash on Main Street in East Nashville, so expect a bit of decline in the food quality.

Breakfast –

Pancake Pantry – standing in line for these pancakes in the Hillsboro Village is a Nashville tradition, for locals and tourists alike.   Recommend blueberry pancakes, buttermilk pancakes and Chef’s Medley.  Get a cup of coffee and get in line, the earlier you get here the better.  One tip – if the line extends out past the newspaper stands that is about a 30 minute wait.

Brunch –

Monell’s – Family style Southern cooking in a beautiful old brick house in Germantown area.  Communal dining and serves some of the best fried chicken in town.

*Also serving excellent brunches – Margot Café & Bar, Tavern

Casual Dining –

Cochon Butcher – this 2015 newcomer to Germantown was the first outpost of the beloved New Orleans restaurant/butcher/sandwich shop. Since day 1, they have done a great job on service, decor/vibe, food and drinks. They also sport one of the best patios in the city. Our favorite sandwiches so far are the Buckboard Bacon Melt, the Le Pig Mac (a decadent pork centric take on the Big Mac) and the Gambino – but all of their sandwiches are great.

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Dozen Bakery – formerly Dozen baked goods were only found at various coffee shops around town, but due to high demand and great word of mouth it opened its own shop. In addition to the excellent muffins (favorite is blueberry), cookies (esp the chocolate chip pecan) and croissants, Dozen also serves some of the best salads and sandwiches in town. The Red Quinoa salad and the hummus tartine are top notch.

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Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack – North Nashville legendary hot chicken restaurant.  A bit of a drive, the wait is typically long, the place is a dive at best, the neighborhood is not the best either, but it is all worth it for the chicken and fries.  When they say “Hot” they mean it.  Get the “mild” if you like super hot, “medium” if you like things super super hot and do not even think about getting the “hot”.  Trust me. Insider tip – call your order in ahead of time, it may take up to an hour on a busy day.

Smiling Elephant – tiny Thai restaurant on 8th avenue that is a critic and foodie favorite with the best pad thai in town.  Recommend the chicken pad thai, chicken fried rice, khao kai ra-bert (minced pork stir fry with a fried egg) and lemongrass soup.

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Baja Burrito – a Nashville classic Baja style taqueria that has remained unchanged and popular as ever since our first visit in 2000. Best things on the menu? The fish tacos and the brisket torta, but the burritos are also all great – especially if you put their Texas-style Brisket meat in it. We’re convinced it is the tastiest, most flavorful, moistest brisket in town.

McDougal’s Chicken Fingers – Belcourt area college favorite for chicken fingers and wings.  The fried chicken fingers are great as are the fries that come with it.  Beer on tap (always 2 for 1!) and free soft serve ice cream.  The chicken finger sandwich is also great. Family friendly spot.

VN Pho & Deli – this small, cash only authentic Vietnamese restaurant on Charlotte Avenue (on the opposite side of the street from Kien Giang/Miss Saigon) has become our favorite Vietnamese restaurant in town. The pho, vermicelli bowl, and BBQ pork banh mi are all very solid and consistently good.

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Burgers –

The Pharmacy Burger Parlor and Beer Garden  – initial inconsistencies in burgers and service kept this spot off of our list but now makes the cut after our recent trips. Burgers are substantial, well cooked and tasty. The beer garden is one of the best places in Nashville to have a beer outside.  We preferred the tots to the fries. Go early or expect crowds. Prices are also very reasonable.

Gabby’s Burgers & Fries –  great burger dive behind the Nashville Sounds stadium.  Serves lunch only except dinner also on Friday evening.  Recommend the Gabby Burger and fries – they have potato and sweet potato.  All the burgers are grass fed (less than 100 calories less than other beef).

M.L. Rose – Craft Beers and Burgers – some of the best pub grub in town with a laid back vibe and great beer list. Their Loaded Fries (waffle fries with bacon, cheese, sour cream and green onion) are amazing and their burgers (all natural antibiotic-hormone free beef) are one of our favorites in town. We also find ourselves craving the Super B.L.T. (with avocado) and BBQ Brisket Wrap. Two locations in town – one on 8th Avenue and one on Charlotte near Sylvan Park.

Bobbie’s Dairy Dip – old timey walk up burger/milkshake stand on Charlotte Avenue.  Recommend the chargrilled burgers, fries, strawberry shortcake (with the fantastic shortcake made in house) and any of the many varieties of milkshakes. Formerly only open during Spring through Fall, now staying open through winter months.

Other places with great burgers –

Tavern  – see below

Contemporary Dining –

Margot Cafe and Bar – wonderful rustic bistro serving French and Italian comfort food in an old filling station in East Nashville with great exposed red brick charming interior.  Chef/Owner Margot McCormack has been voted best chef in Nashville many times and Margot Café has been voted best restaurant in Davidson County several years in a row. Opened in 2001 but it is as good and relevant to the food scene in Nashville as ever. Recommend the cocktails, house-made potato chips with aioli, the pizza of the day and any of the steak dishes.  Also with an excellent brunch.  The menu changes daily.

Tavern –  upscale creative takes on bar food in Midtown area. Nice decor (think train station meets library with a bunch of plasma tv’s) and good food. Recommend their Brown Bag Special (grilled bologna on white bread with mustard), Hack of Chicken, Belgian Fries and Tavern Burger. Their beer list is notably lacking in selection. One of the best (and most crowded) spots in town for weekend brunch.

Desserts/Ice Cream/Bakeries –

Las Paletas – 12South area Mexican popsicle store that beat Bobby Flay on a popsicle “Throw Down”.  Two kinds, the creamy milk based and fruit based paletas.  They are all great and a must for any one visiting town.  Recommend Chocolate with Chilies, Creamy Lime, and Strawberries and Cream. You can also find them at Fido, Hot and Cold, Baja Burrito and Whole Foods.

Also check out Bobbie’s Dairy Dip (see above) for great milkshakes and ice cream treats.

Bars/Drinks –

The Patterson House – Listed in GQ as one of the 25 Best Cocktail Bars in America in 2010 and still serves some of the best cocktails around. Seven types of ice, house-made bitters, and eye droppers full of various ingredients to make a fantastic cocktail.  Recommend the Bacon Old Fashioned (with coffee syrup and pecan bitters and a giant globe of ice ) and then experiment with one of their signature drinks.

No. 308 Bar – East Nashville bar with a mid-century modern interior and edgy hipster vibe.  They create some of their cocktails by “infusing” CO2 into the liquor and mix to develop an interesting fizziness to their drinks.

12 South Taproom and Grill – brewpub in the 12South area features around 30 microbrews on tap as well as an extensive list of bottles high gravity beers.  Patio is one of the best places in town to enjoy a beer outside on a nice day.  Recommend the Boulder Nitro Mojo IPA as well as any of the Yazoo beers (see below).  Food is hit-or-miss, best to stick to the ribeye special quesadillas with blue cheese, bacon and jalapeno, and their pizza of the day.

Yazoo Brewing Company – Nashville’s first true microbrewery relocated from Marathon Village to the Gulch area to a larger space.  Most restaurants/bars have Yazoo on tap and local favorites include their Hefeweizen, Dos Perros (a dark Mexican style), and Pale Ale.  Also frequently bottle their newest batch of IPAs called Hop Projects.  The brewery offers tours and some local bread/cheese to snack on as well.  Great vibe, great beer and a unique Nashville experience.  Recommend the Hefeweizen with a lemon (has a great hint of banana) and their Hop Project.

Local Food Artisans –

Olive & Sinclair Chocolate Company – local chocolate artisan, has a great selection of hand made chocolates which come wonderfully designed.  Recommend the Sea Salt Chocolate and the Chili Cinnamon.

Wine Shops –

Woodland Wine Merchant – our favorite wine shop in Nashville is housed in an old post office in East Nashville in the Five Points area. We love their highly curated selection of artisan wine, liquor and beer producers and knowledgeable staff. Now with improved beer and liquor laws in TN, they are able to sell low-gravity beers and they have the most unique selection in town. In addition, they can also sell mixers and they have a beautiful selection of barware. Join their email list to get updates on tastings and their latest offerings. They often provide beer/wine pairings in conjunction with Marche for special dinners and events.

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Craft Brewed – this is what you want in a beer and wine shop. Not only does it have a large selection of beer on tap for growler fills, you can also sit down and have a pint to drink on site – both inside and on their patio. They also have a large selection of refrigerated craft beer to chose from. Attached is what separates this from other places – a full wine and liquor store that has a wide selection of high gravity beers (including the best selection of Sour Ales in the city – look for New Belgium’s La Folie and give it a try).

The Wine Shoppe at Green Hills – knowledgeable staff in this shop near the Green Hills Mall.  Stuffed to the gills, there is a lot to pick from here!

To Shop:

Peter Nappi – handcrafted Italian leather goods and shoes in a beautifully repurposed meat packing plant in Germantown area. Their leather bags and belts are supple and soft as are their suede boots and shoes. The studio is a site to see.

White’s Mercantile – we were thrilled when Holly Williams saved this great old gas station on the corner of 12th and Kirkwood from becoming another “mixed use-condo” – we were even more thrilled that she turned it into a well curated home and personal goods store. Perfect place to find a gift for someone – or yourself. They constantly get new merchandise so stop in often to see what’s new. They are planning to sell meats and cheeses out of the shop in late 2014 as well.

Parnassus Books – small independent bookstore opened by the critically acclaimed author (and Nashvillian) Anne Patchett. Attempting to resurrect the local bookstore and featuring readings from visiting authors.

The Hill Center Green Hills – great addition to the shopping landscape in Nashville, this street is a great blend of well chosen local boutiques (H. AudreyCosmetics Market), brands with only a limited number of free standing stores (Billy Reid), and national stores (Whole FoodslululemonAnthropologieWest ElmMitchell Gold + Bob Williams). Great spot to hit after a workout at the YMCA.

The Mall at Green Hills – upscale mall with Tiffany’s, Louis Vuitton, J.Crew, Restoration Hardware, and Nordstom – which includes their upscale diner Sixth and Pine.

U.A.L. – this upscale clothing liquidator in the Vandy/West End area offers new high end designer clothing at remarkable prices.

To Do:

Centennial Park – home to a scale replica of the Parthenon, this Vandy/West End park is a great place to enjoy a beautiful day. A one mile jogging loop surrounds the Parthenon and it’s large open grassy field. Take a frisbee and a blanket and have fun people watching.

Percy Warner Park – and Belle Meade Blvd – popular place for runners and cyclists.  The hilly terrain of Percy Warner Park is great for a tough run or biking through the hills. A few lookout points provide a beautiful view of Belle Meade Blvd.  The boulevard itself is a 2.5 mile road that is great for a flatter run and even better for a view of all the amazing houses.

Cheekwood Garden and Museum of Art – in the Belle Meade area, these gardens are beautiful and serene in the spring and summer months.  The art museum is in the former home of the founders of Maxwell House coffee brand.

Frist Center for the Visual Arts – Nashville’s art museum is not only a beautiful building, it also has been home to some spectacular exhibitions (Impressionism, Rodin sculptures, Kodak photographic collection).

Country Music Hall of Fame – Nashville is not only home to country music, it is also home to it’s hall of fame as well.

Hatch Show Print – you may not know this brand by name, but you would instantly recognize their work from their classic concert posters. They are now located in Country Music Hall of Fame, having left their classic Broadway location.

Nashville Zoo at Grassmere – great place to bring kids and quite a good collection of animals.  They have provided a large amount of land for the animals to enjoy.

Opryland Hotel – the largest hotel outside of Las Vegas in the U.S., this hotel has just been reopened since it suffered millions of dollars of damage from the 2010 Nashville floods.  Great to visit when the Christmas lights are up.

East Nasty Running Club – popular East Nashville running club that meets every Sunday morning and Wednesday evening for a 3-6 mile run and then meets afterwards at 3 Crow Bar for a beer and food.

Live Music –

there are many many places in town to check out live music but some of the bests are:

Ryman Auditorium – The historic Ryman is perhaps our favorite music venue anywhere and is known as The Mother Church of Country Music and former site of the Grand Ole Opry.  Now it hosts many great shows of all kinds of music (Coldplay, David Gray, Ray Lamontagne have all played there) and everyone who performs there knows they are on sacred musical ground and do their best to live up to the aura of the site.

Bluebird Cafe – singer-songwriter cafe that hosts in-the-round shows. They take their music seriously here – i.e. no talking!

Exit/In – warehouse type venue that is similar to Antone’s in Austin in it’s size and vibe.  Good place to catch a show.

Station Inn – legendary Bluegrass bar in the Gulch.

Honky Tonk Bars on Broadway – No visit to Nashville is complete without a trip downtown to check out the Honky Tonk Bars.  There are many places to choose from, but the best spots to check out are Robert’s Western WorldTootsie’s Orchid LoungeLegend’s Corner, and The Stage.

Supper and Song at imogene + willie – occasionally (and often without much forewarning) during the warmer months imogene + willie serve as hosts for an in-store concert from local artists and bands.  BYOB and stop by the mas tacos truck before the music starts. Sadly, due to complaints about noise, the Supper and Song series was shut down for the last few years but now after a grassroots campaign it has been back up and running since Summer 2014!

2 Comments
  1. Thank you for the nice comment and link. We appreciate the feedback and are updating the Nashville page currently with all of the new restaurants that have opened recently.

    January 14, 2014

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  1. All things unique Nashville. Really neat blog about hot spots to eat, places to shop, things to do in Nashville. | sublimevacation.comsublimevacation.com
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