Day 47: Where to Eat in Nashville
I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas!! Between the holidays and traveling, I barely know what day it is. Yesterday, we literally didn't step foot outside my parents' house: we sat by the fire in the morning, drinking coffee and opening gifts, then had a big brunch with my cousins and their kids. The afternoon brought more gifts and time by the fire, a visit from my aunt and uncle, and a big Christmas feast last night. It was a wonderful day, but it's official: I'm ready to get out of the house!
Lucky for me, my parents live just outside Nashville, so there's always lots to see and do (and eat!) while I'm here. Even though I grew up here – and lived here a few years post-college – many parts of the city are practically unrecognizable to me. It's crazy just how much the food scene in Nashville has blossomed over the past few years. Once known for it's hot chicken, barbecue, and meat 'n three's (all three which are still going strong), Nashville has jumped front and center onto the national food scene. In the past year, Music City has been deemed the country's "IT City" by The New York Times and "Nowville" by GQ, and one of my personal favorite restaurants - Rolf & Daughter's - was recently named by Bon Appetit as one of the Top 10 New Restaurants in the country. (Oh, and the city has a hit TV show "Nashville" with which I'm kind of obsessed.) Funny to see my hometown getting so much media love.
Given that I'm in Nashville for a few days, I thought I'd share with you all some of my favorite foodie spots in the city. These are just my opinions, so take them with a grain of salt. Also, if you want to do some more reading on the subject, here are a few articles I've written on Nashville (and its restaurants):
And now for my favorites food spots...
Coffee shop: Barista Parlor - Airy, industrial East Nashville space + stellar beans (i.e. Intelligencia and Stumptown) + state-of-the-art coffee brewing equipment = the ultimate coffee shop. Oh, and they happen to have the best breakfast sandwich in the city (a flaky biscuit with next-door-neighbor Porter Road Butcher's sausage and homemade jam).
Breakfast (tied): Pancake Pantry - Line up with the locals in Hillsboro Village for the best pancakes in town. // Marché Artisan Food - This cozy, Provence-inspired East Nashville cafe dishes up farm-fresh frittatas and decadent croissant French toast.
Healthy Lunch: Kalamata's - I'm a huge fan of this Lebanese spot in Green Hills. Their falafel, kebabs, tabouleh, salads, and hummus are super-fresh and made in house daily. It's usually the first place I go when I get into town.
Pizza: Bella Nashville - Tucked away in the Farmer's Market, this tiny little pizzeria makes the freshest pies in town, with house-made mozzarella and seasonal ingredients in a wood-fired oven. (Try the unusual, but delicious hummus and za'atar pizza with mint and chili oil.)
Best people-watching: Fido - Grab an outdoor table (if you can) on a nice day and you'll see an eclectic mix of musicians, dog-walkers, students, artists and yuppies walk by (and/or occupying the tables nearby). The coffee's not the best, but their salads and sandwiches are great.
Burger: Burger Up - Specializing in high quality burgers, pretty much everything, from the antibiotic-free, hormone-free beef to the seasonal vegetables, are sourced from local farms. If you're not into beef, they have a delicious quinoa black bean burger, as well as salmon and turkey varieties.
Tacos: Mas Tacos Por Favor - Formerly a taco truck, this little hole-in-the-wall East Nashville taco shop sells super-fresh tacos (go Friday for the fish ones), a delicious chicken tortilla soup, and agua frescas (I love the hibiscus one).
Cocktail: Patterson House - This dimly-lit speakeasy was the first spot to bring quality cocktails to Nashville in 2009, with fresh herbs, hand-squeezed juices, and house-made bitters. This is a great spot to begin - or end - an evening.
Splurge: The Catbird Seat - The rules are simple: book a month in advance online, pay $100 each (extra for drink pairings), and you'll get one of the 32 seats at the U-shaped bar surrounding Erik Anderson's open kitchen. The menu is constantly evolving, but expect to see the signature hot chicken skin with white bread puree (a nod to Prince's).
Best all-around experience: Husk Nashville - The second iteration of Sean Brock's iconic Charleston restaurant is just phenomenal on every level. From the location (an impeccably restored Victorian house) to the service (top-notch) to Brock's stunning, entirely Southern-sourced menu, to pastry chef Lisa Donovan's insanely delicious desserts (don't miss her famous buttermilk pie), a meal here will be one you won't soon forget.
New(ish) spot: Rolf & Daughters - I love everything about this place. With soaring ceilings and brick walls (it's located in a 100-year-old factory), cool lighting and a buzzy bar, you walk in here and instantly feel like this is "the" spot to be. But it's the food that keeps me coming back. I love their heirloom veggie salads, their handmade pastas (seriously, the best in town), the heritage chicken (with preserved lemon and garlic confit) and - when it's on the menu - their fabulous Olive & Sinclair salted-chocolate cake.
Modern Italian: City House - Wood-burned oven pizzas, handmade pastas, locally-sourced salads, and a great wine list - all in a sleek industrial space - make this a great bet for a casual dinner out.
Most memories: Margot Cafe & Bar - I fell in love with this cozy East Nashville restaurant when it opened in 2001. From its daily-changing menu, to its warm, brick-walled two-story space, to Chef Margot McCormick's Provence and Tuscan-themed menu, I love everything about this restaurant. I've celebrated birthdays (mine and others') here, toasted moving and coming home, gone on blind dates, and even played violin one night here to waive a corkage fee. Eating at Margot is like coming home for me.
Places I'm dying to try: Josephine - Miranda Whitcomb Pontes, the proprietress of Burger Up just opened this classy New American bistro in 12 South and I can't wait to try it! The square-shaped zinc-topped bar looks like a great spot to meet for a drink as well. Pinewood Social - Josh Habiger (formerly of The Catbird Seat) just opened up this restaurant-meets-bar-meets bowling alley downtown and it looks super-fun.
There are so many other places I could add, but that's a pretty good list to get you started. Happy eating in Nashville!
Nashville opening photo by Eric Ryan Anderson; other photos by Anna Watson Carl.