From burnt ends to watermelon ribs, Music City’s barbecue scene has a lot to offer.
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When it comes to barbecue, Nashville isn’t Memphis. There’s no prototypical “Nashville style” of barbecue, and that’s okay. The fact that three major interstates cross within a mile of each other downtown means that Nashville features smoked meat specialties that are native to the regions at each end of those highways: St. Louis-style ribs, Alabama white sauce smoked chicken, tangy Carolina vinegar and tomato sauces, and yes, Memphis dry ribs. There are plenty of options out there; here are the best of the best.
Hattie B’s Hot Chicken
This restaurant serves the delicious hot chicken that Nashville is famous for. Hattie B’s started in Nashville but has gotten so popular that it has spread to other locations.
I tried the leg and thigh meal with potato salad and fries, and it did not disappoint! It was delicious, and they gave us pretty big portions. We couldn’t finish it all!
If you’ve never tried Nashville hot chicken, definitely give Hattie B’s a try!
Coffee & Breakfast
Poindexter Coffee is a coffee shop located in the lobby of the Graduate Nashville—a trendy hotel that’s super popular for bachelorette parties or girls’ getaways because of the girly decor and rooftop pool and bar, White Limozeen.
Poindexter Coffee is one of the most fun places to eat in Nashville, TN because they serve coffee, lunch, and all-day breakfast. Some of their menu items, like Buttermilk Biscuits and Smashbrowns, are made to order, but other options are grab-and-go. Poindexter Coffee also serves pastries, like croissants and muffins.
I didn’t get breakfast here, but I did get an iced oat milk latte with their house-made spiced maple syrup, and it was delicious! I highly recommend stopping here for a coffee or breakfast before a day of adventuring around Nashville.
Biscuit Love is one of the most fun places to eat in Nashville, and it’s absolutely a staple for breakfast or brunch you can’t miss while you’re in the city!
Biscuit Love has three locations in The Gulch, Hillsboro Village, and Franklin, so no matter where you’re staying during your trip to Nashville, you should be able to get to Biscuit Love easily. We visited the Franklin location during a day trip to Franklin, and we loved our breakfast!
You must try the “Bonuts”—donut holes made from biscuit dough served with lemon mascarpone and blueberry compote. They are so good! If you’re craving something savory, you should try the East Nasty or Princess. We tried the East Nasty, and it was tasty (but not as good as the Bonuts, of course).
Frothy Monkey is a popular coffee, breakfast, and lunch café chain with several locations in Nashville, including 12 South, Downtown Nashville, Downtown Franklin, and East Nashville. They also have locations in Birmingham and Knoxville.
Frothy Monkey makes all its food and drinks from scratch and sources its ingredients from local farmers and producers. For breakfast or lunch, you can enjoy breakfast sandwiches, omelets, toast, and more. They also have tons of coffee drinks to try, including traditional lattes and mochas, in addition to seasonal drinks.
Crema Coffee Roasters is a tasty spot for craft coffee and a delicious breakfast in Nashville, TN. You can visit three locations across the city, but we visited the location in Downtown Nashville.
Crema Coffee Roasters is a premium coffee roaster, but they offer tons of fun drinks with their espresso. You can try a Vanilla Latte, Cuban, or Mocha if you’re looking for something fun to drink. I also loved my breakfast, the Seasonal Granola with Greek Yogurt. It was really filling!
Where to Eat in Nashville
There was a time when you could have described Arnold’s as a “hole in the wall.” Not anymore. Arnold’s is busting out of its britches and doubling in size. Why? Because the food is awesome.
This is where we had our first taste of Nashville food and had a little practice waiting in line. It was 11:30 am on Friday and the line was out to the street. Locals and tourists grabbed trays and picked out meats and side dishes and dessert, then found a spot at one of the tables. This is southern cooking at its finest…buttery mashed potatoes, barbecue chicken, green beans, pie. Oh my…delicious! Right then Tim and I knew that Nashville was going to be tasty!
Sadly, we only got one dish to split because we needed to save room for Biscuit Love, just a few blocks away. Today’s food tour had us visiting two different restaurants for brunch.
After waiting in line (again) we took our seats at the very trendy Biscuit Love restaurant.
Best biscuits in Nashville? Yup! At least at the restaurants we sampled. We ate biscuits with sausage gravy, yum yum, but the highlight were the bonuts.
Yes, you heard me right…bonuts.
Not quite a donut, not quite a biscuit, just a yummy fusion of the two, served with blueberry compote and cream. This place is going to be hard to beat!!
The Southern is the place to go if you want an upscale restaurant with a gourmet menu and reasonable prices. The Southern is within walking distance of Broadway, located not far from the Schermerhorn Symphony Center.
We ate raw blue point oysters and drank wine at the bar while waiting for our table. For dinner, Tim and I shared the steak and blue cheese biscuits and the Southern burger. Both were amazing. Other items on the menu include Banh Mi Fish Tacos, Braised Beef Brisket, Nudie Suit, and Seared Sea Scallops. See their menu here.
If you like breakfast food, the Pancake Pantry is worth the wait. If you had to choose between Biscuit Love and the Pancake Pantry, go to Biscuit Love. Bonuts!!
This was another pleasant surprise. For a restaurant on Broadway in the hullabaloo of the Honky Tonks, Tim and I weren’t expecting much of this place. But oh, the food was so good. There were so many things on the menu that we wanted to try. According to our waitress, Merchants’ hottest dishes are the Chicken Fried Chicken and the fish tacos. Well, Tim went for the fish tacos and I ate the grilled salmon BLT. Both were very good.
If you need a break from Honky Tonking or are fueling before a night out at the bars, Merchant’s makes a convenient stop that offers gourmet, healthier alternatives to the typical Nashville southern cooking.
Robert’s Western World is a Honky Tonk bar, and one of our favorites. Got the munchies and want live music? This is the place. Go for the fried bologna sandwich…a local favorite.
Over and over we kept hearing about Loveless Cafe, so much so that we couldn’t skip it. Tim and I were surprised to learn that one of Nashville’s most popular restaurants is located so far from downtown. In fact, Loveless Cafe is thirty minutes away from downtown Nashville by car.
We arrived during the lunch rush and were informed it would be an hour and forty-five minute wait for a table. Yikes!! Instead of waiting, we ordered carry out and sat outside at one of the picnic tables, getting our food in a much quicker 40 minutes.
Tim and I agreed that the Loveless Cafe did not live up to it’s hype. People rave about the biscuits and fried chicken. They were good but nothing stellar. And to wait so long for the food and drive thirty minutes outside of town? I wouldn’t do it again.
If you’re curious about what all of the commotion about Loveless is about, come see for yourself. Maybe you’ll have a better experience. But if you are short on time, eat at Arnold’s Country Kitchen, which has a similar menu with better food and you don’t have to leave the city. You don’t even need to have a car.
People come here for the writers-in-the-round music performance but there is a dinner menu for those who come hungry. At Bluebird Cafe you can get good food. Healthy food. Yes, they’ve got chicken fingers and quesadillas, but you can also dine on veggies and hummus, caesar salad, and spinach and artichoke dip.
Stand in line again for some of Nashville’s best chicken. You can order your chicken with various levels of spiciness (heat) and add side dishes to your meal. Really want to add some heat to your chicken? I dare you to give their “Shut the Cluck Up” heat level a try. Here’s the menu.
Etch is a modern, trendy restaurant that serves dishes like octopus and shrimp bruschetta, grilled lamb loin, and grilled filet. This is the most upscale restaurant on the list and consistently gets stellar reviews from its clients. With entrees in the $30 ballpark it can get expensive, especially once you add in drinks, but the food is delicious! They are known for their roasted cauliflower (yum!) and grilled filet. We tried both, but if you save room for dessert, we loved the ice cream sundae.
Mexican lovers, rejoice! This is another Nashville favorite and we gave it a try on our most recent visit to Nashville. Honestly, Tim and I didn’t think it quite lived up to the rave reviews it receives. Mas Tacos is located outside of downtown Nashville, so you will need a car or an Uber to get here. The tacos were very good but it may not be worth going out of your way to eat here, unless you really love tacos.
Skull’s Rainbow Room is Nashville’s only downtown jazz lounge. It’s been around since 1948, located in Printer’s Alley not far from the Honky Tonks. This is a great spot in Nashville to go for drinks, music, and dinner. Just make sure you make your reservations in advance. Visit their website here.
1. Rosie Food & Wine
Nestled in Hendersonville, this wine bar serves thoughtfully prepared plates and exquisite vinos in a cozy environment.
Don’t let its size deceive you.
Although it’s small, this 60-seat chef-driven joint is one of the most tantalizing casual spots to eat in the area.
Not only does it serve wonderfully plated Spanish and Italian-inspired bites, but it also offers decadent desserts and wines.
Their short ribs are a culinary masterpiece.
Braised in red wine, these ribs are succulent, tender, moist and abundant in deep beef flavors.
A Weekend Getaway in Nashville + Where to Eat
Some people go to Nashville for the music. Or so I hear.
This second visit to Music City, however, was for me all about the food. My first time passing through, I had had my first mouth-burning bite of hot chicken, I sampled a meat-and-three, and then cooled said mouth off with a Jeni’s ice cream in Hillsboro Village (also, Pancake Pantry…hello!)
So one could say I whet my appetite for Nashville on that quick stop through a few years ago. When I found myself in Memphis this year, not a whole lot could stop me from going back — fork and knife in hand — for more.
From nights out in East Nashville to my first honky-tonk experience (ok, maybe it was also a little about the music,) to a Nashville Eats food tour, to restaurants and some of the best places to eat in Nashville, plus multiple stops at the same barbecue joint…it’s incredible how much you can learn about a city’s food scene in just a handful of days and 3-5 daily meals!
So, what are the classic must-haves for a foodie weekend in Nashville?
Nashville Restaurants You Have To Try On Vacation
I won’t even lie, the food scene in Nashville was a huge part of why we decided to move our little family across the country. At this point, I think all my followers know how big of a foodie I truly am and how much I love trying new places.
I love exploring new cuisines and trying hole-in-the-wall dives and well-known restaurants with fun, new and unique dishes. I have made a round-up of my FAVORITE places in Nashville and Franklin now that I am a local and all *wink wink* The list has an assortment of fancy, fun, good for date nights, and more!
The Best Fried Chicken In Nashville & Maybe Anywhere In the World
Waldo’s Chicken & Beer is arguably the best fried chicken I have ever had and chef Jackson says it is definitely the best. No hoke joke every time I go I hear someone tell them that… and this is in Nashville!
If you want a place that is more known only to locals and a touch off the standard tourist path, then you have to go to this place. Their whole motto is “always made from scratch” and you can honestly tell!
Their batter is honestly perfect, it is so light flavorful and then the chicken is juicy and it absolutely is cooked to perfection. You can tell this is handcrafted and freshly made each day vs. most places I have tried in Nashville or anywhere.
You have to try this standard chicken sandwich, their chicken fingers with multiple homemade sauces or my favorite the fowl mouth sandwich. The foul mouth is spicy as heck but maybe the best sandwich I have ever had.
I will modify it slightly by adding pickles as well as knocking out some jalapeños from the coleslaw so I don’t die. Wow, you have to try and and be amazed.
They don’t just do fried chicken either if you want to be kinder to the waistline, they also do amazing fire-roasted chicken. Either way, if you want chicken, they have it and some of the best ever!
Their sides are also great and you could drink all of their sauces. If you want drinks too you have to try their from scratch margarita or any of the ton of local brews they have on tap.
One of the reasons their chicken is the best on earth is because of their pickle brine that they brine the chicken in. The pickle brine adds so much flavor, tenderness and of course since pickles are my favorite food, this just makes even more sense.
They are located in Germantown in Nashville at 1120 4th Ave North and they also opened a restaurant in Tulsa, Oklahoma! They are famous for from scratch entrees, homemade sides and award winning sauces!
This place is no frills, comfortable and even has multiple TVs if you want to watch the game. You can even bring your dog to their patio while you stuff yourself and enjoy one of their many cold beers on tap.
Bolton’s Spicy Fried Chicken and Fish
Bolton’s has been on our Nashville must-try list since watching the “Fried Chicken” episode of David Change’s Ugly Delicious. It is a small restaurant with a handful of tables and a window where you place your order. Bolton’s is the definition of a hole in the wall and a place you might drive by without even realizing it. Their chicken and fish come as either a sandwich or plate and their sides are classic southern traditions with the exception of spaghetti which we still don’t get. But be cautious when ordering. The mild is hot so we can only speculate how spicy the smokin’ hot is but to quote David Chang “It was one of the worst, maybe one of the most painful experiences I’ve ever had in my life.”
624 Main St, Nashville, boltonsspicy.com
What to do during a weekend in Nashville?
At the top of my list is taking a trip to McKay’s Bookstore. If you have never been, this is one of the largest used bookstores in America and it is my all-time favorite place to visit.
I spend countless hours here when I go. I take all my older books that I want to trade in and they give me credit for those to spend on other books I am wanting. Their prices are amazing — so definitely go here! They have more than just books — movies, music, toys, and so much of all the good stuff. It is a definite must-visit place when you go to Nashville.
One of my favorite things is driving all over Nashville and checking out their amazing murals.
The city is known for its artistic murals like the wings that can be found in the Gulch — and it’s right near one of the most amazing restaurants ever (you’ll hear more about that below).
Nashville has some amazing places to shop — from Opry Mills to downtown by the Bridgestone area (we love going down there and parking and then walking the street visiting all the shops!)
Of course, when in Nashville, one must try on cowboy boots. Found the perfect pair at a discount!
Another great shopping experience in Nashville is the antique shops that are located all over the place. If you search the internet for Nashville Tennesse antique shops, you will find many that are filled to the brim with beautiful trinkets.
This year I finally got my taste of the Nashville Flea Market and it is AMAZING! On the 3rd or 4th weekend of every month, vendors come together all under one roof for the flea market.
It can be overstimulating, but I promise if you just take it one building at a time, you will love visiting here. So much to do and see and all it costs is just the fee for parking.
Okay — so now that you know a little bit about what to do in Nashville, let’s talk about these amazing restaurants!
Where to Eat:
Coffee addicts flock to Collective Espresso for coffee in its purest form with a relaxing neighborhood atmosphere. Made to order with no syrups, just pure robust, flavorful coffee. Get your caffeine fix at the Over-the-Rhine or Northside location or scout the mobile unit throughout town.
This family ran donut business began in 1960 in the Greater Cincinnati area and has received numerous local and national accolades. Donut lovers arrive early to grab the made-from-scratch creative concoctions like Maple Bacon, Fruity Pebbles, German Chocolate and numerous other specialty donut flavors. All you need is one bite of a Holtman’s donut to fall in love!
Taste of Belgium
Waffles are king at the Taste of Belgium. The delectable waffles, created from traditional Belgian recipes, are some of the best I’ve ever eaten! Serving a unique mix of Belgian and American classics, try one of their most popular menu items, chicken and waffles.
Maplewood Kitchen and Bar
This California-inspired brunch spot features locally roasted coffee, cold pressed juices and fresh, organic ingredients. Serving healthy and flavorful dishes, in a white-washed woodwork West Coast-style space, foodies will savor every delicious bite at Maplewood.
City View Tavern
Opened in 1875 and suitably named for its sweeping views of Cincinnati’s skyline, City View Tavern can be found in the hills of Mt. Adams. This unpretentious bar is known for its Bloody Mary’s, delicious burgers, laid-back atmosphere and awesome patio views.
Located in Over-the-Rhine, this industrial style gastropub serves up cold beer, craft cocktails and hot dogs with a twist. Imaginative hot dog concoctions with creative names, piled high ingredients smothering the all-beef hotdog makes it acceptable to use a fork and knife to savor every bite. You can’t go wrong with any of the hot dog creations at Senate…start your meal with the Poutine, you won’t be disappointed!
As Ohio’s oldest continuously operated public market, Findlay Market has been providing locally sourced farm fresh produce and foods since 1852. More than 40 indoor merchants sell meat, fish, produce, flowers, artisanal, ethnic and specialty foods. Findlay Market is an easy way to sample the local flavors of Cincinnati.
Camp Washington Chili
Chili piled high upon spaghetti, hot dogs or French fries and topped with cheese, onions or beans makes the perfect lunch time meal. Eat with a fork and learn the Cincinnati-style chili terms to customize the hearty comfort food. Serving award winning chili since 1940, Camp Washington Chili is the best place to savor the local delicacy, Cincinnati-style chili.
Located in an underground hideaway in Downtown Cincinnati, Sotto creates traditional Italian cuisine with modern twists and fresh seasonal ingredients. Rustic décor and a romantic atmosphere whisks you away to Italy while the delectable food is love at every single bite. Save room for the delightful handmade ricotta donuts served with three creamy sauces. Book reservations in advance as Sotto is one of the most sought-after meals in town.
An ode to European cuisine with American flair, this contemporary fine-dining restaurant creates one-of-a-kind meals with the freshest ingredients of the season. Although the food may be the star of the show, the attentive staff can be awarded best supporting roles as attention to detail with artful simplicity is the motto at Boca.
Orchids at Palm Court
As Ohio’s only AAA Five Diamond Restaurant, Orchids at Palm Court is Cincinnati’s go to restaurant for luxurious fine-dining experience. Serving only the finest, freshest ingredients, each course is a culinary masterpiece. With its location in the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza Hotel in Downtown Cincinnati, the stunning 1930’s art-deco grandeur architecture accompanies the opulent meal nicely.
Fun Places to Eat in Nashville
One of the interesting things about the restaurants and cafes is how varied the cuisines are! We had more typical Southern food, of course, but also French, Japanese, and a Mexican-American fusion that I think needs to happen in LA ASAP…
But let’s start with coffee because I always do! A dear friend Alyssa of RunwayChef (she and I went to Charleston together!) told me I had to go to Barista Parlor. There are actually a few locations around the city, including Germantown, Marathon Village, and in The Gulch.
We went to the one in East Nashville. I had no idea about the area, but it was really nice to drive through this fun, local area of Music City that isn’t overcome with that downtown vibe! The coffee and tea are tasty. Their menu offers a variety of biscuits to munch on. I’d suggest sharing one – they were heavier than I expected!
We also visited Crema who roasts their own coffee. Their shop is near downtown and tucked into, currently, a construction zone. There’s plenty of parking (2 hours free with a ticket from the machine) and it’s a local favorite!
The coffee and tea were delicious, of course, and I loved their assortment of goodies. There was plenty of seating, but it’s a popular place with locals to be sure!
Another local coffee shop find was Killebrew, located in the Thompson Hotel. I got a basic cafe au lait that morning and totally fell in love with the coffee.
Oh and the sweet potato donut with marshmallow cream (me, yes, I know it’s a shocker). And then the blueberry cornmeal muffin that we saved for later was positively delicious too. (No surprise this place is on my fun places to eat in Nashville).
Killebrew sells Revelator Coffee – a Southern coffee roaster that’s embracing its southern roots and history. Since I enjoyed the coffee so much and because my husband and I always bring home coffee beans, I bought a bag…
I picked the DuBois bag of beans, which made do a little happy dance. My PhD is in black American history, so I was VERY familiar with black rights activist W.E.B. DuBois. It was a friendly flash from my past!!
When you think downtown Nashville, a slew of bars with live music should immediately come to mind. And even on a Sunday night in January with small snow flurries in the air, music fills the air!
Besides enjoying a show at the famous Ryman Theatre, that Broadway scene wasn’t for us – well, besides buying a caramel apple at the candy store (maybe two!). Not far from the “strip,” however, are a variety of places to enjoy some great food in a calm atmosphere.