Although I wasn’t technically born in Nashville, I’ve lived here for pretty much my whole life and I very proudly claim it as home. I think it’s one of the absolute best cities in the country, but, I guess I’m maybe more than a little biased. And while Nashville has always been full of charm and friendly people, it has seen a huge boom over the past few years and has become more of a destination spot than ever. I would say that the social scene in Nashville can be summed up in 2 simple words: music & food. So, if you’re planning your next trip, be prepared to eat LOTS of delicious food and listen to country music that can always be heard from one place or another while walking around downtown.
It’s really important for you to know, however, that Nashville isn’t all hot chicken and country music (although, if that’s what you’re looking for, you will most certainly not be disappointed). This city is bursting with tons of great food and every kind of music that you can imagine playing live. My hope with this guide is to give you a good mix of the classics that originally put nashville on the map as well as the new joints that the locals have quickly grown to love. Being a food editor and photographer in Nashville, narrowing my favorite places down to a manageable list was quite the challenge but I’m very excited to share this guide to Nashville with you!
Pepperfire- I thought I’d start you out with some hot chicken. In case you weren’t aware (people often aren’t), hot chicken is a BIG deal in Nashville. You’ll see a hot chicken restaurant on nearly every street you drive down. Pepperfire is, in my opinion, the best Hot Chicken joint in the whole city. This should probably come with a warning though. When they say “hot” chicken, what they really mean is “chicken that does NOT mess around”. I literally cried the first time I ate it and I wish that someone had given me at least a little warning. Hot chicken is VERY spicy and not for the faint of heart. If in doubt, go for the mildest on the menu.
Marche Artisan Foods- this is one of my absolute favorite brunch spots. It’s European cafe meets southern comfort. The atmosphere is bright and airy and all of the staff is ridiculously friendly. They make a mean bloody mary and one delicious bowl of cheddar grits. Their kitchen really prides itself in using seasonal and local ingredients which means that their menu changes quite often. I recommend checking their social media to see what they’re serving on any given day. Bonus: they have a little store in the front of the restaurant that sells lots of great local products such as Nashville honey and locally made goats milk soap.
Pinewood Social– If you’re in Nashville because you heard about the hip foodie scene, Pinewood Social is your spot. It’s unlike any other restaurant in Nashville for sure. Upon first walking in, it seems normal enough with a bar, a dining, area and a little coffee spot to grab a coffee and do some work. But upon further inspection, you’ll discover that there’s a bowling alley in the back, a courtyard to one side that’s equipped with bocce ball, an airstream bar, and 2 little pools, and a karaoke room to the other side of the restaurant (for private events). Pinewood Social is located right on the river and makes an overall great places to hang out. They have a rather extensive food, drink, and coffee menus so I suggest look at them online ahead of time.
Two Ten Jack- This is one of my go to dinner spots and I highly recommend it if you’re a ramen fan. It has a really great “Saturday night out” kind of vibe and, again, the food is SO so good. I highly recommend the pork ramen with a side of the crispy brussels. They’re open for dinner every night of the week but lunch is only served on the weekends.
The Pharmacy- Arguable the BEST burger spot in Nashville, The Pharmacy is a big favorite of the locals. They have a great list of burgers, shakes, specialty sodas, and sides as well as a really great outdoor patio and Beer Garden. If you’re looking for a casual spot to eat outside, I highly recommend the Pharmacy.
The Patterson House- this is way more than just a great cocktail bar. The Patterson house is a speakeasy style bar and radiates a vibe of secrecy and intimacy from the moment you walk in the door. The entrance is a small reception room where you check in before being escorted through a large curtain to the back, very dimly lit room. The serve appetizers and desserts and have a wonderful cocktail menu. Go prepared to try something new and absolutely LOVE it. Guests are encouraged to keep their cell phones put away which is something that I personally really appreciate.
Husk- If you ask me what the best meal is that I’ve ever had in Nashville, Husk would be my answer every single time. I’ll warn you up front though: the price tag on that favorite meal of mine is probably one of the highest I’ve ever had. While the vibe of Husk is actually rather laid back, the food is upscale and DELICIOUS. We first went here after seeing Sean Brock, Husk’s head chef, on Mind of the Chef and reading all about his culinary genius. They only serve food that’s from the south and I love them for it. My advice: get the oysters.
Mas Tacos- Truth be told: Nashville has a lot of great taco joints. Picking just one is rather difficult but Mas Tacos has had my heart for a long time. Located in the heart of East Nashville, this little taco joint is a local favorite. They serve your classic taco suspects and some really yummy chicken tortilla soup.
Edley’s BBQ- Nashville has a long running competition with Memphis over who has the best bar-b-que. It’s not really much of a competition though really, since we all know it’s Nashville. Just like hot chicken, you’ll find good BBQ on pretty much every corner in Nashville. Edley’s BBQ Nachos are SO so good and I get them literally every single time that I go there. My advice: get the nachos with a bushwaker to wash it all down with.
Las Paletas- this little shop serves exclusively popsicles with some deliciously inventive flavors. My all time favorite paletas are the hot chocolate paleta and the avocado paleta. They have a creamy menu, a fruit menu, a sugar free menu, and a seasonal menu that changes weekly. So, needless to say, there’s something for everyone.
Skyblue Cafe- this is my other go to spot for brunch. Although there truly are many reasons to love this place, I only really need this one: Banana & Nutella Stuffed French Toast Pancakes. You heard me: banana and nutella stuffed between french toast that is then stuffed between pancakes. It’s what brunch dream are made of. I’m seriously drooling just thinking about them. Besides those pancakes, they serve a traditional American breakfast with lots of great coffee options AND a lunch menu if that’s what you’re craving.
Loveless Cafe- it would just seem wrong to leave this one off of the list. Loveless Cafe is one of Nashville’s most popular restaurants and they’re famous for their heavenly biscuits.
A Matter of Taste- AMOT Eatery is relatively new to the Nashville scene but it’s not going anywhere (thank goodness!). This all gluten-free restaurant has a wonderful menu and a fun, relaxing atmosphere. They’ve found some great ways to serve traditional dishes that are gluten-free and yet still super tasty.
Crema- Crema is my ALL TIME favorite coffee shop in Nashville. It’s located just outside of the hustle of downtown and has such a cozy atmosphere. I have to refrain myself from going daily but I would say that I end of going at least a few time a week. My favorite drink here is there Cuban which I most often pair with a piece of their goat cheese and avocado toast.
Barista Parlour- people seem to come from all around just to hit up this super hip coffee shop. They became so popular, so quickly in fact, that they’re gearing up to open their third location in Nashville. The East Nashville location is their original coffee shop and the one that I frequent the most. One of my favorite things is their rather large selection of gourmet chocolates. I rarely leave without picking up a fancy bar of chocolate. If you want the full on coffee experience, Barista Parlor is a great place to start.
Steadfast- located in the heart of Germantown, Steadfast is another one of my favorite coffee shops. Their staff are ridiculously friendly and eager to answer and coffee questions you might have (I’ve been a coffee lover for many years and I always manage to come up with new questions for them). And no matter what time of year you go, you MUST try their coffee soda. They’re not the only place in town that serves it but they are my favorite. Steadfast also have a really breakfast, lunch, and dinner menu that I highly recommend. And on top of that, they also serve beer so basically there’s something for everyone.
THINGS TO DO:
Go Honky Tonkin’- I often joke that honky tonkin’ is strictly for tourists and bachelorette parties but the truth is, sometimes even I enjoy a stroll down Lower Broadway to eat at Jack’s BBQ and listen to the country music BLARING from each and every bar up and down the street. No worries if you don’t already own a pair of cowboy boots because there are quite a few stores that sell them downtown. Once your boots are on, you’re ready to listen to live music in Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge (which has a live act on each of it’s 3 levels), fill up on fried bologna at Robert’s Western World, and then go sing karaoke at WannaB’s. You haven’t really experienced Nashville until you’ve experienced Lower Broadway.
Breweries- Nashville has a ton of great breweries many of which offer tours. If you’re a big beer fan, I highly recommend that you try out a few of the beers that Nashville has to offer. I suggest starting with Yazoo, Jackelope, Fat Bottom, and Black Abbey.
Visit Centennial Park and the Parthenon- there are a lot of beautiful parks in this city and I would just about recommend every single one. But, if you could one go to one, I would say go to Centennial Park which has a replica of the Parthenon in it. This makes a great picnic spot and a good place for a stroll at any time of the year.
Tour Olive & Sinclair- Olive & Sinclair is a great Nashville based chocolate shop and factory where they make all of their own chocolate bars. On Saturdays only, you can tour the factory for $5 PLUS you get lots of free chocolate samples. Can’t go wrong with free chocolate.
Hey Rooster General Store- this is my go to place when I need a unique gift for a friend. Hey Rooster has lots of really unique prints, ceramics, clothings, and so much more. Much of what they sell is also locally made and sourced so it’s a great place to pick up little souvenirs.
White’s Mercantile- This shop is owned and operated by a local musician- daughter to Hank Williams Jr- who curates the store based on products that she has found and loved while traveling the south on tour. She refers to it as a “general store for the modern-day tastemaker”. There are lots of neat items including food items, jewelry, and art. This is also a really great spot to pick up a unique gift.
Nashville Farmer’s Market- Your typical farmers market with an awesome food court with different foods to try from all over the world. I go here for lunch on a weekly basis and highly recommend it if you want a quick and fun meal.
Batch (in the Farmer’s Market)– Batch Nashville is yet another great place to get locally made Nashville goods. They have lots of yummy treats such as gourmet marshmallows, mint julep cocktail mix, and an original Nashville Hot Chicken spice blend. Batch also sells some great locally made pottery, candles, and some really unique art.
OMG- Old Made Good- Old Made Good is a super unique little shop in East Nashville that sells everything from vintage clothes to sarcastic phrases in needlepoint. It’s also a great spot for unique and vintage home decor.
I’m a Nashville native and lover of all things southern. My passion for food rose to new levels when I started my food blog, BBritnell, and became obsessed with recipe development and food photography. I’m now working on growing my photography business where I take pictures of food for local restaurants and quite a few Nashville publications. In my free time I love to hike with my husband and our 2 pups, take obsessive pictures of our chickens, play roller derby, and cross restaurants off of my extra long “must try” list.