Nashville, TN has become a culinary hotbed as a result of the city’s explosive growth over the past several years. We’re writing a series on where to eat in every SEC town and below are a few restaurants you’re sure to enjoy when visiting Nashville.
Near Vanderbilt University
If you find yourself at or near Vanderbilt, you’ll find a wide variety of eateries in every price range. Vanderbilt Stadium, aka Dudley Field, is where the Commodores play their home football games and is stone’s throw from Memorial Gym, home to the men’s and women’s basketball teams. The school is conveniently located off West End Avenue and several restaurants are within walking distance or a short car ride.
Redlands Grill (formally J. Alexander’s), 2609 West End Ave. 11 a.m. – 11 p.m. daily
Yes, it’s a chain and I usually recommend you avoid them when visiting a new city, but it’s not only close to the university, they have great food. The by-the-glass wine list is extensive and most of their sandwiches, salads, and entrees are excellent.
Pancake Pantry – 1796 21st Ave. S. 6am-3pm.
A Nashville staple since 1961, there are no better pancakes, period. Don’t debate us on this one, just go eat there. We highly recommend you get the kids up at 5:30 am and be there when the doors are unlocked. Otherwise, you’ll stand in a line that will wrap around the block. Sweet potato pancakes are the best!
Arnold’s Country Kitchen – 605 Eighth Ave. S., 10:30 am -2:45 pm.
Owners Jack and Rose Arnold have been serving country music stars, downtown workers, and ordinary folks in their little red meat ’n’ three since 1982. You’ll find some of the state’s best fried chicken, fried green tomatoes (cooked with apple juice and hot sauce), and the creamiest banana pudding this side of heaven. Even the James Beard Award foodies have taken notice, bestowing a prestigious “American Classics” nod in 2009.
Hattie B’s Hot Chicken – 112 19th Ave. S. 11am-10pm.
Hattie B’s continues to help spread the gospel of Nashville hot chicken, with locations in Midtown and Sylvan Park, a Germantown location in the works and their first out-of-state outpost in Birmingham. The heat goes from the barely there “mild” to the insane “shut the cluck up.” Bama & Auburn fans should feel right at home.
Jimmy Kelly’s – 217 Louise Ave. Nashville. 5pm-10pm.
A Nashville staple that has stood the test of time. Yes, you’re here for basketball, but this steakhouse is home to the city and state’s political elite. Each weeknight from January thru April many legislators frequent the tables in hopes of cutting deals on the budget or getting a road in their district. Mike Kelly, a third-generation owner, will most likely greet you at the door. Tell him Senator Stanley sent you.
Rotiers – 2413 Elliston Place, 10:30 am – 10 pm.
Rotier’s Restaurant is home to the famous Signature French Bread Burger that is served on toasted French bread and topped with melted cheese. The burger has held court on the menu since the restaurant opened in the 1940s and, as the name suggests, is the restaurant’s signature dish.
Café Nonna – 4427 Murphy Road, Nashville. 11am-2pm, 5pm-9pm.
An out-of-the-way, small, Italian cafe in the Sylvan Park Neighborhood, across the street from McCabe’s Pub. They prepare simple, Italian fare on red checkered tablecloths. A majority of the meals are prepared by the old family recipes of his grandmother, Nonna – and just one visit will be enough to get you hooked on the homey and delicious plates coming out of the small kitchen. My recommendation is to order your pasta of choice, add your sauce, and then extra toppings as you like. Yum! And if you’re in the mood for pizza, you won’t be disappointed.
McCabe Pub – 4410 Murphy Road, Nashville. 11am-11pm.
They are the original Neighborhood bar and restaurant in Nashville. Also called the “Cheers” of Nashville. They have been the recipient of many awards numerous times over the years, such as Favorite Neighborhood Bar, Best Burger, Best Dessert. They win acknowledgments in “Where the Locals Eat” every year – after all, locals have made them who they are today. A wonderful Irish pub.
Downtown Nashville – Bridgestone Arena- Titans Stadium – Nashville Sounds Baseball
There are a ton of outstanding places to eat near these venues. Here are some we enjoy.
Puckett’s Grocery & Restaurant – 500 Church St. Nashville. 7am-10pm.
Barely an Uber ride from Bridgestone Arena and if you’re wearing good shoes go ahead and walk straight up 5th Avenue. It’s like eating in an old general store and has a hometown feel. Breakfast, lunch, and supper are excellent. Live music most nights.
Martin’s Bar-B-Que – 410 4th Ave. S. 11am-10pm.
This temple of smoked meats, run by award-winning pitmaster Pat Martin, has been drawing Nashvillians from their usual stomping grounds and down to Nolensville for years. But after opening its Belmont Blvd. location two and a half years ago, Martin’s opened a 13,000-square-foot, 500 seat restaurant, bar and backyard beer garden in SoBro.
The Palm – 140 5th Ave. S. Nashville. 11am-10pm.
An easy hop, skip and jump from Bridgestone Arena. It’s a big, chubby, steakhouse with lots of red meat on the menu. If a steak is what you’re craving, then here you go. The Salmon is a great alternative.
Monell’s – 1235 6th Ave. N., Lunch 11am-3pm, Supper 5:30-8pm.
Menu changes daily and this is family-style dining at its best. You have a party of 3, you come in and sit at multiple long tables where the first seats are found. Then you just start passing the meat and veggies. No use counting calories here. It’ll take you days to work them off, but it’s worth every bite.
The Grilled Cheeserie – 2003 Belcourt Ave. Nashville. 11am-9pm.
Joseph Bogan and Crystal De Luna-Bogan’s The Grilled Cheeserie has been one of the most popular food trucks in Nashville for years and now fans have a new brick-and-mortar location to frequent in Hillsboro Village. The new melt shop serves up their signature grilled cheese sandwiches, soups, and sides, along with the new addition of a milkshake bar.
Jack Brown’s Beer & Burger Joint – 1123 3rd Ave. North. 11am-2am.
We were first introduced to Jack Brown’s by our friends in Alabama. We were elated to hear that this burger and beer joint was making its way to Nashville and welcomed them to the Germantown neighborhood when they opened their doors last summer. If you are looking for something other than a burger, might we suggest you look elsewhere. Try one of the everyday burgers — such as the Wagyu patty topped with American cheddar — and pair it with a craft beer.
Fine Dining in Nashville
The Patterson House, 1711 Division St., Nashville. Open 5 pm-1am.
While out-of-towners hit the Broadway honky-tonks, Nashville locals belly up to this speakeasy hang out on Division Street. The 30-stool bar retains a hush-hush, Gatsby-and-Governor sophistication, and savvy bartenders stir and shake in Capone-era getups. Try the Juliet and Romeo for slow sipping underneath the vintage chandeliers.
Watermark – 507 12th Ave. S. 5:30 pm- 10 pm.
Watermark Restaurant is a white-tablecloth, upscale fine dining restaurant in the heart of Nashville’s Gulch District. They source the best quality and local products to prepare award-winning contemporary Southern cuisine. A Nashville fine dining staple.
City House – 1222 4th Ave. N. Nashville. 5pm-11pm.
In the Germantown Neighborhood just north of downtown and the state Capitol. You can’t go wrong here. It opened in 2007 and has has been packed since. Earlier this year chef/owner Tandy Wilson became the first Nashville chef to bring home a James Beard Award, getting the nod for his rustic, Southern take on Italian fare. Call ahead for reservations.
Bastion – 434 Houston Street. Nashville. 5pm-2am.
With chef Josh Habiger back in the kitchen full-time, there was little doubt that this Wedgewood-Houston hot spot would become an essential addition to Nashville’s dining scene. With a clear separation between the bar and restaurant, Habiger’s 24-seat dining room is where Bastion truly shines, showcasing his unique style of cooking. Guests have a choice between a family-style meal or the a la carte menu, with the latter laying claim to the real standouts.
Husk – 37 Rutledge St., Nashville. Brunch 11am-2pm, Dinner 5-10pm.
This outpost of the Charleston original continues to shine, showcasing executive chef Sean Brock’s and chef de cuisine Brian Baxter’s inventive take on Southern cuisine.
Germantown Cafe – 1200 5th Ave. N. 11am-10pm.
Just blocks from downtown and LP Field, Germantown Café offers fresh, comfortably creative, reasonably-priced food, along with an amazing view of the Nashville skyline. The Café is the perfect choice for pre-theatre dinners, casual nights out on the town, power lunches or lazy Sunday brunches.
The Tree House – 1011 Clearview Ave. Nashville. 6pm-1am.
Having taken up residence at the beginning of the year, well-regarded chef Jason Zygmont is really hitting his stride, consistently cranking out some of the most interesting and flavorful dishes in town. Combine that with an always solid cocktail and wine list and one of the most unique restaurant spaces in town, and The Treehouse is now the total package.
Watering Holes near Downtown Nashville
Robert’s Western World – 416 Broadway, Nashville. Open from 11 am to 3 am daily, but it’s a 21 and over bar after 6 pm.
Don’t ask any questions, just go – you’ve got to visit this place. If you’re into real, traditional country and rockabilly music, this place is for you and you could see some of your favorite artists ramble in. Live music till closing. Nothing fancy here and if you want to fit in, order a PBR. That’s a Pabst Blue Ribbon for you Florida fans.
The Standard at The Smith House – 167 Rosa Parks Blvd, Nashville. 5pm-10pm.
A historic townhouse located within walking distance of the state Capitol, The Standard is a restaurant and catering operation but it’s the private club (cigar bar) that’s the attraction. While the club is technically “private,” walk in and ask for Josh Smith, the owner, or Billy Corr, the manager and if you look presentable maybe they’ll allow you to visit the club upstairs. There might be a small fee, but it’s worth the experience to smoke a great cigar and enjoy a beautiful, historic home.
Oak Bar at the Hermitage Hotel – 231 6th Ave. N. 11am-11pm.
A people watching venue, albeit small and tucked away. This is a beautiful, ornate bar that is home to politicians, business executives, and the occasional high profile guests. If you do visit, make sure you see the men’s restroom and even ask the bartender to have someone give your female companion a tour. It’s art deco at its best.
Czann’s – 505 Lea Avenue W-F 4pm-9pm, Sat. 12-9pm, Sun. 1pm-7pm.
Czann’s was the first brewery to take a bet on SoBro, the area south of Broadway in downtown Nashville. Ken Redman, the owner, literally built the place with his own two hands. While they have what Ken calls “munchie” food at the taproom, they also have pizza from Germantown spot 312 Pizza.
Hotels in Nashville
As I’m sure you’ve noticed, hotel rates in Nashville – especially during special events – have sky-rocketed in recent years. I’m not going to dive into hotel recommendations, but you should check out properties in Brentwood, Franklin and West Nashville if you’re looking to spend south of $250-300 per night.
Some of the best places to stay in Nashville near downtown and these sporting venues are the Omni, Thompson Nashville, Hilton Garden Inn, Germantown Inn and the Sheraton Grand.
Btw, visit the Thompson Hotel Bar or sit in the lobby of the Hermitage Hotel if you’re into people watching.