The Best Restaurants In NashvilleA taco truck outside of a tiki bar, the best hot chicken, and all of our favorite alternatives to hot chicken in Nashville, Tennessee.
Quick: name the first three things you think of when you hear “Nashville.” Bars with country music, sure. Bachelorette parties, yes. But if your food-centric guesses start and end with hot chicken, well…we’ve got some work to do.
In the past few years, a large influx of people from all around the country have moved into town and they’ve brought a fresh cultural perspective to the city. Southern cooking still has a firm grip on the dishes here (you’re in Tennessee, after all), but now there are a lot more French, Spanish, Japanese, and Latin American influences. And our dining options are all the better for it.
Below, you’ll find a solid mix of Nashville staples along with some newcomers who already feel like mainstays in the restaurant scene. We also have guides on the best bars, another dedicated solely to brunch spots, plus a few suggestions on how to have a big night out.
CLASSIC SOUTHERN SPOTS & HOT CHICKEN
This small, singular bungalow in East Nashville churns out the best hot chicken in the city. Don’t expect any wacky slogans or funny names for the spice levels—just a few well-worn tables and a simple takeout window that’s been quietly doling out plates of perfectly spiced poultry for over 25 years.
Bolton’s is the best hot chicken in town because it’s a consistently spectacular fried bird—there are very few (if any) off days at this spot. The skin has just the right amount of crunch without turning the roof of your mouth into sandpaper, while the meat is nice and juicy. And perhaps most importantly, when they say “hot,” they mean it. A “medium” here is the equivalent of max heat at other hot chicken joints (that’s due to them using on a dry rub instead of sauce).
Rumor has it that Prince’s was the first hot chicken purveyor on the scene, the product of a spicy revenge dish cooked up by a spurned lover. That itself makes it worth a visit, but the chicken here is also freakishly hot and simple, if maybe a bit inconsistent. The meat comes in a crispy crust dusted with a blend of spices, and can be served plain or ramped up to your chosen heat level. So show up, stand in line, and get ready to sweat. Just make sure to order some sweet tea and a side of creamy mac and cheese to console your blistered palate. We suggest going to their Nolensville Pike location, but their outpost at the Assembly Food Hall on Broadway is more convenient if you’re just in town visiting.
For over 70 years, this meat-and-three mainstay in The Nations has been serving up a rotating menu of classic Southern and soul food dishes and sides. The menu changes daily, but you can’t go wrong with the meatloaf or fried pork chop as your meat and the fresh fried corn, marshmallow yams, and mac and cheese as your “three.” Post up for lunch in one of the well-worn booths and for a brief second, it’ll almost feel like you’ve time-warped to 1950s Nashville. Always order some banana pudding or chess pie for dessert.
Fact: Southern cooking tastes 110% better when it’s enjoyed in a historic Victorian manor that could double as the set of Steel Magnolias. Be prepared to sit elbow-to-elbow with strangers as you share a family-style meal of fried chicken, cheese grits, green beans, biscuits, and cornbread at this classic Germantown spot. And as Monell’s likes to remind its guests, you’ll “enter as strangers, leave as friends.” Blame it on the biscuits and gravy.
THE HOT & NEW RESTAURANTS
Nashville is in the middle of a pasta renaissance, with heavy hitters like Luogo, Carne Mare, and Yolan opening over the past two years. While those spots have become mainstays in the city for a bowl of carbs, the hottest place in town to get something like caviar linguine is at the Four Seasons’ Mimo. The inside feels like a modern Tuscan plaza with leafy potted palms and trees, bright sunlight streaming from the floor-to-ceiling windows, and sandy stone walls that make it a perfect date-night setting. Start with an order of sourdough bread with olive oil butter in addition to the porcini mushroom soup, then get into the aforementioned caviar linguine or the carnaroli risotto made with a Tennessee IPA before wrapping things up with a lemonfiori.
Your typical hotel restaurant can sometimes feel like flushing your paycheck down a golden commode. That’s not the case with Blue Aster. The restaurant, named after Tennessee’s native wildflower, sits on the ground floor of the Conrad. Order some chilled seafood platters spilling over with shellfish and housemade sauces, a plate of caviar and blue corn johnny cakes, and a perfectly cooked ribeye with black garlic ranch dip. Enjoy it all in a velvet-lined banquette as you celebrate that new promotion at work and, once you’re done eating your meal, head up to the third floor and locate Thistle & Rye for an after-dinner drink.
GOOD FOR GROUPS
Most of the live music joints on Broadway fall in the “style-over-substance” category (“style” is used very loosely here). Happily, The Twelve Thirty Club is that rare Broadway spot that aces both. There’s a rooftop and honkytonk here, but you’ll want to focus your attention on the supper club, an old-school throwback run by Mr. Suit-and-Tie himself, Justin Timberlake. The menu pulls in some of those classic supper club dishes—prime rib, dry-aged ribeyes, seafood towers, and scalloped potatoes—while also having a surprisingly good collection of dishes like the 12/30 Roll with crispy black rice, truffle fries, and wagyu bolognese, not to mention an excellent Old Fashioned.
Bastion is like the mullet of Nashville restaurants: it’s serious dining business up front and a nacho-filled party in the back (well, technically it’s their side bar, but you get the point). The 24-seat main dining room located in a Wedgewood-Houston warehouse is the perfect place to dig into the eclectic, daily-changing menu. The staff regularly spins their favorite vinyl tracks on the restaurant’s record player while serving creative twists on things like raw scallops, beef tri-tip, and lamb. But the side bar is the move for a casual Happy Hour hang with a small group of friends, where you should drink the daily boozy punch and order the only food item on the menu: a towering plate of some of the best nachos in the city.
There are two things you should know before you visit Nashville: First, Dolly Parton is our patron saint. And second, while she doesn’t own the place, the Dolly-themed White Limozeen is the unofficial chapel erected in her honor, where you’ll find champagne jello shots instead of communion wafers. You might need a few minutes after arriving at this rooftop restaurant on top of the Graduate to take in all the pinkness, but make no mistake, the food is every bit as masterful as the woman herself. There’s a French influence running through the menu, from the herby moules frites and subtly sweet carrots vichyssoise to a burger on white bread that's topped with buttery brie and a jammy onion caramel.
You should probably go to a brewery while you’re in Nashville. We like Southern Grist, not just because it's home to some of the most off-the-wall, small-batch brews in town, but also because of their in-house restaurant Lauter. So after taking a look at what’s on tap, scooch into the long banquette at Lauter and stay for a full meal. When was the last time you saw roasted sweet potatoes with pepita salsa matcha and seaweed butter, paitan shoyu ramen, and fried chicken marinated in koji on the menu at your local brewery?
DATE NIGHT PLACES
Situated in a converted auto upholstery shop in East Nashville, Pelican & Pig uses their wood-burning hearth for everything—including cooking mahi, pork chops, ribeyes, potatoes, and housemade Tuscan bread in a smoky blaze of glory. Order a bottle of chilled red to temper the wood-fired dishes or opt for a rye cocktail to play up the spice and smoke. Either way, don’t leave without an order of the chocolate chip cookies with milk jam.
Landlocked Nashville isn’t exactly a sushi town, but when nothing less than a slab of toro will do, we go to O-Ku. This place makes great nigiri and makimono, plus excellent robata-grilled meat, but the specials like the thinly-sliced scottish king salmon with black lava salt and truffle ponzu, wagyu tartare, and bourbon togarashi-crusted tuna really level up the experience. O-Ku has all the essentials for date night: dim lighting, plenty of cozy booths and two-tops, and a ton of sake to choose from. It’s a refreshing option outside of the Broadway madness, where things are rarely cozy, and eating anything raw is just a really bad idea.
What the menu at Locust lacks in length, it makes up for with some of the most interesting dishes in the city. Helmed by a former chef of The Catbird Seat, this small but mighty dumpling and kakigori shop in 12 South makes perfectly crisp dumplings doused in chili oil, chewy noodles, and fluffy cups of shaved ice that have inspired a local cult following. Is there sake? Of course there’s sake, and you can count on the sake sommelier to make sure the selection keeps you on your toes. Reservations are a good idea—the restaurant is only open Friday-Sunday, and both the indoor dining room and patio fill up fast.
FANCY SPOTS THAT ARE WORTH IT
Like the 30,000 people who came for a bachelorette party on Broadway and decided to stay, chef Sean Brock left his Charleston restaurants and decided to open a handful of spots in Nashville—maybe the best of them being Audrey. The concept is an ode to his Appalachian grandmother, and it’s like the MoMA meets a rustic mountain cabin inside—clean, sleek, and minimalist, but also warm.
The menu shifts seasonally, but you’ll always find ancient grains and ingredients native to the South, especially ones that have been underutilized for decades. Think: cornbread, beer, and milk made with jimmy red corn, heirloom apples and potatoes paired with foie and black truffles, and desserts that make quick work of the tropical-tasting pawpaw fruit. It’s also worth checking out June, which is located upstairs and has a food-lab-meets-intimate-dinner-nook energy and a special sushi handroll night with fish flown in from Tokyo.
There’s no shortage of whiskey in Tennessee, but you can get some of the hardest-to-find bottles around town at E3. The hits don’t stop there, though—this chophouse is just the type of place you keep in your back pocket for impressing the big boss or a date who’s, quite frankly, a bit over hot chicken. So come here when you’re craving an excellent tomahawk ribeye and don’t mind dropping over $70 on a proper slab of beef.
Everyone needs a spot in their back pocket that can impress a crowd—from a high-stakes client dinner to that uncle who can’t stop talking about the one time he met Giada DeLaurentiis in the airport. That’s Yolan. This polished dining room located on the ground floor of The Joseph Nashville is one of the best Italian spots in the city, and it has the truffles, bucatini amatriciana, and cacio e pepe to prove it. If choosing between all the excellent options proves impossible, opt for the tasting menu, where your choice of five or eight courses straight from Yolan’s formidable lineup. Top it off with a wine pairing of boutique Italian bottles and consider getting a room upstairs for the night.
Sometimes, it’s nice to remember that things like oceans really do exist. That’s where Marsh House and its multi-level seafood towers come in. All of the stuff from the ocean here is flown in fresh daily, so you can practically taste the sweat from King Triton's pecs on the oysters, shrimp, and arctic char. The atmosphere feels like a steakhouse—formal, classy, and not cheap (about $100 per person, with all the bells and whistles). But we suspect it’s all part of a bigger plan to lure locals away from all the beef and chicken around town.
THE BRUNCH SPOTS
Adele’s is a long-time Nashville favorite near downtown that’s great for brunch or a drinks-and-a-snack outing that somehow evolves into dinner. It’s a bright and airy spot that you can always rely on when you’re with a hungry group of friends and no one can decide what they want to eat. Brunch is absolutely the best move here, with a four-hour-long buffet that features standout salads, a bagel-and-lox bar, a carving station, and whiskey caramel bread pudding for dessert.
The Best Brunch Restaurants In Nashville
Despite the name, you’re not coming to The Butter Milk Ranch for riffs on arguably the best wing dipping sauce in history—you’re here for the pastries. Head to this daytime spot for a morning meal of soft scrambled eggs topped with trout roe and the everything bagel croissant with gravlax. But your mission to partake in the finest sugary breakfast treats will be incomplete if you don’t stop at the bakery case. Here, you’ll find Cinnamon Toast Crunch snickerdoodles the size of a toddler’s head, churro croissants made with dulce de leche cream and Mexican hot chocolate, and oatmeal cookie sandwiches stuffed with brown butter frosting. Get a few extra to go so you have a snack while you’re waiting in a long hot chicken line.
People continue to flock to this popular East Nashville spot for bowls brimming with grains and runny eggs, fruity tartines, and maple buckwheat pancakes. If the weather’s playing nice, order one of Lou’s picnic sacs and a bottle from their great natural wine selection to enjoy out on their front lawn or back patio.
Take a heaping spoonful of The Marvelous Ms. Maisel, throw in a dash of railcar dining, then add a soupçon of supper club energy, and you’ve got the gist of a meal at The Continental. Your first decision here: tufted leather booth or velvet banquette. Your next decision: ordering the croque monsieur swimming in a pool of warm, creamy mornay sauce or hailing one of the pastry carts to your table (the cinnamon rolls, cruffins, and doughnuts are strong selling points). Or hell, just go all out and do both. Either way, put in an order for the glass swan punch bowl that’s filled to the brim with hibiscus daiquiri—and have a rideshare option ready.
WHERE TO HAVE AN AFFORDABLE MEAL
Sadie’s stands out from all the Mediterranean spots popping up around town. It might be the warm, white-washed digs with funky chandeliers, trees, and exposed brick, or maybe it’s the opportunity to people-watch from the sun-dappled patio out front. While all of those things are great reasons to stop by, Sadie’s slow-cooked lamb shank might top them all—along with a mezze platter that encourages dipping in between sips of a Mediterranean margarita. Sadie’s falls in that sweet spot between fast-casual and fancier sit-down spot, making it perfect for just about everything and everyone.
If you were a frequent pool partier at The Dive Motel in 2022, you know about Xiao Bao. Now, the motel’s pop-up has a permanent home in East Nashville that looks like a classic neighborhood Chinese to-go spot, but with retro polish. Despite the changing scenery, you can still count on their pork belly bao buns and fried dumplings with lemongrass pork. While Xiao Bao works great for lunch when you want to forget that Google Sheet exists and just focus on a bowl of hand-pulled noodles with chili cumin brisket, it’s also worth stopping by for dinner and weekend brunch.
Everyone has that special taco spot. The one you swear by to get you through a long day of work, a hangover, or a breakup with your pilates studio (it’s not you…it’s definitely them). Maiz de la Vida is that taqueria for us. Permanently parked in front of Chopper Tiki, you’ll find the pinnacle of taco construction: a soft corn shell that can hold any and all toppings without falling apart. That’s because they use a traditional nixtamalization process to create stunningly perfect tortillas that make those Old El Paso ones at Kroger look like toilet paper. Whether it’s the quesabirria tacos, the roasted elote, or the satisfyingly sugary crunch of their churros, nothing at Maiz de la Vida will ever let you down.