Does listening to live music and hitting up some excellent restaurants sound like your idea of a good time? If so, it's probably time to plan a trip to Nashville.
If Southern charm is what you're after, there's definitely plenty of that here. But the city's also undergone a transformation in recent years, which has brought an influx of great restaurants and cool places to hang out along with it. If you mix in some of the new spots (yes, there are a lot of "farm-to-table" places, whatever that even means) with the classics (you're about to get educated in the art of hot chicken), you're bound for a very good time. Here's how you do Nashville.
If you come at peak hours, there will be a line. You should probably (definitely) still wait, because these are the best tacos in Nashville. It moves quickly, and the food comes out in a timely manner...expectations adjusted to Southern time. We like the Mexican street corn, fried avocado taco, and pulled pork taco, but everything is pretty glorious.
Because you can’t come to Nashville and not eat hot chicken. It’s a rule. Word of warning: they are not messing around with spice here. Err on the side of caution when selecting your heat level.
Meat and three is another classic Nashville dish. Cafeteria style, you get to pick a meat and three sides. If you’re paralyzed by choice, the fried chicken, roast beef, kielbasa and kraut, creamed corn, fried green tomatoes, and collard greens are all great. The line at Arnold's is usually wrapped around the building, but it moves quickly, and very worth it if you're looking for an authentic Nashville experience. Know that it’s only open during the week, between the hours of 10:30 a.m. and 2:45p.m.
We dream about meals at Husk. The room has that feel good factor you’ve heard us talk about before, and the food is what we like to call “Modern Southern Comfort Food That Doesn’t Make You Want To Sleep For The Rest Of The Weekend.” Basically what we’d like for every meal for the rest of our lives. Get the shrimp and grits and the burger, but you can’t go wrong with anything on this menu (unless it's chocolate flourless cake).
A very cool coffee spot in an old auto body shop, this is the type of place we come to when we need to be reminded that there are people out there who are A LOT cooler than us. The other reasons to come are for the strong coffee, donuts, breakfast sandwiches, and homemade pop-tarts. This is a great place to perch if you need to post up and spend the day working, but it’s also a good choice for meeting a friend for a quick catchup. If you’re working, know that while there are outlets, there are not many and they go quick. Come with a fully charged battery if you plan on making a day of it.
Another place that will make you feel decidedly uncool, this Germantown restaurant serves the best pastas in the city. Sit at the communal tables, order pasta, whatever else your waitress recommends (the menu changes frequently), and wine. Lots of wine. We like it for date night, but no one will be mad if you take them here.
Cool scene, great bar food. If you bring someone here and they don’t leave satisfied, you should probably re-evaluate that friendship. Almost everything is fantastic, but our go-tos are the kale salad (consisting of more parmesan and olive oil than kale), chicken skewers, buffalo cauliflower, turkey BLT on PRETZEL BREAD, and tuscan fries. We’ve eaten everything on this menu upwards of five times and have never once been disappointed. Hitting it for boozy brunch is never a bad idea, either.
Pinewood Social is perfect for pretty much everything. Bowling? Swimming? Spot to work all day? Coffee? Brunch? Lunch? Dinner? Drinks? They got you. You could spend the entire weekend in their insanely cool building in a reclaimed industrial park and be perfectly happy. But please don’t do that, there’s a lot to do in this town.
At the end of Broadway is one of the newest additions to the strip. Acme takes up four floors in an old loft building and also has an awesome roof deck. It’s the perfect place to hang out when you’re ready for a break from the fishnet-wearing honky-tonk characters loitering around the rest of Broadway. Get a beer, maybe a snack, and sit on the roof overlooking the Cumberland River.
If you’re in Nashville on a Monday night and don’t make it to 5 Spot, you have lost. That's when this East Nashville bar plays nothing but Motown classics. Don’t know all the words to “What’s Going On”? Nothing a little tequila can’t fix. While Motown Mondays rank among our top bar nights ever, the other nights here don’t suck either.
Patterson House is local your speakeasy-style fancy cocktail spot. Come for the pre-dinner drink, but know you’ll probably be back late night as Patterson House is one of the only spots serving booze past 2 a.m. in this city (they’re open until 3 a.m. Thursday through Saturday). Also, they have tots on the menu.
The Turnip Truck is first and foremost a grocery store but has one of the better deli counter/salad bar situations we’ve ever seen. After a weekend of fried chicken and grits, you’re going to be ready to serve yourself some food that’s not smothered in cheese and butter. It may sound boring now, but after a few days in Nashville, you’ll be thanking us for including this one on the list. Also: the people watching here is top notch.
A very good steak house, and a great spot to know about for a business dinner or while entertaining someone’s parents. The caramelized creamed corn, popovers, tuna tacos, and whichever steak your server recommends are all must-orders.
This is Jonathan Waxman’s spot in The Gulch. Not surprisingly, the food is very good, and you can get a version of his chicken people go crazy for, but nothing about this place is very Nashville. That said, it’s another spot that’s good to know about for dinners of the corporate variety.