Foodie guide to Nashville: where locals eat and drink
It might be known as Music City but Tennessee’s capital has other strings to its bow, including a food scene big on spicy fried chicken, scallop crudo and caramel clusters
Looking for restaurants in Nashville? Want to know where to eat the in the Tennessee city? Local food writer Jennifer Justus shares her insider tips for the best restaurants in Nashville, along with where to find the best fried chicken, seafood and cocktails.
Best Pennsylvania Dutch cooking in Nashville – Josephine
Josephine on the 12th (the name is a reference to its location) is a small restaurant combining Southern hospitality with Pennsylvania Dutch cooking. Perch at the bar and order a Mochi-San cocktail made with Roku Japanese gin, Lillet Blanc, suze, grapefruit, lemon and thyme before tucking into cornbread with cultured butter and sea salt. With chef Andy Little at the kitchen’s helm larger dishes are split into ‘vegetables’ and ‘meat and fish’ (think buffalo cauliflower served with celery and blue cheese, or duck leg confit with corn and kale). Comfort food reigns when it comes to desserts, from warm oatmeal raisin cookies to chocolate peanut butter cake.
Pop by on the weekend for a lazy brunch of cinnamon sugar doughnuts with apple cider caramel or fried bologna with sunny egg and American cheese.
Best fried chicken in Nashville – Bolton’s Spicy Chicken & Fish
Some Nashville hot chicken joints are as famous as the town’s country stars, and deservedly so. But Bolton’s Spicy Chicken & Fish is a more laid-back locals’ favourite. Order a plate of cayenne-spiced fried chicken on white bread or a slab of hot fish scattered with mustard, onion and pickles.
Best burgers in Nashville – Butcher & Bee
As well as superior burgers and sandwiches (fried avo, trout melt, grilled cauli with harissa) and a bounty of locally grown ingredients, Butcher & Bee is also known for its mezze dishes – try the turnip cacio e pepe, or the grilled radish with green tahini and shallot butter.
Best food market in Nashville – Azadi International Food Market
Surprising but true: Nashville is home to the largest Kurdish population in the United States. Drive down Nolesville Pike and you’ll find markets like Azadi International Food Market brimming with dates, lentils and pistachios, and the scent of freshly baked flatbreads wafting from their in-store bakeries. 391 Elysian Fields Ct (00 1 615 315 0940)
Best cocktails in Nashville – Black Rabbit
Velvet, leather and exposed brickwork tip a hat to neighbouring Printers Alley, and its associations with printing presses, gambling and drinking. Straddling the line between bar and restaurant, Black Rabbit serves craft cocktails and small plates including rabbit rolls – buns stuffed with rabbit terrine, mustard and poppy seeds.
Best doughnuts in Nashville – Five Daughters Bakery
Owned and run by Isaac and Stephanie Meek, along with their five daughters, family-run Five Daughters Bakery has seven sites across the South. Best known for its croissant-style, 100-layer doughnuts, the flavours range from chocolate sea salt to maple glaze, with seasonal specials available each month (think huckleberry or pumpkin chocolate cheesecake). If you're not a pastry lover, tuck into chewy ginger molasses - or classic chocolate chip - cookies.
Best cosy restaurant in Nashville – Treehouse
A former home in East Nashville, Treehouse has a warm, dinner-party vibe, with a fairy-light-strewn bar and rustic seating. Chef Jason Zygmont turns out Insta-worthy dishes: think scallop crudo in a dainty moat of spiced pork broth with jerusalem artichokes and nasturtiums.
Best chocolate shop in Nashville – Goo Goo Cluster
Howell Campbell created the iconic Goo Goo Cluster – a nougat, caramel, peanut and chocolate cluster – in 1912. At the Goo Goo Cluster shop you can buy various varieties, or make your own in one of the store’s chocolate classes.
Best bakery in Nashville – Dozen Bakery
What began life as a pop-up has blossomed into a bricks-and-mortar bakery and café, the Dozen Bakery. Fill up on buttery croissants, madeleines and scones, or grab a baguette and a barley salad, zesty with lime and the crunch of greens and crushed peanuts.
Best seafood in Nashville – Henrietta Red
Peek in the kitchen at hot new dining spot Henrietta Red and you’ll find chef Julia Sullivan and her mostly female team calmly turning out on-point plates of wood-roasted oysters, or trout with white beans, rocket and dill vinaigrette, to a buzzy crowd.
Best distillery in Nashville – Green Brier Distillery
Think Tennessee whiskey and Jack Daniel’s probably comes to mind. But before Prohibition, Green Brier Distillery sold more of the hard stuff than Jack. Brothers Charles and Andy Nelson revived the family business in 2009 and tell their family’s American Dream story over tastings on their distillery tours.
HOW TO GET TO NASHVILLE
British Airways launches direct flights from Heathrow to Nashville in May 2018. Return fares will start from £641 (ba.com).
WHERE TO STAY IN NASHVILLE
Nashville-based writer Jennifer Justus is the author of Nashville Eats – a collection of stories and recipes from Music City. She also leads tours for Walk Eat Nashville (jenniferjustuswrites.com).
Photographs by Sam Angel, Christen Clemins, Getty