One of the up-and-coming food cities in the USA is Nashville, Tennessee. When the casual foodie thinks of Tennessee, they think of Jack Daniels and maybe some good barbecue. And it's true that while walking down Broadway (the main drag and tourist area) that you'll get plenty of both these things, venture a few blocks away and there is great food all around. Two things I found consistent across the restaurants in the city were 1) Steaks are world-class and 2) Local, fresh ingredients.
Below are a variety of interesting places to eat in Nashville. I'm still exploring the city so I'll update this post with more later! I have to apologize to my readers... I had so many thoughts and photos over the past year I had saved through my trips to Nashville restaurants and only a fraction of it all ended up in this review.
It's easy to walk down Broadway and get sucked into the touristy stuff. I've yet to find any memorable restaurants but there are a few that you gotta try just to say you did:
Jack's BBQ - Claim to be famous for their BBQ. It was good, not great. You will leave full and happy.
Robert's Western World - Like Fried bologna sandwiches? Come on out. Food is cheap, weird and like most places in Nashville, there will likely be great live entertainment. Had a bargain lunch and saw a great one-man act on a Tuesday at noon. Can't beat it.
Merchants - We took a group of 25 to Merchants and had a really nice dinner. The downstairs feels like a diner but the upstairs is a fairly upscale, fine-dining establishment. Probably the best meal I had on the strip.
Etch - My favorite restaurant in town. Can't go wrong with their Filet which is cooked Sous Vide which I've found renders the most tender, accurately cooked steak possible. If you are lucky, they will have a good bottle of Chateuneuf du Pape in the cellar and a great night will soon follow. Excellent service, food quality and ambience.
Sinema - Sinema is a play on words and while there may not be any sins of the flesh being committed here, there most certainly are flavors that make you feel guilty for experiencing. This establishment was fairly new when my group ventured forth in mid-2014, however, it already had quite a buzz. The entrance looks just like a movie theater. The foyer has a bar and the largest movie screen I've ever seen (playing the Wizard of Oz when I was there). Really cool concept. But the concept wasn't a gimmick. The food and service were top notch and exactly what I would expect from a restaurant trying to compete with Nashville's high-end food scene. Great place for a date!
Pinewood Social - As you walk up to this place, you'll swear you are in the wrong area. Weird, long buildings and fences have you scratching your head until you see the valet. Walk inside and behold. This place is the dreamchild of someone in my own brain. It's got a great bar area, diverse, super-cool seating options, a bowling alley, karaoke, bocci ball and apparently a soon-to-open pool. Solid people watching during my dinner and the lobster roll at lunch was perfect. I'll be back!
The Southern Steak and Oyster - It's really loud in here. The food is also outstanding. Not once, but twice I had steaks that would rival any others I've had in my life at The Southern. Oysters are fresh. Not a great first date place because of the noisy atmosphere but highly recommended.
The Farm House - Fresh, local ingredients. Good drinks. Come here when the wait at Etch is too long. Rugged ambience but still somehow stylish enough to bring a date. Recommend the pork belly.
Husk - A sort-of "house" restaurant, meaning, I felt like I was in someone's southern mansion eating. Unfortunately, it was 8 degrees outside and my table was by the window. So most of my meal was focused on staying warm. The menu was very interesting but I left disappointed. I'm sure some readers will violently disagree with me on this place.
The gulch is a growing, hip part of town with a mix of different restaurants. Some very hip places and original restaurants exist here and as new high-rises go up, more will follow.
Moto: The restaurant is situated in the heat of a great restaurant part of town. Loved everything about my meal and they served foie gras. Add a glass of red and it's hard to go wrong. Moto is in my top ten in Nashville.
Whiskey Kitchen: Trendy, attractive crowd. Nice outdoor patio. Just had drinks but I've heard the food is good.
Virago - If I have to eat sushi in Nashville, this is where I'd go. The sushi is decent but the prices are outrageous for someone who has had sushi in LA, Seattle and Japan and paid much less. Drinks are good and the ambience is sexy. Bring a date. I forgot the name of the drink but they had a spicy one that was delicious.
Urban Grub - I had heard quite a lot of good things about Urban Grub before going. What I remember is that it had a solid menu and had numerous different seating areas. For me, good. Not great.
Mafiaoza's - Whatever night you go, it will be crowded, in spite of this place being monstrously large inside. The pizza is awesome and they have a two-for-one drink deal which may catch you by surprise as they bring both drinks at the same time! The covered outdoor area patio is pretty nice if the weather is nice.
Best Bar in town:
Patterson House - I'm not going to review bars often but Patterson House has won my heart as my favorite all-time bar. The ambience is that of a speakeasy. As my friend describes it, it smells of oranges and leather books. The interior is smallish but it's not a problem because this bar doesn't pack people inside. The bartenders are true mixologists and each drink is made with the attention to detail you won't get anywhere else in town. Ask them how they make their ice balls for their drinks and that alone will give you an idea of how seriously they take their art. Order yourself a beautifully crafted cocktail and some tater tots and enjoy life for a little while.
Jeni's Ice Cream - Jeni's changed my life. I completely fell out of love with ice cream when the Asian yogurt phase hit years ago. Jeni's has flipped me completely back to the wonders of frozen cream dessert. I really can't do Jeni's justice in words. Go. Sample. Sample more. Then enjoy the best ice cream you've had in your life.