In keeping with Eater tradition, our closeout of the year is a survey of friends, industry types, and bloggers. To kick it off in Nashville, Eater asked the group eight questions, ranging from the restaurants they frequent most to the biggest surprises of the year. Responses are in no particular order, and readers are encouraged to leave answers in the comments.
Q. What were the top restaurant newcomers of 2017?
Nancy Vienneau, food writer and critic for The Tennessean:
Henrietta Red, Nicky’s Coal-Fired, Peninsula.
Pastaria has been even better than I expected. I guess I didn't believe the hype. I was wrong. I haven't been to Henrietta Red, Gray & Dudley, Black Rabbit and Kuchnia & Keller as many times as I intended yet, but I recommend them without hesitation.
Lizzy Alfs, business reporter for The Tennessean:
Henrietta Red, Cafe Roze, and Hugh Baby’s.
Lesley Lassiter, food writer for Nashville Scene’s Bites Blog and Lesley Eats:
Tansuo, EiO & The Hive, Lulu, Hemingway's, Mysore Palace, Von Elrod's, Pastaria.
Matt Rogers, editor Eater Nashville:
In yet another busy year for restaurant and bar openings, Urban Cowboy Public House, Henrietta Red, and Hugh Baby’s were a few that stood out. Also Pastaria, the best all-purpose restaurant to open in the past few years. Go for a date night, book a table of twelve, or take the kids to dinner. It fits the bill for everything.
As for a night of drinking, New York City import Attaboy was a nice addition, as well as Henley and Black Rabbit. And Kuchnia & Keller has one of the best restaurant beer lists I’ve seen in a while.
Vivek Surti, founder of VEA Supper Club and Sabrage Society:
Too many to name? I had great meals at Henrietta Red, Gray & Dudley, Henley, Greko, Pastaria, Peninsula, Urban Cowboy Public House, and Kuchnia & Keller. And I had amazing drinks at all the new cocktail spots - Black Rabbit, Attaboy, and The Fox. I'm sure many of these places will be praised by some of the other submissions.
The most noteworthy to me, however, was the opening of Plaza Mariachi on Nolensville Pike. For years, Nolensville Pike has been the spot for international cuisine - whether you're looking for Mexican, El Salvadorean, Kurdish, Korean, Indian, Thai, etc. But, it's also very commonly overlooked. Plaza Mariachi spent big dollars to create an immersive cultural experience where guests you can have a cuban coffee at Madera Cafe, the best damn shrimp aguachile at El Ceviche Loco or a perfectly grilled steak at Tres Gauchos. At the same time, you can listen to a mariachi band, or an Incan flute player, see aerial dancers or dance the night away to salsa music.
Nashville sells itself as being Music City and most people assume that it's only country music here. But over at Plaza Mariachi, you're seeing immigrants and second generation Americans build a uniquely Nashville institution that will be a destination spot in the neighborhood for years to come, and hopefully a gateway to dining in this city so every list-icle doesn't start with "you'd only think Nashville was a town of honky tonks and meat-n-threes.”
Black Rabbit! Downtown is still an untapped market when it comes to fine dining and cocktails, and Trey, Bobby, Chad and the team at Black Rabbit really capitalized on that (the rabbit rolls immediately made their way onto my "Nashville essentials" list). Hands down, Henrietta Red is not just my favorite newcomer of the year, but one of my favorite restaurants in the city. I love the Mockingbird's sophisticated spin on classic diner fare—and in one of the most gorgeous spaces in town at that.