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The Biggest Dining Surprises of 2017

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What made industry insiders raise their eyebrows

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Urban Cowboy Public House
Sam Angel

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 was the biggest dining surprise of 2017?

Nancy Vienneau, food writer and critic for The Tennessean:

I didn't expect Barcelona, a chain, to be good. I was wrong. Their chefs have been given creative latitude with the menu, and the ability to source some ingredients locally. Tapas are terrific.

Chris Chamberlain, food writer for Nashville Scene’s Bites Blog, Food Republic and author of The Southern Foodie: 100 Places to Eat Before You Die:

People younger than me have started to frequent Sperry's.

Lizzy Alfs, business reporter for The Tennessean:

I’m excited about the west coast-inspired, healthy food options opening in Nashville. I think we’re on the cusp of being a friendlier dining town for health conscious eaters. Lulu, EiO & The Hive, and Cafe Roze are helping in those regards.

Lesley Lassiter, food writer for Nashville Scene’s Bites Blog and Lesley Eats:

Pastaria. I didn't expect to be that impressed by a St. Louis import. But the food is fantastic and is reasonably priced for that quality.

Matt Rogers, editor Eater Nashville:

I can’t say that there were any real dining ‘surprises’ this year. But one thing that comes to mind is that I predicted this time last year that 2017 would be the year that we would see an increase in restaurants closing. And to my surprise, there were relatively few. I guess I won’t say that 2018 has to be the year, but the tide has to turn sooner or later. And some contraction would certainly not be a bad thing for the overall future health of Nashville’s restaurant scene.

Vivek Surti, founder of VEA Supper Club and Sabrage Society:

Urban Cowboy Public House. It's like Nashville Restaurant All Stars at that place. Tom Bayless is without a doubt one of the most talented chefs in town and he has a great and evolving crew come through that kitchen - I've seen Cody from Fire & Iron, Trevor Moran, Mayme Gretsch, and Colby Landis cooking some remarkable dishes. Bryce Hoffman slings killer drinks from the bar and Mollie Ward, the longtime GM of Rolf and Daughters, keeps things running smooth. For a place that's a bed and breakfast with a small bar and a live fire kitchen, it's one of the best meals you can have in town.

Beth Wallace Sachan, founder and food writer at Eat. Drink. Smile.:

For me, it was Kuchnia & Keller, mainly because I really didn't know what to expect from Eastern European cuisine. I suppose I envisioned heavy meat & potatoes-type dishes (which isn't really my style), but was pleasantly surprised by the interesting offerings--completely different than anything anyone else is doing in Nashville! I can't wait to go back and try more of the menu.

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