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Nashville Food Writers Discuss the Biggest Dining Surprises of 2019

The restaurants and trends that caught these Nashville food writers off guard

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a man’s hand slices a pepperoni topped pizza on the counter Emily Dorio / ‘Za

Today, we continue dishing about the 2019 dining scene with several Nashville food writers. The experts have already given their restaurant standbys when dining off duty, named the best new restaurants, and aired their Nashville dining grievances.

For the next installment, Music City’s dining experts discuss the biggest restaurant, dining, or food surprises of 2019.

What was the biggest dining surprise of 2019?

Delia Jo Ramsey, Eater Nashville editor and food writer: The number of times a few restaurants have attempted to reopen with new owners and without adapting — a la Pie Wagon, Caviar & Bananas (just closed again), and others — in this saturated wild west dining scene. I was pleasantly surprised by the return of Paradise Park, and floored by the stellar new team at Catbird Seat — both great calls and examples of adapting to the city’s demands.

Nancy Vienneau, restaurant critic, The Tennessean; food journalist, Nashville Lifestyles Magazine: It shouldn’t have been a surprise, because the Worleys are brilliant with dough, but I didn’t expect to be wowed by ‘za. Wrong. The 4-day ferment, the wood fired oven, the compelling toppings (the Rescuer, red sauce, sausage and mozzarella, with its defining inclusion of mint, the Thoroughbred Hillbilly with Benton’s prosciutto over white sauce and mozzarella, finished with arugula are 2 favorites) — ‘za is a great addition to Nashville’s growing pizza scene.

Alex Hendrickson freelance food and lifestyle writer at Eater Nashville StyleBlueprint, and others: The rise in over-the-top dishes that cost a pretty penny — looking at you, $87 pot pie and $14 milkshakes.

Ashley Brantley, food/travel writer for Eater Nashville, Nashville Scene, Frommer’s, and others: The triumphant return of Tom Bayless. After a year-long hiatus since his last local gig at Urban Cowboy Public House, Bayless returned to Nashville by way of BokBox. Fingers crossed that’s just the first step in putting him back in charge of a kitchen doing weird, wild stuff where he belongs.

Chris Chamberlain, food writer at Nashville Scene, Sounds Like Nashville, and other publications: I thought Superica would be kinda derivative considering it’s a link in Ford Fry’s ever-lengthening chain of restaurants. Instead I found it to be a great homage to the Tex-Mex restaurants that I used to love on visits to the Lone Star State, with inventive dishes and great drinks.

Jackie Gutierrez-Jones, editor, copywriter, lifestyle journalist for Eater, Nashville Lifestyle, Time Out, Lonely Planet: This is veering slightly off topic, but... Nashville has its very own sake distillery? Shut the front freakin’ door. But it’s true. And I was utterly delighted to discover Proper Sake — one of only a handful of sake distilleries the entire U.S. Its influence/products can be found at restaurants all around town. Byron Stithem, Proper Sake’s founder and brewmaster, is just the kind of food nerd you want leading the charge. Think: Alton Brown for the Millennial crowd.