As 2021 draws to a close, we dug through our data to see what you spent time reading this year — which news stories caught your eye, which maps hopefully helped you eat well, which guides fueled your wanderlust.
And it turns out, (not surprisingly) you’re really into bars, brunch, breakfast, bachelorette destinations, Sean Brock, road trips, food halls, and yes, Nashville hot chicken.
Here’s a look back at 2021 through the lens of Eater Nashville’s most-read news stories, local and travel maps and guides, and features.
Maps and Guides (Nashville)
10. 12 Top Spots for a Big Juicy Steak in Nashville: Move over hot chicken and barbecue — sometimes folks in Music City are looking for a swanky spot to indulge in a big, juicy steak. From Wagyu to bone-in ribeyes, and other assorted hunks of beef, here are a dozen of the city’s best steakhouses.
9. 21 Excellent Date Night Restaurants in Nashville: Finding a perfect match might not be the easiest thing to do in Nashville, but at least the city is packed with plenty of restaurants that can serve as a solid setting for anything from a one-drink-test-date to the perfect proposal.
8. The 15 Most Essential Bars in Nashville: There’s nothing wrong with grabbing a beer at a Broadway honky-tonk — there’s a proper time and place for that. But when Nashville wants a great cocktail, there’s no shortage of bars ready to step up to the plate. Glittering rooftop lounges: check. Dimly-lit speakeasies: check. A double-wide trailer owned by a guy who looks like that jolly bearded guy up in the North Pole: that’s a resounding “check.” This map details the must-try bars around town, the ones with singular drinks and standout barkeeps who know their way around a bottle of bitters (or four).
7. Where to Eat Brunch in Nashville Right Now: People in Nashville really love brunch — that’s no surprise. Here are 23 solid places to find chicken-topped waffles, bacon-filled biscuits, benedicts, and bellinis aplenty to help in the imminent difficult decision-making process following a rough night on Broadway or in an Eastside dive.
6. Where to Score 20 of the Best Breakfasts in Nashville: Morning meals are apparently important in Music City, and there certainly is an argument to be made for a substantial order of perfectly prepared eggs, sizzling bacon, and a stack of pillowy pancakes. Sure, everyone knows about the wildly popular Nashville first-meal fixtures Biscuit Love, Loveless Cafe, and Pancake Pantry, but a few others are added in here for some variety when that savage morning hunger hits.
5. 21 Great Places to Dine Near Downtown Nashville: When people think of going out in downtown Nashville, visions of pedal taverns and honky-tonks are typically conjured rather than opulent meals in high-end dining establishments. While there have always been plenty of places to grab a bite to eat in Nashville’s city center, the influx of visitors in recent years has helped draw new restaurants and food options to the area. Dining out in downtown Nashville has truly never been better, so stumble outside of the basic celeb-named Broadway stops for everything from duck confit empanadas to gourmet hot dogs
4. An Eater’s Guide to Nashville: Use this handy guide to dine around the best restaurants Nashville has to offer—no cowboy boots, matching pink tank tops, or pedal taverns required.
3. Where to Eat Nashville Hot Chicken in its Hometown: Just like finding tourists wearing cowboy hats, green party tractors/alarming party hot tubs, and live music in Nashville, it’s pretty simple to locate something else this city is known for: hot chicken. Locals and tourists alike flock to their favorite heat slingers, whether it be where the fiery bird made its debut over 70 years ago, or to one of the handfuls of new hot chicken joints that are putting their own spins on the classic. And while dozens of restaurants have added a hot (fill in the blank) dish to their menus, these spots have a special focus on the original — Nashville hot chicken.
2. The Hottest New Restaurants in Nashville: Updated each month, the Eater Heatmap features a selection of buzzy new restaurants in and around the city that are exciting eager diners.
1. The 38 Essential Restaurants in Nashville: Updated each season, the Eater 38 is meant to answer any question that begins, “Can you recommend a restaurant?” It spans multiple cuisines, costs, and neighborhoods in and near Nashville, offering restaurant recommendations for every occasion.
Maps and Guides (maps focused outside Nashville city limits)
10. Where to Dine and Drink in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee: Located 33 miles southeast of Knoxville, four miles south of Sevierville, and five miles north of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Pigeon Forge has a vibe all its own — and that includes dining destinations worth a visit. There are a ridiculous number of pancake houses in Pigeon Forge, but you won’t find any of those here (okay, maybe one for breakfast seekers, but there’s schnitzel there too).
9. 10 Essential Brunch Spots in Franklin: If conventional wisdom is to be believed, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But there’s a serious argument to be made about the utter necessity of an early afternoon meal that brings together the best of both breakfast and lunch. Yes, it’s none other than brunch — and here are 10 spots in Franklin that are doing it right.
8. Where to Eat in Murfreesboro: In a city driven pretty heavily by chain restaurants, there are luckily, a handful of independently owned restaurants serving standout meals —whether counter-service tacos or stunning plates of squid ink bucatini.
7. The Most Exciting Places to Eat in Sevierville, Tennessee: Within sight of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Parkway introduces tourists to a seemingly homogenized scene. But, dig a little deeper and you’ll find the quaint town of Sevierville where the great Dolly Parton was born and raised.
6. Where to Eat and Drink in Gatlinburg, Tennessee: Heading to the Great Smoky Mountains is a fall tradition around here. And, anyone who’s native to the area has cabin-crammed memories of family weekends and romantic getaways gawking at all those beautiful colors putting on a show. And, then there are pancakes — all the pancakes in the world can be found in this Bavarian-inspired village. But, what can also be found are a host of local favorites serving everything from steaks, seafood, and tapas to wine, whiskey, beer, and plenty of moonshine, all with those gorgeous mountain views.
5. Where to Eat and Drink in Lexington, Kentucky: Just over a three-hour drive from Nashville, the city has a leg up on the food and beverage scene, embracing an area rich in history and culture. From food halls to award-winning chefs where folks come for the bourbon, stay for the beer, and savor dishes way beyond grits, everyone can find their own stride with some of these local favorites.
4. 15 Essential Restaurants Near Downtown Knoxville: You can learn why “Knox really rocks”, starting with these downtown restaurants and bars.
3. 18 Restaurants Worth a Drive Out of Nashville: Who doesn’t love a day trip? From standout steaks Pulaski, Tennessee to barbecue in Brownsville, here’s where to eat within a short drive of Music City.
2. 19 Essential Restaurants to Try in Franklin: Come for the history and charming downtown, stay for the steaks and duck fat fries.
1. 18 Essential Restaurants in Chattanooga, Tennessee: Nope — in Chattanooga, there’s neither a Graceland for Elvis enthusiasts to flock to, nor a beloved style of barbecue like Memphis boasts. And no, Mrs. Andre Prince, allegedly seeking revenge on her husband, didn’t invent her notorious hot chicken here, and there aren’t many honky-tonk or pedal tavern shenanigans to indulge in like in Nashville. Chattanooga jigs and bops to the rhythm of its own fiddle. The city has cultivated its very own brand of eclectic, outdoorsy panache and has slowly but surely nudged its gastro-identity past Moon Pies and Little Debbie snacks. Find 18 of the city’s best restaurants here.
10. Smith & Lentz Brewing’s Post-tornado Pizza Pivot Is the Good News Nashville Needs: Nashville and its restaurants have experienced so many repeat setbacks over the last 13 months — so it’s always refreshing to see a comeback story like the reopening of Smith & Lentz back in early March.
9. The First Meal Cooked and Served out of Sean Brock’s Restaurant Audrey Is a Takeout Feast Straight From His Cookbooks: Back in January 2021, the first meal served to the public out of Brock’s new East Nashville dream restaurant, Audrey was a preorder/takeout-only feast from the chef’s two latest cookbooks.
8. Second Phase of Restaurants Opens at Assembly Food Hall, Bringing Iconic Prince’s Hot Chicken and More Downtown: The next phase of downtown’s massive Assembly Food Hall at Fifth + Broadway opened May 20 — and that meant 10 new dining options for the overwhelming flood of (newly mask-fr4ee) tourists, bachelorette parties, and locals returning to the popular stretch.
7. Shep’s Deli Debuts in East Nashville’s Five Points: Shep’s was the classic Jewish delicatessen many had clearly been waiting for in Nashville.
6. Another Charleston-based Restaurant, Halls Chophouse, Is Heading to Nashville: The Hall family is opening their first iteration of the special occasion destination outside of South Carolina.
5. One of Nashville’s Oldest Restaurants, Iconic Burger Destination Brown’s Diner, Has Sold: Those who long to remember the Nashville of yesteryear have always sought comfort in the form of cheeseburgers and non-fussy vibes inside Brown’s Diner. First opened in 1927, Brown’s holds Nashville’s oldest beer license.
4. Nashville Chefs and Hot Chicken Fans Remember Bolton Matthews: Bolton Matthews and his wife Dollye are a huge part of Nashville’s food history, and his peers shared stories and condolences online after the legend passed away June 2.
3. Restaurant Incubator The Wash Announces First Tenants: Located at 1101 McKennie Avenue, Cauble’s intention for the Wash is to give short-term lease options to chefs and restaurant owners who might not be ready to invest in a permanent space.
2. Nashville-Based Slim & Husky’s Becomes First Black-Owned Restaurant on Broadway: Music City’s own Slim + Husky’s Pizza Beeria made history, becoming the first black-owned restaurant on Nashville’s most popular thoroughfare when it opened at Fifth + Broadway back in March.
1. Guy Fieri Debuts His Delivery-Only Restaurant Flavortown: The celebrity chef and self-proclaimed mayor of Flavortown Guy Fieri opened up a ghost kitchen in Cool Springs.
10. Nashville’s Luxurious Joseph Hotel Debuts With Fine Italian Dining and Sweeping City Views: Even a year later, people are still excited about the Joseph, a Luxury Collection Hotel in SoBro, and its standout dining and drink options from James Beard Award-winning chef Tony Mantuano and wine and hospitality expert Cathy Mantuano.
9. The Graduate’s Glam Rooftop Is a Pink-Splashed Eclectic Ode to Dolly Parton: White Limozeen is kind of a Barbie Dreamhouse, perched above West End, and locals and alllll of the bachelorettes are clearly still very pumped about it.
8. Longtime Locals Pay Respects to the Old Spaghetti Factory Nashville: After 40 years as a resident of the District Nashville community, Old Spaghetti Factory announced last week that its landlord, LOFTS 160 Nashville LLC, terminated its lease back in February — even though the downtown institution had rights to the space through the end of 2035.
7. See the Menu for White Limozeen — a Pink-Drenched, Dolly-Themed Rooftop That Opens Tomorrow: More excitement for the pink paradise with a Dolly focus.
6. Justin Timberlake-Backed Twelve Thirty Club’s First Level Opens Soon: The highly anticipated Twelve Thirty Club — the new, one-of-a-kind multi-faceted establishment from Phoenix-based restaurateur Sam Fox (and backed by Justin Timberlake, reportedly) — opened its first level back in April.
5. Where to Throw the Ultimate Bachelorette Party in Nashville: Like finding a menu without a spin on hot chicken, or a Music City street without a scooter — the likelihood of being downtown without seeing a bachelorette party is nearly impossible in new Nashville. With embracing all of the above in mind, Eater Nashville presented (after some admitted dread) an updated handy, honest, yet still decidedly mural-free guide offering up some of the best of the city’s spots to suit a bevy of bachelorettes.
4. Sean Brock’s New Restaurant the Continental Opens This Week Complete With a Prime Rib Cart: The Continental finally opened for dine-in service back in May, after months of anticipation.
3. Nashville Is Having a Full-Out Wine Bar Moment: At last, Nashville has some great options for oenophiles.
2. A Complete Dining Guide to Assembly Hall at Fifth + Broadway: The country’s largest food hall debuted in Nashville back in March, offering dozens of new dining, drinking, and live music options for folks downtown.
1. How to Eat Your Way Through Nashville in One Day: The ultimate Music City eating itinerary.
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Do you know of news that should be on our radar? Are you a writer looking to pitch a story? Are you desperately figuring out where to eat for dinner and need help navigating our maps and guides? Send tips, pitches, and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.