Welcome to the Year in Eater 2021 — an annual tradition that looks back at the highs, lows, and in-betweens of the Nashville restaurant scene. Today, a few Nashville food writers, editors, and chefs share their best restaurant meals of 2021.
What was your best restaurant meal of 2021?
Delia Jo Ramsey, Eater Nashville editor: I fondly remember my first meals dining at The Continental and out on the patio at Locust. The food and the service were stellar at both. But I will say — there was only one meal that made me cry in 2021. I lost my taste and smell (not from Covid like so many, but from a traumatic brain/head injury following an accident) for about six weeks, and doctors couldn’t promise it would ever return. I still don’t have any smell, but one morning with my Dad in Alabama heading back to Nashville I bit into a Cajun chicken biscuit from fast-food chain Bojangles (it was, fittingly, topped with pimento cheese), and when I said “this is good” and realized I could taste again for the first time in 6 weeks, I most certainly cried. What a whirlwind of another crazy year, but I am so grateful it ended with my ability to taste again.
Ellen Fort, senior editor and food writer at Saveur Magazine, former editor of Eater SF: My second meal at The Continental was truly outstanding. It was a few months after the first (which was the day after it opened) and it was fascinating to see how the team had tweaked and perfected their style of service and menu items. Everything was incredible, from the cocktails to the dessert (their dessert program is one of the best in town).
Nancy Vienneau, food journalist, Nashville Lifestyles Magazine: Rosie Food+Wine chefs and husband-wife team Andy Hayes and Beth Owens are doing beautiful work in their Hendersonville restaurant (a spring dinner that included grilled octopus in potato puree with pimenton and Spanish olive oil, ricotta-stuffed ravioli with green ramp pesto surrounded by asparagus tips and English peas, and maple-sumac glazed pork belly with beets, sugar snaps, strawberries, strawberry budino). Close runners-up were Locust and The Continental.
Chris Chamberlain, food writer at Nashville Scene, Sounds Like Nashville, and other publications: Carne Mare soon after it opened. The combination of service, culinary theatre, and the very personable and knowledgable wine service that made every course a treat was outstanding.
Jackie Gutierrez-Jones, food and beverage writer at Eater Nashville, Nashville Lifestyles, Time Out, Lonely Planet: The Continental — hands down. The old-school Mad Men-esque decor, the roving carts elegantly adorned with gorgeous slabs of prime rib and paté, and the revelatory martinis and cocktails — every single detail shines on its own, but together? They’re a magnificent culinary opus.