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meatball sub at bare bones butcher in the nations nashville Ashley Brantley

13 Best Places to Eat Meatballs in Nashville

From Greek to Italian to Mexican, meatballs come in all flavors and sizes in Music City

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It’s shockingly easy to make a bad meatball. For a food that typically has four ingredients — meat, dairy, bread, seasoning — people sure have gotten creative with ways to screw it up.

Too much bread, too little salt, too long stewed in “house-made sauce” that’s really just a can of tomatoes and too much garlic powder. All are on display in Nashville.

Thankfully, for every lackluster, overcooked, under-seasoned meatball, there are a handful of folks doing it right.

Some keep it classic, with old-school Italian meatballs like mom used to make. Others draw inspiration from Mexico, Spain, France or Greece. Heck, there’s even a vegan meatball if you’re the kind of masochist who clicked on this article with the express purpose of getting furious and raging out in the comments. And, hey, you’re welcome here, too. If there’s one thing Music City’s meatballs can teach us, it’s that all approaches — to meat and to life — are welcome.

Here are 13 places in Nashville with meatballs worth trying.

Is there a marvelous meatball missing from this map? Feel free to drop it in the comments below.

*Map is sorted geographically, not ranked.
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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. City House

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1222 4th Ave N
Nashville, TN 37208
(615) 736-5838
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Chef Tandy Wilson is a master of meatballs. A staple of Sunday Supper, City House’s are made with the usual suspects — pork, garlic, parsley, milk, breadcrumbs — and a few extra touches. First, the bread crumbs are made from leftover pizza dough, giving them some sourdough tang. Secondly, they meatballs are often more bread than meat, which seems taboo but actually allows them to suck up all the pork fat that comes from the third key touch: They’re made from pork shoulder.

Try them straight-up on Sundays — simmered for hours in tomato sauce, served with olive oil and focaccia — or on pizza if they have it. The pie is covered in rich, smoked mozzarella, and the meatballs give off enough luscious pork fat while cooking that they don’t even sauce the pie. If you think nobody can do meatballs or pizza better than City House, wait until you try them together.

meatball pizza at city house in nashville Ashley Brantley

2. Nicky's Coal Fired

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5026 Centennial Blvd
Nashville, TN 37209
(615) 678-4289
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Mama G’s meatballs are exactly the kind your grandma would make — if your grandma had access to Porter Road meat and a coal-fired oven imported from Italy. At Nicky’s, Chef Tony Galzin uses his Nanna Gattone’s recipe, so it’s basically guaranteed to give you the warm-and-fuzzy, comfort-food feeling you crave. They’re supremely satisfying served over fusilli, but true professionals know to order them as an appetizer in order to dip pizza crusts in the leftover sauce.

meatballs at Nicky’s coal fired in the nations in nashville Nicky’s Coal Fired Facebook

3. The Original Corner Pub - The Nations

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1105 51st Ave N
Nashville, TN 37209
(615) 760-5282
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Those who weren't lucky enough to grow up with a magical Italian grandma still probably have fond memories of meatballs in tomato sauce. Krisi’s at The Original Corner Pub scratches that itch. For as long as many can remember, the menu has touted their “97-year-old family recipe.” Delightfully, that number never changes, and neither do their meatballs. Smothered in sauce and served with Texas toast, they are a very good version of the kind your very non-Italian mom made.

Ashley Brantley

4. Red Phone Booth

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136 Rosa L Parks Blvd
Nashville, TN 37203
(615) 915-3876
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While City House’s meatball-only pie stands alone, Nashville has some solid options when meatballs are used in tandem with other ingredients. Five Points Pizza’s T-REX is a meat-lover’s dream (pepperoni, sausage, sliced meatballs, spicy capicola), while Hermitage’s Gondala House Pizzeria takes a supreme approach with their House Special: pepperoni, onions, green peppers, meatballs, sausage and mushrooms.

The best use of meatballs as a supporting actor, though, is at downtown’s Red Phone Booth. The chef came from Pastaria, so the pizza dough is exceptional, and he loads up the Carne Pie with every meat you can imagine: bacon jam, salami, spicy-sweet sausage and, of course, meatballs. All that is layered with zippy San Marzano sauce and bubbly Fior de Latte mozzarella (made with cow’s milk, not buffalo). It’s a pie so good it’s worth braving the cigar smoke to get it.

carne pizza at red phone booth nashville Ashley Brantley

5. Bare Bones Butcher

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906 51st Ave N
Nashville, TN 37209
(615) 730-9808
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Man cannot exist on meatballs alone, and so he invented subs. Bare Bones makes theirs with lean beef, pork fat, fresh herbs, garlic, parmesan, and milk-soaked bread. They roast and then simmer their meatballs in a marinara-Pomodoro hybrid, made with tomatoes, onion, garlic, and red pepper. They construct the sandwich by slathering garlic mayo on a Charpier’s hoagie, melting provolone over the meatballs, and topping it off with more sauce for a gloriously sloppy, satisfying sandwich.

meatball sub at bare bones butcher in the nations nashville Ashley Brantley

6. Adele's

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1210 McGavock St
Nashville, TN 37203
(615) 988-9700
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When Jonathan Waxman opened Adele’s six years ago, it was a go-to for pretty cocktails in an airy, sophisticated atmosphere. Unfortunately, roughly 37,000 of those kinds of places exist in Nashville now, so its simple, seasonal approach means it hasn’t retained its go-to status. However, that also means that the things Adele’s got right day one it still gets right. That includes their roast chicken, crispy potatoes, and their meatballs, served simply with polenta and tomato sauce.

Adele’s Yelp

7. Hathorne

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4708 Charlotte Ave
Nashville, TN 37209
(629) 888-4917
Visit Website

If you’re feeling red-sauce overload at this point, Hathorne has the remedy. Their lamb and beef meatballs are served with a tangy mint pistou, spicy chile dust, and savory preserved lemon — which takes them in a refreshing direction. Each meatball contains a Pequin pepper, which are supposedly 5-8 times hotter than jalapeños. That’s good because it keeps this dish delicate, and far away from the silly, shut-the-cluck-up spiciness so many Nashville chefs rely on.

Hathorne Instagram

8. Bar Otaku Izakaya

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505 12th Ave S
Nashville, TN 37203
(615) 454-3946
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Japanese cooks have always known that meat tastes better on sticks, and meatballs are no exception. The Izakaya-style chicken skewers at Bar Otaku bring some white meat into the proceedings, yet still keep things rich with a dipping sauce of egg yolk and soy. (Two Ten Jack offers a similar, delectable preparation on the East Side.) The showstopper, though, at Bar Otaku is the Wagyu beef skewer served with ponzu sauce and sliced chili. They’re not always on the menu, but if they are, order them. They are a melt-in-your-mouth umami-bomb of the highest order.

wagyu meatballs at bar otaku in nashville Ashley Brantley

9. The 404 Kitchen

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507 12th Ave S Fl 2
Nashville, TN 37203
(615) 251-1404
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One problem people have when making meatballs is it’s a lot of soft-on-soft-on-soft. The 404 Kitchen clears that hurdle by serving their meatballs crisped to a crunchy golden-brown. Like Hathorne, 404 cuts through the richness with a mint pesto and crushed Aleppo pepper, but they finish theirs with a yogurt sauce that gives these a creamy, Mediterranean finish.

10. answer. restaurant

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132 46th Ave N
Nashville, TN 37209
(615) 942-0866
Visit Website

Every culture has a different word for meatball. The Mexican variety — pronounced “al-bon-di-gas” — may be the most fun to say, and to eat if you do it at answer. Made from dry-aged beef, bacon and garlic, they’re packed with umami, which means they stand up to punchy finishes like piquant tomato sauce, salty queso fresco, herbaceous chimichurri and crunchy almonds. Tip: Go ahead and ask for extra bread to sop up the zesty leftover sauce.

albondigas, Mexican meatballs, at answer in nashville Ashley Brantley

11. Nicoletto's Italian Kitchen (Hillsboro Village)

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2123 Belcourt Ave
Nashville, TN 37212
(615) 864-8968
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To vegans who scrolled all the way to #11 on this list, we’d like to say two things: Thank you. Also: Sorry.

Nicoletto’s is a great place to go for vegan meatballs in Hillsboro Village or East Nashville. If you’re a vegetarian, top your vegan balls with pink sauce, a perfect marinara-Alfredo hybrid. If you’re a true vegan, the fine folks at Nicoletto’s will start you off with naked balls and let you build your ideal bowl from there.

Nicolette’s meatball sub Nicoletto’s image, submitted to Tennessean

12. Mangia Nashville

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701 Craighead St
Berry Hill, TN 37204
(615) 750-5233
Visit Website

Ask any self-respecting Italian-American about meatballs and you’ll hear one word: gravy. If a tomato sauce includes meat, it is gravy, not sauce, and it must be simmered for hours on a stove, preferably by someone who can legitimately tell you how it was done “in the Old Country.” Nick Pellegrino comes from that kind of family, and that’s one of the reasons he didn’t serve meatballs at all when Mangia opened.

He was sure he’d hear a chorus of, “They’re good, but they’re not like my grandma’s,” so he held out — until he hired Salvatore Stacccuneddu, a man from the same town in Calabria as Pellegrino’s mother’s family. Stacccuneddu’s meatballs tasted like home to Pellegrino, and he knew they had to go on the menu. The recipe they serve now is a special blend of beef short rib and brisket, roasted in a brick oven and given a long bath in Sunday gravy. You can enjoy them, somewhat ironically, every day of the week except Sunday because, hey, even grandma needs a day off.

Nashville Scene

13. Athens Family Restaurant

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2526 8th Ave S
Berry Hill, TN 37204
(615) 383-2848
Visit Website

Brace yourselves because I’m about to do something no sane person would do, and that’s agree with Guy Fieri. When The Bleached One first infiltrated Nashville, he stopped into Athens for suzukakia, enormous Greek meatballs seasoned with cumin, cinnamon and garlic. He enjoyed them, which you know because his face is now plastered on posters all over the restaurant to prove it. And honestly? So will you. Light, savory and just a little sweet, these meatballs are good enough to make you look past their off-putting, oblong shape and their endorsement by the King of Donkey Sauce to enjoy them.

Athens Family Restaurant

1. City House

1222 4th Ave N, Nashville, TN 37208
meatball pizza at city house in nashville Ashley Brantley

Chef Tandy Wilson is a master of meatballs. A staple of Sunday Supper, City House’s are made with the usual suspects — pork, garlic, parsley, milk, breadcrumbs — and a few extra touches. First, the bread crumbs are made from leftover pizza dough, giving them some sourdough tang. Secondly, they meatballs are often more bread than meat, which seems taboo but actually allows them to suck up all the pork fat that comes from the third key touch: They’re made from pork shoulder.

Try them straight-up on Sundays — simmered for hours in tomato sauce, served with olive oil and focaccia — or on pizza if they have it. The pie is covered in rich, smoked mozzarella, and the meatballs give off enough luscious pork fat while cooking that they don’t even sauce the pie. If you think nobody can do meatballs or pizza better than City House, wait until you try them together.

1222 4th Ave N
Nashville, TN 37208

2. Nicky's Coal Fired

5026 Centennial Blvd, Nashville, TN 37209
meatballs at Nicky’s coal fired in the nations in nashville Nicky’s Coal Fired Facebook

Mama G’s meatballs are exactly the kind your grandma would make — if your grandma had access to Porter Road meat and a coal-fired oven imported from Italy. At Nicky’s, Chef Tony Galzin uses his Nanna Gattone’s recipe, so it’s basically guaranteed to give you the warm-and-fuzzy, comfort-food feeling you crave. They’re supremely satisfying served over fusilli, but true professionals know to order them as an appetizer in order to dip pizza crusts in the leftover sauce.

5026 Centennial Blvd
Nashville, TN 37209

3. The Original Corner Pub - The Nations

1105 51st Ave N, Nashville, TN 37209
Ashley Brantley

Those who weren't lucky enough to grow up with a magical Italian grandma still probably have fond memories of meatballs in tomato sauce. Krisi’s at The Original Corner Pub scratches that itch. For as long as many can remember, the menu has touted their “97-year-old family recipe.” Delightfully, that number never changes, and neither do their meatballs. Smothered in sauce and served with Texas toast, they are a very good version of the kind your very non-Italian mom made.

1105 51st Ave N
Nashville, TN 37209

4. Red Phone Booth

136 Rosa L Parks Blvd, Nashville, TN 37203
carne pizza at red phone booth nashville Ashley Brantley

While City House’s meatball-only pie stands alone, Nashville has some solid options when meatballs are used in tandem with other ingredients. Five Points Pizza’s T-REX is a meat-lover’s dream (pepperoni, sausage, sliced meatballs, spicy capicola), while Hermitage’s Gondala House Pizzeria takes a supreme approach with their House Special: pepperoni, onions, green peppers, meatballs, sausage and mushrooms.

The best use of meatballs as a supporting actor, though, is at downtown’s Red Phone Booth. The chef came from Pastaria, so the pizza dough is exceptional, and he loads up the Carne Pie with every meat you can imagine: bacon jam, salami, spicy-sweet sausage and, of course, meatballs. All that is layered with zippy San Marzano sauce and bubbly Fior de Latte mozzarella (made with cow’s milk, not buffalo). It’s a pie so good it’s worth braving the cigar smoke to get it.

136 Rosa L Parks Blvd
Nashville, TN 37203

5. Bare Bones Butcher

906 51st Ave N, Nashville, TN 37209
meatball sub at bare bones butcher in the nations nashville Ashley Brantley

Man cannot exist on meatballs alone, and so he invented subs. Bare Bones makes theirs with lean beef, pork fat, fresh herbs, garlic, parmesan, and milk-soaked bread. They roast and then simmer their meatballs in a marinara-Pomodoro hybrid, made with tomatoes, onion, garlic, and red pepper. They construct the sandwich by slathering garlic mayo on a Charpier’s hoagie, melting provolone over the meatballs, and topping it off with more sauce for a gloriously sloppy, satisfying sandwich.

906 51st Ave N
Nashville, TN 37209

6. Adele's

1210 McGavock St, Nashville, TN 37203
Adele’s Yelp

When Jonathan Waxman opened Adele’s six years ago, it was a go-to for pretty cocktails in an airy, sophisticated atmosphere. Unfortunately, roughly 37,000 of those kinds of places exist in Nashville now, so its simple, seasonal approach means it hasn’t retained its go-to status. However, that also means that the things Adele’s got right day one it still gets right. That includes their roast chicken, crispy potatoes, and their meatballs, served simply with polenta and tomato sauce.

1210 McGavock St
Nashville, TN 37203

7. Hathorne

4708 Charlotte Ave, Nashville, TN 37209
Hathorne Instagram

If you’re feeling red-sauce overload at this point, Hathorne has the remedy. Their lamb and beef meatballs are served with a tangy mint pistou, spicy chile dust, and savory preserved lemon — which takes them in a refreshing direction. Each meatball contains a Pequin pepper, which are supposedly 5-8 times hotter than jalapeños. That’s good because it keeps this dish delicate, and far away from the silly, shut-the-cluck-up spiciness so many Nashville chefs rely on.

4708 Charlotte Ave
Nashville, TN 37209

8. Bar Otaku Izakaya

505 12th Ave S, Nashville, TN 37203
wagyu meatballs at bar otaku in nashville Ashley Brantley

Japanese cooks have always known that meat tastes better on sticks, and meatballs are no exception. The Izakaya-style chicken skewers at Bar Otaku bring some white meat into the proceedings, yet still keep things rich with a dipping sauce of egg yolk and soy. (Two Ten Jack offers a similar, delectable preparation on the East Side.) The showstopper, though, at Bar Otaku is the Wagyu beef skewer served with ponzu sauce and sliced chili. They’re not always on the menu, but if they are, order them. They are a melt-in-your-mouth umami-bomb of the highest order.

505 12th Ave S
Nashville, TN 37203

9. The 404 Kitchen

507 12th Ave S Fl 2, Nashville, TN 37203

One problem people have when making meatballs is it’s a lot of soft-on-soft-on-soft. The 404 Kitchen clears that hurdle by serving their meatballs crisped to a crunchy golden-brown. Like Hathorne, 404 cuts through the richness with a mint pesto and crushed Aleppo pepper, but they finish theirs with a yogurt sauce that gives these a creamy, Mediterranean finish.

507 12th Ave S Fl 2
Nashville, TN 37203

10. answer. restaurant

132 46th Ave N, Nashville, TN 37209
albondigas, Mexican meatballs, at answer in nashville Ashley Brantley

Every culture has a different word for meatball. The Mexican variety — pronounced “al-bon-di-gas” — may be the most fun to say, and to eat if you do it at answer. Made from dry-aged beef, bacon and garlic, they’re packed with umami, which means they stand up to punchy finishes like piquant tomato sauce, salty queso fresco, herbaceous chimichurri and crunchy almonds. Tip: Go ahead and ask for extra bread to sop up the zesty leftover sauce.

132 46th Ave N
Nashville, TN 37209

11. Nicoletto's Italian Kitchen (Hillsboro Village)

2123 Belcourt Ave, Nashville, TN 37212
Nicolette’s meatball sub Nicoletto’s image, submitted to Tennessean

To vegans who scrolled all the way to #11 on this list, we’d like to say two things: Thank you. Also: Sorry.

Nicoletto’s is a great place to go for vegan meatballs in Hillsboro Village or East Nashville. If you’re a vegetarian, top your vegan balls with pink sauce, a perfect marinara-Alfredo hybrid. If you’re a true vegan, the fine folks at Nicoletto’s will start you off with naked balls and let you build your ideal bowl from there.

2123 Belcourt Ave
Nashville, TN 37212

12. Mangia Nashville

701 Craighead St, Berry Hill, TN 37204
Nashville Scene

Ask any self-respecting Italian-American about meatballs and you’ll hear one word: gravy. If a tomato sauce includes meat, it is gravy, not sauce, and it must be simmered for hours on a stove, preferably by someone who can legitimately tell you how it was done “in the Old Country.” Nick Pellegrino comes from that kind of family, and that’s one of the reasons he didn’t serve meatballs at all when Mangia opened.

He was sure he’d hear a chorus of, “They’re good, but they’re not like my grandma’s,” so he held out — until he hired Salvatore Stacccuneddu, a man from the same town in Calabria as Pellegrino’s mother’s family. Stacccuneddu’s meatballs tasted like home to Pellegrino, and he knew they had to go on the menu. The recipe they serve now is a special blend of beef short rib and brisket, roasted in a brick oven and given a long bath in Sunday gravy. You can enjoy them, somewhat ironically, every day of the week except Sunday because, hey, even grandma needs a day off.

701 Craighead St
Berry Hill, TN 37204

13. Athens Family Restaurant

2526 8th Ave S, Berry Hill, TN 37204
Athens Family Restaurant

Brace yourselves because I’m about to do something no sane person would do, and that’s agree with Guy Fieri. When The Bleached One first infiltrated Nashville, he stopped into Athens for suzukakia, enormous Greek meatballs seasoned with cumin, cinnamon and garlic. He enjoyed them, which you know because his face is now plastered on posters all over the restaurant to prove it. And honestly? So will you. Light, savory and just a little sweet, these meatballs are good enough to make you look past their off-putting, oblong shape and their endorsement by the King of Donkey Sauce to enjoy them.

2526 8th Ave S
Berry Hill, TN 37204

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