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A spread from Arnold’s Country Kitchen in 2016.
Bill Addison/Eater

38 Essential Restaurants in Nashville

A guide to some of the best restaurants in Nashville spanning price points, neighborhoods, and cuisines, updated for summer

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A spread from Arnold’s Country Kitchen in 2016.
| Bill Addison/Eater

Welcome to the Eater 38, the answer to the question, “Where should we eat?” This essential group of restaurants covers the entire city, spans myriad cuisines and price points, and collectively satisfies all dining needs — from where to go for a reliable quick bite to where to blow half a paycheck on dinner.

Each quarter the list is updated to reflect restaurants that have been omitted, those that have newly become eligible (restaurants must be open at least six months), and those that are being welcomed back into the 38 fold. Removal from the Eater 38 does not mean a restaurant isn’t still great and won’t return in the future, but allows for new additions, keeping the 38 a fresh, inclusive representation of the dining that Nashville has to offer. For the Summer 2022 update, we’ve added Audrey, Sean Brock’s year-old Appalachian restaurant, classic Southern spot Nashville Jam Co., and revived Thai grocery and restaurant International Market.

For newer Nashville restaurants, check out the heatmap (a collection of the city’s hot new dining options that opened in the last six months).

For all the latest Nashville dining intel, subscribe to Eater Nashville's newsletter.

Want to nominate a restaurant? Send Eater Nashville restaurant suggestions via the tipline, along with details as to why a particular restaurant should be included for consideration on the next update.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.
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Rosie Food & Wine

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25 or so minutes northeast of Nashville in Hendersonville, Andy and Beth Hayes’ charming strip mall restaurant doles out stunningly plated Spanish-inspired feasts. The menu here changes — but look for tapas-style standouts like meatballs with garlic bread, Iberico ham, octopus, and patatas bravas (called Rosie potatoes here) to start, followed by house-made pasta, quail fideo, and striped bass as heartier portioned plates. Be sure to save room for dessert.

Lou Nashville

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Open since late 2019, Mailea Weger’s cozy, Parisian-inspired Riverside Village cafe offers one of the most unique menus in the city (alongside one of Nashville’s best wine lists). Weger and the Lou team constantly adapted throughout the pandemic, plus expanded outdoor dining options and hosting several first-class bake sale fundraisers for causes like Planned Parenthood and helping fight anti-trans legislation.

wide shot showing front door on left, original brick fireplace, and wine wall plus floral wallpaper on the far right
Inside Lou.
Sam Angel / Eater Nashville

400 Degrees

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Native Nashvillian and lifelong hot chicken fan Aqui Hines first started 400 Degrees — named for the hottest spice level she offers — more than 15 years ago, gaining loyal fans first via food truck and then her Clarksville Pike restaurant. Hines’s hot chicken recipe calls for deep-fried rather than skillet-fried chicken, a chief distinction between 400 degrees and most other restaurants. Hers is considered among the best in Nashville.

Pelican & Pig

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Nick and Audra Guidry had their hands in every aspect of their first full-service restaurant — a cozy spot carved into a former auto upholstery shop. Flavor-packed wood-fired dishes are equally enjoyable at the bar or in the dining room. Standout dishes include fried provolone with chili crisp, local sweet corn “ribs,” and a frenched pork chop with gooseberry relish.

Sam Angel/Eater Nashville

East Side Banh Mi

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Industry vets Gracie Nguyen and Chad Newton opened their fast-casual banh mi shop early on in the pandemic, and it’s been a favorite ever since. Diners swarm for the concise sandwich menu — which includes one with smoked Gifford’s bologna, ham hock terrine, and pate and a vegetarian-friendly option with chili crisp tofu and roasted eggplant. The shop sources locally from vendors like Bear Creek Farm for beef and pork, Bloomsbury Farm vegetables, and Nguyen Coffee Supply. The half and half, a caffeinated delight featuring toasted peanut rice milk and Vietnamese iced coffee, is not to be missed.

Big Al's Deli

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Big Al’s comforting hospitality and reliably pleasing homestyle cooking merge seamlessly, making the Salemtown spot a top pick for breakfast and lunch. It opens at 7 a.m. during the week, serving classic breakfast items and Southern lunch staples features from fried catfish to spicy South Carolinian shrimp and grits in an atmosphere that actually feels like dining in a family member’s home.

Big Al’s Deli/Facebook

Philip Krajeck’s East Nashville pizza-focused spot Folk has earned its way into many residents’ regular restaurant rotations. Consistency, clam pies, and chicken Milanesa from the McFerrin Park restaurant prove that yes, Krajeck can steer two ships at once — and even during a pandemic, both Folk and Krajeck’s second restaurant Rolf and Daughters continues starring as favorites for takeout.

Folk [Official Photo]

Redheaded Stranger

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Bryan Lee Weaver’s Tex-Mex love letter to Nashville is most known for its fancy take on an upgraded Crunchwrap, tacos, and flour tortillas with queso, but Redheaded Stranger also serves one of the best cheeseburgers in the city. It’s a Bear Creek Farm patty topped with chopped Hatch chiles and Gifford’s bacon. And yes, of course there are plenty of margaritas and Topo Chico to wash it all down.

Andrew Cebulka / Redheaded Stranger

Local hospitality veterans Hrant Arakelian and Elizabeth Endicott opened Middle Eastern restaurant Lyra in the summer of 2018, bringing man’oushe, hummus, baba ganoush, and lamb manti to East Nashville. Beyond the refreshing (and vegan-friendly) menu — Lyra’s bar program, with its diverse slate of whiskey cocktails, is impressive. Save room for baklava or a Turkish coffee booza.

Lyra/Facebook

Sean Brock’s ode to his grandmother Audrey opened at last in 2021 in East Nashville’s McFerrin Park neighborhood with a museum-worthy art collection, historic photographs, patchwork quilts on the walls, and, of course, a world-class kitchen. If you snag a reservation, look for Appalachian inspiration served on incredible plateware, like the Southern Maple Co. canape board, to start. 

Inside Audrey.
Emily Dorio/Audrey

Peninsula

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Reopened after a long pandemic hibernation, Craig Schoen, Yuriko Say, and Jake Howells’s Iberian Peninsula-inspired 38-seat East Nashville restaurant brings back seasonally rotating favorites like tomato toast, Spanish tortillas, and braised rabbit. It’s best to make reservations here ahead of time, but one can also belly up to the bar to sip their way through Schoen’s beloved gin and tonic menu.

Peninsula tomato toast Delia Jo Ramsey / Eater Nashville

Dino's Bar

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East Nashville’s essential late-night haunt (and Nashville’s oldest dive bar) Dino’s is back in action with a new patio for standout cheeseburgers, hot chicken, and ice-cold beer. Not to worry though, as the busted brick front entrance and dimly lit interior retain the longstanding dive bar’s familiar vibe.

Dino’s/Facebook

Ed's Fish & Pizza House

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There’s no pizza at the iconic North Nashville spot (and that’s been the case since 1993), but that doesn’t matter because people still line up in the drive-thru for owner Ed’s whiting sandwiches topped with onion, hot sauce, and mustard. Adding cheese, or choosing catfish instead of whiting are great moves here too, and remember to grab a fruit tea to wash it all down.

Whiting sandwich from the drive thru at Ed’s
Delia Jo Ramsey/Eater Nashville

City House

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Opened nearly 15 years ago, Nashville native Tandy Wilson’s Southern riff on rustic Italian fare made him the first Nashville chef to take home a James Beard Award. The belly ham pizza, Sunday supper’s meatball sandwich, and talented pastry chef Rebekah Turshen’s desserts are all crucial when dining at City House.

meatball pizza at city house in nashville
Meatball pizza at City House
Ashley Brantley

Lockeland Table

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At neighborhood favorite Lockeland Table, chef Hal Holden-Bache puts a new spin on a Nashville icon with crispy Nashville hot pig ears — but there is a lot more going on here. Order some of the city’s best seasonally-adorned wood-fired pizza and red Thai curry mussels. The restaurant’s reconstructed storefront is a nod to the original 1930s H.G. Hills store that once called the space home.

Lockeland Table/Facebook

Butcher & Bee

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The Charleston-born restaurant is a transplant in name only, as chefs Bryan Lee Weaver and Christopher DeJesus have made the menu entirely their own. It’s hard to go wrong choosing anything off the ever-changing menu — but definitely start by ordering all of the mezze (which of course, includes an appearance of the crowd-favorite whipped feta). A new “chef’s choice” option lets the team choose the courses, which finish strong with stunning desserts, like sweet corn layer cake with dulce de leche tomatoes.

Butcher & Bee
Butcher & Bee
Justin Chesney

Riddim n Spice

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Chef Kamal Kalokoh, alongside his brother and business partner Rashean Conaway, have dished out Caribbean favorites like rice and peas, oxtail, jerk chicken, and cucumber-mango slaw near the historic Jefferson Street neighborhood since 2019. The brothers grew up working alongside their mother Ouida Bradshaw at Jamaicaway, the popular Jamaican restaurant, before launching their catering company a decade ago and, later, a food truck paying homage to Caribbean culture and cuisine.

Riddim N Spice/Facebook

Skull's Rainbow Room

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The original Skull’s Rainbow Room dated back to the 1940s and was a legendary local hangout for nearly 60 years before shuttering in 1999. It reopened in 2015 with many of the vintage burlesque touches of the original, plus revamped dinner menus with soul-warming lobster bisque, prime rib empanadas, and an excellent garlic honey-glazed pork chop.

The lobster bisque is a must-try at the Printer’s Alley essential
Skull’s Rainbow Room/Facebook

La Juquilita

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The unassuming orange building on Morrow Road serves up some of the best tacos in town. Owners Jose and Maria Cepeda also welcome diners with loaded pupusas and tlayudas (a traditional Oaxacan dish served on a toasted tortilla with toppings like refried beans, slaw, avocado, tomato, Oaxacan cheese, and asiento) that only add to the appeal. Ask for the chili and the verde sauces, both pack some pleasant heat.

Nashville scored big when this husband-and-wife culinary powerhouse moved to town (along with a see-thru cheese cave). James Beard Award-winning chef Tony Mantuano and wine expert Cathy Mantuano brought Nashville the fine dining Italian menu it had been missing along withstandout service and a welcoming atmosphere inside the new Joseph Hotel. The chef’s tasting menus are always a solid move — as are any and all of the pasta options. Save some room for pastry chef Noelle Gogg’s jaw-dropping desserts.

Haas & Haas Photography | Yolan

Thai Esane

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Nina Singto’s Thai and Lao restaurant returned to a shiny new Music Row space just a short drive from its former life in 12 South in 2021. Although the restaurant’s focal point is a six-foot-tall golden Buddha shipped in from Thailand, it won’t distract diners for long from the exciting return of standout pad Thai or papaya salad.

Thai Esane/Facebook

Peg Leg Porker BBQ

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Those who appreciate appreciate stellar barbecue will a good temple to meat respect pitmaster Carey Bringle’s dedication to the barbecue craft. Dry-rub ribs are the obvious meat move at Peg Leg Porker, but the pulled pork sandwich is another, less messy standard. Pro tips: keep an eye on social media for the call of whole hog being cooked on the front patio, and don’t sleep on the Memphis sushi/cream cheese and pepper jelly combo.

Peg Leg Porker Peg Leg Porker

Arnold's Country Kitchen

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No Nashville trip is complete without a pilgrimage to this true Southern meat-and-three. Serving lines of hungry locals and tourists for more than three decades, this James Beard America's Classic award-winner is the gold standard by which all others in the meat-and-three genre are judged, securing its place on Eater's list of the South's best restaurants. Plus, what's not to like about a restaurant where dessert comes first?

VN Pho & Deli

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The family-run, cash-only restaurant offers classic Vietnamese specialties in a Charlotte Pike strip mall. Grab bún bò huế, fried rice, or a piping hot bowl of pho to go. Other can’t-miss items include anything fresh from the pastry case, and the Sunday special mi vit tiem — a roast duck soup with egg noodles.

VN Pho & Deli/Facebook

Dozen Bakery

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Baker Claire Meneely ran a successful holiday cookie pop-up for years. When she finally opened a brick-and-mortar bakery and cafe in Wedgewood-Houston in early 2015, the crowds followed. Today, her daily-made breads and pastries still stand out as some of the best in town.

Dozen Bakery

International Market

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One of the most exciting openings of 2021 was the revival of the much-missed International Market — the Myint family’s longtime Nashville mainstay. Now open in the former Blvd space right across the street, look for familiar favorites alongside new offerings like Burmese tomato relish with shrimp powder and shrimp paste — served with prawn crackers and pork rinds for dipping.

At the end of October 2020 Trevor Moran’s long-awaited dumpling and shaved ice den, Locust opened, and the steamed dumplings, cold bowls of mouth-numbing Sichuan-spiced noodles, and shrimp toast are all absolute must-eats. Make sure and save room for the rotating kakigori flavors for a light, sweet finish.

Delia Jo Ramsey/Eater Nashville

Josephine

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Josephine’s Andy Little draws inspiration from his years cooking in Pennsylvania-Dutch country, the results of which are hearty farmhouse dishes you won’t find anywhere else in town, paired expertly with wines chosen by general manager and sommelier Karen Van Guilder-Little. Menu highlights include the beef tongue with caramelized onions and horseradish, the whole chicken for two, a stellar brunch burger, and whatever pastry chef Kayla May has whipped up for dessert — like the apple cobbler for two with brown butter pecan ice cream.

The Nashville Jam Co.

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The Nashville Jam Co. is a sweet, sunny destination to experience a traditional Southern breakfast, brunch, or lunch — nothing fancy, but simplicity at its best. A few morning favorites include the pimento cheese, bacon, and tomato jam chicken biscuit and the bronuts (fried cheesecake stuffed biscuits topped with blueberry compote), and for lunch, the fried catfish sandwich, fried green tomato BLT, and barbecue.

Gojo Ethiopian Cafe and Restaurant

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Head to Thompson Lane for some of the best Ethiopian far to be found in Tennessee at Hana Gebretensae’s go-to, Gojo. Here, dive into zesty doro w’et or prime beef tibs with plenty of injera for scooping it all up — or change it up with an Ethiopian version of beef tartare (raw beef with butter, chile powder, and fresh cheese).

House of Kabob

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Nashville has long been home to the country’s largest Kurdish population, and Hamid Hasan’s House of Kabob is one of their strongest culinary outposts, which has moved down the street to a new location. Find kebabs and gyros alongside dishes like zereshk polo — steamed chicken served with a side of rice mixed with barberries, and joojeh (grilled cornish hen).

House of Kabob/Facebook

Etc. restaurant

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Etc. is chef Deb Paquette’s spunky counterpart to its downtown sister restaurant, Etch. The restaurant embodies the creativity and deliciousness for which the veteran chef is known and revered. Leave the main Green Hills drag for Paquette’s duck chorizo flatbread, lamb barbacoa, cornmeal catfish with masala shrimp, any soup she’s whipped up for the day, or the daily ice cream or sorbet.

spread of plates at etc. Nashville etc. / Official Photo

Sperry's Belle Meade

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For those who might be seeking a side of nostalgia with their steak, head to Sperry’s Restaurant in Belle Meade, which has been serving up steaks, prime rib, and bacon-wrapped, blue cheese-stuffed filets for 45 years and counting. People flock for the salad bar (shout-out to its green goddess dressing) and the classic bananas Foster — prepared tableside, of course.

Sperry’s Nashville Sperry’s Nashville

King Tut's

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Chef and owner Ragab “Rocky” Rashwan’s Nolensville spot reigns supreme if you ask most any falafel fan in Nashville. Billed by Rashwan as “Egyptian fare with NY flair”, Rashwan serves up his beloved falafel, but also hummus, chicken shawarma, grilled lamb, and salads.

Vegan friendly falafel salad at King Tut’s
King Tut’s/Facebook

Edessa Restaurant Kurdish Turkish Cuisine

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The Kurdish and Turkish restaurant tucked in a Nolensville Pike strip mall packs a ton of flavor, with standout items like Cornish chicken, shish kebabs, or a savory Anatolian flatbread that’s stuffed with spinach and cheese. To drink, try aryan, and for dessert, baklava or Turkish kunefe (shredded wheat with a layer of melted cheese, topped with chopped pistachios and aromatic sweet syrup then served with ice cream).

Edessa/Facebook

Hai Woon Dai

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This Antioch gem has been serving some of the best Korean food in town for more than 10 years running. They do all of the standards right, as well as some lesser-known dishes, including budae jjigae (‘G.I. stew’), which features hot dogs, Spam, tofu, kimchi, and noodles in a spicy sauce. The banchan, complimentary side dishes, are also top-notch.

assorted banchan in scattered bowls, on red surface Hai Woon Dai / Facebok

Prince's Hot Chicken Shack South

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Yep, this is the godfather of Nashville hot chicken — inspiring hours-long lines and seemingly endless imitations globally. André Prince Jeffries’ family-named Prince’s has been in business for more than 70 years and has a James Beard Award tucked casually under its belt. Sadly, the original hot chicken shack’s Ewing Drive location caught fire and is permanently closed, but the South Nashville outpost on Nolensville Pike offers another option where loyalists can try and fulfill those fiery fowl fantasies.

Corner Asian Café

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A consistent win for casual, family-friendly dining in or takeout, this strip mall success story in Brentwood serves up stellar regional Chinese food — something not often easily found in Music City. Here, the pro move is to stick to the Schezuan side of the menu, where standouts include everything from crispy scallion pancakes, salt pepper spare ribs, and potato threads to spicy beef tendon and chile oil-coated crispy frog legs. 

Delia Jo Ramsey/Eater Nashville

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Rosie Food & Wine

25 or so minutes northeast of Nashville in Hendersonville, Andy and Beth Hayes’ charming strip mall restaurant doles out stunningly plated Spanish-inspired feasts. The menu here changes — but look for tapas-style standouts like meatballs with garlic bread, Iberico ham, octopus, and patatas bravas (called Rosie potatoes here) to start, followed by house-made pasta, quail fideo, and striped bass as heartier portioned plates. Be sure to save room for dessert.

Lou Nashville

wide shot showing front door on left, original brick fireplace, and wine wall plus floral wallpaper on the far right
Inside Lou.
Sam Angel / Eater Nashville

Open since late 2019, Mailea Weger’s cozy, Parisian-inspired Riverside Village cafe offers one of the most unique menus in the city (alongside one of Nashville’s best wine lists). Weger and the Lou team constantly adapted throughout the pandemic, plus expanded outdoor dining options and hosting several first-class bake sale fundraisers for causes like Planned Parenthood and helping fight anti-trans legislation.