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Pieces of fried and roasted chicken sitting on green leaf surrounded by bowls and plates filled with rice and an assortment of vegetables Michael David Rose Photography

38 Essential Restaurants in Nashville

A guide to the best restaurants in Nashville, spanning neighborhoods, cuisines, and prices

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Welcome to the Eater 38, the answer to the question, “Where should we eat in Nashville?” This essential group of restaurants covers the entire city, spans myriad cuisines and price points, and collectively satisfies virtually all dining needs — from a reliable quick bite to a special occasion dinner worth the splurge.

Each quarter the list is updated to reflect restaurants that have been omitted, those that have become newly eligible (restaurants must have been open at least six months), and a few 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 it allows for new additions, keeping the 38 a fresh, inclusive representation of what Nashville has to offer.

For the January 2024 update, we welcome a few new entries and some old favorites, including the Thai fried chicken at S.S. Gai, Vivek Surti’s South Asian dinner party at Tailor, and the classic Southern family-style supper at Monell’s.

For newer Nashville restaurants, check out the Heatmap, a periodically updated collection of the city’s hot new dining options that have opened in the last six months.

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Eater maps are curated by editors and aim to reflect a diversity of neighborhoods, cuisines, and prices. Learn more about our editorial process. If you buy something or book a reservation from an Eater link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics policy.

Shotgun Willie's BBQ

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Named after Texas’s own Willie Nelson, Shotgun Willie’s in East Nashville is leveling up the Nashville barbecue game — it’s all about the slow-cooked meats and bourbon banana pudding here. In a simple space adorned with plenty of Texas memorabilia, Bill Laviolette’s menu nods to both his Texas upbringing and his new Tennessee digs with award-winning brisket, Tennessee-style pulled pork shoulder, and smoked chicken.

Lou Nashville

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Open since late 2019, Mailea Weger’s cozy, Riverside Village spot offers one of the most unique menus in the city alongside one of Nashville’s best wine lists, centering on natural options. The expanded outdoor dining area has hosted several first-class bake sales, fundraising for causes like Planned Parenthood and helping fight anti-trans legislation. And while its deliciously funky brunch menu is still one of the best in the city (if you know, you know), the roast chicken Sunday dinners are like warm hug for the soul.

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

S.S. Gai

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Coming off of a win for “best fried chicken” in the 2023 Eater Nashville Awards, S.S. Gai has carved a name for itself in a town known for frying up a stellar bird. Situated in bay 3 of East Nashville’s The Wash, Chris and Emma Biard’s Thai fried chicken comes with sticky rice, fried shallots and garlic, tamarind chile fish sauce, chile vinegar, vegetables, and herbs that you can artfully arrange into rolls and dip to your heart’s content. If you’re looking for some of that heat Nashville is known for, ask for the “make it risky” option and prepare to break a sweat.

Fried chicken sitting on green leaf surrounded by bowls and plates filled with rice and an assortment of vegetables Michael David Rose Photography

The brick-and-mortar location of Brian Lea and Leina Horii’s pandemic-born pop-up has made quite the splash with its 25-seat cafe in East Nashville. Situated in Highland Yards, the space is only open for lunch Friday through Monday, but manages to pack a crowd that clambers for its milk bread sandwiches, chicken katsu, and rotating udon, soba, and ramen dishes. Many of the items are also vegan and gluten-free friendly. There are no reservations here, so keep that in mind if you’re in a time crunch.

East Side Banh Mi

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Industry vets Gracie Nguyen and Chad Newton opened their fast-casual banh mi shop in August 2020, and it’s been a favorite ever since. Diners swarm to East Side Banh Mi for a concise Vietnamese menu that includes highlights like a sandwich with smoked Gifford’s bologna, ham hock terrine, and pate as well as a vegetarian option featuring chile crisp tofu and roasted eggplant. The shop sources from local vendors like Bear Creek Farm for beef and pork, Bloomsbury Farm for vegetables, and Nguyen Coffee Supply. Speaking of, don’t miss the half-and-half, a caffeinated delight mixing toasted peanut rice milk and Vietnamese iced coffee.

East Side Banh Mi.
East Side Banh Mi/Facebook

Xiao Bao

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When expanding their Pan-Asian restaurant from South Carolina to Nashville, husband-and-wife owners Joshua Walker and Duolan Li set up residence in a trailer at the Dive Motel. The idea proved successful enough to move Xiao Bao into permanent digs in East Nashville, improving the city’s options for pork belly bao buns, okonomiyaki, fried dumplings, and hand-pulled noodles alongside natural wine in a space that artfully blends ’50s diner and Chinese American restaurant vibes. Xiao Bao doesn’t take reservations, so be prepared for a wait.

A top-down view of a Japanese okonomiyaki topped with pork candy, a sunny side up egg, stripes of mayo and a red sauce, and lots of seasoning
Xiao Bao.
Eddie Sanchez/Xiao Bao

Big Al's Deli

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Big Al’s comforting hospitality and reliable homestyle cooking merge seamlessly, making the Salemtown deli a top pick for breakfast and lunch. Big Al’s opens at 7 a.m. Tuesday through Friday and at 9 a.m. on Saturday, serving classic breakfast items and Southern lunch staples — from fried catfish to spicy South Carolinian shrimp and grits — in an atmosphere that feels like a family member’s home.

A closeup of fried food with gravy and greens.
Big Al’s Deli.
Big Al’s Deli/Facebook

Philip Krajeck’s pizza-focused Folk has earned its way into many restaurant rotations. Consistency, clam pies, and pork Milanesa from the McFerrin Park restaurant prove that yes, Krajeck can steer two ships at once — both Folk in East Nashville and Krajeck’s second restaurant, Rolf and Daughters in Germantown, remain local favorites.

A top-down view of pizza with slices of onion, hunks of sausage, dollops of melted cheese, red sauce, and a blistered crust.
Folk.
Folk/Facebook

Local hospitality veterans Hrant Arakelian and Elizabeth Endicott opened hip Lyra in the summer of 2018, bringing man’oushe, hummus, baba ghanoush, and lamb manti to East Nashville. Beyond the refreshing (and vegan-friendly) menu, Lyra’s bar program impresses with a diverse, whiskey-forward slate of cocktails. Save room for baklava with some Turkish coffee.

A closeup of a vegan dish of butternut Sfouf cake, harissa glaze, cashew “yogurt” and dressed cucumbers
Lyra.
Lyra/Facebook

One of Eater’s 2022 picks for best new restaurants in the country, Sean Brock’s East Nashville ode to his grandmother Audrey boasts 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-inspired dishes — like the heirloom Jimmy Red corn grits topped with sorghum-cured egg yolk and Appalachian salt-risen bread — served on incredible plateware. For a special night out, book a tasting experience at his 37-seat space June, located right above Audrey. You’ll have a full view of the chefs meticulously plating your meal and Brock’s food laboratory while you wind your way through 15-plus courses.

The interior of Audrey, with plants on a counter in the foreground, low-top wooden tables, and lots of art on the walls.
Audrey.
Emily Dorio/Audrey

Maíz De La Vida

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In 2020, Julio Hernandez gifted Nashville with some traditional Mexican eats in the form of heirloom corn he painstakingly nixtamalizes and mills himself. He turns that corn into richly flavored tortillas that hold firm no matter what fillings you throw in them — try the quesabirria tacos with a side of crunchy churros — and offset the bombastic tropical drinks at delightful East Nashville bar Chopper Tiki, where the Maíz De La Vida food truck holds a permanent spot.

A stack of corn tortillas of different colors
Maíz De La Vida.
Maíz De La Vida

Dino's Bar

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East Nashville’s essential late-night haunt is also Nashville’s oldest dive bar. Dino’s now boasts an outdoor patio for enjoying some standout cheeseburgers, hot chicken, animal-style fries smothered in cheese, and ice-cold beer in the fresh air. Not to worry though, as the busted brick-front entrance and dimly lit interior retain the beloved dive’s familiar vibe.

A top-down view of food like a burger and fries smothered in cheese in disposable containers.
Dino’s Bar.
Dino’s/Facebook

The Treehouse Restaurant

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This tried-and-true East Nashville cafe may be small, but what it lacks in space it makes up for in big flavors thanks to a menu that rotates seasonally and isn’t afraid to take some risks with traditional rustic fare. Case in point: burrata with spaghetti squash and golden raisins; seared grouper with massaman curry and kokuho rice; and a gluten-free chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich rimmed with Lay’s potato chips. The eclectic, colorful patio has plenty of seating and its own full bar.

Tailor Nashville

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From Thursday to Sunday, Chef Vivek Surti’s cozy South Asian American restaurant offers two seatings — one at 6 p.m. and the other at 8:30 p.m. — which includes a pre-set seasonal menu (and tax and tip) for your group with the option to add beverage pairings like the fruit tea punch that marries traditions from Nashville and India. Tailor’s fall menu includes dhansakh using lamb from Ian Palmer, butternut squash muthiya (dumplings), and a fall cobbler with local apples and fennel ice cream for dessert paired with the restaurant’s infamous chai developed by Surti’s father.

two cups of chai tea flanking two cookies on a black plate Minnie Morklithavong

City House

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In 2016, nearly a decade after City House opened, owner Tandy Wilson became the first Nashville chef to win a coveted James Beard Award for best chef, Southeast, making this one of Music City’s best-known restaurants. The homey but lively stunner serves contemporary Italian dishes with local flair, most notably a belly ham pizza baked in a wood-fired oven and then topped with a runny egg. City House’s longtime pastry chef, Rebekah Turshen, churns out icebox cakes and delicate pies that earned a reputation for being some of the finest in town.

Lockeland Table

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At East Nashville neighborhood favorite Lockeland Table, chef Hal Holden-Bache puts a new spin on a Nashville icon with crispy pork belly and empanadas, but there’s also 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.

A top-down view of a variety of dishes, including rolls and a dip with carrots, olives, and cucumbers, on top of a food menu
Lockeland Table.
Lockeland Table

Brave Idiot

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What started out as a pop-up at Subculture Cafe has turned into its own operation parked behind No Quarter and Hubba Hubba. And while the mammoth burgers are the real juicy deal here, their rendition of the hot chicken sandwich and the pimento grilled cheese put an addictively delicious new spin on Southern classics. There’s no shortage of burger joints in Nashville, but the patties coming out of the Brave Idiot food truck are some of the finest around town.

Monell's

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A Nashville staple, Monell’s is an all-you-can-eat, family-style institution where fried chicken comes with every meal (as it should) and traditional Southern sides are served family-style and shared among strangers who quickly become friends. Monell’s is set in a Victorian-style home first built in 1905, so plan to arrive early for photos out front or in the adjacent garden. Locals know to go after hours for the unadvertised midnight country breakfast, available on Saturdays from midnight to 3 a.m.

Bolton's Spicy Chicken & Fish

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The top spot for Nashville chicken is a contentious one, but Bolton’s in East Nashville consistently rises to the top over and over again. It’s a no-frills situation here — don’t expect fancy art or ambiance lighting — but what you’re here for is a hot chicken with a spice seasoning that’s widely regarded as some of the hottest in town. The fried fish is also a can’t-miss here and gives the chicken a run for its money.

Riddim n Spice

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Chef Kamal Kalokoh and his brother and business partner, Rashean Conaway, grew up working alongside their mother, Ouida Bradshaw, at Jamaicaway, the popular Jamaican restaurant, before launching their catering company a decade ago. A food truck followed, leading in 2019 to this buoyant restaurant offering Caribbean culture and dishes like rice and peas, oxtail, jerk chicken, and cucumber-mango slaw near the historic Jefferson Street neighborhood.

Skillet mac and cheese on a wooden table
Riddim n Spice.
Riddim n Spice

Skull's Rainbow Room

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The original Skull’s Rainbow Room opened in the 1940s and was a legendary local hangout for live performances for nearly 60 years before shuttering in 1999. The downtown icon in Printers Alley reopened in 2015 with nightly live jazz shows and many of the vintage touches of the original, not to mention burlesque shows every weekend. The revamped dinner menu features soul-warming lobster bisque, prime rib empanadas, and an excellent garlic honey-glazed pork chop.

Leather booths and wooden tables
Skull’s Rainbow Room.
Skull’s Rainbow Room

Pinewood Social

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Tucked into Nashville’s historic Trolley Barns, Pinewood Social is everything to everyone: Part coffee shop, part bowling alley, part bistro, and part poolside hang, it’s a great place to keep in your back pocket for when you’re entertaining a mixed crowd. Every meal here fires on all cylinders, from the brown butter waffles with candied pecans at breakfast to the short rib mac and cheese on the dinner menu.

Swett's

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For nearly 70 years, the family-owned Swett’s has been dishing up homestyle Southern food to hungry Nashvillians from a low-key space off Clifton Avenue. In classic meat-and-three fashion, Swett’s serves its menu cafeteria-style; proteins like country-fried steak, meatloaf, and pork chops hold court alongside candied yams, fried cornbread, and macaroni and cheese. Note that your Swett’s experience isn’t complete without a peach cobbler or a slice of chess pie.

The interior of Swett’s with brick walls, artwork featuring Black military men, an American flag, tables and chairs, and a light streaming through the windows
Swett’s.
Swett’s

Bourbon Steak by Michael Mina

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It isn’t just the experience of sitting 34 stories above Nashville with a full, unobstructed view of the city below you (although that doesn’t hurt), the quality of the dishes and services here are consistently some of the best in the city. Instead of the usual bread basket, your meal starts off with a trio of fries and high-end sauces, before you segue into platters of shellfish, butter-poached steaks, and crispy Brussels sprouts. Throw in a whiskey cocktail from the roving cocktail cart before wrapping up the meal with a slice of bourbon pecan pie.

Nashville scored big when James Beard Award-winning chef Tony Mantuano and wine expert Cathy Mantuano came to town. The powerhouse couple brought the fine dining Italian menu and see-through cheese cave Nashville had been missing, along with standout service and a welcoming atmosphere inside the Joseph hotel. A chef’s tasting menu is always a solid move — there’s even a vegetarian option — as are any and all of the pasta options. Just save some room for jaw-dropping desserts from executive pastry chef Noelle Marchetti.

A pasta dish in a wide white bowl.
Yolan.
Haas & Haas Photography/Yolan

Carne Mare

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Andrew Carmellini’s Italian chophouse at the W Nashville in the Gulch feels like a traditional steakhouse with an edge. The sleek space lined with dark wood and black leather leads the way to artful plates that give conventional items a pleasant twist, like the mozzarella sticks garnished with caviar and mini-ice cream cones topped with a swirl of foie gras. While the aged beef is the star attraction, the steak alternatives like salt-baked Florida red snapper are satisfying as well.

The interior of Carne Mare with black leather seats, dark wooden tables, and a view out to the patio through large windows
Carne Mare.
Sam Angel Photography/Eater Nashville

Hathorne

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Sylvan Park’s Hathorne takes cues from its building’s previous incarnation as the former fellowship hall of a historic church — the restaurant, which also has a large heated patio, is warm, unpretentious, and encourages conversation among its congregants. Chef-owner John Stephenson takes great care with the New American fare here, where vegetarian dishes like golden beets in a tahini-onion puree and sweet potato agnolotti hold their own against or even outshine their meat-filled counterparts. Similarly, beverage director Hayley Teague’s thoughtful mocktail menu keeps things interesting.

Bar seating and low-top tables in a large dining room.
Hathorne.
Sam Angel Photography/Eater Nashville

Black Dynasty Secret Ramen House

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Everyone needs a solid ramen bar in the rotation, especially when the weather dips. Black Dynasty is Nashville’s. Newly relocated inside Bearded Iris Brewing at Sylvan Supply, the cool, casual restaurant makes everything from scratch, dunking noodles in a variety of rich broths studded with veggies, pork, and oozy eggs. For a fun twist, check out Slurprise Sunday, when a mystery bowl makes a special appearance with some highly inventive ingredients.

Top-down view of a bowl of ramen filled with an oozy egg, pork, seaweed, and more
Black Dynasty Secret Ramen House.
Black Dynasty Secret Ramen House

VN Pho & Deli

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The family-run, cash-only VN Pho & Deli offers can’t-miss Vietnamese specialties in an unassuming Charlotte Pike strip mall. Grab bún bo hue, fried rice, or a piping-hot bowl of pho for here or to go. Anything fresh from the pastry case also deserves a spot in your order, as does the Sunday special mi vit tiem — a roast duck soup with egg noodles.

VN Pho & Deli/Facebook

Bastion

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Bastion offers two fairly distinct experiences: On one hand, it’s a serious dining venue, and on the other, it’s a lively bar. While the big bar on the side is known for its cheeky (literally) murals, colorful nachos, and daily punch cups, the small 24-seat restaurant helmed by James Beard semifinalist Josh Habiger serves a set tasting menu with whimsical interpretations of traditional dishes, from halibut with wild fennel and bee pollen to local tri-tip with salsify and brown butter. Somehow, it all comes together.

A wooden table set with drinks and a plate
Bastion.
Bastion

International Market

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A fixture since 1975, International Market elicited cries of dismay when it closed and sighs of relief when it reopened right across the street from its original location. In this cheery new home with indoor and outdoor seating, the Myint family has added new offerings like prawn crackers and pork rinds for dipping in Burmese tomato relish with shrimp powder and shrimp paste. Whatever you do, don’t miss the Hat Yai Thai fried chicken — the sell-out risk is high, but you can guarantee that the dish will be waiting for you by preordering 24 hours before your reservation.

A bowl of broth filled with slices of meat, greens, and more.
International Market.
International Market/Facebook

Locust, Trevor Moran’s casual dumpling and shaved ice den in 12 South, opened in late 2020 to critical acclaim, including an Eater Award for best new restaurant. The steamed dumplings, cold bowls of mouth-numbing Sichuan-spiced noodles, and tuna ham crisp are all must-eats if you find them on the frequently changing menu, while the rotating flavors of kakigori cap the meal on a light, sweet high note.

Almond kakigori with a side of cherry sauce
Locust.
Delia Jo Ramsey/Eater Nashville

The Butter Milk Ranch

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This sunny, midcentury modern bakehouse and cafe in 12 South is exactly where you want to be when you’re craving a sugary treat. The fast-casual bakery up front is home to impossibly beautiful delights like Cinnamon Toast Crunch cookies the size of a salad plate and pistachio praline croissants dipped in dark chocolate. And if you can manage to snag a seat at the buzzy cafe in the back, you’ll be handsomely rewarded with soft scrambled eggs topped with roe, crisply laminated breakfast cubes stuffed with cheese, and piping-hot lattes.

A plate with a croissant, eggs, and more
The Butter Milk Ranch.
The Butter Milk Ranch

Gojo Ethiopian Cafe and Restaurant

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Head to Thompson Lane for some of the best Ethiopian fare in Tennessee, wonderful for sharing. At Hana Gebretensae’s homey go-to, Gojo, dive into zesty doro wat or prime beef tibs with plenty of injera for scooping it all up. The restaurant also supplies plenty of vegetarian and vegan dishes like kik aletcha, a hearty split pea soup.

White hands reach toward an array of Ethiopian food atop injera bread
Gojo Ethiopian Cafe and Restaurant.
Gojo Ethiopian Cafe and Restaurant

Degthai

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Former fan-favorite food truck Degthai joined the coterie of eateries that found permanent parking on Nolensville Pike. There, they opened a new brick-and-mortar location where their big cheeky logo watches over the shady outdoor patio and artfully painted interior. Popular options still remain the pad Thai, shumai-style steamed dumplings, and the spicy tom yum soup packed with shrimp.

King Tut's

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Chef and owner Ragab “Rocky” Rashwan bills the experience at King Tut’s as “Egyptian fare with NY flair,” and his understated Nolensville spot reigns supreme among local falafel fans. More than a one-hit wonder, though, the counter-service restaurant also nails its hummus, chicken shawarma, grilled lamb, and salads.

A closeup of falafel salad
King Tut’s.
King Tut’s/Facebook

Edessa Restaurant

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Nashville has the largest community of Kurds in the U.S., and halal favorite Edessa packs a ton of Kurdish as well as Turkish flavor into its Nolensville Pike strip mall space, with standout items like Cornish chicken, shish kebabs, and a savory Anatolian flatbread stuffed with spinach and cheese. To drink, try ayran, a food-friendly salted yogurt, and for dessert, baklava or Turkish kanafeh (shredded wheat with a layer of melted cheese, topped with chopped pistachios and aromatic sweet syrup, served with ice cream).