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The 38 Essential Restaurants in Nashville

From Szechuan specialties in Brentwood to tlayudas, tapas, and over-the-top tasting menus across Music City, here’s a guide to some of the best restaurants in Nashville

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It’s time to update the Eater 38, the answer to any question that begins, “Can you recommend a restaurant?” 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 newer Nashville restaurants, check out the heatmap (a collection of the city’s hot new dining options that opened in the last six months).

In this update, Caribbean casual spot Riddim n Spice, Szechuan Chinese-centered Corner Asian Cafe, La Juquilita, Pelican and Pig, Sperry’s, reservations-recommended The Continental, and Lyra join the list, with Taj, 400 Degrees (temporarily closed), Taqueria San Luis, Bastion, Joyland, Merengue Cafe, and Greko departing.

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Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; it may pose a risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial COVID transmission. 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.

1. Rosie Food & Wine

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203 Anderson Ln N Suite 107
Hendersonville, TN 37075
(615) 757-3305
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Just 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.

2. Lou Nashville

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1304 McGavock Pk
Nashville, TN 37216
(615) 499-4495
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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, adding curated picnic and wine sacs for home consumption, plus expanding 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 fire place, and wine wall plus floral wallpaper on the far right Sam Angel / Eater Nashville

3. Pelican & Pig

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1010 Gallatin Ave
Nashville, TN 37206
(615) 730-6887
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Nick and Audra Guidry had their hands in every detail 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 socially distanced dining room (or most recently — at home for takeout). Standout dishes include fried provolone with chili crisp, local sweet corn “ribs,” and a frenched pork chop with gooseberry relish.

Sam Angel/Eater Nashville

4. East Side Banh Mi

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1000 Gallatin Ave
Nashville, TN 37206
(615) 953-7424
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Industry vets Gracie Nguyen and Chad Newton opened their fast-casual banh mi shop in August of 2020 amid the pandemic, and it’s been a favorite ever since. Locals swarm for the concise sandwich menu — ranging from one with smoked Gifford’s bologna, ham hock terrine, and pate to a vegetarian-friendly option with chili crisp tofu and roasted eggplant. Salads, rice and noodle bowls, and specials are also on offer, all sourced locally: including Bear Creek Farm 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.

5. Big Al's Deli

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1828 4th Ave N
Nashville, TN 37208
(615) 242-8118
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Big Al’s homestyle hospitality and reliably pleasing homestyle cooking merge seamlessly, making the Salemtown spot a top pick among locals for breakfast and lunch. It opens at 6 a.m. during the week, serving classic breakfast items and Southern staple lunch 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

6. Folk

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823 Meridian St
Nashville, TN 37207
(615) 610-2595
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Philip Krajeck’s East Nashville pizza-focused spot Folk debuted in early 2018 and has since earned its way into the regular restaurant rotation for many locals. 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, as Rolf and Daughters also continued starring as a Nashville favorite for takeout and delivery.

Folk [Official Photo]

7. Redheaded Stranger

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305 Arrington St
Nashville, TN 37207
(615) 891-7960
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Bryan Lee Weaver’s Tex-Mex love letter to Nashville is most known for its fancy take on a 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

8. Lyra

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935 W Eastland Ave
Nashville, TN 37206
(615) 928-8040
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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 also not to be overlooked. Save room for baklava or a Turkish coffee booza.

Lyra/Facebook

9. Peninsula

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1035 W Eastland Ave
Nashville, TN 37206
(615) 679-0377
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Finally 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 the tomato toast, Spanish tortillas, and braised rabbit so many have missed. It’s best to make reservations here ahead of time, but one can also belly up to the bar to sip your way through Schoen’s beloved gin and tonic menu.

Peninsula tomato toast Delia Jo Ramsey / Eater Nashville

10. Dino's Bar

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411 Gallatin Ave
Nashville, TN 37206
(615) 226-3566
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With recently reinstated daily expanded hours, East Nashville essential late-night haunt (and Nashville’s oldest dive bar) Dino’s is back in action with a fresh new patio for standout cheeseburgers, hot chicken, and ice-cold beer. Not to worry though, as the busted brick front entrance and dim inner lighting retain the longstanding dive bar’s familiar vibes.

Dino’s/Facebook

11. Ed's Fish & Pizza House

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1801 Dr DB Todd Jr Blvd
Nashville, TN 37208
(615) 255-4362
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There’s no more 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 are great moves here too, and so is adding a fruit tea to wash it all down.

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

12. City House

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1222 4th Ave N
Nashville, TN 37208
(615) 736-5838
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A staple since opening 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

13. Lockeland Table

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1520 Woodland St
Nashville, TN 37206
(615) 228-4864
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At neighborhood favorite Lockeland Table, chef Hal Holden-Bache puts a new spin on a Nashville iconic dish with crispy Nashville hot pig ears — but there is a lot more going on here — including some of the city’s best seasonally-adorned wood-fired pizza and red Thai curry mussels. Its reconstructed storefront is a nod to the original 1930s H.G. Hills store that once called the space home.

Lockeland Table/Facebook

14. Butcher & Bee

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902 Main Street, Nashville
TN, 37207
(843) 619-0202
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The Charleston-born restaurant is a transplant in name only, as 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 style out all of the courses, which finish strong with stunning desserts from pastry chef Katie Fair.

Butcher & Bee
Butcher & Bee
Justin Chesney

15. Riddim n Spice

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2116 Meharry Blvd
Nashville, TN 37208
(615) 953-7121
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Chef Kamal Kalokoh, alongside his brother and business partner Rashean Conaway, opened the fixed location of Riddim N Spice in late 2019 near the historic Jefferson Street neighborhood — dishing out Caribbean favorites like rice and peas, oxtail, jerk chicken, and cucumber-mango slaw. 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, fusing ingredients, recipes, and methods from Cuba, Haiti, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago.

Riddim N Spice/Facebook

16. Skull's Rainbow Room

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222 Printers Alley
Nashville, TN 37201
(615) 810-9631
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The original Skull’s Rainbow Room dated back to the 1940s and was a legendary local hangout for 50 years before shuttering in 1999. It reopened in 2015 with many of the atmospheric 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

17. La Juquilita

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5913 Morrow Rd
Nashville, TN 37209
(615) 524-9053
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The unassuming orange building in the Nations serves up some of the best tacos in town. Owners Jose and Maria Cepeda also welcome diners (he takes orders, she cooks) 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.

18. The Continental Nashville

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1000 Broadway Suite 101
Nashville, TN 37203
(615) 622-3225
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In May of 2021, Sean Brock’s new ground-level restaurant inside the Grand Hyatt finally opened for dine-in service — and the presentations alone make it worth a visit. On CDC Colin Shane’s current prix fixe menu (served throughout the dining room), find a Sequatchie Cove Walden cheese gougere, Broken Arrow Ranch venison with sauce roanne, and roasted acorn squash — with special appearances by roving pate en route, prime rib, and ice cream carts. Can’t get in for a reservation? Stop by for a seat at the bar and sample the a la carte menu. Book reservations well in advance.

The Continental Nashville/Facebook

19. Chauhan Ale & Masala House

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123 12th Ave N
Nashville, TN 37203
(615) 242-8426
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Chef Maneet Chauhan breathed new life and star power into the Nashville dining scene through her eponymous restaurant, Chauhan. The menu taps into Chauhan’s Indian roots while also tapping into the local southern flavor. The tandoori chicken poutine, lamb keema papadi nachos, and her own interesting ode to a Nashville meat-and-three are all distinctive choices.

Chauhan/Facebook

20. Yolan

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403 4th Ave S
Nashville, TN 37201
(615) 231-0405
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Nashville scored big when this husband-and-wife culinary powerhouse moved to town (and when it got a see-thru cheese cave). James Beard Award-winning chef Tony Mantuano and wine/hospitality expert Cathy Mantuano brought Nashville the fine dining Italian menu it had been missing alongside standout service and a welcoming atmosphere inside the new Joseph Hotel. The chef’s tasting menu (plus expert wine pairings) is always a solid move — as are any and all of the pasta options. And, save some room for pastry chef Noelle Gogg’s jaw-dropping desserts.

Haas & Haas Photography | Yolan

21. Thai Esane

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1520 Division St
Nashville, TN 37203
(615) 454-5373
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Nina Singto’s Thai and Lao restaurant returned last year, to a shiny new Music Row space just a short drive from its former life in 12 South. Thai Esane 2.0 gives off more upscale vibes, plus a Music Circle-facing patio. The restaurant’s focal point (besides the exciting return of pad Thai and papaya salad) is a six-foot-tall golden Buddha — shipped in from Thailand.

Thai Esane/Facebook

22. Peg Leg Porker BBQ

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903 Gleaves St
Nashville, TN 37203
(615) 829-6023
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Those who appreciate 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, don’t sleep on the Memphis sushi/cream cheese and pepper jelly combo, and head to the Nations to Bringle’s new Smoking Oasis for some additional options like killer pastami and brisket.

Peg Leg Porker Peg Leg Porker

23. Arnold's Country Kitchen

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605 8th Ave S
Nashville, TN 37203
(615) 256-4455
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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 over three decades, this James Beard America's Classic award-winner is the gold standard by which all others in the 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?

24. VN Pho & Deli

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5906 Charlotte Pike
Nashville, TN 37209
(615) 356-5995

The family-run, cash-only restaurant offers classic Vietnamese fare 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

25. Joey's House of Pizza

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897 Elm Hill Pike
Nashville, TN 37210
(615) 254-5639
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Joey Macca moved from Brooklyn to Nashville in 1988 to work with his brother Manny of Manny’s House of Pizza. Ten years later, he branched out on his own and opened Joey’s in Brentwood. Now located off Elm Hill Pike, Joey’s carries on the grand family tradition of real-deal massive, Sicilian-style slices — and it’s easily some of the very best in town.

Delia Jo Ramsey/Eater Nashville

26. Dozen Bakery

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516 Hagan St
Nashville, TN 37203
(615) 712-8150
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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

27. Locust

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2305 12th Ave S
Nashville, TN 37204
(615) 205-3737
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At the end of October 2020 Trevor Moran’s long-awaited dumpling den and shaved ice spot, Locust opened, and the steamed dumplings, cold bowls of mouth-numbing Szechuan-spiced noodles, and shrimp toast are all absolute must-eats. Make sure and save room for the rotating kakigori for a light, sweet finish. Currently, it’s a breakfast tea fluffy delight with shortbread sauce and marmalade. 

Delia Jo Ramsey/Eater Nashville

28. Josephine

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2316 12th Ave S
Nashville, TN 37204
(615) 292-7766
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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 GM 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.

29. OSH Restaurant & Grill

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216 Thompson Ln
Nashville, TN 37211
(615) 712-9985
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Perhaps the first-ever Uzbek dining option in Nashville, the Thompson Lane spot serves traditional Uzbek specialties like fried chuchvara (handmade fried dumplings stuffed with ground beef, onions, and spices) alongside also Russian noodle dishes plus plenty of vegetarian-friendly options.

OSH/Facebook

30. Gojo Ethiopian Cafe and Restaurant

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415 W Thompson Ln
Nashville, TN 37211
(615) 332-0710

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).

31. House of Kabob

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407 W Thompson Ln
Nashville, TN 37211
(615) 333-3711

Nashville has long been home to the country’s largest Kurdish population, and Hamid Hasan’s House of Kabob (although moved down the street to a new location) is one of their strongest culinary outposts. Find kabobs 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

32. Etc. restaurant

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3790 Bedford Ave
Nashville, TN 37215
(615) 988-0332
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Etc. chef Deb Paquette’s spunky counterpart to its downtown sister restaurant, Etch, embodies the creativity and deliciousness for which the veteran chef is known and revered. Hidden off the main Green Hills drag, don’t miss the 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

33. Sperry's Belle Meade

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5109 Harding Pike
Nashville, TN 37205
(615) 353-0809
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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 table-side, of course.

Sperry’s Nashville Sperry’s Nashville

34. King Tut's

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3716 Nolensville Pike
Nashville, TN 37211
(615) 944-3735
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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 as “Egyptian fare with NY flair”, Rashwan serves up yes, of course, his beloved falafel, but also hummus, chicken shawarma, grilled lamb, and salads.

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

35. Edessa Restaurant Kurdish Turkish Cuisine

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3802 Nolensville Pike
Nashville, TN 37211
(615) 837-2567
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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 kabobs, or a savory Anatolian flatbread that’s stuffed with spinach and cheese. To drink, try aryan (a yogurt beverage) — and be sure to save room for 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

36. Hai Woon Dai

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2051 Antioch Pike
Antioch, TN 37013
(615) 333-9186
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This Antioch gem has been serving some of the best Korean food in town for over 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

37. Prince's Hot Chicken Shack South

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6539, 5814 Nolensville Pike #110
Nashville, TN 37211
(615) 810-9388
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Yep, this is the godfather of Nashville hot chicken — inspiring hours-long lines and seemingly endless imitations global. André Prince Jeffries’ family-named Prince’s has over 70 years and 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.

38. Corner Asian Café

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10656 Concord Rd
Brentwood, TN 37027
(615) 941-7204
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A consistent win for casual, family-friendly dine-in or for 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 chili oil-coated crispy frog legs. 

Delia Jo Ramsey/Eater Nashville

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1. Rosie Food & Wine

203 Anderson Ln N Suite 107, Hendersonville, TN 37075

Just 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.

203 Anderson Ln N Suite 107
Hendersonville, TN 37075

2. Lou Nashville

1304 McGavock Pk, Nashville, TN 37216
wide shot showing front door on left, original brick fire place, and wine wall plus floral wallpaper on the far right 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, adding curated picnic and wine sacs for home consumption, plus expanding outdoor dining options and hosting several first-class bake sale fundraisers for causes like Planned Parenthood and helping fight anti-trans legislation.

1304 McGavock Pk
Nashville, TN 37216

3. Pelican & Pig

1010 Gallatin Ave, Nashville, TN 37206
Sam Angel/Eater Nashville

Nick and Audra Guidry had their hands in every detail 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 socially distanced dining room (or most recently — at home for takeout). Standout dishes include fried provolone with chili crisp, local sweet corn “ribs,” and a frenched pork chop with gooseberry relish.

1010 Gallatin Ave
Nashville, TN 37206

4. East Side Banh Mi

1000 Gallatin Ave, Nashville, TN 37206