Eternally hip East Nashville is a veritable breeding ground for experimentation and fresh, artsy concepts. From molecular riffs on Spanish tapas and eyebrow-raising cocktails to Asian comfort food with natural wine and local rice beer, these restaurants and bars deliver a culinary adventure that’s a bit off the beaten path.Read More
Eat Well at East Nashville’s Effortlessly Cool Restaurants
Inventive food, unusual cocktails, and vibes for days on the east side
It’s easy to see why Mailea Weger’s Lou is one of the city’s best places for weekend brunch: The warm, homey environs invite lingering conversation over skin-contact wines, sour ales, and thoughtfully concocted plates like salmon rillette tartine, chocolate maple buckwheat pancakes, and verlasso lox with jammy egg mezze. That sense of easy engagement carries over into the dinner menu’s build-your-own charcuterie boards and exciting natural wine list.
The Fox Bar & Cocktail Club
The Fox, co-owned by Dan + Shay drummer Andrew Cook, is an elegant, old-timey bar serving out-of-the-box drinks to a discerning crowd. The bartenders aren’t afraid to get a little wonderfully unexpected here, filling your cup with ingredients like yam, cassava pearls, peated tea, and hot-chicken spice (of course). Creative small plates like miso deviled eggs and vegan pimento cheese also hold their own.
Southern Grist Brewing is responsible for some of Nashville’s best and most inventive beers, so it stands to reason that Lauter, the casual restaurant in the company’s East Nashville taproom, brings more than just your average pub burger to the table. Dishes like fried chicken marinated in koji, bao buns with burnt-sugar roast pork, and braised collards studded with bacon, peanuts, and Parmesan are worthy of creative brews like the Sir Chai-saac Newton, made with lactose, vanilla, spiced tea, and Fig Newtons.
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Pelican & Pig
Owned by award-winning husband-and-wife team Nick and Audra Guidry, Pelican & Pig is a handsome, rustic spot that sets the mood for a quiet and intimate date night. Its scene-stealing feature? A wood-burning oven that lends its alluring aroma to charred Tuscan bread with melted leek butter, Bear Creek farm pork chops, and freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. This place is a literal and figurative smokeshow.
East Side Banh Mi
When lunchtime rolls around, those hankering for a solid sandwich turn to Gracie Nguyen and Chad Newton’s East Side Banh Mi for a casual, come-as-you-are meal. As the name suggests, you’ll find various iterations of the Vietnamese staple on freshly baked baguettes with high-quality fillings for both meat lovers and vegetarians, including pork, chopped steak, Impossible meatballs, and chile crisp tofu. The noodle bowls are a hit too, especially when paired with East Side’s toasted peanut rice milk.
At cozy, white-washed Cafe Roze, expect Cali-style bistro fare from New York chef Julia Jaksic. Dishes veer from avocado hummus and a kohlrabi Caesar salad to mustard-grilled smashburgers and heirloom mushroom risotto in almond cream. A cocktail list with refreshing sippers like an elderflower gin fizz and Pimm’s Cup complements the coastal eats.
What started as a pop-up at the Dive Motel has gracefully segued into a permanent little locale on Meridien Street, a cool space where ’50s diner meets Chinese restaurant. Xiao Bao, a Charleston import from husband-and-wife duo Josh Walker and Duolan Li plus Joey Ryan, pairs varied Asian comfort food — Taiwanese buns, Chinese hand-pulled noodles, Japanese okonomiyaki — with natural wine, Koji Gold rice lager from nearby Proper Sake Co., and on-theme cocktails like a hot toddy with yuzu and chile honey. Prepare for a bit of wait — the popular restaurant doesn’t accept reservations.
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Mas Tacos Por Favor
One of Nashville’s OG taco spots, Mas Tacos is a classic for a reason. What Teresa Mason’s no-frills taqueria lacks in decorative panache it makes up for on its menu — primarily the fried fish tacos, tortilla soup, and boozy margs that consistently hit the spot at an affordable price. Good news: The formerly cash-only spot now accepts credit cards. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for the occasional daily special of pickled cactus and chorizo tacos.
In the summer of 2018, Hrant Arakelian and Elizabeth Endicott opened this lofty, modern Middle Eastern gem, bringing kibbeh, baba ganoush, Aleppo-braised octopus, and adjika-braised short rib to East Nashville. Along with the vegan-friendly dinner menu, you’ll find a drink selection that leans heavily into whiskey cocktails. Just save room for a pistachio ice cream sandwich with a cup of Turkish coffee for dessert.
James Beard Award-winning chef Sean Brock settled his flagship restaurant in a minimalist but warm bi-level space adorned with Appalachian art. The seasonal menu here is an ode to Brock’s grandmother (the eponymous Audrey) and his Southern heritage: Jimmy Red corn grits topped with sorghum-cured eggs and Appalachian truffle-dusted chicken and dumplings offer a modern view of time-honored dishes.
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This intimate, dimly lit alcove takes inspiration from the Iberian Peninsula for inventive twists on traditional Spanish tapas and Portuguese cuisine. The tightly curated menu is dotted with successful dishes like chewy rice with lobster and octopus with wasabi and lime leaf. And true to Spain’s love of the gin and tonic, Peninsula offers eight different varieties of the classic cocktail, not to mention an extensive list of sherries and wines from Spain and Portugal.
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You’ll find rustic, farm-to-table fare at this longtime East Nashville staple. Housed in a restored 1930s dry goods store, Lockeland’s known for its pillowy, wood-fired pies and hearty starters like crispy pork belly and empanadas. Take advantage of discounts during Community Hour Monday through Saturday from 4 to 6 p.m., which also gives back to school PTOs around Nashville.
Bar East Nashville
While Bar East may be new to East Nashville, the name behind it should ring a bell. Owner Nina Singto of Thai Esane fame has branched out with a hip and edgy new bar whose creative cocktails and bites are making waves around the neighborhood. Check out the Bittersweet Love Affair, a mezcal and tequila cocktail poured over an edible black rose; the Spam fried rice; and the on-trend miso butter board.
Butcher & Bee
A sibling to a restaurant in South Carolina, Butcher & Bee works on a few levels — it’s just the right spot for an intimate date night in a quiet nook or a convivial dinner party at a communal table, and it even has a lovely patio. The idea here: Southern-style tapas, like a whipped feta avocado sticky rice that you can’t miss, rounded out by regional beers and playful cocktails.