Located just 21 miles south of Nashville, Franklin is stepping out of Music City’s shadow with a booming food and drink scene to call its own. A popular and growing city with deep roots and a dose of quintessential Southern charm, Franklin is experiencing a dining renaissance with notable eateries popping up in just about every corner of town. Whether you’re a resident or looking for an excuse to make the drive a half-hour south of town, these restaurants are the perfect alibi for a culinary adventure.Read More
19 Essential Restaurants to Try in Franklin
Come for the history and charming downtown, stay for the steaks and duck fat fries
This dining destination in Leiper’s Fork (the adorable unincorporated rural village in Williamson County) has an old-school Southern charm, as well as a standout menu from chef Dylan Morrison. Named after the year the house it resides in was built, the restaurant honors time-old culinary traditions with a daily rotating menu featuring smoked short rib, zucchini noodle carbonara, and house-churned cookies and cream ice cream.
Cozy and quaint, this rustic homespun spot is a go-to destination for breakfast and lunch among Franklin’s locals — one order of the creamy parmesan cheese grits and it’s easy to understand why. Owned by Graeme and Corrie Asch, the couple uses their Southern roots to inform the menu, and it shines through in everything from their sweet potato pancakes to the “guacamento” (that’s a guac and pimento cheese mashup) sandwich.
Chef Jason McConnell knows that the best way to capture local hearts is through their stomachs. And his methods are tried-and-true: timeless Southern fare and warm service. 55 South is a love letter to the Delta spirit with its Mississippi shrimp and oysters, Louisiana po’ boys, and local fried green tomatoes. And it’s one that locals keep coming in to enjoy.
Cork & Cow
Located in the heart of downtown Franklin, Cork & Cow is executive chef-owner Jason
McConnell’s special occasion restaurant, offering a variety of steaks along with
extensive wine (more than 100 bottles) and whiskey lists. The expertly prepared steaks here
come with a variety of accompaniments — like black truffle butter and gorgonzola
horseradish — but the tender beef here has the chops to stand out on its own.
Merridee’s, a downtown Franklin favorite since 1984, is known for its top-notch baked goods that make it a top breakfast destination in town. But don’t overlook the lunch menu, which features a selection of hot and cold sandwiches served on freshly baked bread. The expanded outdoor courtyard is also the perfect spot to soak up the crisp fall air with a piping hot cup of coffee and one of Merridee’s famous pastries.
GRAYS on Main
Southern fare gets an elevated twist at this Main Street staple, located in a former pharmacy. Its rustic-chic decor complements hearty, beautifully plated dishes sailing out of the kitchen. Heritage fried chicken, fried pimento cheese balls, and shrimp and grits are the perfect accompaniment to the soulful live music featured over the weekend.
O' Be Joyful
At O’ Be Joyful, the formula for world peace (or a satisfying Friday night) is quite simple: whiskey and burgers. The brainchild of the Grays on Main crew, this Main Street fan favorite has that formula down pat with pimento burgers, jalapeño bacon poppers, and one of the largest collections of whiskey around town.
Biscuit Love Franklin
Situated in the historic Corn House right off of Downtown Franklin’s Main Street, the third location of this Nashville-food-truck-turned-biscuit-phenomenon doles out Biscuit Love’s classic bonuts with lemon mascarpone, East Nasty biscuit sandwiches, and sweetly-spiced chronic bacon until 3 p.m. every day — minus the unwieldy wait of its Gulch outpost.
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Red Pony at McConnell House
Executive chef-owner Jason McConnell first made his mark in the Middle Tennessee restaurant scene when he opened Red Pony Restaurant in 2006, serving a menu of seasonal dishes reflecting his Southern roots and experiences from his travels. After a brief stint at the historic McConnell House following a fire, the team is back in their original digs on Main Street, with their spiced feta dip, eggplant meatballs, and hickory-grilled bone-in ribeye in tow.
1799 Kitchen & Cocktails
Named for the year Franklin was founded, 1799 is a date-night destination stocked with bourbon and buttery cuts of beef. From its perch within The Harpeth Hotel, the restaurant doles out a robust Southern-influenced menu that includes dishes like broiled oysters, grilled quail, grass-fed beef tenderloin, and brandied wild mushrooms.
Culaccino Italian Restaurant + Bar
Another Main Street date-night destination, Culaccino brings both refined Italian food and a charming outdoor patio to downtown Franklin. Helping to whet locals’ appetites: hearty, belly-warming plates of authentic homespun Italian fare from chef Frank Pullara, including veal shoulder-stuffed ravioli marinated in bone marrow, robiola cheese, and butter sauce; heritage pork osso buco; and 72-hour fermented wood-fired pizzas.
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Perry's Steakhouse & Grille - Cool Springs
Located in the burgeoning McEwen Northside complex, this is the first Nashville outpost of the Texas-based Perry’s. Clocking in at a roomy 11,000 square feet, this elegant grill house has grown a loyal local following thanks to its butcher-fresh USDA Aged Prime Beef, signature tableside carvings, and flamed desserts. Don’t miss their famous pork chop — it’s cured and slow-smoked for up to six hours with pecan wood before being glazed, caramelized, and topped with the restaurant’s signature herb-garlic butter.
Bishop's Meat & Three
A meat-and-three fix is easily satisfied at Bishop’s, which serves up staples like tender chicken and dumplings, meatloaf, catfish, fried chicken, and more. Hot tip: It’s owned and operated by the family behind Hattie B’s, so the itch for Nashville hot chicken can be scratched here — sans the lines.
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There’s no need to book a trip to Louisiana for Cajun cooking — in Franklin, Yats’ New Orleans-style dishes more than fit the bill. The process is simple: step up to the counter and order one of the seven to 10 rotating dishes on the chalkboard menu. Pay $9 for a full order or $10 for a half-and-half of dishes like jambalaya, chili cheese étoufée with crawfish, or red beans with smoked sausage. Then, grab a table, go to town, and think of how you’ll spend all the money saved not booking that flight. Pro tip: it’s BYOB.
The Honeysuckle’s been known to welcome a celebrity or two to its dining room — they seem to know a good thing when they taste it. Elevated Southern fare dominates the menu here; the space was built using reclaimed materials and welcomes diners with tufted leather banquettes. Try the deviled eggs, duck fat fries, and beef and pork meatloaf — but first, request the curtained booth off to the left for a true avoiding-the-paparazzi experience.
Those with a hankering for something a bit beyond the basic California roll need look no further than Wild Ginger. The menu here puts traditional sushi menu items on their head by infusing its massive rolls with ingredients like mango, pineapple, Cajun spice, and filet mignon. For those who prefer their dishes land-based and cooked, the wok menu doesn’t disappoint with standouts like Mongolian beef and umami chicken.
Burger Up Franklin
Most major fast-food burger joints are present and accounted for in Franklin, but locals know that for a quality patty, the move is Burger Up (which, incidentally, also has an outpost in Nashville). There are classic burger combos — but also options for venturing out of the burger comfort zone with bison, salmon, and turkey patties topped with things like fried jalapeños, onion jam, and creme fraiche. Not to mention truffle fries and fried mac-and-cheese bites to add to any burger spread. The covered outdoor patio with lawn games also makes Burger Up an easy option for those toting hungry — and antsy — kiddos.
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Much in line with its namesake, at Radish, you’ll find bowls brimming with fresh vegetables and lean proteins. And while that may not stoke your culinary fire, the irresistible plating and seasonal ingredients keep Franklinites flocking back to Amanda Frederickson’s fast-casual joint. A cookbook author, chef, and food stylist who once worked in Williams Sonoma’s test kitchen, Frederickson’s bowls are more than just good to taste, they’re a visual treat for the eyes. Build your own bowl or opt for one of Radish’s signature creations — it’s a win either way.
Franklin gets the unique distinction of being the Rutledge’s first location (a second outpost recently launched in Nashville). Its slick, modern digs house a large, round bar that serves up honey lavender margaritas, seasonal mules, and espresso martinis alongside upscale, gastropub-ish fare. Think charcuterie boards, avocado deviled eggs, hand-cut ribeyes, and prime chuck cheeseburgers. Feeling a bit contrarian? Sushi and lobster rolls make a surprise appearance on the menu.