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Elliston Place Soda Shop reopened in shiny new digs this year, but the vibe, food, and hospitality honor tradition
Elliston Place Soda Shop

8 of Nashville’s Oldest Restaurants, Mapped

From 1907 to 1970

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Elliston Place Soda Shop reopened in shiny new digs this year, but the vibe, food, and hospitality honor tradition
| Elliston Place Soda Shop

In the dangerous wild west that is the new Nashville culinary scene, it’s important to step down from that shiny rooftop bar for a second every now and again, and tip a hat to those Music City restaurants that have stood the test of time.

To make this list, a restaurant must have opened prior to 1970 and must have an important role in the city’s culinary history.

In this update, the iconic Capitol Grille leaves the list, due to closure as it transitions to a new restaurant, Drusie & Darr.

Notice a pre-1970 oldie-but-goodie absent from this list? Send us a message to nashville@eater.com.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Loveless Cafe

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8400 TN-100
Nashville, TN 37221
(615) 646-9700
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Lon and Annie Loveless began by opening their home — a Southern oasis — to travelers venturing along desolate Highway 100. Their fried chicken, ham, and buttermilk biscuits with jam were wildly popular and demanded a need to expand their home into a restaurant. The couple even built an accompanying motel so guests could spend the night. Although the country restaurant endured a number of owner changes since its inception in 1951, the Loveless Cafe continues to use the same secret biscuit recipe and serves over 10,000 of them daily.

2. Wendell Smith Restaurant

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407 53rd Ave N
Nashville, TN 37209
(615) 383-7114
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When Alabama-born Wendell Lee Smith opened his Sylvan park restaurant in 1952, there was certainly no interstate in the skyline behind it. After Wendell’s passing in the late 60s, his son-in-law Jakie took the reins, and since then Jakie’s son Benji adds another generation to the team carrying on Wendell’s name. The classic meat-and-three has taken to modern ways, and staff uploads a photo of the menu daily to a public Facebook group.

3. Bobbie's Dairy Dip

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5301 Charlotte Ave
Nashville, TN 37209
(615) 463-8088
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Another West Nashville institution that thankfully, hasn’t changed with the times, Bobbie’s Dairy Dip opened in 1951. They’ve been cooking up burgers and hot dogs for decades, and the milkshakes, sundaes, and iconic hand-dipped cones are Nashville staples.

Delia Jo Ramsey/Eater Nashville

4. Swett's

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2725 Clifton Ave
Nashville, TN 37209
(615) 329-4418
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Swett’s has been operated by the Swett family since its opening in 1954. The cafeteria-style restaurant dishes out homestyle southern fare, with some of their more popular choices being the fried chicken, collard greens, cornbread, and peach cobbler. For those traveling through BNA, there’s a new Swett’s outpost there near gate C-13.

Swett’s/Facebook

5. Elliston Place Soda Shop

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2105 Elliston Pl
Nashville, TN 37203
(615) 327-1090
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With table-side jukeboxes, tiled walls, and red vinyl bar stools, Elliston Place Soda Shops once held the title of Nashville’s oldest continuously operating restaurant in its original location. Opened in 1939, Elliston Place’s menu offers meat-and-three plates, burgers, fried bologna sandwiches, sodas of course, plus excellent milkshakes. Now they’ve moved just next door to shiny new digs and added boozy milkshakes to the menu, but the downhome feel (and prices) are still the same.

6. Brown's Diner

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2102 Blair Blvd
Nashville, TN 37212
(615) 269-5509
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Those who long to remember the Nashville of yesteryear need look no further than Brown’s Diner. Opened in 1927, Brown’s holds the city’s oldest beer license and is housed in a former trolley car. With new owners, look for more changes to come, but continue to expect constants like a real deal cheeseburger and familiar faces.

Brown’s Diner

7. Varallo's Restaurant

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264 4th Ave N
Nashville, TN 37219
(615) 256-1907

Getting its start in 1907, Varallo’s easily stakes a claim on the title “Nashville’s oldest restaurant”, even though it’s no longer in the original Church Street location. Open only on weekdays for breakfast and lunch, the family-run spinoff of the original is an affordable favorite downtown for all types. They’re famous for their “three-way chili”—to clarify, that beans, spaghetti, and tamales.

8. Prince's Hot Chicken Shack South

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5814 Nolensville Pike #110
Nashville, TN 37211
(615) 810-9388
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Where would Nashville be without Music City’s hot chicken pioneer, Prince’s Hot Chicken? James Thornton Prince started lighting mouths on fire in 1945, and in 1980 ownership was passed to his great-niece André Prince Jeffries, who carries on the fiery family tradition in South Nashville and two small outposts downtown.

Prince’s Hot Chicken Prince’s Hot Chicken

1. Loveless Cafe

8400 TN-100, Nashville, TN 37221

Lon and Annie Loveless began by opening their home — a Southern oasis — to travelers venturing along desolate Highway 100. Their fried chicken, ham, and buttermilk biscuits with jam were wildly popular and demanded a need to expand their home into a restaurant. The couple even built an accompanying motel so guests could spend the night. Although the country restaurant endured a number of owner changes since its inception in 1951, the Loveless Cafe continues to use the same secret biscuit recipe and serves over 10,000 of them daily.

8400 TN-100
Nashville, TN 37221

2. Wendell Smith Restaurant

407 53rd Ave N, Nashville, TN 37209

When Alabama-born Wendell Lee Smith opened his Sylvan park restaurant in 1952, there was certainly no interstate in the skyline behind it. After Wendell’s passing in the late 60s, his son-in-law Jakie took the reins, and since then Jakie’s son Benji adds another generation to the team carrying on Wendell’s name. The classic meat-and-three has taken to modern ways, and staff uploads a photo of the menu daily to a public Facebook group.

407 53rd Ave N
Nashville, TN 37209

3. Bobbie's Dairy Dip

5301 Charlotte Ave, Nashville, TN 37209
Delia Jo Ramsey/Eater Nashville

Another West Nashville institution that thankfully, hasn’t changed with the times, Bobbie’s Dairy Dip opened in 1951. They’ve been cooking up burgers and hot dogs for decades, and the milkshakes, sundaes, and iconic hand-dipped cones are Nashville staples.

5301 Charlotte Ave
Nashville, TN 37209

4. Swett's

2725 Clifton Ave, Nashville, TN 37209
Swett’s/Facebook

Swett’s has been operated by the Swett family since its opening in 1954. The cafeteria-style restaurant dishes out homestyle southern fare, with some of their more popular choices being the fried chicken, collard greens, cornbread, and peach cobbler. For those traveling through BNA, there’s a new Swett’s outpost there near gate C-13.

2725 Clifton Ave
Nashville, TN 37209

5. Elliston Place Soda Shop

2105 Elliston Pl, Nashville, TN 37203

With table-side jukeboxes, tiled walls, and red vinyl bar stools, Elliston Place Soda Shops once held the title of Nashville’s oldest continuously operating restaurant in its original location. Opened in 1939, Elliston Place’s menu offers meat-and-three plates, burgers, fried bologna sandwiches, sodas of course, plus excellent milkshakes. Now they’ve moved just next door to shiny new digs and added boozy milkshakes to the menu, but the downhome feel (and prices) are still the same.

2105 Elliston Pl
Nashville, TN 37203

6. Brown's Diner

2102 Blair Blvd, Nashville, TN 37212
Brown’s Diner

Those who long to remember the Nashville of yesteryear need look no further than Brown’s Diner. Opened in 1927, Brown’s holds the city’s oldest beer license and is housed in a former trolley car. With new owners, look for more changes to come, but continue to expect constants like a real deal cheeseburger and familiar faces.

2102 Blair Blvd
Nashville, TN 37212

7. Varallo's Restaurant

264 4th Ave N, Nashville, TN 37219

Getting its start in 1907, Varallo’s easily stakes a claim on the title “Nashville’s oldest restaurant”, even though it’s no longer in the original Church Street location. Open only on weekdays for breakfast and lunch, the family-run spinoff of the original is an affordable favorite downtown for all types. They’re famous for their “three-way chili”—to clarify, that beans, spaghetti, and tamales.

264 4th Ave N
Nashville, TN 37219

8. Prince's Hot Chicken Shack South

5814 Nolensville Pike #110, Nashville, TN 37211
Prince’s Hot Chicken Prince’s Hot Chicken

Where would Nashville be without Music City’s hot chicken pioneer, Prince’s Hot Chicken? James Thornton Prince started lighting mouths on fire in 1945, and in 1980 ownership was passed to his great-niece André Prince Jeffries, who carries on the fiery family tradition in South Nashville and two small outposts downtown.

5814 Nolensville Pike #110
Nashville, TN 37211

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