Nashville has a blossoming foodie scene and you can find many popular food bloggers based there. Catbird Seat, Tayst, and City House are all popular for fine dining but if you want to eat on a budget, steer clear of the honky tonks on Broadway and head for my top 5 local favorites.
You may have read the recent New York Times article about Nashville’s food scene. I’d like to clear up a few things. First, the hipsters don’t follow anyone around, let alone Jack White. Second, the emphasis on local food started before hipsters appeared. Nashville has many dedicated entrepreneurs, chefs, and farmers who make quality products. Why get bacon shipped in from wherever when you can have delicious, smoky Benton’s bacon made in the region?
Go to any of the places recommended below, and you’re more likely to see the diversity of Nashville than an enclave of mustachioed hipsters.
#5. Local Secret: Fido
Located in Hillsboro Village, this little spot looks like a coffee shop but it’s so much more. Go off menu and pick from the daily specials on the chalkboard. The chef uses local, seasonal ingredients to make tasty dishes such as roasted root vegetables with goat cheese and fried onions on a bed of sweet potato gnocchi. If the local burger is available, get it! It’s one of the best burgers– if not the best burger– in Nashville. Caramelized fennel plus fig aioli make it cracktastic. You can also grab a Tennessee-brewed beer or glass or wine if you dine inside. The specials are usually $8-$12.
#4. Authentic Asian: Smiling Elephant
Blink and you’ll miss this eatery on 8th Ave in Berry Hill. It’s small and there’s usually a wait, so aim for off-peak hours if you’re starving. The Thai food served up here is all cooked to order, so you’ll smell wafts of ginger and garlic from the semi-open kitchen. Basically, everything on the menu is delicious. I always order the house specials, which start at just $12 for generous portions (without being obscenely large). The ginger chicken is extra fresh and delicious. And you never know, you might see Nicole Kidman grabbing some pad thai at the table next to you.
#3. Hidden Gem: Swagruha
You’d never know it, but one of the most popular Indian restaurants in Nashville is actually a food court-style spot inside the Nashville Farmers Market. They’re only open for lunch, but it’s worth it. The butter chicken is amazing, and they’ll give you a TON of veggie or chicken rice with your entrée. Does something look intriguing? The servers will give you a spoonful to try at no additional cost. Grab some extra napkins and a bench in the air-conditioned seating area, and recharge on curry before checking out the local produce. A huge plate of food, without a drink, will cost you $6.50.
#4. Food Truck: Grilled Cheeserie
Okay, so $7 for a fancy grilled cheese may not seem cheap. Yet, these grilled cheese sandwiches use locally sourced cheeses, meats, and toppings. Try the B&B: local buttermilk cheddar, Benton’s bacon (this stuff is smoky and addictive) and a citrus marmalade on fresh bread. Save some room for their pudding, too! Follow the Grilled Cheeserie on Facebook or Twitter (@GrlldCheeserie) to see where they’ll be parked for the day.
#5. Field Trip: Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint
Located in Nolensville, you’ll have to make a pilgrimage to Martin’s to try the redneck taco. That’s right, the redneck taco. Crispy corn fritters are topped with the meat of your choice (I’m partial to the smoked turkey), fresh coleslaw and barbecue sauce. You can get the standard meat-and-three, ribs and other regular barbecue offerings, but the $9 turkey redneck taco is unique and delicious.
About the Writer
Erin Halvey is a 20-something art nerd, food dork, travel geek, and lover of Guinness with an art history degree and a passion for writing.
The founder and editor of the blog A Sense of Place, Erin lived in Nashville (and took full advantage of its foodie scene) for four years before moving to her current home of Cambridge, Massachusetts.
We first discovered Erin on Twitter, where she posts her photos and thoughts on architecture, art, and food. A true downtown traveler, Erin seeks out great museums and amazing food wherever she goes.
What’s your favorite Nashville restaurant?
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