Nashville may be famed for its music scene, but anyone who has spent even a day or two here can affirm that music is not the city’s only draw. This city is full of options for top-notch food, the restaurant scene is exploding so quickly that USA Today named Nashville as number three out of ten on its 2015 Best Local Food Scene list. Whether you’re searching for some of the best burgers Nashville has to offer or a scoop of ice cream on a warm day, read on for a list of the best foods to try in Music City.
Gabby Burger from Gabby’s Burgers & Fries
At Gabby’s Burgers and Fries, the name says it all: this is the place to go for some of the best burgers and fries in town. The menu may be small, offering little but its namesake selections, but what it does it does well. Before you go, know that it is small, often very busy, and only open until 2:30pm every day but Saturday. However, the food is well worth the wait. While Nashville has many great options for gourmet burgers (including the always-popular Pharmacy), Gabby’s is your best option for simple, straightforward food with unbeatable quality.
Search for ‘hot chicken’ online and you’ll find that this spicy dish is also referred to as ‘Nashville hot chicken.’ In other words, it’s a local speciality, and many Nashville residents have iron-clad beliefs about where to find the best in town. While there are many foolproof options across the city, there is perhaps no better place to start than Nashville’s original hot chicken joint, Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack. It was the first to sell the dish in Nashville and is still a favorite with locals today; Travel Channel recently named it Nashville’s number one restaurant. Before you go, however, be warned: this chicken is hot. First-timers should start with the mild or medium.
The Smiling Elephant produces authentic Thai cuisine that is so popular with locals that this small restaurant on 8th Avenue has been known to have a wait even on an otherwise quiet weekday night. However, don’t let the possibility of a few minutes’ wait deter you, because their pad thai (along with every other dish on their menu) is unlike any other in town. The menu warns diners that its pad thai is not the ‘Americanized’ version that diners are used to, but rather, is prepared with traditional tamarind spice and palm sugar. The Smiling Elephant refers to itself as the ‘Best Pad Thai’ restaurant, and after stopping by, you’ll understand why.
Quinoa Sweet Potato Tacos from Mas Tacos Por Favor
This is not your average taco, nor is Mas Tacos your average restaurant. This hole-in-the-wall joint in East Nashville has an extremely limited menu, but each dish is prepared so well that you will not miss the extra choices. And even vegetarians won’t be disappointed, because Mas Tacos serves up some of the best veggie-friendly food that you can find in Nashville. Especially recommended are the quinoa sweet potato tacos, made with roasted tomatillo salsa, red cabbage, cilantro, and lime; they are so popular that they were even featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins, & Dives.
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East Nasty from Biscuit Love
While even visitors are likely familiar with Nashville’s legendary Loveless Cafe, you might not be familiar with Biscuit Love, a recent addition to the Gulch neighborhood. While the trendier vibe is certainly a departure from the home-style atmosphere of Loveless, you won’t be disappointed by the inventive dishes that Biscuit Love has to offer, not to mention their made-from-scratch biscuits. The ‘East Nasty,’ a biscuit with fried chicken, cheddar, and sausage gravy was even named the Best Sandwich of 2015 by Bon Appetit. (And if you’re in the mood for something sweeter, try the ‘bonuts,’ which are small, fried biscuits filled with lemon mascarpone and topped with blueberry compote).
Tucked away in Nashville’s residential Sylvan Park neighborhood, Caffe Nonna is an easy-to-miss gem. Its small, homey-feeling atmosphere makes it feel less like a restaurant and more like you’re sitting down for a meal in your dining room (if you also happened to be able to cook some of the best Italian food in the city). While all of the entrées are fantastic, one of the best items on the menu also happens to be the simplest (and one of the cheapest): the made-to-order, customizable pasta. Choose your favorite type of pasta, sauce, and protein (the sun-dried tomato cream sauce is particularly good), and you will be guaranteed a meal that will prompt you to seriously re-evaluate your own spaghetti and meatballs.