Few neighborhoods in Nashville offer quite the same abundance of top-notch food options as 12 South. In addition to the many bars also serving some of the best food in town, along this stretch of 12th Avenue you’re guaranteed to find a restaurant to satisfy nearly any craving that you may have.
You’d be hard-pressed to find many options for Lebanese food in Nashville. Enter Epice, a neighborhood bistro serving, as they put it, ‘simple and authentic Lebanese foods reflective of Lebanon’s flavorful Mediterranean cuisine.’ While the prices at this tiny restaurant run, on average, a bit higher than many other joints on 12 South, the food is well worth the extra few dollars per plate: from options such as traditional Sayadeya (spiced fish filet with caramelized onions) to Fassoulya (lamb shank with a white bean cassoulet), Epice consistently churns out classic Lebanese dishes with a high-end twist. Whether you’re familiar with Lebanese cuisine and are searching for a place to satisfy a craving in Nashville or you’re merely hoping to broaden your culinary horizons, Epice is an often overlooked but hard to beat option on 12 South. Bonus: the restaurant accepts reservations, unlike many others in Nashville.
Since the opening of Bartaco last year, 12 South has offered two different restaurants that specialize in unique twists on gourmet tacos. And while both are certainly worth checking out, Taqueria del Sol still perhaps slightly edges out the newcomer – especially if you prioritize speed and affordability. While the line at the Nashville storefront of this popular Georgia and Tennessee chain is often long (you order and pay at the register and food is brought to your table), it moves quickly, and food is served even faster. And while the menu is one of the more affordable of any restaurant on 12 South, the food is consistently delicious; the tacos are a fresh take on standard Americanized Mexican fare, with options like brisket tacos and vegetarian tacos, and the margaritas pack a punch.
Burger Up may not exactly be a local secret; in fact, it’s one of the most popular restaurants in Nashville, but for good reason. If you’ve spent much time in Nashville, you’re likely familiar with – even if you haven’t tried – East Nashville’s legendary Pharmacy. So when you’re searching for a quality burger but don’t want to make the drive across the river, Burger Up is one of your best options. The wait for a table at this restaurant is often long, especially on the weekends, so get there early – or come at an off time – or you might be waiting upwards of an hour to snag a spot. However, no matter how long it may take, chances are you won’t be disappointed by the burgers; not only are the classic beef burgers spectacular, but Burger Up is also known for its offering of beef alternatives, such as a citrus salmon burger and a veggie burger made with quinoa and black beans (the Marathon) that is perhaps even more well-known than the standard meat option. And if you’re really hungry, try an order of the fried mac & cheese bites for the table–you won’t be sorry.
Do you happen to really love chicken? Or upscale, retro-style eateries? If so – or if you merely like good food – then this relatively new spot on 12 South is worth checking out. The joint has some of the best decor of any on 12 South, complete with chrome-finished furniture, an old-fashioned looking television behind the bar, and a vintage RCA Victor sign hanging from the ceiling. And of course the food, too, is remarkable primarily for its chicken dishes. In fact, The Flipside is unique in that it specializes in chicken: roughly 20 different twists on the standard panfried, in fact. Offerings range from the eclectic (the ‘Elvis Lives’ is served with peanut butter, banana, honey, and bacon; the ‘Phuket’ with peanut butter, sriracha, and Thai basil slaw) to the slightly more traditional (the ‘Parm’ is served with mozzarella and marinara). But no matter what you choose, you won’t be disappointed – and while you’re at it, do yourself a favor and order the tater tot nachos for the table.
‘Unfussy but elegant’: in an interview with Kinfolk Magazine, creator of Josephine, Miranda Whitcomb, sums up the aesthetic of this relatively new spot on 12 South. And while the prices at Josephine can tend to be a bit higher than many of the more casual grab-and-go joints surrounding it, everything from the food – a simple, high-quality, refined take on American classics, such as sweet corn ravioli and monkfish served with heirloom tomato polenta – to the low-key, welcoming atmosphere, delivers on Whitcomb’s promise. Stop by for a quiet weeknight dinner or a weekend brunch to see why this restaurant has quickly generated a storm of media attention since its opening in 2013.
While Five Daughters is technically a bakery, not a restaurant, it’s worth highlighting for its sheer popularity: since opening a storefront on 12 South in 2015, this tiny donut shop offering gourmet ‘cronuts’ has taken Nashville by storm. This is not your average pastry; 5 Daughters’ cronuts are a huge, flaky cross between a standard donut and a croissant, and many are filled and topped with thin layers of icing (the maple is especially delicious). Get there early in the AM to avoid lines and guarantee that your favorite flavor doesn’t sell out. By Katie Miller