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Apr 1, 2010 08:57 AM

One night in Nashville with small kids

We'll be passing through and want to avoid chains and instead experience a kid-friendly type place that is unique to Nashville. We were thinking Jack's BBQ on Broadway, but would welcome other suggestions. We'll be staying near Vanderbilt campus.

Also, do the lines at Pancake Pantry start up right at opening time, or is there an early bird lull?


Pancake Pantry
1796 21st Ave S, Nashville, TN 37212

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  1. Jack's would be fine, and is about the only casual, local eating downtown. (Note that "downtown" is a different neighborhood than the Vandy area.)

    I'm assuming you will have a car? What kind of food are you looking for? Just BBQ/southern, or burgers, ethnic, etc.? Are the kids the type that will only eat chicken fingers and mac and cheese, or do they eat grown-up food? What ages? Do they behave or are you looking for a place that won't mind that they're hellions?

    As for Pancake Pantry, the line's not bad (or non-existent) most weekdays. On the weekend it can be long, but it actually moves faster than you would expect. You're right that you have a better chance at no line (or a short line) if you go early on the weekends or on holidays. If you decide it's longer than you can deal with (any day), Fido just down the street is a great place for breakfast (or any meal, really). Order at the counter, and the food is brought to your table. This would be a fun spot for kids because it is extremely casual and is dog-themed; the shop formerly housed a pet store, and the original Jones pet store sign hangs above the front door.

    4 Replies
    1. re: TLF

      Yes, we have a car and I saw that Jack's is back towards downtown from the Vanderbilt area. Thanks for the heads-up. The kids are 3 & 9, and they're generally very well behaved, but occasionally are known to melt down. Because we'll have driven 12 hours that day before arriving, I figure the meltdown possibility is a bit higher than usual.

      I looked at Jack's, but we have pretty passable BBQ in Buffalo, so if there's something uniquely Nashville (like wings or beef on weck are to Buffalo), I'd love to know about it. I did see "hot chicken", but I don't know if the kids will dig that or not.

      Thank you also for the tip re: Fido.

      1. re: Buffalopundit

        If I were coming to Buffalo and told you, "Well, we have wings in Nashville, I don't see the point of eating them in Buffalo," what would you say? LOL I can't speak to the quality (or not) of BBQ in Buffalo, so I can't tell you absolutely that Jack's or another of the many BBQ places in the area would be worth your while. I'll just say that I've never, ever heard of any BBQ north of the Mason-Dixon that had anything special about it.

        Having said that ...

        Yes, Hot Chicken is HOT, even the mild version, so most kids wouldn't like it. You could look at a "regular" fried chicken place in Hillsboro Village, McDougal's Village Coop. Hillsboro Village also has The Dog, a hot dog place. These are both super-casual and popular. If you want more of a regular restaurant experience, Bosco's wouldn't be a bad choice. It's a brew pub, but a pretty varied menu and nice atmosphere.

        Up on West End, Amerigo might be a good idea. It's a multi-location restaurant (two in Nashville, one in Jackson, MS) but not really a chain. Decent fresh Italian, but not heavy, red-sauce-and-pasta-centric. Lots of grilled items, salads, etc. Not exclusively a "family" restaurant, but lively and popular with families as well as adults-without-kids.

        McDougal's Village Coop
        2115 Belcourt Ave, Nashville, TN 37212

        2000 Meridian Blvd Ste 108, Franklin, TN 37067

        1. re: TLF

          For really good Italian food near Vanderbilt (if Italian is what you want), go to Savarino's Cucina. That is seriously first-rate soups, entrees, sandwiches, pastries, gelato, maybe even Italian ices if they have started that up yet this spring. The only drawback with kids is that everything is made to order so service may be slow, but they have kids of their own around the place half the time (it's a casual place) and will take your family in stride.

          But if you want to try some southern food in a casual atmosphere, go to Monell's. It's in north Nashville and a bit of a drive but not much farther from Vanderbilt than Jack's. They serve lots of different dishes (cold salads, entrees, veggies, dessert) at big family-style tables, and IMO have the best fried chicken in town. (Not hot) So you'll have a chance to taste a lot of local favorites all for a fixed price.

          Savarino's Cucina
          2121 Belcourt Ave, Nashville, TN 37212

    2. Savarino's Cucina is off the hook but I'd be hesitant to suggest Italian to someone from Buffalo. I had one of my all time favorite Italian meals in a little mom and pop near the lake. I would strongly recommend the SoBro Grille at the Country Music Hall of Fame. Great lunches reasonably priced and a first rate roving guitarist.

      Savarino's Cucina
      2121 Belcourt Ave, Nashville, TN 37212

      1 Reply
      1. I would second the Fido recommendation, and since you are going to be close to Vandy, I would also recommend The Dog of Nashville, which is a great hot dog place and perfect for kids. I would definitely avoid Amerigos- very chain-based, predictable Italian food, and not cheap! SatCo (San Antonio Taco Company) is fun and close to campus, not the greatest texmex in the world, but good for kids too. Oh yeah and Monell's is fantastic, and really fun- family style, all you can eat, southern food, sit with strangers and pass the mashed potatoes.