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Nashville area for 3 days - what are the absolute best restaurants for a 1st time visitor?

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  • monab Aug 24, 2010 03:34 PM
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Hi, we'll be in the Nashville area this coming weekend and looking for restaurant recomendations based on what you experts consider the best of the best.

We live in New York - so the most important things for us are:
- to try food that we can't get there or that may not be as good there
- to eat where the locals would take their visitors
- price is not important - cheap or expensive, it's the best food we're after.
- driving distance is not important - we are will to go the extra mile for the best!

Here's what I need:
1. We'll be landing in Nashville at around 8:40pm (hopefully), and by the time we get the car etc., it might be late - what is our best bet for a delicious dinner after 9:30-10:00ish? Nothing too over-the-top fancy.
2. We want to have the area's best BBQ, and we're willing to drive - even up to 100 miles (we plan on touring a little anyway...) - to get it. So where is it?
3. We want to have Southern food - both modern and trad. what are the best options for each?
4. If you were to pick Nashville's best restaurant, across genres and prices, what would it be?

Thanks in advance for all your help!

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  1. No need to leave town for BBQ. Go to Jack's. Arnold's is your place for breakfast or lunch. Monell's will leave you full for breakfast or lunch also. Jimmy Kelly's Steakhouse is a lively spot for dinner. Margot is fine dining at it's best. Miel is just as good if not better. Park Cafe is my favorite for fine dining. Prince's if the best fried chicken in the city. Puckett's in Franklin is outstanding country food and fun. Rotier's is good southern country food.

    Jack's BBQ @ 416 Broadway, Nashville, TN 615 - 254 - 1020.
    http://www.jacksbarbque.com/
    Arnold's Country Kitchen @ 605 8th Ave. South, Nashville, TN 615 - 256 - 4455.
    http://www.hollyeats.com/ArnoldsCount...
    Monell's Dining @ 1235 6th Ave. North, Nashville, TN 615 - 248 - 4747.
    http://www.monellstn.com/ndininginfo....
    Jimmy Kelly's Steakhouse @ 217 Louise Ave., Nashville, TN 615 - 329 - 4349.
    http://www.jimmykellys.com/
    Margot Cafe and Bar @ 1017 Woodland St., Nashville, TN 615 - 227 - 4668.
    http://www.margotcafe.com/pages/home.htm
    Miel @ 343 53rd Ave. North, Nashville, TN 615 - 298 - 3663.
    http://www.mielrestaurant.com/
    Park Cafe @ 4403 Murphy Rd., Nashville, TN 615 - 383 - 4409.
    http://parkcafenashville.com/home.php
    Prince's Hot Chicken @ 123 Ewing Dr., Nashville, TN 615 - 226 - 9442.
    Puckett's Grocery @ 120 4th Ave. South, Franklin, TN 615 - 794 - 5527.
    http://www.puckettsgrocery.com/
    Rotier's Restaurant @ 2413 Elliston Place, Nashville, TN 615 - 327 - 9892.
    http://www.rotiers.com/

    8 Replies
    1. re: Littleman

      If you eat at Jack's, don't eat at the Broadway location, which is nothing but a tourist trap; the food is much better at the 334 West Trinity Lane location. Do not waste your time at Rotier's. The locals love it because they've been going there forever, but I have yet to meet anyone who came here from elsewhere who finds it better than mediocre. For southern food (traditional), do try Arnold's or Monell's (Monell's is a family-style restaurant serving all you can eat of a wide variety of dishes, all expertly prepared; it's where I take visitors, and they always want to go back). For southern food (modern, casual), there is Southern Bred (1048 East Trinity Lane), which is lighter turns on traditional southern dishes, and just delicious. For southern food (modern, upscale) try Watermark (507 12th Avenue South).

      For fine dining, Miel gives you imaginative dishes very well prepared, and Margot gives you less imaginative dishes perfectly prepared. (Margot also can be very noisy -- they have a lively bar and an echoing space -- but if you can get a table upstairs that's not a problem. The retsaurant in the Hutton Hotel, called 1808 Grill (1808 West End Avenue) is trying hard with the imaginative cooking but their execution needs work.

      -----
      Rotier's Restaurant
      2413 Elliston Pl, Nashville, TN 37203

      1. re: nm1

        I've been hearing from the people who introduced us to Miel last year that it's gone badly downhill, since the founding couple split and divorced. He had been the chef, she the front person. She's still there, but our friends say the food just kinda isn't.

      2. re: Littleman

        DEFINITELY Jack's on w. trinity lane !!
        if you go too late, though, they'll be sold out. and you'll be disappointed. eat there every other friday night.

        1. re: itzpms

          Jack's is good, but do NOT order the turkey. It is "pressed and formed" and I still have bad dreams about it. Hog Heaven in Centennial Park cannot be touched for quality of food. It is literally a shack and all dining is outside so go on a pretty day and enjoy the shady trees and millions of squirrels along with great grub.

          -----
          Hog Heaven
          115 27th Ave N, Nashville, TN 37203

          1. re: angelamshields

            Even the national media has picked up on the shortfalls of Hog Heaven.

            http://www.seriouseats.com/2010/07/ho...

            I would not recommend them.

            -----
            Hog Heaven
            115 27th Ave N, Nashville, TN 37203

            1. re: pete k

              I was never crazy about Hog Heaven's meat - it was ALWAYS dry, from my first time right after they opened - but their white BBQ sauce still haunts my dreams. I used to buy it in quart jars and sauce my own stuff with it. To be perfectly honest, however, the only 'cue that ever curled my toes up came from Crow's or Cantrell's, the latter a clean, well-lighted place just north of Ellington Parkway in East Nashville, the former a funky and mostly unlit back-alley joint south of the parkway somewhere, couldn't begin to tell you how to get there, if indeed either of them still exist.

              1. re: Will Owen

                Cantrell's is still there. Crow's isn't.

                Cantrell's is at the corner of Cleveland St and Lischey Ave.

                1. re: jamiecarroll

                  Lischey! Right! A bunch of us stopped in there one night when we were doing a Christmas-decorations tour; we were all in White Trash costumes, and I overheard one of the counter guys on the phone calling a friend to "Get over here, you gotta see this!" It was some of the best 'cue I've ever eaten anywhere, not just Nashville. We'll be in town next week, so thank you very much for the info.

      3. Outside Nashville is Martin's BBQ in Nolensville. Redneck Tacos are on the menu. Very good Q.
        http://www.martinsbbqjoint.com/joomla/

        South east of Nashville is Bell Buckle Cafe. Fantastic Meat n 3. They have an oatmeal cake that's phenomenal.
        http://www.bellbucklecafe.com/cafe.html

        As was mentioned above, Puckett's Grocery is great too.

        I - 65 south of Nashville is Stan's Restaurant. It's like a Cracker Barrel but way better.
        They don't have a website but there's pictures here. http://tinyurl.com/237vcdg

        DT

        -----
        Puckett's Grocery
        120 4th Ave S, Franklin, TN 37064

        Cracker Barrel
        716 N Campbell Station Rd, Knoxville, TN 37934

        1. I’ll second the recommendation for Jack’s on West Trinity and not the downtown location.

          Again, Arnold’s is another great choice for true traditional Southern in a ultra casual environment (cafeteria style). Be sure to try the meatloaf and the fried green tomatoes, and if you’re in the mood, try some of the bread pudding if it’s available.

          Try Standard at The Smith House for your modern take on Southern, they’re located on Rosa Parks in downtown Nashville.

          For something truly Nashville, definitely do not miss out on Prince’s hot chicken, it’s located a bit north of downtown on Ewing which is off of Dickerson Pike.

          City House hands down for most creative/best restaurant in Nashville.

          -----
          City House
          1222 4th Avenue North, Nashville, TN 37208

          Smith House
          Highway 227, Owenton, KY 40359

          1. Make sure you go to Arnold's and Prince's Hot Chicken (and maybe Monell's if you have time). There is nothing else of note here in Nashville that you couldn't get better in New York. And there is no truly great barbecue in Nashville - you've gotta go to Memphis for that.

            Please note that Arnold's is only open from 10:30-2:00 Monday through Friday (they are NOT open for breakfast) and Monell's only serves breakfast on Saturdays.

            1 Reply
            1. re: jamiecarroll

              What about Ellendale's. Is it highly rated. I have heard different reports. Thanks.

              -----
              Ellendale's Restaurant
              2739 Old Elm Hill Pike, Nashville, TN 37214

            2. I'm from NYC as well, but go to Nashville about 3 times a year to visit friends. The places you shouldn't miss are Loveless. I've actually booked a flight just to go there. (bit of a drive, but best fried chicken and biscuits you'll ever have), Monell's (family style, go hungry), Watermark, and Prince's hot chicken (i've looked around and you can't find anything like that up here.)

              Watermark would be good to go after the airport. It's a high end place, but not over the top. Nothing in Nashville is. (Especially when it comes to $, you'll be surprised.) If it's a week night you could probably sit at the bar at 10:30. Plus if I remember right, it's in the Gulch, kind of a cool neighborhood.

              There really is no BBQ in Nashville. Been to Jack's a few times, it's OK. Martin's sounds like it's better, haven't tried it yet. If you've got the time, Memphis is 2 hrs away, but that's a different conversation.

              City House, Miel, Margot, Park Cafe are all good, for the nicer type restaurants, been to all but I think Watermark seems a little more southern.

              Arnold's is great too for the meat and three, but you really have to plan ahead. Can't tell you how many times I've gone and it's been closed. Never got the hours down in my head.

              -----
              City House
              1222 4th Avenue North, Nashville, TN 37208

              5 Replies
              1. re: keejam

                Memphis is 3 hours away, not 2. BBQ in Nashville is fine, certainly better than most anything you'd find north of the Mason-Dixon.

                In addition to Jack's (and yes, you want to go to the one on W Trinity), there's B&C. They have a place in the Farmer's Market but also a store on the south side of town in a strip next to a Kroger. Martin's has gotten decidedly mixed reviews since they moved a few months ago -- might be worth the trip to Nolensville, might not. Don't bother yet with Blind Pig -- they are brand new and don't have their act together yet.

                In addition to Prince's, there is also good hot chicken at 400 Degrees and Bolton's. Some people say the latter two are better and that Prince's is an institution that has seen its best days.

                For the nicer restaurants I'd agree that for Southern you want Watermark or The Standard. Another downscale place that's like Arnold's with waitresses is Sylvan Park.

                1. re: TLF

                  Easy TLF. NY's are proud of their BBQ. They just had a BBQ festival in Madison Park recently. They do have some good BBQ just not enough of it though.

                  1. re: Littleman

                    Not enough!?! Dinosaur- RUB- hill country- Georgia's- daisy mae's- blue smoke- fette sau
                    Trust me, we know BBQ up here-

                    1. re: keejam

                      What about Dallas BBQ............

                      Dallas BBQ @ 241 West 42nd Street, New York, NY 212 - 221 - 9000.

                      What about Brother Jimmy's...................

                      Brother Jimmy's BBQ @ 116 East 16th St., New York, NY 212 - 673 - 6465.
                      http://www.brotherjimmys.com/

                2. re: keejam

                  Loveless is certainly a Nashville institution, but I would argue that overall, it is not on the same level as Arnold's or Monell's or any of the other top tier Southern/Meat&3 restaurants in the area. My advice if you go there is to stick with the biscuits and the country ham. Those are the things that they do really well. I have always been unimpressed by their fried chicken.

                3. I think Southern Bred is among the best Southern restaurants in the areal.

                  9 Replies
                  1. re: Cameraman

                    Wow! Thanks everyone for your fantastic reccomendations!!!

                    Looks like there's some concensus on the following, so we'll probably visit some combination of these:

                    -BBQ - Jack's (maybe Martin's)
                    -Trad Southern - Arnold's or Monell's
                    -Nashville Experience - Prince's
                    -Mod Southern - Southern Bred, The Standard, or Watermark
                    -Mod/Upscale - City House, Miel, or Margot

                    Anything I'm missing?
                    Also, any suggestions for the best coffee in Nashville?

                    Thanks again!

                    -----
                    City House
                    1222 4th Avenue North, Nashville, TN 37208

                    1. re: monab

                      March will solve your coffee needs. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner at 8 AM and open on Sunday for brunch.

                      March Artisian Foods @ 1000 Main Street, Nashville, TN 615 - 262 - 1111.
                      http://www.marcheartisanfoods.com/pag...

                      1. re: monab

                        Crema for the best coffee in Nashville....absolute gem of a place.

                        And I would certainly choose Arnold's over Monell's...they did win a James Beard award after all.

                        1. re: monab

                          These are some great suggestions. I would also suggest F. Scott on your first night. It is a great Jazz spot, and their 9 dine (half price after 9pm) is totally awesome for the food.

                          I also really like Fido for a coffee shop. The food is really great too.

                          Cabana's food is decent (the buttermilk fried chicken breast with the peas are great), it's the atmosphere that's really cool. On Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday nights, they have 2 for 1 pizzas, and they almost always have some special on some drinks.

                          1. re: bequynh

                            Totally agree about F Scotts. You may think of Nville as a country music town but we've got great players of all varieties and F Scotts showcases our best jazz artists. And the 1/2 price after nine deal is great! The food is top notch too.

                            1. re: Cameraman

                              My kid brother is a bass player, been in Nashville over forty years, and the only "country" he's ever played, aside from his share of bluegrass, has been some C&W when he was filling in for Too Slim with Riders In the Sky. Small-ensemble jazz is his main thing. Catch the Dean Martinis sometime.

                              Plenty of rock going on, too.

                          2. re: monab

                            BTW, there is a barbecue festival going on in Nashville this weekend: http://musiccitybbqfestival.com/sched...

                            For coffee, the nicest atmosphere is at Fido, Bongo Java, and Bongo East. But the best coffee is roasted by Portland Brew.

                            1. re: monab

                              I would not put Southern Bred in the same category as The Standard and Watermark. It is more along the lines of a traditional southern restaurant (not modern) and is much, much more casual than those other two places.

                              Marche is excellent, but not really a coffee destination. For coffee, I would go with Fido, Crema, or Portland Brew.

                              1. re: monab

                                so, itz been a month. what did you think?
                                how wuz it ????
                                just curious. i came here as a tourist 20 years ago. i stayed...

                            2. I vote Martin's for BBQ, Margot, and Arnold's. For a late night dinner, Cabana or Rumba.

                              1. If you are interested in a neighborhood restaurant, we really enjoy the Tin Angel on West End.

                                Was not impressed with Rumba. Tables very close together and it was overly loud. They've blocked off the handicapped parking and apparently don't care. (Didn't like the whole attitude.) Service was quite slow even though the place was less than half full when we were there.

                                -----
                                Tin Angel Restaurant
                                3201 W End Ave, Nashville, TN 37203

                                1. Sorry, I just got this.. hope you're having a great time in Nashville (go see the Chilhuly exhibit at Cheekwood!). Ok, I'm actually a transplanted New Yorker, and quite the foodie, having eaten at many places throughout the country and Paris. Unfortunately, although I LOVE NASHVILLE, the sad truth is that in general, the food here totally sucks. You WILL NOT find better food here than in NYC. It's sad to say, but true. Now, having said that, what types of food might impress you?
                                  Well, anything chicken is usually awesome. Just like Maine lobster or Miami Stone Crab, the chicken in these parts is unbelievably fresh and tasty... the "Hot Chicken" or good Fried Chicken with Biscuits can't be beat. Great fried chicken is NOT greasy or oily..Speaking of which, they don't know how to make good biscuits up north. Some of the best chicken and biscuits I've ever had anywhere in the country was from a KFC down here! True BBQ is great if you can find it, there is a festival in town this weekend, but believe it or not, some of the best in Nashville is at the BBQ bar at the Whole Foods in Green Hills.
                                  The Loveless Cafe is an institution, and something that even Martha Stewart has praised...
                                  Personally, the Germantown Cafe is one of my favorite (it used to be the Capital Grille until they switched chefs), but this won't impress you, coming from NYC. Margot in East Nashville is also excellent and funky, Miel is supposed to be very good too. Hope you've had a great time in Nashville!

                                  1. Sorry I'm getting in late on this, but I wanted to mention Joe's Fish and Barbque at 3716 Clarksville Pike. I am a former Nashville resident but sadly, didn't discover this place until I moved to Phoenix. Now, whenever I visit my Mom in Nashville, it's on the list of must-do's. You're not gonna like it if you're looking for a fast meal or a sit-down restaurant, but do like we do. Get your 'cue and eat in the car while sitting in the Dollar General parking lot! It's sooo worth it. I'm always surprised so few people in Nashville know about this place.

                                    1. the Capital Grille in the Hermitage hotel is super if you need food and are in the area. Not better than New York probably, but great gazpacho and braised short ribs, at least. You will not be disappointed regardless. Not real formal but $$$.

                                      -----
                                      Capital Grille
                                      2502 East Camelback Suite 199, Phoenix, AZ 85016

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: tarantilla

                                        i've been meaning to post a message for a while, but only just got around to it...

                                        first of all - a big thank you to all of you for your wonderful suggestions.
                                        here's where we ended up going:
                                        - Friday night late dinner (straight from the airport) - F Scott - food was not terribly inventive, but well executed, and a real bargin at 50% off after 9pm!
                                        Saturday lunch - Mondell's - great food, great atmosphere - especially loved the biscuits and the fried chicken
                                        - Saturday night - Miel - after much procrastination, choose this. We went late after going to the Grand Ole Opry. the food was tasty, but felt a little over-priced
                                        - Sunday lunch - Southern Bred - again, good fried chicken, all the sides were also great, but not good chicken and dumplings (too bland for me) :(
                                        - Sunday night - City House - prob my fav meal of the trip - and a great sunday night supper! i know it's vaguely italian and not southern, but it was nice to find a place that makes ingredients like salami in-house. And - even though I live in New york, and am married to an extremely picky Italian - I have to say that the pizza was so good that after eating one (and a LOT of other dishes), we ordered another!
                                        - Monday lunch - Jack's BBQ - good, but as many of you said, I'm planning a trip to Memphis for more of that.

                                        We also went to the Ice Pop place, who's name I can't remember - LOVED it. had one with cucumber and chili - yummm.
                                        And, we went to The Patterson house for drinks on sunday night - had (too many) great, great cocktails, and a very nice chat with the bartender. Highly recommend it to all of you who may not have been.

                                        Didn't get a chance to go to Prince's, which I really regret.
                                        Hopefully we'll visit again one day. Really loved your city!

                                        Thank you again for all the replies everyone - all the great food really made for a fantastic weekend away.

                                        -----
                                        City House
                                        1222 4th Avenue North, Nashville, TN 37208

                                        1. re: monab

                                          Monab, we had similar brilliant experiences at City House and Patterson House. Though we had just one cocktail each at the latter, since it was pre-dinner, they were all utterly superb; I make a damn good martini, but this was the best, period. And the City House dinner the next night was amazing. We sat in the ground-floor room next to the bar, and I got to watch the guys running food in and out of the big wood-fired oven while tasting the results. The first tri-tip I'd ever even seen east of the Rockies, and I had it at an Italian restaurant in Germantown! And it was sure good.

                                          We come from Pasadena to Nashville every October, and every year there's something new and better in the eats department, along with our old favorites. I posted a two-part report here last year; I need to get off my lazy caboose and do another one...

                                      2. Good food is hard to find in Nashville, but for a couple of days, you should be OK. y Though, compared to a real city like NYC, Chicago, and even Atlanta, Nashville won't even come close.

                                        City House in Germantown is one of the few pretty solid restaurants here. Arnold's is legit as we as Monell's. Jack's is OK, but definitely not the best I've ever had. There's a place called Cafe Bosna in Hermitage that's very good and different. Germantown Cafe is pretty good too.

                                        Margot's is over-rated, but OK I guess. Miel is pretty decent, but like most restaurants in Nashville, overpriced for what you get.

                                        Overall, if you like chain restaurants, then Nashville is your place!!

                                        -----
                                        City House
                                        1222 4th Avenue North, Nashville, TN 37208

                                        Cafe Bosna
                                        5751 Old Hickory Blvd, Hermitage, TN 37076