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Aug 24, 2010 03:34 PM

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

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.
    Arnold's Country Kitchen @ 605 8th Ave. South, Nashville, TN 615 - 256 - 4455.
    Monell's Dining @ 1235 6th Ave. North, Nashville, TN 615 - 248 - 4747.
    Jimmy Kelly's Steakhouse @ 217 Louise Ave., Nashville, TN 615 - 329 - 4349.
    Margot Cafe and Bar @ 1017 Woodland St., Nashville, TN 615 - 227 - 4668.
    Miel @ 343 53rd Ave. North, Nashville, TN 615 - 298 - 3663.
    Park Cafe @ 4403 Murphy Rd., Nashville, TN 615 - 383 - 4409.
    Prince's Hot Chicken @ 123 Ewing Dr., Nashville, TN 615 - 226 - 9442.
    Puckett's Grocery @ 120 4th Ave. South, Franklin, TN 615 - 794 - 5527.
    Rotier's Restaurant @ 2413 Elliston Place, Nashville, TN 615 - 327 - 9892.

    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.


            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.

        South east of Nashville is Bell Buckle Cafe. Fantastic Meat n 3. They have an oatmeal cake that's phenomenal.

        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.


        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

          4 Replies
          1. re: pete k

            just need to watch the times at Prince's hot chicken, not the best place to be at after dark. AWESOME food tho !!!!

            1. re: ltlme71

              Also watch the times because you don't want to show up for lunch on a Saturday either.


              1. re: ltlme71

                Also, watch the date or you'll end up bumping a 4 YO thread... :)

                1. re: grundoon

                  Checking the date requires far too much effort.


            2. 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.

              2 Replies
              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

                1. re: Littleman

                  I absolutely LOVED Ellendale' boyfriend and I had never been and loved it. Will definitely go again. Their fresh fruit mojito is the best drink I've ever had. Also had steak...which was excellent.

              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

                7 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.

                  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.

                    1. re: keejam

                      I'm sorry...but Nashville was just named BEST BBQ...and we have LOTS of GREAT PLACES. Peg Leg Porker...Jacks...Martin's...I could go on...we were named best BBQ over Memphis...just sayin'.

                      1. re: jennyn73

                        Whaa? Best.. by who?? Some years ago I drove around going to various places, none of which were worth returning.