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Jan 25, 2012 02:37 PM

Good eats and drinks needed for Music City

I'm coming in to Nashville with some like-minded friends for a long weekend of eating and drinking. So far, I'm thinking of Arnold's for my meat and three fix, and, at night, doing City House and Capital Grille. I hear the Catbird Seat is good, so I wanted some confirmation on that. Too, we plan to do Prince's Hot Chicken. I was wondering about a good breakfast spot other than the Loveless Inn and the Pancake Pantry, since we'll be downtown. For drinks, we're planning on doing the Patterson House, naturally, but I also hear No. 308 is good. Thoughts about that and other possible watering holes? City House also seems to have a good cocktail menu. Any tips are appreciated.

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  1. I agree with City House, it's a favorite of ours.

    In East Nashville I would also recommend Holland House (they do great, high end cocktails and food as well) and Marche for breakfast

    Catbird Seat is pretty great but you need to make reservations pretty far out to get a seat.

    15 Replies
    1. re: juliecd

      Agree with what you've scoped out so far, plus Julie's recs. Had a drink at Holland House last week that knocked my socks off. Catbird Seat is booked out months in advance; worth checking to see if they have a waiting list / cancellations, though. Another possibility to add to the list is Margot in East Nashville. Not better than CH or CG in my opinion, but it is a favorite with some folks.

      For other drink spots, look at the mstreet cluster at the top of 12th at Broadway ... Virago, Whiskey Kitchen, Kayne Prime. All have good food, too. Again, not better than CH / CG, but good. Further down 12th is The Gulch ... Watermark has a brand new chef and the menu reads well, but I haven't been there in a few years. Next to Holland House, same owners, is Pharmacy Burger where they do German beer (there's a beer garden in back), hand-made phosphates/sodas/malts/shakes, and burgers & sausages. I thought the food was OK but not stunning; the ginger phosphate was amazing. A favorite restaurant of mine that is more of a neighborhood bistro is Eastland Cafe. They have a GREAT happy hour. There's been a recent change of chef and I was nervous, but went last night and it was great. Another favorite is Cha Chah for tapas and interesting drinks, including non-alcoholic choices. ; they do a good happy hour, too.

      Other than Marche, for breakfast in the downtown area, you could do the new outpost of Puckett's on St. Cloud Corner (5th & Church) OR the Provence Breads & Cafe at the downtown library

      1. re: TLF

        And I meant to mention ...

        There are several other fun foodie things to do in town ...

        Food court at the Farmer's Market. Depending on when you are visiting, there are Friday night markets that are fun that will start up again in a few months. Can be fun to just wander during the day as well. Be aware that much of the FM is a flea market, and not all produce vendors have local goods. Still, many do, esp the ones there on Saturday. There's also a demonstration kitchen they've recently christened.

        Corsair is an in-town distillery that offers tours, plus they have a beer tap room:

        Yazoo is very popular brewery that also offers tours:

        There are also two brewpubs, Blackstone (food just OK, but beer gets high marks) and Bosco's (I like the food here better, a nice middle-ground choice esp for lunch).

        Olive and Sinclair ... excellent bean-to-bar chocolate, tours available. They have a web site, but there doesn't seem to be tour info there -- I think you'll just have to call to find out dates/times/book a spot.

        1. re: TLF

          This is what is so great about Chowhound. This info is going to enhance the trip immeasurably. It's terrific to have people who're into food and drink as much as my friends and me sharing their insider tips. I did this with a trip to Portland and the Oregon coast and the entire trip was outstanding, largely based on the ideas of other Chowhounders. Thank you, thank you.

          1. re: jgilfoil

            Our only price is that you post a follow-up after your trip!

            1. re: TLF

              You got it. The trip isn't till April, but, if I don't enjoy those cocktails too much, you'll hear from me.

              1. re: jgilfoil

                If you want to keep your ear to the ground in the meantime, FYI the best place to keep up with the Nashville food scene (IMHO) is the Bites blog on the Nashville Scene web site -- not only the posts but the comments. The Scene is the local alternative weekly. Restaurant review every week as well.


                  1. re: jgilfoil

                    I've been looking at the menu for Holland House. The drinks look outstanding. How about the food? Would it be worth spending one night imbibing and eating there, while doing CG, CH, and, hopefully, the Catbird Seat the other nights. Also, does the Patterson House serve food?

                    1. re: jgilfoil

                      The Patterson House has a small menu, mostly snack type foods. Keep in mind that the cocktails at PH run anywhere from $12 and up to $14 for a barrel aged Manhattan.

                      HH does both well, but I would say that the cocktails are a touch better at PH. I've had many great meals there. I especially love their burger and the locally made charcuterie plate with local cheeses.

                      I would personally spend an evening eating and drinking at City House. They have a fantastic cocktail menu and a very well stocked bourbon/whiskey selection. Their food in terms of value and creativity imo is the best we have in Nashville.

                      The Catbird Seat is booked for months. Your best shot will be to get on a waiting list in hopes of a cancellation. The prix fixe price is $100 with an additional cost of I believe $75 for a full wine/drink pairing. That price is before tax and an automatic gratuity of 20%.

                      1. re: jgilfoil

                        I'm not much of a drinker, so I won't comment on the cocktails, but the food is definitely better at Holland House than Patterson House.

        2. re: juliecd

          I'm piggy backing on juliecd's thread as we are planning a Nashville trip also. We will have dinner at Capital Grille one night and am VERY interested in Catbird Seat (according to their website they only make reservations 30 days out, but posters are saying it's booked months out....which is it?).

          Prefer places where we can walk (or short cab ride) from The Hermitage.

          1. re: Janet from Richmond

            How many nights are you staying? And when? Catbird Seat opens their reservations I believe 3 months in advance, but they do fill up quite quickly. If you're trip is soon, you might have some difficulty getting in. The good news is that their are other options. I'm not terribly familiar with the places in the immediate vicinity of the Hermitage Hotel, but Germantown is certainly close by and has some good options. I've had mixed experiences at the Germantown Cafe, but it's a decent option. Even better is City House, which may be the city's best restaurant not called Catbird Seat, and has the advantage of being pretty affordable fir such a high quality place. If you're there on Sunday evening, even better, since their Sunday Supper is always fun. Downtown doesn't have many great options, but Merchants would be a good exception. People sometimes lump it in with all the other touristy places on that strip, but it's better, and run by a chef with some success in Nashville. There are a number of good options slightly farther out in the Gulch such as Watermark (whose new chef has had a very successful career in Charleston), Virago, and Whiskey Kitchen. Near Catbird Seat in Midtown is Tavern, which I love for brunch but haven't been for dinner. In Hillsboro Village is Cabana, Sunset Grill, and Fido (with a more laid-back, coffeehouse vibe). Hope this helps some!

            1. re: gkm23

              We are staying three nights this fall. So we should be able to get a reservation if I am quick enough on the phone.

              From their website:

              Reservations run on a 30 day rolling calendar, so on any given day, reservations are available for the next 30 days at a time. For example, if you want to make a reservation for June 30, that date will be available on June 1

              1. re: Janet from Richmond

                The rolling 30 days is a newer policy I believe. In the past it was possible to enquire about dates further out, but no longer.

                Downtown your best options are Capitol Grille and City House. I've always had good experiences at Germantown Cafe, but they do a very good lunch if you don't want to use up a dinner there.

                My best recommendations are upthread, don't really have anything else to add.

                1. re: Janet from Richmond

                  Ahh..yes, perhaps that is new. It sounds like you have plenty of time, but yes, it does keep getting more and more buzz (semifinalist for the Beard Award for Best New Restaurant today), so it will undoubtedly be harder and harder to get in. If there's one restaurant that's easier to get into that you don't want to miss (in my opinion), it's City House, but yeah, lots of other recs above.

                  And sorry about all the grammatical errors up above...that's what I get for typing on a little phone keyboard without reading it over before posting.

          2. Wonderful, wonderful choices, all of them. Catbird Seat is supposed to be awesome (I'm going for the first time in 2 weeks!), but it's the toughest ticket in town right now, so you might have trouble making that one happen.

            I recommend Monell's in Germantown (very near to downtown) for breakfast on a weekend.

            1. Arnold's is wonderful, BUT if this is a weekend trip, bear in mind that Arnold's is only open M-F for lunch. Sadly, a lot of the best food in Nashville is only available M-F at lunchtime. If that won't work for you, maybe try Monell's on 6th Ave N. for Saturday lunch. Southern food staples, including wonderful fried chicken, served all-you-can-eat family style. DON'T BOTHER WITH THE LOVELESS CAFE! It's nothing but a tourist trap with alright, overpriced food. And overrated biscuts. The Pancake Pantry is also a tourist trap, but with food worthy of dealing with the lines and the prices. I recommend the sweet potato pancakes and/or the grill cook's medley with eggs over easy.

              City House is an excellent choice, but instead of Capitol Grille, try Marche in East Nashville for Saturday dinner. They aren't open for Sunday dinner, just Sunday brunch. Marche is my favorite dinner spot in Nashville, with wonderful, fresh, interesting food, entirely sane prices, and a lovey but laid back atmosphere.

              Bolton's (on Main Street in East Nashville) in my humble has better hot chicken than Prince's, and has the advantage of being closer to downtown than Prince's. DO NOT THINK THAT BECAUSE YOU LIKE SPICY FOOD YOU WANT THE HOTTEST HOT CHICKEN!!! Hot chicken can be delicious, but in my humble even the mild at Prince's is too hot to be enjoyable. At Bolton's I like the medium or the hot. At Princes, I ask for light mild (halfway between mild and plain). Both places do real, skillet-fried chicken. It's a pity to cover it up with so much pepper paste you can't taste the chicken (and I am a fan of spicy Indian and Thai food).

              I found Holland House (also in East Nashville) to be a more pleasant atmosphere than Patterson House.

              5 Replies
              1. re: StrandedYankee

                To everyone that offered advice, thank you. We had a wonderful weekend. The highlight, of course, was the Catbird Seat. Easily one of the best restaurants in the country. I had been in New York tthree weeks ago and Per Se and Le Bernardin have nothing on the Catbird Seat. I certainly think it rivals the French Laundry. And the Catbird Seat is a lot more fun. The interaction with the chefs Josh and Erick is terrific. We were picking their brains at the end of the meal about our other plans. Erick even said, "You've made our evening." I replied, "No, you've made ours, and you need to get out more." Jane the sommelier also does a terrific job, and the bill is about half of what you pay at Per Se. Catbird Seat is big time!

                Arnold's was terrific. I can't get that chocolate pie or that banana pudding out of my head. The pie had some bittersweet chocolate that put it in another class from other chocolate pies I've had over the years. We liked City House. The catfish, the clams and octopus dish, and the tri tips were all superb. Capitol Grille was a bit of a disappointment. The meal was inconsistent with some dishes being terrific, while others were just so-so. They also have some organizational issues, since the sweet potatoes I got weren't even cooked. Ditto for some others at the table.

                Patterson House was outstanding. We only went there three of the four nights we were in town. I didn't think the drinks at Holland House were quite on a par with those at Patterson, though the food at Holland was surprisingly good. Not so at the Pharmacy, the biergarten behind Holland House. The burgers and sausages were all cooked to death, and the sauerkraut was mediocre. I was not happy that we went there instead of Prince's. The onlty saving grace was that I went across the street to Mas Tacos for a wonderful pulled pork taco and a delicious chicken tortilla soup.

                Nashville has made some serious strides with its restaurant and cocktail scene. I can't wait to get back to a reunion in October.

                1. re: jgilfoil

                  Thanks for taking the time to let us know about your visit and for your generous words about our fine city. Did you get a chance to take in some music? After all, it rivals the food!

                  1. re: Cameraman

                    Hey, I could have gone on and on about the food. With our emphasis on eating and drinking, we only had time for the honky tonks--Roberts and Layla on Broadway. The Bluebird will have to wait for another visit. Our Chicago contingent was quite impressed--one kept saying, "I thought it might be an OK place, but this far exceeds my expectations."

                    1. re: jgilfoil

                      Glad you had such a great time, and that you found our advice useful. Sorry about Pharmacy -- my one visit, I loved the phosphates, thought the food was OK but not rave-worthy.