Nashville Food Guide (19 Dishes to Try According to a Local)
With a mix of Southern cooking and food traditions introduced by the city’s different populations, there’s a lot happening in Nashville’s food scene. This Nashville food guide will help you find the city’s best restaurants, local favorites, and all the dishes you need to know about.
As a Nashville local, I spend a lot of my time trying out different food in the city. I’m constantly talking to other people who live here and comparing notes on the best meals. So, from what to drink to the top offering from the best restaurants in Nashville, here are the best foods you need to try while in Music City.
Table of Contents
- 19 Best Nashville Foods
- FAQs About Nashville Food
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19 Best Nashville Foods
The iconic Nashville food–crispy chicken with a spicy kick.
🍽️ Where to Find Hot Chicken: Prince’s Hot Chicken (Downtown), Hattie B’s Hot Chicken (Multiple Locations)
Hot Chicken is as Nashville as country music. During the Great Depression, Thorton Prince created the first recipe for hot chicken. Today, Prince’s great-niece, Ms. Andre Prince Jeffries, still serves the original version at Prince’s Hot Chicken.
You can choose your level of heat when you order hot chicken. I actually usually get plain hot chicken because I like the spices but not the heat. Just know that the hottest level on the menu is really hot, and you might regret it later if you don’t regularly eat hot chicken.
Hot chicken is available in almost every Nashville neighborhood, and restaurants have put their own spin on the popular dish. You can find hot chicken restaurants like Hattie B’s, Slow Burn, and Party Fowl all over Nashville. Some restaurants also use hot chicken in other items on their menus.
If you’re a connoisseur, then I recommend being smart about when you visit Nashville. I have a feeling you’ll want to plan your trip during Hot Chicken Week during the winter or Music City Hot Chicken Festival in the summer.
Meat and Three
A classic Southern staple featuring a protein and three veggie sides.
🍽️ Where to Find Meat and Three: Swett’s (McKissack Park), Wendell Smith’s (The Nations)
Sometimes known as a “plate lunch,” mom-and-pop restaurants serving a “meat and three” option are popular all across the South. Typically, a meat and three includes several choices where you pick a protein and three sides from a set menu.
The proteins tend to be things such as chicken, meatloaf, or pork chops. Side choices include turnip greens, potatoes, beans, and okra. Most restaurants serve meat and three consider mac and cheese a vegetable side. The menu rotates daily at some restaurants, but not others.
Like other major cities, Nashville has great coffee shops.
🍽️ Where to Find Coffee: Barista Parlor (Multiple Locations), Frothy Monkey (Multiple Locations)
There’s no shortage of great coffee shops in Nashville. Serious aficionados enjoy craft coffee at places like Barista Parlor, Dose, and 8th and Roast. Those are some of the best options if you are particular about where your beans come from and exactly how the coffee is prepared.
For coffee plus a great meal, Frothy Monkey is popular. One of my favorites is Hanna Bee Coffee, which is located next to a bookshop and has great seasonal drinks.
A Southern comfort food.
🍽️ Where to Find biscuits: Biscuit Love (Multiple Locations), Loveless Cafe (Bellevue)
Eaten by themselves or with fillings, biscuits are an important Southern food. Biscuits eaten in the morning tend to have meat and/or cheese in the middle. The country ham and pimento cheese at Frothy Monkey is one of my favorite breakfast biscuits in Nashville.
At lunch and dinner, biscuits are usually just eaten with butter. Everyone has their own biscuit recipe, but the best biscuits are tender, flaky, and warm.
Biscuit Love, Loveless Cafe, Monell’s, and Husk are known for having good biscuits. Quite a lot of other places have biscuits on the menu as well.
Nashville’s barbecue scene is a mix of styles.
🍽️ Where to Find Barbecue: Jack’s Bar-B-Que (Multiple Locations), Edley’s Bar-B-Que (Multiple Locations)
Memphis has more of a reputation for barbecue than Nashville, but you’ll still find some great barbecue joints in Music City. Like the rest of Tennessee, the barbecue here is made “low and slow.” However, there’s not one particular Nashville style barbecue. Instead, you’ll find Nashville restaurants putting their own spin on barbecue.
There are too many barbecue joints across the city to mention them all. Jack’s Bar-B-Que, Martin’s Bar-B-Que, and Edley’s Bar-B-Que are among the most popular. You really can’t go wrong with barbecue anywhere though.
Nashville’s pizza options are surprisingly good.
🍽️ Where to Find Pizza: Five Points Pizza (East and West Nashville), Folk (East Nashville)
Nashville pizza options range from casual eateries to fine dining. You can find a slice to match whatever mood you’re in.
Five Points Pizza serves up a range of delicious pizzas at a good price. Their lunch slice specials are one of the best cheap eats if you’re trying to do Nashville on a budget.
For Italian-inspired pizza, Coco’s Italian Market and Nicky’s Coal Fired are both good choices. For specialty pizzas with ingredients like littleneck clams, raclette, and even wild nettles, Folk makes fantastic seasonal menus. People also rave about the belly ham pizza at City House.
A Southern favorite that is perfectly crispy and deliciously tender.
🍽️ Where to Find Catfish: Cock of the Walk (Music Valley), Uncle Bud’s (Donelson)
Fried catfish has a crispy exterior with an interior that’s even flakier than chicken. The southern delicacy is usually served with tartar sauce or ketchup. With catfish easily available from the Mississippi Delta, it’s not hard to find catfish in Nashville.
Lots of meat and three places serve catfish, usually on Fridays. You can also find catfish every day of the week at restaurants in Nashville like Cock of the Walk and Uncle Bud’s.
These are not the instant noodles you had in college.
🍽️ Where to Find Ramen: Otaku Ramen (Multiple Locations), Black Dynasty Secret Ramen House (Sylvan Park)
Nashville doesn’t have a huge selection of ramen restaurants, but the ones that are here are worth visiting.
Otaku Ramen, which opened in 2016, has the largest selection of ramen on its menu and is most like a traditional ramen house.
Black Dynasty Secret Ramen House is one of the few places in Nashville making ramen with homemade noodles. And, Two Ten Jack is a local favorite serving Izakaya and ramen. My most-ordered item on the menu is the pork ramen made with mushrooms, garlic, and an egg.
A sweet treat to pair with a meal or enjoy on its own.
🍽️ Where to Find Milkshakes: Elliston Place Soda Shop, Hugh Baby’s (Multiple Locations)
Milkshakes are a great treat to enjoy when the summer heats up in Nashville. Places like Gracie’s Milkshake Bar serve over-the-top Instagram-worthy creations made with a combination of ice cream and candy.
For more traditional milkshakes, Hugh Baby’s does a great plain milkshake. And Elliston Place Soda Shop, a fun retro restaurant that first opened in the 1930s, has more than a dozen classic milkshakes on its menu.
From quick and cheap to upscale, Nashville has this American staple covered.
🍽️ Where to Find Burgers: Hugh Baby’s (Multiple Locations), Pharmacy Burger (East)
Every city has burgers, and Nashville is no exception when it comes to the American classic. For a fast-food burger that’s actually grilled rather than microwaved, Hugh Baby’s is the place to go. The sandwich shop Tower Deli also has a surprisingly good burger for a decent price.
Nashville doesn’t just do burgers as cheap eats though. James Beard Award Winner Sean Brock has perfected a deluxe burger at Joyland. The restaurant also serves Impossible Burgers as an option for vegans and vegetarians. Pharmacy Burger is another popular restaurant where you can get a burger made with grass-fed beef.
For breakfast or any other time of day.
🍽️ Where to Find Donuts: Fox’s Donut Den (Green Hills), Five Daughters Bakery (Multiple Locations)
For its size, Nashville has a good number of local donut shops. There’s something for everyone no matter what kind of donut you’re in the mood for.
Fox’s Donut Den has been a local favorite since the 1970s serving up cheap, delicious donuts that outmatch any donut chain. McGaugh’s is another favorite among locals. The drive-thru line is always long every Saturday morning.
Five Daughters Bakery is popular with both visitors and locals thanks to its 100-layer donuts that are incredibly Instagram-worthy. I’d like to offer the controversial opinion that the salted brown butter donuts at East Park Donuts are the best in Nashville. No matter where you go, your taste buds will appreciate it.
The drink most associated with Tennessee.
🍽️ Where to Find Tennessee Whiskey: Corsair (Marathon Village and Wedgewood-Houston), Nashville Craft Distillery (Downtown)
Some of the most well-known alcohol brands in the world are made in Tennessee and Nashville is home to several smaller craft distillers.
In particular, Corsair is one of the most popular distilleries in Nashville. There are two locations where you can sample the whiskey and tour the distillery. Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery and Tennessee Legend Distillery are within walking distance.
Nashville Craft Distillery is also an interesting place to try out whiskey. The distillery is run by former DNA labor director Bruce Boeko. If you’re into whiskey, consider hitting the Tennessee Whiskey Trail on a weekend getaway from Nashville.
A Middle Eastern-inspired dish made with fermented honey.
🍽️ Where to Find Whipped Feta: Butcher and Bee (East Nashville), Lyra (East Nashville)
Butcher and Bee is one of the best restaurants in Nashville for many reasons, including its whipped feta. The whipped feta is exactly what it sounds like with fermented honey and black pepper added. If you mention Butcher and Bee to anyone, they’ll bring up the whipped feta.
Everyone has a different recipe for the dish. Besides the one at Butcher and Bee, you can also find whipped feta at Lyra and Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe.
Goo Goo Clusters
The first combination candy bar made in the United States.
🍽️ Where to Find Goo Goo Clusters: Goo Goo Chocolate Co (Downtown), Nashville Gas Stations and Grocery Stores
Goo Goo Clusters are a candy made with nuts, caramel, nougat, and milk chocolate. The treat was invented in Nashville in 1912, and the company’s headquarters are still in the city today.
You can visit the Goo Goo Chocolate Co in Downtown to make your own chocolate bar and purchase boxes. Goo Goo Clusters are also sold in gas stations and grocery stores around Nashville. Every time I buy a box, they disappear quickly!
You’ll find different versions of this American classic in Nashville.
🍽️ Where to Find Hot Dogs: Von Elrod’s (Germantown), Daddy’s Dogs (Multiple Locations)
Hot dogs aren’t exactly fine dining, but there are several popular places to grab a hot dog in Nashville.
For a classic hot dog, head to I Dream of Weenie, a stand housed in a vintage VW van. For more gourmet options, Daddy’s Dogs is the way to go. You can find Daddy’s Dogs in one of their three restaurants or in a food truck around town. If you like your hot dogs in a beer hall setting, try out Von Elrod’s.
Varallo’s has been serving chili since 1907.
🍽️ Where to Find Chili: Varallo’s (Downtown)
Nashville is not known for its chili, but that’s the specialty at Varallo’s, the oldest restaurant in all of Tennessee. Varallo’s first opened in 1907. The location has changed over the years as has the chili recipe. Today, the chili restaurant is one of the few cheap eats located in Downtown Nashville.
👉 Looking for more things to do Downtown? Check out our guide to the best things to do and see around Nashville.
Fried Bologna Sandwich
Skillet-cooked bologna on toasted bread.
🍽️ Where to Find Fried Bologna Sandwich: Robert’s Western World (Downtown), Honky Tonk Central (Downtown)
Fried bologna sandwiches are a popular homemade Southern food. Not exactly fine dining, the dish is cheap and easy to make. Robert’s Western World is known for having the best fried bologna sandwich in Nashville (along with great live country music.)
You can also find fried bologna sandwiches at several other places in Nashville including Puckett’s, Honky Tonk Central, and Varallo’s.
Versions of this Greek staple are everywhere in Nashville.
🍽️ Where to Find Gyros: Best Gyros (South), Koftaky Grill (Hermitage)
If you’re craving a gyro in Nashville, you’re in luck because there’s probably one nearby. The city has an abundance of gyro places. It’s hard to find a bad gyro here. The main difference between restaurants serving gyros tends to be ingredient quality and price.
For some of the cheapest gyros go to Best Gyros on Nolensville Pike. If you want a great lamb gyro, try out Koftaky Grill. This restaurant has more of an Egyptian-influenced menu, something you won’t find at other gyro spots. You can also find a gyro stall in almost every food court in the city. No matter where you go, you’ll get a tasty, filling meal.
Enjoying fun drinks without alcohol is becoming increasingly popular.
🍽️ Where to Find Mocktails: Audrey (East), Fox Bar & Cocktail Club (East)
Restaurants and bars across Nashville are expanding their non-alcoholic drink options. When I was pregnant, I especially appreciated being able to get a fun cocktail minus the alcohol.
The choices for mocktails vary at each bar and restaurant. The bar menu at Audrey has almost as many non-alcoholic options as alcoholic ones. The Fox Bar & Cocktail Club also has a good selection of mocktails including Brighton Beach, a fun drink with coconut cream and pineapples.
FAQs About Nashville Food
What type of food is Nashville famous for?
In general, Nashville is famous for having Southern cuisine. This includes staples like meat and threes, chicken, and biscuits. Nashville, in particular, is famous for its hot chicken.
What is the most popular dish in Tennessee?
Country ham is one of the most popular dishes you’ll find in Tennessee. Country ham is made by heavily salting the meat and preserving it through curing and smoking.
What dishes should I not miss in Nashville?
Nashville hot chicken is one of the foods Nashville is best known for. No Nashville trip is complete without sampling the dish in some form.
What is the best place for fried chicken in Nashville?
Prince’s Hot Chicken is one of the best places to get fried chicken in Nashville. Another great option is Monell’s, which is known for its skillet fried chicken.
Thanks for reading about all the delicious Nashville food you can enjoy in the city. One thing Nashville does incredibly well is breakfast, so make sure to check out my guide to the top brunch spots around Nashville.
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