Where The Locals Eat In Nashville – Most people travel to Nashville for the music scene, but did you know that Nashville is full of great places to eat? We were only here for two and a half days and ate at as many places as possible and still barely scratched the surface of what Nashville has to offer. Tim and I ate (and drank) too much to gather the necessary information for this post. The things we do in the name of research.
Not only did we eat a lot of food, we also waited in a ridiculous amount of lines. In many places we stood in line for at least fifteen minutes to get a table. It didn’t matter if it was 9am. or 3 p.m. or 9 p.m.… be prepared to wait in line at the best of the best restaurants in Nashville.
Where The Locals Eat In Nashville
UPDATE: This article was originally written in 2016 and updated after our most recent visit in 2019. Have fun picking your favorites!
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There was a time when you could describe Arnold as a “hole in the wall”. Not anymore. Arnold’s escapes from its confines and doubles in size. Why; Because the food is great.
Here we had our first taste of Nashville food and got a little practice in line. It was 11:30 on a Friday morning and the line was out on the street. Locals and tourists grabbed trays and chose meats, sides and dessert, then found a seat at one of the tables. This is Southern cooking at its finest… buttery mash, BBQ chicken, green beans, pot pie. Oh my… delicious! Then Tim and I knew Nashville was going to be delicious!
Unfortunately, we only had one plate to split because we had to save room for Biscuit Love, a few blocks away. Today’s food tour had us visit two different restaurants for brunch.
The best cookies in Nashville? Yes! At least in the restaurants we tried. We had biscuits with sausage gravy, yum yum, but the highlight was the bonuts.
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Not quite a doughnut, not quite a cookie, just a delicious mix of the two, served with raspberry compote and cream. This place will be hard to beat!!
Southern is the place to go if you want an upscale restaurant with a gourmet menu and reasonable prices. The Southern is within walking distance of Broadway, within walking distance of the Schermerhorn Symphony Center.
We ate raw blue point oysters and drank wine at the bar while waiting for our table. For dinner, Tim and Ishared the blue cheese steak and biscuits and the Southern burger. Both were amazing. Other menu items include Banh Mi Fish Tacos, Braised Beef Brisket, Nudie Suit and Seared Sea Scallops. See their menu here.
This is a breakfast, brunch and lunch establishment frequented by locals. Located near Vanderbilt University, it’s another popular spot to wait in line. I had read mixed reviews about this restaurant, but we were pleasantly surprised. Tim had french toast and I had blueberry pancakes. Both were very good. And don’t skip the wasted coffees. They serve over twenty different flavors of pancakes as well as other breakfast foods. Click here to take a look at the menu.
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If you like breakfast, the Pancake Pantry is worth the wait. If you had to choose between Biscuit Love and Pancake Pantry, go for Biscuit Love. Bonus!!
This was another pleasant surprise. For a Broadway restaurant in the honk of Honky Tonks, Tim and I weren’t expecting much from this place. But oh, the food was so good. There were so many things on the menu that we wanted to try. According to our waitress, the traders’ hottest dishes are the Chicken Fried Chicken and the fish tacos. Well, Tim went for the fish tacos and I had the grilled salmon BLT. Both were very good.
If you need a break from Honky Tonking or refueling before a night out at the bars, Merchant’s makes a convenient stop that offers gourmet, healthier alternatives to typical Southern Nashville cuisine.
Robert’s Western World is a Honky Tonk bar and one of our favorites. Got the food and want live music? This is the place. Go for the fried bologna sandwich… a local favorite.
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Over and over we heard about Loveless Cafe, so much so that we couldn’t pass it up. Tim and I were surprised to learn that one of Nashville’s most popular restaurants is located so far from downtown. In fact, Loveless Cafe is a thirty minute drive from downtown Nashville.
We arrived during the lunch rush and were told it would be an hour and forty five minute wait for a table. Yes!! Instead of waiting, we ordered carry out and sat outside at one of the picnic tables, getting our food in a much quicker 40 minutes.
Tim and I agreed that Loveless Cafe did not live up to its hype. People rave about the biscuits and fried chicken. They were good but nothing stellar. And wait that long for food and drive thirty minutes out of town? I wouldn’t do it again.
If you’re curious about what all the fuss is about Loveless, come see for yourself. Maybe you have a better experience. But if you’re short on time, eat at Arnold’s Country Kitchen, which has a similar menu with better food and you don’t have to leave town. You don’t even need to have a car.
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People come here for the musical performance with the writers-in-the-round, but there is a dinner menu for those who come hungry. At Bluebird Cafe you can get good food. Healthy food. Yes, they have chicken fingers and quesadillas, but you can also dine on veggies and hummus, caesar salad, and spinach and artichoke dip.
Stand in line again for some of Nashville’s best chicken. You can order your chicken with different levels of spiciness (heat) and add side dishes to your meal. Do you really want to add some heat to your chicken? I dare you to try the “Shut the Cluck Up” heat level. Here is the menu.
Etch is a hip, modern restaurant serving dishes such as octopus and prawn bruschetta, grilled lamb loin and grilled tenderloin. This is the most luxurious restaurant on the list and consistently receives rave reviews from its customers. With $30 ballpark food it can be expensive, especially once you add drinks, but the food is delicious! They are known for their grilled cauliflower (yum!) and grilled tenderloin. We tried both, but if you save room for dessert, we really liked the ice cream sundae.
Mexican lovers, rejoice! This is another Nashville favorite and we tried it on our most recent visit to Nashville. Frankly, Tim and I didn’t think it lived up to the rave reviews it’s been getting. Mas Tacos is located outside of downtown Nashville, so you’ll need a car or Uber to get here. The tacos were very good, but it might not be worth it to eat here unless you
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Skull’s Rainbow Room is Nashville’s only downtown jazz lounge. It has been around since 1948 and is located in Printer’s Alley not far from Honky Tonks. This is a great place in Nashville to go for drinks, music and dinner. Just be sure to make your reservations in advance. Visit their website here.
Even with two visits to Nashville, we still have plenty of restaurants on our list to try. Both of these restaurants get great reviews on travel blogs and Trip Advisor, and most of them were recommended to us by friends. Although we never had the chance to eat at these restaurants, they should make the list of places to eat in Nashville
This was recommended to us for brunch, some say Husk serves the best brunch ever. We’ve also heard rumors that Husk also serves a very tasty cheeseburger.
Interesting name. Smells delicious!! We walked past Peg Leg Porker when walking between Arnold’s Country Kitchen and Biscuit Love. It smelled so good we almost had our third brunch of the morning.
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That concludes our Nashville food tour. Good food! What is your favorite restaurant in Nashville? Let us know in the comments section below!
MORE ABOUT NASHVILLE: For recommendations on what to do, check out our Best Things to Do in Nashville article. And for full details about Bluebird Cafe, read our How to Visit Bluebird Cafe article.
GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK: Find out how to spend a weekend in Great Smoky Mountains National Park in our Gatlinburg and Great Smoky Mountains Weekend Getaway Guide. Don’t miss our Mount LeConte Hiking Guide if you’re looking for a great hike.
NEARBY DESTINATIONS: Asheville, North Carolina is a great weekend destination. Mammoth Cave National Park is located near Nashville and is a great road trip destination.
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KENTUCKY BOURBON TRAIL: Spend a few days exploring Kentucky’s Bourbon Trail. Learn about the best distilleries to visit on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and learn how to plan your own
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