Nashville has long been known for barbecue, whiskey, and the fried bologna sandwiches served at their famous honky-tonks. Of course you shouldn’t visit Music City without indulging in these delicacies, but they aren’t particularly innovative. But now cutting edge chefs and bartenders, drawn to the city’s charm and easygoing lifestyle, are opening a slew of new restaurants and bars. They all stay true to the city’s Southern identity while displaying a broad range of influences, including Indian, Mexican, and Mediterranean. So if you’re visiting the Music City, these are the hot spots you absolutely can’t miss.
Passing by this nondescript building with an attached shipping container, you’d never guess that it houses a stylish hotel and restaurant. Highlights from the equally compact menu by chef Matt Bolus include creamy homemade burrata with shaved black truffle and crispy skillet cornbread with bourbon barrel sorghum butter. The extensive whisky list boats a “World Tour” flight of three varieties from Scotland, Canada and Japan.
The restaurateur behind the popular Holland House Bar and Refuge just opened a new spot in the Germantown neighborhood. The menu pulls inspiration from Central Texas and exhibits German and Mexican flavors with house-made knackwurst and chorizo, smoked and grilled meats, tacos with from-scratch tortillas, and a beverage list focused on beer and agave spirits. The interior is as rustic as the menu— jars of colorful pickled vegetables contrast with the white tiled walls, and a stonewall draped in moss separates the dining area from the bar.
CHAUHAN ALE & MASALA HOUSE
“The cuisine we serve is an embodiment of my personality. It’s fun, spicy, and colorful. The origin is modern Indian and represents my approach to life, which is constant evolution,” explains chef and owner Maneet Chauhan. The Food Network personality and native of India’s Punjab province recently opened this energetic Gulch neighborhood spot decorated in colorful Indian accents. The chicken pakora po boy comprised of hot chicken, tangy cabbage slaw, and cooling mint chutney is the perfect example of how Chauhan’s unique food combines Indian, English, and Southern influences.
HATTIE B’S HOT CHICKEN
This spot’s specialty is, you guessed it, Nashville’s signature hot chicken. The batter contains so much cayenne pepper that the juicy breast with the wing attached arrives encased in a fiery-red crust. It’s always served sandwiched between a slice of white bread and a solitary pickle slice and is best washed down with a glass of syrupy sweet tea. Arrive expecting to wait in line because this chicken is fried fresh to order.
The second location of Sean’s Brock’s restaurant, housed in a restored 19th-century home overlooking downtown Nashville, sets an elegant mood for his elevated Southern cuisine. In fact, all the ingredients come from the South and are listed on the giant chalkboard next to the entrance. Starters like crispy chicken skins with Alabama white BBQ sauce and Johnny cakes with pimento cheese are irresistible, but remember to save room for the entrees. The Southern vegetable plate, for example, is anything but humble. It arrives at the table heaving with dishes like pickled radishes, grits with a soft egg and braised greens, and creamy farro with mushrooms.
Vibrant striped walls are a fitting backdrop for this lively cocktail lounge in East Nashville. Served in a glass Coke bottle with Belle Meade bourbon, the “Papaw” pays tribute to the old Southern ritual drinking cola with salted peanuts. Owner Ben Clemons, however, strongly recommends a highball like whiskey and ginger ale or rum and cola made with from-scratch sodas. He might even give you a guided tour of the menu on a relaxed weekday night, but the bar is apparently packed on weekends.
The folks behind the Patterson House, a much-lauded speakeasy, have brought their Prohibition Era-style to a new establishment. It’s hard to say what patrons first notice when they enter this sprawling 13,500 square foot space that is part coffee shop, bar, bowling alley, and living room. Guests are welcome to relax on the vintage-inspired couches and snack on steak tartare and kale salads or sip on a lovingly made coffee drink while working on laptops.
ROLF & DAUGHTERS
The exposed brick walls and sparse decor at chef and owner Philip Krajeck’s restaurant belies the elegance of his cuisine. There’s a clear Mediterranean influence in dishes like unbelievably tender octopus served on a bed of calypso beans or his renowned pasta dishes like nettle tagliatelle served with cured egg yolk. Still, there’s a distinct Southern undertone stemming from the use of local ingredients like sorghum, sweet potatoes, and heritage pork.