1210 McGavock St., The Gulch
Jonathan Waxman named his second restaurant (the first is Barbuto in NYC) after his mom, Adele, whom he credits with turning him onto cooking. The space is simple and clean (like many of its Gulch area neighbors, it was once an auto repair shop), with recycled wood tables, a sprawling open kitchen, and huge garage doors, which are kept open in the warmer months. As far as food goes, expect to find seasonally inspired veggies (shaved zucchini salad, sautéed spinach, and the famous JW potatoes) and wood-oven specialties like crispy trout and NY strip steak.
2526 12th Ave. S., 12South
Bartaco also has a few locations in Connecticut, and you can definitely feel the East Coast vibe when you walk inside: The patio is white-washed with blue cushions and accents, and the hanging pendants inside are made from woven baskets. The garage doors separating the patio from the restaurant open wide on warm evenings, where it's nice to bond with their well-tended cocktail list (favorites are the margarita, the mojito, and a bold blend of chorizo spice, reposado, and mezcal called the CLT). If you’re staying to eat, trays of guacamole, salsa, and an assortment of tacos take the stress out of ordering for a crowd. Their outpost in Atlanta is also a favorite. Photos: Chun Yip So
316 11th Ave. S., The Gulch
Karl and Sarah Worley started Biscuit Love as a food truck (an Airstream they lovingly named Lilly, to be specific), selling their biscuit-based menu at farmers markets around the city. The streamlined yet vintage-inspired design is reminiscent of Lilly, with clean walls and white brick making the open space feel airy and summery, and a marquee sign that says "NASHVILLE" as the focal point. The menu is also largely the same, offering breakfast and brunch all week long and relying heavily on biscuits as a vehicle to deliver everything from homemade jam to hot chicken sandwiches. Other locations include Hillsboro Village and Downtown Franklin.
1115 Porter Rd., East Nashville
Our favorite breakfast spot in the city is found in East Nashville, at Cafe Roze. Grab a seat at the long marble bar and settle in for a crazy good avocado shake (made with kale, banana, almond milk, and bee pollen) before a bowl of savory oats, served with a poached egg, mustard greens, and roasted shiitake mushrooms. The space itself is light-filled and cheerful, and it’s an ideal place to start the day (or for lunch, dinner and cocktails, too).
1222 4th Ave. N., Germantown
City House’s rustic Italian-meets-Southern food stands out from that of the rest of the Nashville restaurant scene in that it's a true foodie’s restaurant. Dishes change with the seasons, but local favorites like the Belly Ham Pizza and cornmeal-crusted catfish frequent the menu. Stop by the bar on your way in or out, as the bartenders here know their stuff.
2706 12th Ave S., 12South
Brisket tacos, perfectly smoked ribs, and the burnt-ends platter with cornbread and a side of grits casserole are what keep regulars coming back to this 12South spot. The cocktails are stellar, too—the Bitter Goat is a refreshing lime and ginger beer concoction—and the atmosphere is always buzzing and friendly. There are enough veggie sides to ensure the non-meat-eaters don’t go hungry, and Edley’s is famous for its desserts, like the chocolate fudge pie and banana pudding. For those who can't make it to 12South, there are two other locations in Sylvan Park and East Nashville.
2902 12th Ave. S., 12South
Fresh-tasting Lebanese cuisine is still unfamiliar to a lot of people, and casual Epice (which takes its name from the French word for spice) offers a welcoming way in. Dishes are light and vegetable-heavy—favorites include the lamb shank or the Sayadeya, a lean, spicy filet of fish served with caramelized onions and vermicelli rice.
823 Meridian St., East Nashville
Chef Philip Krajeck (of Rolf & Daughters) opened Folk earlier this year in McFerrin Park, an up-and-coming area of East Nashville that’s currently booming. First impressions are striking, with an interior that features custom artwork from local artists Alex Lockwood and Paul Collins, exposed brick walls, and plenty of light wood accents and potted greenery for that indoor-outdoor effect. As for the food, you can’t go wrong with one of the wood-fired pizzas, which are topped with ingredients like kale, fermented potato, pickled chilis, and preserved peppers.
1200 4th Ave N., Germantown
We come to Henrietta Red as much for the surroundings as the food. It’s an immensely pretty dining room, spacious, flooded with natural light, and accented with tons of natural wood and beautifully designed contemporary furniture. But it’s also casual—a neighborhood spot in the middle of historic Germantown, with a homey, welcoming feel. Chef Julia Sullivan (she’s worked at Blue Hill at Stone Barns and Per Se) serves up food that’s both comforting and surprising (wood-fired bread slathered in anchovy butter; squash gratin with feta, lemon, and basil; mussels with saffron cream, mustard seed, fennel, and herbs), and the raw bar is possibly the best you’ll find in Nashville.
37 Rutledge St., Rutledge Hill
Chef Sean Brock grew up foraging, pickling, and preserving the South’s produce since childhood. His restaurant, Husk, captures that passion for the region and its food in dishes that are familiar (to Southerners, at least) and comforting: country ham with cheddar biscuits and pickles; shrimp and grits, hearth-fired cornbread; oyster stew with celery root. The menu changes constantly, but you get the idea. Every ingredient is grown in the South. And we are totally enamored with the setting: an 1870’s Victorian home.
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