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 Glutch 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., 12 South
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.
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 (get the braised fennel with Montasio cheese pizza from their wood-burning oven). You’ll also find brisket and fried catfish on the menu if you’re looking for a Southern fix, but after all the fried chicken you'll likely eat, it might be a relief to get some ingeniously treated vegetables. Stop by the bar on your way in or out, as the bartenders here know their stuff.
2902 12th Ave. S., Midtown
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 rack of lamb or the Sayadeya, a lean, spicy filet of fish served with caramelized onions and vermicelli rice.
2316 12th Ave. S., 12 South
Josephine is located in 12 South along a major shopping thoroughfare, so it's a nice spot to keep in mind before or after an afternoon spent in the neighborhood's boutiques. During the day, light streams in through wide garage windows, and the space is airy and bright—in the evenings, the lights are dim and the leather banquettes make it a nice, romantic date-night spot. The menu has a little bit of everything, from an excellent chicken thigh to small plates (don't leave without trying the pretzel bread).
1922 Adelicia St., Midtown
Brothers Ben and Max Goldberg's Strategic Hospitality group is behind some of the most beloved restaurants in Nashville, including Patterson House (along with Catbird, upstairs) and Pinewood Social. Le Sel is their spin on a classic French joint, featuring oysters, a great roast chicken, and moules frites. The decor, on the other hand, is a lot less classic—the space is filled with cool, off-beat art and decorated with quirky feminine touches like pink velvet banquettes and black-and-white striped painted floors. The bar downstairs can be accessed independently, and has an excellent cocktail list.
1520 Woodland St., Lockeland Springs
Formerly of Eastland, chef Hal Holden-Bache’s first solo venture lives in an unexpected residential neighborhood in East Nashville—but he still manages to pack the house almost every night. The focus here is Nashville, of course: The fresh produce comes from local farms, and most of the booze and beer is Tennessee-sourced. The menu is packed with hearty, deeply satisfying dishes like spaghetti and meatballs, shepherd’s pie, and the crowd favorite: crispy pig ears. Reservations are highly recommended.
Margot Café & Bar
1017 Woodland St., Lockeland Springs
A daily-changing menu of French and Italian dishes comes out of this husband-and-wife owned restaurant in East Nashville where the emphasis is always on local and seasonal ingredients.
401 Broadway, Downtown
Merchants has been taking up prime Downtown real estate (perfectly situated for dinner and drinks before a night of honky-tonk at Robert’s Western World), in what used to be Merchants Hotel, since 1988 but has only recently gained culinary notoriety thanks to a top-to-bottom overhaul in 2010. It’s split into two distinct dining concepts: On the ground floor, it’s Southern comfort food (green fried tomatoes, blackened catfish, smoked brisket) and cozy leather booths. Upstairs, it's a formal dining room with a fancier menu to match (seafood towers and filet mignon).
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