Nashville, Tennessee is known for its music history, especially its ties to country music, but the city also has a rich culinary history long before it became the popular getaway it is today. Everyone has recommendations for you, no matter who you ask. There are many must-eat dishes, but these are just a few that visitors can’t miss.
What is your favorite dish in Nashville? Let us know in the comments!
When you think of Nashville, you likely think of Nashville hot chicken. It’s become a mainstream dish, found at fast-food chains around the country, but the original version is from the Music City. Legend has it that a woman created the spicy dish to teach her womanizing boyfriend a lesson. It became popular in the 1970s, popping up in African American-owned restaurants like Prince’s.
The chicken is typical fried chicken, marinated in buttermilk and battered with flour, but is also soaked in a cayenne pepper paste with lard that creates the signature flavor.
Where to Eat It: Prince’s Hot Chicken is the original and the best. They serve the chicken in varying spice levels and different parts of the chicken with sides like potato salad, coleslaw, and baked beans. Hattie B’s Hot Chicken is a new version, and regional chain, with plates and sandwiches.
For a full list of hot chicken restaurants, check out this Eater Nashville article.
Southern-style biscuits (as opposed to the British version that we would call cookies) are not native to Nashville, but there are a few places really known for them here. They’re made using dough from buttermilk and flour, rolled out, cut into circles, and given time to rise before baking. Ideally, they are flaky on the inside and slightly crispy on the outside.
The best biscuits are made fresh daily and can be served with jams and jellies or as a sandwich for fried chicken, sausage, and other breakfast items. You’ll find them at both fine dining restaurants and casual eateries like at gas station counters.
Where to Eat It: Loveless Cafe is one of Nashville’s classic restaurants, located near the Natchez Trace Parkway. Their biscuits are made fresh daily, best with their homemade jams. They also serve a rotating selection of Southern favorites like country ham. Biscuit Love puts a modern spin on biscuits, turning them to doughnuts or topping with chicken and gravy.
Meat and Three
While also not found solely in Nashville, the meat and three is a type of restaurant that offers your choice of protein and sides. They might include fried chicken, pork chops, and meatloaf with mashed potatoes, collard greens, macaroni and cheese, and coleslaw.
Where to Eat It: Arnold’s Country Kitchen is a well-known “meat and three” establishment in Nashville. Recognized by the James Beard Foundation and Southern Foodways Alliance, you can’t miss the fried chicken, catfish, and vegetables. Varallo’s Restaurant is another meat and three in town.
Barbecue is one dish you’ll find in just about every corner of the South and Nashville is no different. There’s no “Nashville style” barbecue, so you’ll find pork, brisket, turkey, and chicken smoked with a tomato-based sauce. Many restaurants also have a variety of sides like coleslaw, fries, and macaroni and cheese.
Where to Eat It: Located in Centennial Park near Vanderbilt University, Hog Heaven has a walk-up window with picnic tables that has been open for over 25 years. They serve smoked chicken, ribs, and pork with white sauce popular in Alabama. Edley’s Bar-B-Que is another favorite and has won awards for creative barbecue dishes like BBQ nachos, brisket tacos, and breakfast burritos.
In the early 1900s, a number of candies were created including the Goo Goo Cluster. The Standard Candy Company came up with the chocolate, caramel, nougat, and peanut treat. It gets its name from the sound babies make before they learn to speak. They were also a popular item sold in pharmacies and at performances of the Grand Ole Opry.
Where to Eat It: There’s nowhere better than the Goo Goo Shop in Nashville! The shop sells different versions of the candy bar and offers other desserts and chocolate classes.
While you can drink it all over the state, Nashville is the perfect base to explore the area’s whiskey distilleries like Jack Daniel’s, George Dickel, and Leiper’s Fork. The spirit is made slightly differently than bourbon, with charcoal mellowing before barrel maturation.
But there are also distilleries in the Music City, like Corsair, along with bars carrying the biggest selection. The appropriately-named Whiskey Kitchen and O’Be Joyful in Franklin also have great lineups of whiskey and bourbon.
Where to Drink It: The Oak Bar at the Hermitage Hotel has over 130 bottles of bourbon and whiskey, including selections from around the state. It’s also one of the oldest bars in town.
Looking for a Nashville hotel? The Fairlane Hotel and Gaylord Opryland Resort are two excellent options. The Nashville Food and Sightseeing Tour is a great way to see the city’s best eateries. Check out our weekend guide for more suggestions.