Weekend Getaways: Tour Music City's Thriving and Diverse Restaurants

Experience part of Nashville's food renaissance

Erin Edwards
Columbus Monthly
Assembly Food Hall

If all you know about Nashville’s food scene is hot chicken, we have good news. There’s much, much more to explore, from a new Jewish delicatessen to delicious Kurdish cuisine to a hotel offering Italian fine dining.

Take, for example, Shep’s Delicatessen, which rescued Music City from the deli doldrums when it opened this spring in East Nashville’s lively Five Points neighborhood. The Jewish deli serves all-day breakfast, with bagels, bialys and blintzes as well as breakfast Reuben sandwiches, babka French toast and, of course, biscuits (because it’s the South).

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Though Husk founding chef Sean Brock didn’t spark Nashville’s food renaissance alone, the culinary star is quickly becoming the face of it, having made East Nashville his home base (where he plans to open his flagship restaurant, Audrey). In 2020, Brock opened Joyland in the neighborhood, his homage to fast food, with burgers, fried chicken sandwiches and biscuits. Also not to be missed on the East Side is Mas Tacos Por Favor, a funky spot great for kicking back with a paloma, a bowl of pozole verde and a couple of tacos.

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Chef Sean Brock

East Nashville’s dining scene has exploded over the past 20 years, but chef Margot McCormack was the pioneer. Margot Café & Bar, McCormack’s French- and Italian-inspired spot that opened in 2001, remains one of the best restaurants in the city, with a menu that always hews closely to whatever’s fresh. Newer to the neighborhood are two small restaurants located just steps away from each other: Pelican & Pig and Once Upon a Time in France. The former, owned by husband-and-wife restaurateurs, expertly prepares meat and veg over a wood-burning hearth. The latter, owned by a French father-son duo, is a tiny bistro with a menu and interior that transports you to Paris.

To get your Southern food fix (and lots of it), head to the Germantown institution known as Monell’s, where fried chicken, corn pudding and green beans are passed family-style around the table. The restaurant also serves breakfast daily.

Downtown Nashville’s brand-new Assembly Food Hall, with views of the Ryman Auditorium next door, is perfect for seeking diverse food options all in one place. Prince’s Hot Chicken, the spot that started it all, is here, along with Kurdish fare, sushi, Thai, Indian, burgers, brats, ice cream and multiple bars. If you’d like to explore the city’s rich Turkish and Kurdish cuisine offerings further, head to South Nashville’s Edessa Restaurant for friendly service and foods like gozleme (Turkish stuffed flatbread) and chicken shish kebabs suspended on skewers.

Prince's Hot Chicken

There’s no shortage of buzzy, chef-driven restaurants in Nashville of late. Germantown’s Henrietta Red (led by James Beard semifinalist Julia Sullivan) is a nice break from the typical heaviness of Southern fare, featuring a raw oyster bar and a seafood/vegetable-focused menu. For an elegant night out, the year-old Italian restaurant Yolan offers five- or eight-course tasting menus with optional wine pairings. Run by Michelin-starred chef Tony Mantuano (formerly of Chicago’s Spiaggia), Yolan is located inside The Joseph hotel, the luxury 21-story boutique hotel conceptualized by none other than Columbus’ The Pizzuti Cos.

If you dare, end your night with a PBR and fried bologna sandwich at the best honky tonk on Lower Broadway: Robert’s Western World. The weathered music mecca has stayed true to its classic country roots (think: Marty Robbins, Johnny Cash and Patsy Cline) even as Nashville has changed drastically over the years.

Flights from Columbus to Nashville

Southwest, one daily to Nashville International Airport

Where to Stay in Nashville

Van Dyke Bed and Beverage is a fun option for foodies. It’s in the heart of dining hot spot East Nashville, a walkable neighborhood that’s a nice break from the city’s rowdy downtown. Plus, as this boutique hotel’s cheeky name implies, check-in takes place at a handsome lobby bar.

This story is from the October 2021 issue of Columbus Monthly.