[updated October 2019]
Nashville is hot. I had just 48 hours in Nashville so I was determined to get as much of a taste of the town as I could.
On my way to dinner one evening, my Uber driver enlightened me about how much the city has changed over the past decade. More and more transplants are moving here. Plus it has become a top destination for visitors in the United States. Famous as the epicenter for country music, it’s now also more than just BBQ and Hot Chicken. Nashville has become the home to a great array of award-winning restaurants.
What to do with 48 Hours in Nashville
After World War II, the city became the home to the first FM radio station and the Grand Olde Opry. Into music? This is the place to be. Check out the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Johnny Cash Museum, and the Grand Olde Opry. But you’re here for food, like me, right? Let’s get to chowin’ down!
Where to Eat in Nashville
When you’re hungry, Nashville delivers. From small, neighborhood joints serving up chicken for decades, to top-chef run eateries, Nashville is a great foodie destination. I did my research beforehand, checking out bloggers, food writers, asking local friends and scouring sites like Eater Nashville to find some of the hottest spots to try
The new eatery from Philip Krajeck of popular spot, Rolf and Daughters. The main event is pizza made in a wood-fired oven. The menu also has snacks like, a lot of veg-focused small plates like the honeynut squash, with marigold, mizuna, buttermilk, and pumpkin seed, and handful of steak and pork mains.
From James Beard Award-winning chef Sean Brock, Husk is an outpost of the original in Charleston. Highlighting inventive Southern cuisine, it’s still as popular as ever.
Vegetables take center stage at this eclectic East Nashville restaurant and bar. Plus, the cool atmosphere, with a great outdoor area and actual ‘treehouse’ makes for a unique spot.
High, industrial ceilings and earthy tones welcome you to this popular sandwich and “mezze” restaurant out of Charleston, South Carolina. We loved the dishes like the fire roasted carrots with coconut, peanuts, sambal onions. And the avocado crispy rice with collard greens, peanuts, and serrano chiles was divine.
A light-filled Germantown restaurant and bar, focuses on seafood and seasonal vegetables, along with a raw bar.
Lots of eclectic small plates to share and snazzy cocktails are the thing at this vintagey new spot in the Printer’s Alley area of downtown.
Located in the former F. W. Woolworth department store, the very site of some of the lunch counter sit-ins with John Lewis during the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, the old-timey lunch counter space has undergone a massive restoration. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, it serves up some southern classics like fried chicken and biscuits, seafood gumbo and mac and cheese.
I didn’t get to eat here, but had to list it because of its chef and owner I interviewed Maneet Chauhan years ago for an ABC TV segment I produced on Vermillion, an Indian fusion hot spot in Chicago. She was a firecracker and it’s no surprise that she’s gone on to be a TV personality on the Food Network, author and restaurant owner. Her menu here is a mix of Indian food with a southern twist of course.
It’s the original ‘Hot Chicken Shack.’ For more than 70 years, Prince’s has been frying up their legendary spicy fried chicken.
You may have guessed by now, but biscuits are a BIG deal in the south. Biscuit Love is all about its flaky, buttermilk biscuits. Plus they go all out with the different varieties. Get some of the ‘standards’ like: a biscuit smothered in sausage gravy, or topped with fried chicken, or with ham and eggs. Then there are some of the sweeter varieties like a fried biscuit that is topped with lemon mascarpone, over blueberry compote, or filled with pineapple and banana jam and topped with cream cheese icing and pecans.
For sweet treats try spots like the Dozen Bakery and Goo Goo Shop for the original goo-goo cluster, the first combination candy bar which combines marshmallow nougat, roasted peanuts, and caramel covered in milk chocolate. Try the original or go nuts with trendy flavors like sriracha candied bacon, peanut butter, and bacon fat caramel. And then go into a food coma.
I’m still a Jersey girl at heart, so I loved finding New York-owned Proper Bagel over on Belmont Boulevard. It had a contemporary, black and white contemporary diner vibe. Plus, all the salads and spreads I could hope for behind the deli counter glass. Let’s just say if they are selling bialys (a less doughy, flatter bagel), they know what they are doing.
Nashville Food Tour
One of the best ways to get to know a new city is by eating and what better way than to take a food tour and hit up a bunch of posts in a short time, plus learn a bit of history along the way.
I signed up for the “Nashville Eats” food tour with Walk Eat Nashville.
This special tour was hosted by Jennifer Justus, a food and culture writer in Nashville and the author of “Nashville Eats,” a cookbook filled with stories and recipes about the city. Throughout the tour Jennifer shared behind-the-scenes stories about the city’s food culture, cooking tips and music history as it relates to food.
We did five tastings in about three hours. We devoured tasty biscuits at Kitchen Notes, an elevated southern restaurant with a display case of different flavored sweet and savory biscuits. Then we moved on to Café Lula at the Ryman for their take on the infamous Nashville hot chicken in the form of a waffle slider. Next up with a sit-down at the venerable Woolworth on 5th for a sampling of their delicious mac and cheese and sweet potato soup with kale and black eyed peas. We enjoyed beers and tender barbecue at the fun and lively Martin’s BBQ joint and finally ended at the GooGoo Shop for a taste of their sugary-sweet clusters.
Where to Stay in Nashville
During my quick visit to Nashville, I stayed in the unique SoBro Guest House. A mash-up of a hotel and airbnb, the SoBro Guest House is definitely more like a little apartment rather than a hotel. In fact, that was what this building was before it was converted into a hotel. There’s no front desk. Just a few hours before you are expected to arrive, you receive an email with your room number and code for the keypad, which unlocks your room.
The room itself is like a fun, modern pied-à-terre complete with an old-school turntable and all the Neil Diamond and Barry Manilow you’d want to spin.
Need more ideas for lodging in Nashville? Check out this comprehensive guide to Nashville hotels.
There are so many spots to check out that I couldn’t make room in my schedule (or stomach) for all of them so I will just have to return to Nashville soon. Also, if you are plant-based, here’s the ultimate vegan guide to Nashville. I also especially want to check out the adorable Mewsic Kitty Café, Tennessee’s first cat café!
Disclosure: Thanks for Walk Eat Nashville for hosting me on the food tour. During my stay in Nashville I was a guest of the SoBro Guesthouse. As always, all writing and opinions are my own.