12 Restaurants That Make Nashville Dining Great

Welcome to The Greats, a series on the restaurants around the country that define their cities. Here now, a guide to the Nashville Greats.

In a city known for excellent hot chicken and Southern meat-and-three joints, some might assume that Music City offers a strictly one-note culinary experience—but they would be wrong.  Although Nashville has a deep and well-versed cultural connection with Southern food, the recent influx of new restaurants has stretched the minds and palates of the city. 

There are the old timers, like Bolton’s Spicy Fish and Chicken and Loveless Cafe that have braved recessions and a pandemic and helped build Nashville’s place in the food world. But there are also newcomers bringing fresh ideas to the table, such as Anzie Blue’s mission to introduce high-quality CBD along with your cup of coffee, or chef Maneet Chauhan’s fusion of Indian and soul food in the heart of the Gulch.

Together, these dozen restaurants make up The Greats: a list of restaurants, old and new, that offer a snapshot of the best of Nashville dining right now. Whether you’re a native Nashvillian, a transplant, or a tourist, make sure to visit the places that help make Nashville great.

Loveless Cafe (Nashville)

Credit: Loveless Cafe

A true Nashville original, Loveless Cafe has served its iconic biscuits and jams since 1951. What began as a humble roadside destination with a few picnic tables is now an empire of Southern hospitality, expanding to include the Loveless Motel and the Hams and Jams shop. In addition to Annie Loveless’s original biscuit recipe and famous house-smoked country ham, the all-day breakfast menu also offers Southern classics such as country fried steak with white gravy and fried chicken and waffles. Biscuits might be the star of the show here, but don’t overlook the supper menu—try the cafe’s pulled pork, smoked with Tennessee hickory wood, with sides such as creamed corn and fried green tomatoes. 

Dining at the restaurant: Loveless Cafe is open for indoor dining.

Takeout: Pick-up is available through third-party apps or by calling the restaurant directly.

Bolton’s Spicy Fish and Chicken (East Nashville)

Credit: Stefanie Tuder

Don’t let the size of this tiny restaurant fool you—the food served here bursts with enormous flavor. A third-generation purveyor of hot chicken, Bolton’s East Nashville location (there’s a second location in Antioch) is one of the oldest Black-owned businesses in the neighborhood and is recognized by the Southern Foodways Alliance as a Nashville Food Heritage Site. Late co-owner Bolton Matthews inherited his uncle’s secret hot chicken recipe and opened up shop with his wife Dollye Matthews in 1997. For a true Nashville hot chicken experience, stop by the carryout window or dine in at an oil-cloth covered table with a spicy chicken or fish plate and two Southern-style vegetable sides. Just make sure to order a cold drink with your meal—Bolton’s hot chicken lives up to its name. 

Dining at the restaurant: Bolton’s is open for indoor dining.

Takeout:  To-go orders are available at both locations; online ordering through Bolton’s website is available at the Antioch location.

Germantown Cafe (Germantown)

Pandemic closures and restrictions were tough on every business in 2020, but this cafe had to contend with yet another setback—in March 2020, a tornado tore through Nashville, damaging the Germantown Cafe and much of the surrounding neighborhood. After two years, the local favorite, which has been around since 2007, finally reopened with its comfort and charm intact.  Regulars will rejoice at the return of original Southern-inspired menu items such as a marinated tenderloin with plum sauce, mashed potatoes, and haricot vert or the coconut curry salmon. As the weather warms up, be sure to hit up happy hour on their patio for a cocktail and amazing view of downtown Nashville. 

Dining at the restaurant: Germantown Cafe is open for indoor and outdoor dining.

Takeout: Place pick-up and delivery orders through the restaurant’s website.

The 404 Kitchen (The Gulch)

James Beard Award-nominated 404 Kitchen has remained firmly anchored in Nashville’s growing Gulch neighborhood, serving locally sourced seasonal Southern dishes with a European accent. Its industrial chic dining room, with concrete floors and minimal decor, is as elegant and unpretentious as the cuisine. Start your evening at Gertie’s, the first-floor whiskey bar, regarded as having one of the best curated selection of whiskies in the South, and try the house old fashioned, rinsed with brown butter and then mixed with whiskey and a hint of pecan syrup. Notable entrees include perfectly cooked local trout, wrapped in smoky, salty Benton’s ham and topped with chow chow relish and crispy salt and vinegar potatoes. From top to bottom, 404 Kitchen is the quintessential one-stop shop for a great night out in Nashville.

Dining at the restaurant: The restaurant is open for indoor and outdoor dining.

Takeout: Takeout is available by calling the restaurant directly or via a third-party app.

Chauhan Ale and Masala House (The Gulch)

Credit: Chauhan Ale and Masala House

With exposed brick walls and colorful lighting, the decor at Chauhan Ale and Masala House is almost as inviting as the scent of the chai and spices that greets you at the door. As celebrity chef Maneet Chauhan’s first of many restaurants to open in Nashville, it delivers imaginative Indian fare infused with the flavors of the South. Hot chicken pakoras and lamb keema papadi nachos mingle on the menu with more traditional South Asian dishes such as tandoori chicken and paneer. The creative brunch menu is not to be missed: Try the sweet dosa pancake with saffron-liqueur soaked berries and cardamom whipped cream, paired with a vindaloo-spiced bloody mary for an excellent start to your weekend. 

Dining at the restaurant: Chauhan Ale and Masala House is open for indoor dining. 

Takeout: Order pick-up directly from the restaurant’s website.

Arnold’s Country Kitchen (The Gulch)

Credit: Stefanie Tuder

A recipient of the James Beard Classics award, Arnold’s has been a meat-and-three mainstay since 1983. Members of the Arnold family can be found working at the restaurant daily, serving made-from-scratch Southern dishes such as chicken and dumplings, fried catfish, and turnip greens. After years of serving lunch only, the restaurant now offers “Arnold’s After Dark,” a new dinner concept. Rest assured, you can still get your meat-and-three fix at dinner—which Nashvillains know and love as a plate comprised of one meat from a daily menu of various choices plus three sides that could also feature a dessert—or choose from dinner-only offerings such as chicken tacos, brisket nachos, and smoked wings. Wash it all down with a cocktail or a cold beer, and don’t forget a slice of homemade pie to end the meal.

Dining at the restaurant: Arnold’s Country Kitchen is open for indoor dining.

Takeout: Delivery and to-go orders, only available during lunchtime on weekdays, can be ordered via third-party apps.

Carne Mare (The Gulch)

Nashville has its fair share of steakhouses, but newcomer Carne Mare—the latest from James Beard Award-winning chef Andrew Carmellini—stands out from the pack with a vibe that is classic American chophouse meets regional Italian trattoria. Located on the ground floor of the chic new W Hotel, the interiors are styled with gleaming brass finishes, sleek walnut tables, and luxurious leather banquettes. The menu focuses on wagyu and prime steaks, but also has plenty of fresh seafood and Italian specialties to choose from. Start with some of the savory chophouse snacks such as mozzarella sticks topped with caviar or delicate lettuce cups filled with fresh crab. Then opt for gorgonzola-cured wagyu striploin, slathered with cheese and dried, leaving a tender steak with an earthy, mushroomy flavor. In classic chophouse style, tableside service is offered for many dishes including dessert—a baked spumoni for two guarantees a theatrical flourish.

Dining at the restaurant: Carne Mare is open for indoor dining.

Takeout: The restaurant doesn’t offer takeout or delivery.

Valentino’s Ristorante (West End)

Despite moving to a new location in 2019, Valentino’s has retained the charm and welcoming vibe that have made it a Nashville classic since 1992. From antipasti to pasta to traditional Italian entrees, there is something for everyone. Start with grilled cantaloupe wrapped in prosciutto and drizzled with local honey and olive oil, or the scampi al forno—tender shrimp swimming in roasted garlic and lemon butter. The sign of a restaurant’s staying power lies in loyal clients, which Valentino’s has in spades— and after an evening full of wine and outstanding Italian cuisine, it’s not hard to imagine why.

Dining at the restaurant: Valentino’s is open for indoor dining.

Takeout: Takeout is available via third-party apps or by calling the restaurant directly.

Anzie Blue (Hillsboro Village)

Credit: Anzie Blue

Though it opened in December 2019, Anzie Blue has established itself as the first upscale CBD coffee shop in Nashville. Owners and Nashville natives Derek and Marcie Van Mol set out to create a neighborhood hub where college students, locals, and out-of-towners alike could feel at home. The bright and airy space, decorated with boho chic lighting and a living plant wall, is the perfect place to enjoy a CBD-infused coffee, cocktail, or a popular charcuterie board. Alabama-born chef Star Maye brings a soul food influence to classic cafe fare, offering Nashville hot chicken dip and deviled eggs alongside avocado toast and pressed sandwiches. On a sunny day, sip a cold glass of rosé on the patio.

Dining at the restaurant: Anzie Blue is open for indoor and outdoor dining.

Takeout: Delivery and pick-up are available through the restaurant’s website.

Red Pony (Franklin)

After 2021’s devastating fire put its future in limbo, Red Pony is back in action and reprising its role as a local favorite. Tennessee-born and CIA-trained chef and owner Jason McConnell has operated in the heart of historic downtown Franklin since 2006. The two-level restaurant, which includes a bar and dining room on each floor, has a clubby but casual atmosphere with leather booths and low lighting. The menu reflects that sophisticated yet cozy vibe with elegant takes on Southern classics, such as shrimp and grits with local bacon and cheese grits and a hickory-grilled ribeye with braised beans and crispy potatoes. 

Dining at the restaurant: The Red Pony is open for indoor dining.

Takeout: The restaurant doesn’t offer delivery or takeout.

Lola Nashville (Sylvan Park) 

Tapas hotspot Lola has quickly become a neighborhood go-to thanks to perks such as a buzzy social hour held on weekdays from 4 pm to 6 pm. The modern and airy dining room feels like a place you might stumble into on your travels through Spain. An extensive small plates selection doesn’t hurt either: simple but elegant dishes, such as delicately spiced prawns swimming in rustic tomato sauce and flavorful meatballs with smoky grilled pepper relish and gigante beans command attention. The European flair extends to the bar with a selection of Spanish and Portuguese wines and cocktails; try the Sevilla sour, a highly sippable drink with brandy, cherry, lemon, and Spanish wine. 

Dining at the restaurant: Lola is open for indoor and outdoor dining.

Takeout: The restaurant doesn’t offer takeout or delivery.

La Hacienda Taqueria (Nashville)

When the Yepez family started a small Mexican market in 1992, they quickly recognized the need for more resources for the Hispanic community. They soon opened La Hacienda Taqueria, serving their famous house-made tortillas, tacos, and more; they have since added a full-service butcher, bakery, and tortilla manufacturing factory to the repertoire. The energy in the dining room is as bright and vibrant as the colorfully painted walls, adorned with Mexican art; the menu is extensive, offering all-day-breakfast—because why should huevos rancheros only be for breakfast?—lunch, and dinner. Try a torta, served on house-baked bread, or a bowl of fragrant pozole, the classic Mexican hominy and meat stew.  Pair your meal with a homemade pineapple agua fresca or La Hacienda’s famous margarita.

Dining at the restaurant: La Hacienda Taqueria is open for indoor dining.

Takeout: Takeout and delivery orders are available via third-party apps.

Tried them all? Check out other options here.