12 top date night restaurants in Nashville

Sustainable seafood headlines the menu at The Optimist - Nashville. | Credit: The Optimist - Nashville

As the home of country music, Nashville is the place to plan a pitch-perfect date. Whether you’ve been married for a decade or just swiped right, there’s a romantic restaurant for you.

Take a sushi rolling class together at a pan Asian place in the Gulch. Head to an Ethiopian favorite in Berry Hill where you can break sour flatbread together—because what’s more romantic than eating with your hands? For a more glamorous evening, opt for dinner at a seasonal American spot in a historic Melrose movie theater.

No matter where you land, these spots will make date night sing. Read on for a guide to Music City’s 12 most romantic restaurants to book right now.

For a first date

Blanco Cocina + Cantina (Downtown)

Blanco Cocina + Cantina is an extension of its party-like, lower Broadway surroundings. A first date here feels like a stroll through a stylish Mexican street fair, full of bright colors and plants. If you’re just testing the waters with your companion, opt for happy hour, where you can grab tacos and a tequila cocktail (the jalapeño and pineapple margarita is a crowd favorite). For a full dinner, don’t miss the Tucson chimichanga with short rib machaca or braised chicken, and the carne asada fajitas—plus a bowl of warm queso to share.

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For a second date

The Optimist – Nashville (Germantown)

Exposed brick and low lights make up the interiors at The Optimist - Nashville

The Optimist – Nashville is housed in a former paper warehouse. | Credit: The Optimist – Nashville

Get better acquainted with your date over super-fresh, sustainably sourced seafood at The Optimist, where the restaurant’s interiors are full of exposed brick and low lighting. Despite Tennessee’s landlocked setting, the vibes are decidedly coastal here—The Optimist is set on the banks of the Cumberland River. Share a plateaux piled high with oysters, shrimp, ceviche, smoked fish dip, and more, available in an array of sizes. Or get a dish that pairs Southern-grown produce with seafood from further away such as grilled octopus with olive relish, white beans, and guajillo chile sauce.

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For a cozy and intimate evening

Josephine (12 South)

The whole chicken for two served with crispy potatoes, kale, and grilled onion vinaigrette at Josephine in 12 South.

Josephine’s menu, which includes a whole chicken for two, was inspired by chef Andy Little’s Pennsylvania Dutch roots.

A walk through Nashville’s charming 12 South neighborhood will lead couples to Josephine, a contemporary American restaurant ideal for a private escape. Settle into a tufted leather banquette with a signature cocktail or a glass of wine chosen by in-house sommelier Karen Van Guilder-Little to along with the menu inspired by chef Andy Little’s Pennsylvania Dutch roots. For the ultimate date-night dish, order the Josephine whole chicken for two, complete with crispy potato, kale, and grilled onion vinaigrette.

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Gojo Ethiopian Restaurant (Berry Hill)

Despite its under-the-radar setting (in a tiny building on Thompson Lane), Gojo is a Nashville go-to for traditional Ethiopian cuisine. Date-night regulars return for hard-to-find dishes such as yemiser sambusa, a pan-fried pastry shell filled with lentils, onion, jalapeño, herbs, and spices. Couples also flock here for the delicious meat-and-veggie combos, served with traditional injera, a teff flour flatbread with a spongy texture, used in lieu of a knife and a fork—because what’s more romantic than eating with your hands? Round out your meal with a strong Ethiopian coffee, and your night together doesn’t have to end here.

For an anniversary or romantic milestone

Sinema (Melrose)

The whole chicken for two served with crispy potatoes, kale, and grilled onion vinaigrette at Josephine in 12 South.

Sinema, a glamorous restaurant set in a former movie theater, was made for anniversary celebrations. | Credit: Sinema

Sinema exudes the sort of Old Hollywood glamor that suits an epic anniversary celebration. For starters, it’s housed in a former movie theater. Televisions play classic films, mirrors line the walls, and the theater’s original grand staircase remains a stunning focal point. The decor matches Sinema’s refined American plates, such as pan-seared scallops with spinach orzotto, lemon spinach mignonette, and black garlic brown butter. If you’re celebrating a major milestone, splurge for the five-course tasting menu. Don’t forget to toast with a rare whiskey—Sinema’s collection includes over 200 kinds.

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Church and Union (Downtown)

A brunch spread for two at Church and Union - Nashville

Two-time Top Chef alum Jamie Lynch steers the kitchen at Church and Union – Nashville in downtown Nashville. | Credit: Church and Union – Nashville

Sun Tzu’s famed treatise The Art of War is hand-painted on the ceiling at this inventive New American restaurant. The words “there is only we” stand out as potential inspiration for lovestruck diners. Church and Union’s industrial-chic interiors make an ideal backdrop to special-occasion dishes, stirred up by two-time Top Chef alum Jamie Lynch. Kick off a celebratory evening with a seafood tower or fried green tomatoes served hot (the Nashville way), then split a cow ribeye for two with bonito-charred tomatoes, veal demi, and a couple of sides.

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For group dates

Germantown Cafe (Germantown)

Marinated pork tenderloin with savory plum sauce, mashed potatoes, and haricots verts at Germantown Cafe.

Southern-inspired recipes make up the menu at Germantown Cafe. | Credit: Germantown Cafe

After a devastating one-two punch (a tornado, followed by the COVID-19 pandemic) brought it to a pause, The Germantown Cafe reopened in 2021. Fortunately, the sleek gathering spot is better than ever, serving tried-and-true Southern-inspired recipes such as marinated pork tenderloin with savory plum sauce, mashed potatoes, and haricots verts. Make it a double date and come for the lively brunch scene, fueled by mimosas, frosés, and bloody marys. Soak up the weekend fun with lemon poppy bread French toast, a chicken salad sandwich, or shrimp and grits.

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For an adventurous and transportive date

The Dutch – W Nashville (The Gulch)

This swanky American spot at the W Nashville was meant for a sophisticated staycation. Its menu, a mix of classics with international influences—such as lobster cocktail with coconut lime or grilled pork chop with sauerkraut, rosemary-roasted apples, and mustard jus—is the brainchild of James Beard Award-winner Andrew Carmellini. For a truly romantic night out, end the evening with a martini on the rooftop bar—and a room at the hotel.

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Sunda – Nashville (The Gulch)

An art installation resembling a school of fish at Sunda in the Gulch

Sunda’s transportive interiors feature an art installation resembling a school of fish. | Credit: Sunda

Sunda’s all-encompassing menu will transport you and your date on a whirlwind tour of Japan, China, Vietnam, Thailand, and the Philippines. The offerings span the Asian continent, featuring dim sum to share, a full sushi bar, and entrees such as pan-seared sushi rice with ghee and tamari, topped with a choice of wagyu or spicy tuna. Sign up for the restaurant’s monthly sushi-rolling and try your hand at maki making together.

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Tànsuŏ (North Gulch)

If you and your SO are weary of your go-to Chinese takeout spot, take things up a notch with a reservation at Tànsuŏ. The restaurant’s name means “to explore” in Cantonese, and its imaginative menu inspired by China’s night markets and traditional street fare is a testament to wanderlust. Snuggle up to your date under the glow of colorful lanterns and share dishes from the dim sum menu such as coconut mussels with foie gras, porcini mushrooms, pork and ginger. Or opt for a locally accented dish and order the Nashville hot chicken lo mein.

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For an evening of eatertainment

Skull’s Rainbow Room (Downtown)

Dinner always comes with a show at Skull’s Rainbow Room. The swanky venue, open since 1948, serves craft cocktails and steakhouse classics such as prime rib and New Zealand rack of lamb along with nightly live music. You and your date can groove to the tunes of talented artists who take the venue’s checkerboard stage; the Rainbow Room’s past performers have included legends such as Etta James, Elvis Presley, and Bob Dylan. A burlesque show (beginning at 11 pm on weekends) turns up the heat on date night.

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For a proposal-worthy place

The River House (Downtown)

If you’re popping the big question, you’ll want to steer clear of Broadway’s honky tonk chaos. Enter The River House, an impeccably designed escape with high ceilings and modern decor. With the Ryman Auditorium and Schermerhorn Symphony Center just a stone’s throw away, The River House is also a no-brainer for a swish pre-show dinner. Feast on updated steakhouse fare such as prime New York strip, Chilean sea bass, and one of the tastiest wedge salads in town. Luxurious banquettes and soft mood lighting provide just the right backdrop for a romantic proposal.

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Kellie Walton Benz is a food, drink, and travel writer based outside of Nashville. Follow her adventures and eats on Instagram at @kellie.benz.

Alice Shearon contributed to this guide.

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