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9 restaurants that scream “Nashville”

A photo of Red logo
by Kellie Walton Benz
Updated March 29, 2023

Some might assume that Music City’s best restaurants offer a one-note culinary experience—but they would be wrong. Although Nashville has a deep cultural connection to Southern food, a recent influx of new restaurants has stretched the minds and palates of the city.

There’s a time-honored fried chicken joint that has braved recessions and a pandemic to cement Nashville’s place in the food world. But there are also newcomers bringing fresh ideas to the table: An acclaimed chef serves inventive Indian fusion food in the Gulch. Tapas and Iberian wines shine at a transportive Spanish place in Sylvan Park.

Together, these dozen restaurants make up The Greats: a list of old and new restaurants that offer a snapshot of the best of Nashville dining right now. Whether you’re native to the city, a transplant, or a tourist, make sure to visit the 9 places that help make Nashville great.

A photo of Loveless Cafe restaurant
4.8 (1696)
$30 and under
About the restaurant

Loveless Cafe is a true Nashville original that 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 that includes the onsite Loveless Motel and the Hams and Jams shop. In addition to Annie Loveless’s original biscuit recipe and famous house-smoked country ham, the cafe’s all-day breakfast menu has 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 of hits such as pulled pork smoked with Tennessee hickory wood and stellar sides including creamed corn and fried green tomatoes.

Top review
Dined on May 22, 2023
Server was sweet and attentive. Ham was a little dry but eggs were perfect. Great biscuits!
A photo of Germantown Cafe restaurant
4.8 (2381)
$30 and under
About the restaurant

Pandemic closures and restrictions were tough on every business in 2020, but this beloved cafe had to face yet another setback: In March of that year, a tornado tore through Nashville, damaging the Germantown Cafe and much of the surrounding neighborhood. After nearly two years, the local favorite reopened with its charm intact. Regulars rejoiced at the return of its original Southern-inspired menu items such as marinated tenderloin with plum sauce, mashed potatoes, and haricot verts. A popular happy hour on the cafe’s scenic patio makes the place an especially sought-after perch in the warmer months.

Top review
OpenTable Diner
Dined 5 days ago
Pleasant experience. Delicious food with unique choices. French onion soup, pork with brussels sprouts.
A photo of 404 Kitchen restaurant
4.5 (2368)
$31 to $50
Contemporary Southern
The Gulch & North Gulch
About the restaurant

James Beard Award-nominated 404 Kitchen anchors Nashville’s growing Gulch neighborhood and serves locally sourced New American dishes. Its industrial-chic dining room is as elegant and unpretentious as the cuisine. Start your evening with a brown butter-rinsed old fashioned at Gertie’s, 404’s first-floor whiskey bar, which has one of the best curated selection of whiskies in the South. Notable entrees include cooked local trout wrapped in smoky, salty Benton’s ham, topped with chow chow relish and crispy salt and vinegar potatoes.

Top review
Dined 1 day ago
Incredible service topped by a fabulous meal, we dined on the patio and although just above the street level you would never know. Look forward to a return.
A photo of Chauhan Ale & Masala House restaurant
4.8 (5304)
$30 and under
The Gulch & North Gulch
About the restaurant

As celebrity chef Maneet Chauhan’s first of many restaurants in Nashville, Chauhan Ale and Masala House is a city stalwart that delivers imaginative Indian fare infused with the flavors of the South. With exposed brick walls and colorful lighting, the decor here is almost as inviting as the scent of the chai and spices that greets you at the door. Hot chicken pakoras and lamb keema papadi nachos mingle with more traditional South Asian dishes such as tandoori chicken and paneer. The creative brunch menu also draws crowds: try the sweet dosa pancake with saffron-liqueur soaked berries and cardamom whipped cream with a vindaloo-spiced bloody mary for a punchy start to your weekend.

Top review
Dined 2 days ago
Our meal was simply amazing. Everything we tasted was beyond delicious.
A photo of Valentino's Ristorante restaurant
4.9 (1906)
$31 to $50
About the restaurant

Despite shifting to a new location in 2019, Valentino’s retains the warmth and charm that earned it Nashville classic status after opening in 1992. From antipasti to pasta to hearty entrees, the menu is packed with Italian favorites offering something for everyone. Worthy starters include cantaloupe wrapped in prosciutto and drizzled with local honey and olive oil and scampi al forno, tender shrimp swimming in roasted garlic and lemon butter. The sign of a restaurant’s staying power lies in loyal diners, which Valentino’s has in spades—after an evening of top-notch wine and outstanding Italian fare, it’s easy to see why.

Top review
Dined 7 days ago
Great restaurant! Service was excellent and food and ambiance were fantastic
A photo of Lola restaurant
4.7 (529)
$30 and under
Sylvan Park & Sylvan Heights
About the restaurant

Tapas hotspot Lola quickly became a neighborhood staple after opening in 2021, thanks to its Seville-in-Sylvan Park vibes. Not to mention 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 an adventurous Spanish bar crawl. Simple but elegant small plates include bravas (spicy potatoes) with hot sauce and aioli and the flavorful montadito (mini bread rolls) with slow-cooked beef, onion jam, garlic aioli, and pickled mustard seeds. The Iberian flair extends to the bar with a strong selection of Spanish and Portuguese wines and cocktails.

Top review
OpenTable Diner
Dined 4 days ago
The food was delicious! So fresh and reminded us of eating in Europe.
A photo of etch - Nashville restaurant
4.8 (8315)
$31 to $50
Contemporary American
Downtown / Sobro
About the restaurant

Deb Paquette became Tennessee’s first woman to qualify as a certified executive chef over 30 years ago. She now leads some of Nashville’s best restaurants, including Etch. The modern downtown restaurant has two private dining rooms, a full bar, and a separate area where diners interact with Paquette during meal service. Her eclectic New American menu features bright flavors and layered dishes such as Argentinian beef tenderloin with kale, fennel, radicchio, pistachio parmesan crumble, sage aioli, and rosemary butternut purée, and a Korean-influenced bulgogi pulled pork sandwich.

Top review
Dined 2 days ago
Great meal, good ambiance. It was nice to find a place to eat in Nashville where you could actually have e a conversation.
A photo of City House restaurant
4.8 (1526)
$31 to $50
About the restaurant

Nashville’s Germantown neighborhood has grown to become one of the best for dining, and City House led the charge when it opened in 2007. The home-turned-Italian restaurant is set on a quiet, unassuming street. But its vibrant, brick-lined interiors pack a punch. As does its kitchen, steered by eight-time James Beard Award-nominee Tandy Wilson. Wilson claimed the prize for Best Chef Southeast in 2016, making him the first in Nashville to earn that distinction. City House’s menu standouts include bread gnocchi, linguini with roasted mushrooms, fennel fonduta, charred greens and parmesan, and a collection of pizzas that some argue are the best in town.

Top review
Dined today
We had the olive and squash starters, belly ham pizza and the peach cake. All were outstanding. The best pizza we've ever eaten.
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