Nashville has grown into a vibrant destination, and its food scene has grown with it. But with so many restaurants to choose from, it can be hard for Nashville visitors to know where to eat.
What’s a tourist trap, and what’s worth the price? There are a lot of places with lines out the door, but not all of them are worth the wait.
That’s where I’m here to help. I’m a Nashville, Tennessee, local, and I know where the locals eat – where we return to again and again for great food and service. And I’m sharing that with you today.
If you’re wondering, “Where do the locals eat in Nashville?”, we’ve got the answer — from hole-in-the-wall dives to the city’s best fine dining.
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COOLEST PLACES TO STAY IN NASHVILLE
- Best for Foodies. Dream Nashville is housed in two historic landmarked buildings, providing a rich heritage while maintaining the history of Printer’s Alley. Located a short walk from downtown, you’ll love the art-deco inspired rooms here. Dream Nashville has six dining and nightlife options, including Stateside Kitchen helmed by Hillstone Restaurant Group alumni.
- Best Downtown. Located in the heart of “Music City,” the Drury Plaza Hotel Nashville Downtown is perfect whether traveling for business or leisure. Guests enjoy free hot breakfast, free snacks and cold beverages at the 5:30 Kickback® and live music nightly at the Kitchen + Bar.
- Best Rooftop Bar. Stay in the middle of the action at Grand Hyatt Nashville, your downtown upscale retreat. Within walking distance of The Gulch and Midtown, this Broadway hotel features one of the highest outdoor rooftop bars in the Music City, a rooftop pool, a spa and seven food and beverage experiences.
ASSEMBLY FOOD HALL
Ready to discover some of Nashville’s most unique and treasured restaurants? Assembly Food Hall features more than 30 food options, many of which are mini versions of local landmark restaurants.
Just as we thought the days of food courts were fading, this downtown gem emerged – bustling and lively with great options that are fresh and inventive. It’s a celebration of Nashville’s food scene.
Assembly Food Hall is located downtown by Bridgestone Arena, so you’ll find me here to grab a bite before a Predators game or concert. But it’s also great for anyone visiting Nashville who wants a delicious meal without having to endure table-service dining.
Highlights include Hattie Jane’s Creamery, Prince’s Hot Chicken, and Disano’s Pizza. There are also multiple bars, small plates eateries, rooftop views, and special events.
Want to get to know more about the food and drinks in Nashville? Try one of these fun tours!
- Take a 3-Hour Secret Food Tour. Wander through the cozy streets of Nashville with an experienced local guide to experience Southern gastronomy. Try local foods and learn about the culture and history of Nashville.
- Yum! Try this Donut Tour with Tastings. Discover Nashville’s donut scene with this group donut tour. Stop at 4 donut shops to have some samples while learning about the history of donuts in the city.
- Enjoy this Country Cooking Food Tour with Tastings. Eat like a country star while in Nashville. Set off on a walking tour and taste warm biscuits, savory fried chicken, and decadent desserts while hearing about the history of Music City, USA.
CITY HOUSE NASHVILLE
City House is a popular date-night spot for Nashville locals. This cozy Germantown restaurant boasts chef-created meals at an approachable price point. They have pizzas, pasta, and classic dishes, along with incredible desserts and wines.
It’s Italian food with a Southern twist. You’ll find house-made gnocchi and fried catfish on their elevated menu, and don’t leave without trying their Tennessee Waltz Cake.
The location can’t be beat, either. Germantown is Nashville’s oldest neighborhood, and it’s near First Horizon Baseball Park, the Tennessee State Museum, and the Nashville Farmers Market.
Chef Sean Brock has won the James Beard Award twice, and his many Nashville restaurants deliver big flavor to locals and visitors alike. But Audrey is his best place by far. The concept restaurant is personal for him: southern and Appalachian flavors inspired by his grandmother.
For diners, the experience is top-tier. Understated yet curated decor and elevated, award-winning menu items. The star dishes will be familiar to anyone who frequents southern restaurants, though the price will be much higher. But you’re paying for the freshest ingredients, a refined experience, and tastes you’ll never forget.
Upstairs at June, Sean Brock offers a pre-fixe tasting menu that’s also worth checking out.
Both Audrey and June are located in East Nashville.
PRINCE’S HOT CHICKEN SHACK
It’s Nashville’s most iconic food: Hot Chicken. But where do locals eat Nashville Hot Chicken? Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack is widely regarded as the original hot chicken eatery – it’s been a staple in the community since 1945.
And most Nashvilleians revere André Prince Jeffries as the queen of the dish – she’s been serving up the saucy, spicy, fried chicken sandwich since 1980, when she took over the family business.
Today, there are hot chicken restaurants throughout Middle Tennessee and in the far corners of the country, but Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack endures as a living testament to its creators.
This Black-owned business is in South Nashville at the corner of Bell Road and Nolensville Pike. But you can also taste it (and support its team) at its counter in Assembly Food Hall or its mobile food truck.
12 SOUTH TAPROOM & GRILL
When it’s time for Nashvillians to dine or sip, they’ll typically head to 12 South. This upscale yet cozy neighborhood is home to great restaurants, breweries, coffee shops, and boutiques in a super walkable atmosphere.
I’ve met up with many friends at Frothy Monkey, which has excellent breakfast and coffee (and a line that often stretches around the corner). But my number-one spot in the neighborhood is Five Daughters Bakery – you can’t beat their donuts.
Eddley’s Bar-B-Que originated in 12 South, and MAFIAoZA’s has been a long-time favorite in the area.
And those looking for an upscale experience can find that here too. If you’re lucky enough to score a reservation at Locust, you’re in for an unforgettable dinner. And Josephine is a date-night favorite thanks to its elegant atmosphere and chef-created menu.
Locals flock to 12 South over and over for their all-day dining options and happy hour spots. And Nashville visitors will likely earmark this neighborhood as one of their favorite places to dine when they’re in town.
COCO’S ITALIAN MARKET
If you ask long-time Nashvillians where you should go for pizza, many will send you straight to Coco’s Italian Market. This family-owned restaurant has been serving up pizzas, pasta, salads, and sandwiches since the 1960s, and dining here is a real treat.
Its West Nashville location isn’t the trendiest spot, but it draws locals from across the city to sit back and enjoy a laid-back yet attentive meal.
The ravioli taste super fresh, and the pizza options are plentiful. But you’ll definitely want to save room for dessert – they’ve got every sweet you’d want from an Italian Market. Take home some tiramisu, cheesecake, cannoli, or mascarpone cake.
There are a lot of BBQ places in Nashville, and each local has their favorite spot. But Edley’s is one of the most popular places, and for good reason. They smoke meats low and slow, make sides and desserts in-house, and serve it all up with smiles.
Edley’s first opened on 12 South in 2011 and has since expanded throughout Nashville and beyond. You’ll find locations nearby in Sylvan Park and hours away in Illinois.
My favorites are their macaroni and cheese and banana pudding, though their meats are so good I struggle to save room for dessert. They also serve up hot chicken, fried catfish, and yummy salads.
MAIZ DE LA VIDA
When it’s time for a quick and filling meal in Nashville, many of us locals turn to the city’s many taco trucks. Middle Tennessee’s vibrant Hispanic communities allow us to experience some of the world’s best flavors and creations, sometimes in the most unexpected places.
That’s where we’ll find Maiz De La Vida, a classic taco truck parked by a tiki bar. Here, James Beard award semifinalist Julio Hernandez creates incredible tortillas that will ruin your taste for any store-bought variety. His milling practice is ancient, his service is top-notch, and the food is impeccable. You really can’t go wrong here.
Maiz De La Vida is next to Chopper Tiki in East Nashville.
THE LOVELESS CAFE
When Nashville locals want to “get away from it all” without going far, they’ll head to The Loveless Cafe. This old-fashioned restaurant serves up some of the best Southern Food in Middle Tennessee.
You’ll devour their made-from-scratch biscuits, country ham, fried chicken, and slow-smoked BBQ. You’ll also enjoy slowing down for a bit. The expansive property has several onsite shops just off the Natchez Trace Parkway.
Be sure to get your picture in front of the iconic Loveless Motel sign (always marked “no vacancy”), and journey on to see some of the scenic highway.
The Loveless Cafe is on the far west corner of Nashville, about 25 minutes from downtown.
NASHVILLE FARMERS’ MARKET
I used to work a couple of blocks away from the Nashville Farmers’ Market, and so I spent many lunch breaks at this scenic and bustling spot. Outside, food trucks often set up, selling unique bites with locally-sourced ingredients.
And inside is a food court with a great selection of cuisine, coffees, ice cream, and drinks. Grab a scoop of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream or sip on a beer from The Picnic Tap.
The Nashville Farmers’ Market is a fun, bustling place on weekdays at lunch and a bit more peaceful at dinner. It’s located across from the Tennessee State Museum and has excellent views of the Nashville skyline. Come by to fuel up during a busy day sightseeing or hang out for a while and check out the market’s many vendors.
THE PHARMACY BURGER PARLOR & BEER GARDEN
When East Nashville was first gaining popularity as a trendy destination, The Pharmacy was its staple. This bustling spot is one of Nashville’s best burger places, and they have so many great options for toppings and fillings.
But The Pharmacy goes beyond burgers. They have house-made sausages, German potato salad, custom sodas, and a wide selection of German beer.
Looking for other great burger places in Nashville? Check out Burger Up in 12 South, Burger Republic in The Gulch, or Joyland in East Nashville.
When Nashvillians go to a game at Geodis Park or Nissan Stadium, they often save their appetites for Daddy’s Dogs. This is Nashville’s most iconic hot dog shop, and they’ve slowly expanded throughout the city to secure their reign as hot dog royalty.
You’ve never wished you had a slice of peach on your hot dog, but you will after trying the Georgia dog. I’ll devour the Mac Daddy, which is topped with Mac & Cheese. You can also get a classic chili dog or a corndog at Daddy’s.
Check out their flagship location in the Nations, or their hole-in-the-wall window in Printers Alley.
Monell’s was an icon long before Nashville was cool, and today it fits right in with the city’s thriving food scene. The dishes are classic yet delicious, served fresh with world-famous southern hospitality.
But one of the most unique things about Monell’s is that all food is served family-style. You’ll sit down with strangers as though they’re family, to share a meal made with love. The pre-fixe menus always include fried chicken and biscuits, along with an assortment of meats, sides, and desserts that you’ll rave over.
Monell’s original location is in Germantown, but I like going to its second location: Monell’s at the Manor, which is near the Nashville airport on Murfreesboro Pike.
On most Saturday mornings, Pancake Pantry will have a line out the door that extends around the corner. Locals and visitors flock to this Hillsboro breakfast spot for the city’s best pancakes.
It’s a no-frills dining experience that’s worth the wait, especially if you appreciate great pancakes. But it’s also elevated. The folks at Pancake Pantry make their syrups and compotes fresh each day, and they use locally sourced meats whenever possible.
My favorite thing about Pancake Pantry is that they have more than pancakes. You can get waffles, sandwiches, omelets, and biscuits. So it’s also a good crowd-pleasing spot for breakfast or brunch.
Pancake Pantry’s original location is between Belmont and Vanderbilt Universities in Hillsboro Village. They also have a downtown spot just south of Lower Broadway.
A classic steak house meets urban-chic eatery. Kayne Prime is one of the best fine dining spots in Nashville. They have an incredible menu with farm-to-table dishes and inspired combinations. Plus, their cocktails and wine list are impeccable.
If I’m paying to go out and eat a steak, I’m sometimes willing to pay a little more and make it great – a great experience, a great cut of meat, great beverages and sides. Kayne Prime promises that to its diners.
This upscale restaurant is part of the M Street group, a collection of restaurants located along the same block of The Gulch in Nashville.
EAST SIDE BANH MI
I love trying Nashville’s many Vietnamese restaurants, but East Side Banh Mi is one of the highest-rated in the city. These inventive chefs serve up incredible Vietnamese street food, and they’ve mastered the Banh Mi sandwich.
You can also get salads, bowls, and spring rolls here.
East Side Banh Mi has been featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, and continues to offer daily specials that draw repeat visitors from throughout the city.
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO TENNESSEE
- YOUR TENNESSEE VACATION
- NASHVILLE WITH KIDS: 35 Best Things To Do In Nashville With Kids
- NASHVILLE FOR COUPLES: 52 Fun Things To Do In Nashville TN For Couples
- FRANKLIN: 18 Things To Do In Franklin TN You’re Gonna Love
- KNOXVILLE: 31 Amazing Things To Do In Knoxville That You’ve Got To Try
WHERE TO STAY IN NASHVILLE
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