Nashville, Tennessee is a Southern city that makes waves in country music, tourism and food. Its culinary scene is a MUST for foodies and we’re not just talkin’ hot chicken. While hot chicken is trendy and tasty, there is so much more to eat in Nashville. So, yes, check out the live music in the honky tonks. Then head to one of these fab spots for some of the yummiest southern food in Nashville.
Nashville Restaurants that Foodies Will Love
Nashville, Tennessee, is known as Music City USA. And it’s comprised of several neighborhoods in addition to the Gaylord Opryland Resort which is like a city within a city. The four major areas are:
- Downtown, a touristy area with lots of life, the sports arena and stadium.
- 12 South, the hot neighborhood where the country music celebs hang out.
- East Nashville, the area for hipsters and one-time $99,000 houses that now go for a half million or more because it’s the trendy place to be.
- Belmont/Hillsboro Village, where the colleges are, about 10-15 minutes from downtown.
Each year, my daughters, Taylor and Peyton, and I attend the CMA Music Festival in Nashville, Tennessee, which showcases our favorite country music artists. We try to expand our culinary palates by adding five to six new eateries every time we visit.
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Here are five appealing dining spots in Nashville that offer great food in a family friendly atmosphere. We do recommend that young foodies reach beyond the chicken tenders and hot dogs. Some of the restaurants on our list showcase trendy new dishes, while others lean toward classic menu items. All are kid-friendly restaurants. Downtown Nashville also several has food tour offerings.
I would be remiss if I did not mention hot chicken in an article about Nashville food, but honestly, I’m not a big fan. However, you have to try it. Hattie B’s is the most popular place to get it but I would say Puckett’s Grocery has the best and it is in walking distance of downtown.
1. bartaco, 12 South Neighborhood
bartaco restaurant has been one of Nashville’s favorites since opening in the 12 South neighborhood in 2015. Buzzfeed claims bartaco has one of the best tacos in America. The upscale street food menu and coastal cantina vibe add to the ambiance of this hot spot. The chunky guacamole and spicy salsa were both big hits. Both were served with bartaco’s tortilla chips, big, fat, freshly fried ones that did not crumble when dunked into the guacamole. That’s what I’m talking about!
We tried the Tuna Tatakos (lettuce leaf, no taco shells), Grilled Corn on the Cob (lime, cayenne, and cojita…plus the staff will remove from the cob for you!), Plantains, Chicken Quesadilla, and amazing Cauliflower Tacos. Every dish received praises. The margaritas at bartaco were pricey, but the cheaper food prices made up for it. A kids’ menu was also available.
2. Flying Saucer, Downtown-ish
Connected to stately Union Station Hotel, the Flying Saucer restaurant is worth a visit. Hundreds of collector plates (saucers) and outer space decor decorate the restaurant. The Flying Saucer is a chain, mostly in the South, with 15 locations. My daughter and I shared the Saucer Dipster sandwich with fries. Packed full of shaved roast beef on a tasty roll with melted Swiss cheese, it was definitely a good comfort food choice. The stout au jus (dipping juice) was rich and perfect for dipping the billowy bread.
You must order Loaded Rocket Tots; these golden brown jalapeño babies are dotted with goat cheese, bacon, green onions, and topped with a fried egg. Holy goodness, they were amazing! German inspired dishes were also on the menu.
3. Pharmacy Burger, Several locations
This hipster burger and soda joint is a popular eatery with friendly bartenders and cool burger creations. My daughter found this place on Google and it turned out to be a FIND! I loved Pharmacy Burger’s pure cane sugar soda choices and opted for a Creamsicle soda (orange soda, cream, vanilla syrup). When you want to burger up, Pharmacy Burger’s organic burger toppings and combinations are sheer genius. I applaud the clever recipe creations and use of quality ingredients, although the organic burgers did not have enough seasoning for me.
For dinner, I had the Stroganoff Burger with mushrooms, Swiss cheese, caramelized onions, and béchamel. Yum, that saucy combo and the billowy light buns. Other dishes we tried were the Chicken Sandwich, Chili Burger, and side items including tater tots, black bean & corn salad, and hand-cut sweet potato fries. It is one of the best kid friendly restaurants as well with several options on the menu.
4. Josephine’s, 12 South Neighborhood
Located in the trendy 12 South area, Josephine’s is a restaurant that serves American farmhouse cuisine. The atmosphere is relaxed with a stylish contemporary decor. After reading Josephine’s brunch menu selections, my daughter and I decided to try it. We started with a killer dish: Peach Tartine. The bruschetta (tartine) was topped with creamy goat cheese, arugula, pecans, grilled peaches, radish slices and a rich balsamic drizzle. Kudos to Chef Andrew Little for creating this sublime dish.
Peyton had the Chicken and Biscuit, which was was just that, two pieces of fried chicken with a biscuit and fries. I opted for the Spinach Quiche with creamy goat cheese and thyme, served with fries and a side salad. The prices were steep, but we both enjoyed Josephine’s food and dining experience.
5. McDougal’s Chicken Fingers & Wings, Belmont/Hillsboro Village
If you love chicken, as my daughters do, this is the place for you. McDougal’s Chicken Fingers & Wings is located in the Belmont/Hillsboro Village neighborhood. McDougal’s knows how to do chicken right; you can get it in wing or chicken strip form, fried, grilled, or tossed in a sauce. The fresh hand-cut fries were phenomenal and the homemade dipping sauce was a must. Everything about this restaurant is super casual and affordable.
It’s a family restaurant and as a family we each had our own McDougal’s chicken basket meal, which came with fries, a drink, and slice of Tennessee toast. My favorite thing about McDougal’s is that the restaurants only uses high-quality ingredients and fresh chicken; there are no freezers, microwaves, or ovens. There’s no gelato here but you do get a free soft serve ice cream cup.
This post was updated by Kim Orlando on April 17, 2020.