1. Prince's Hot Chicken Shack
One of the few things Nashvillians take as seriously as country music is their hot chicken. From the moment you walk into this hole-in-the-wall joint, you know Prince’s means business. Not to be confused with Buffalo wings, the signature dish is typically a cut of chicken marinated in buttermilk, breaded and then sauced using a super-secret paste spiced with cayenne peppers to bring the heat. After being pan-fried in a cast iron skillet, it’s served up with a couple of slices of white bread. Temperatures range from mild, medium, hot to extra hot. Fair warning: even the mild packs a serious punch. And for first timers, don’t even try ordering the hot. They won’t sell it to you.
Kreis Beall & Heather Anne Thomas
Keep it simple. That’s the motto for this restaurant that has found a home in historic Germantown, an historic 18-block neighborhood located just north of Nashville’s downtown capitol building. The menu is kept lean and mean with unique dishes prepared using local produce, fresh pastas and delicious house-cured meats. The Food Network Magazine chose the signature Belly Ham Pizza as tops in Tennessee for its “50 States, 50 Pizzas” feature. Saddle up to the bar and order old-school cocktails (like the Sazerac) that are prepared with an astonishing amount of tender loving care.
Located downtown in a beautifully-restored hotel where Hank Williams, Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn once stayed, Merchant’s offers two unique dining options. The first floor, with wonderfully maintained original marble counters and tile, is a casual bistro that keeps dishes under $20 for lunch and dinner. The wood-paneled second floor offers a more distinguished (and pricier) dining experience. A typical lunch will see a nice mix of tourists and the business crowd. Co-owner Benjamin Goldberg describes Merchant’s menu as “modern American food with a Southern Soul” with a contemporary take on comfort food.
4. Loveless Cafe and Motel
If you’re staying in downtown Nashville, it’s a bit of a drive to get out to the Loveless Café. But after you bite into that first biscuit, you’ll soon realize that for your next trip to Nashville, you’d be willing to walk barefoot on broken glass to get back. Featured in too many publications to even try to mention, the Loveless Café is the quintessential southern dining experience. The mouth-watering breakfast is served all day, but the lunch and dinner menu is just as popular with the locals. Reservations are only for parties of 12 or more, so to avoid a long wait try to plan your visit at an off-peak time, like a weekday.
5. MAFIAoZA's Pizzeria & Pub
If you find yourself hankering for a pizza while honky tonkin’ in Nashville, try this pizza palace in the city’s popular 12 South neighborhood. Bringing a 1920s New York vibe to Nashville, MAFIAoZA’s specialty is thin-crust pizza sold by the slice or the whole pie. The atmosphere is extremely family friendly and on a nice day the patio is a great place to enjoy a glass of vino from their extensive wine list. You can even work off the meal with a post-pizza walk to the several unique stores in the area.