Something about the downtown Nashville area (similar to other places like Philly and New York City) is that there seem to be too many choices. Given a short half-week in the city, it’s difficult to get to all the different places you might want to try. My approach has been to ensure I hit one of each cuisine (BBQ, southern comfort, new American) and pick the best reviewed place I can find offering it. This has meant skipping meals in more specialized places such as a brewery offering light lunch fare.
A great stop is Butchertown Hall, on the northern side of Nashville in the Germantown neighborhood. New construction apartment buildings, all from a cookie-cutter mold, line the streets and on every other street corner is a store or restaurant. Butchertown almost blends in with the rows of housing surrounding it. Inside, modern accents of stone and glass surround a concrete floor and dark furniture. All food is served on a slab of sanded wood with the edges rounded off, like a butcher block. Order the half pound of brisket with Brussels sprouts and sweet potato hash as sides and it will all come served on one large block of wood, the side dishes contained in their own cast iron serving dishes. The quality of the food even exceeds it’s presentation.
On the opposite side of town heading towards Vanderbilt college you can find the Midtown neighborhood and a lot of varied restaurants. The first stop is Proper Bagel, right on the Belmont campus. Light colors and stainless steel garage doors decorate the place and provide the walls, and the bagels and house-made cream cheese provide the motivation to come back. Freshly smashed avocado toast is also excellent; not too salty and just the right balance of garlic on top.
If you’re still hungry you can walk down the street to The Stillery, which has all the southern brunch options. Specifically, biscuits with gravy. The biscuit I received had sausage gravy, and rivaled some other biscuits I’ve had before in terms of overall flavor with the gravy. However, the biscuit itself was a little yeasty and not the typical buttery / flaky I’m used to. The sriracha deviled-eggs more than made up for this, though. A small amount of crispy prosciutto on top really put them over the top.
For other breakfast options, you can wander a little east into “the Gulch”, another neighborhood with modern high-rise buildings and a cozy assortment of stores and restaurants on the lower floors of these high rises. I chose Biscuit Love as I have had wonderful, other-worldly experiences eating at a similar style of restaurant in Asheville, North Carolina, namely Biscuit Head. The premise at Biscuit Love was the same, however, the execution was not. The “East Nasty” was a biscuit with chicken and gravy on top. The chicken thigh was tender and juicy, the gravy a bit on the salty side and too heavy on the sausage mix-in flavoring it, and the overall presentation wasn’t quite what you would get for a comparable price and wait at Biscuit Head in Asheville.
A few blocks back into Midtown for lunch and you can find Hattie B’s for some Nashville Hot chicken, your choice as a sandwich or a wing-and-thigh combo. This place has the absolute best chicken in all of Nashville, and if you don’t like it hot you’ve got several other levels of spice to choose from. Be prepared for a wait, as the line for this place can stretch around the block. I’ve been there several times now, and waited between 20 minutes and 2 hours!
One more dinner recommendation is Stock and Barrel, located within the Gulch neighborhood just outside of the fancy little area of shops. Oh, my, the hamburger at this place. Tomato jam mixed with goat cheese on top, a bit of bacon, and one excellent bun. It was delicious. The deep-fried onion rings on the side were not too salty, and their batter was light and airy and not soaked in grease.
With some good scouting work ahead of time, it’s not hard to find a really excellent place to eat in Nashville. Most had little to no wait on a Sunday night, and everything was within 2-3 miles of the center of the city.