Chefs are flocking to Nashville, Tennessee, effectively turning Music City into Morsel City. The food scene has undergone a transformation in recent years, with an influx of trendy restaurants, local ingredients and buzzworthy talent.
Among the famous new faces is James Beard award-winning Chef Sean Brock, who started recruiting chefs to the Tennessee capital after opening the offshoot of his famed Charleston, South Carolina, restaurant Husk Nashville in 2013. Jonathan Waxman of New York’s famed Barbuto followed to open Adele’s Nashville, a casual California-Southern eatery in the popular Gulch neighborhood.
The Gulch also is home to Indian street food restaurant Chauhan Ale & Masala House, owned by Maneet Chauhan of Food Network. Fellow TV cheflebrity Dale Levitski of “Top Chef” came to Nashville by way of Chicago to open the eclectic cinema-themed Sinema in the historic Melrose theater building.
Pastry Chef Tony Galzin is another transplant from Chicago. He came to Nashville with his wife and business partner, Caroline, to open trendy small plates joint Fifty First Kitchen & Bar with local restaurateur Christy Shuff.
But locals have long been ahead of the curve when it comes to good eatin’. When Brock’s famous friends are in town, he heads to Arnold’s Country Kitchen, a meat-and-three Nashville cafeteria. Margot McCormack’s East Nashville restaurant Margot Café & Bar continues to be a culinary force. And people will travel across the country just for a taste of Prince’s painfully delicious hot chicken.
Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack
There are lots of places to get Nashville’s signature eye-watering “hot chicken,” but Prince’s is the late night gold standard. Each piece is individually fried, so expect to wait. And avoid the urge to order it “extra hot.” Seriously.
The Catbird Seat
Former Noma Sous Chef Trevor Moran puts on a 13-course evening of culinary performance art that deserves all the international acclaim. The single U-shaped counter has only 32 seats, so reservations are highly recommended.
Goo Goo Shop
Any neighborhood grocery sells Goo Goo Clusters—but none have the high-end specialty versions made by Lauren Garcia the kitchen manager. Think peanut butter-pretzel or hazelnut ganache.
This bar-restaurant-coffee shop-bowling alley sounds like a weird combination, but thanks to former Catbird Seat Chef Josh Habiger, everything on the menu is spot-on. The fried broccoli is worth clogging your arteries.
Robert’s Western World
Live music is always on the menu at this honkytonk, which features $5 divey comfort foods like the “Recession Special,” a fried bologna sandwich with chips and a Pabst Blue Ribbon or the “Stimulus Package,” a hot dog with chips and a Miller High Life.
Ed Butler is a Food Fanatics chef from Tennessee for US Foods who began cooking at 16.