Let's face it, one of the greatest parts of traveling is sampling the food! During our recent visit to Nashville, we tasted some good ol' Southern cooking, visited a few local gems, and, yes, found a few 'flops' too. Check it out - and give us a shout if you sampled any of these delicious options, or if you found a few of your own!
We asked where the best burger was in Nashville, and we were directed to The Pharmacy. It has a hipster vibe (thanks to the twinkle lights and mismatched chairs) with indoor and outdoor seating. It was 10pm on a Thursday night and, though we had heard that there is usually a long line, they seated us as soon as we arrived. We pulled our hairs up to an exposed wooden table and grabbed the menus. Aside from the burgers, The Pharmacy also offers (and perhaps is most interesting because of) its "Phosphates." Defined as "an effervescent soft drink containing phosphoric acid, soda water and flavoring," The Pharmacy offers naturally-flavored choices like Chocolate, Maraschino Cherry and Kentucky Mint. There are also a variety of shakes and floats on the menu that we had heard good things about, but we already had an ice cream shop in mind, so we skipped those for the night.
I ended up ordering the chili burger - a burger topped with "house-made chili, sour cream, chive and cheddar." Daniel was a little less adventurous with his order of the Pharmacy Burger ("yellow cheddar, iceberg lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle and yellow mustard.") They were both delicious, though not extraordinary. The fries were exceedingly normal. I also opted for a lemon phosphate that tasted like carbonated lemonade and didn't disappoint; Daniel got an orange creamsicle soda that he really enjoyed. Their burgers range from $6.50-$8.50, though you have to pay extra for things like cheese and fries. Their phosphates are only $2.50 and their shakes are $5. All in all, we'd award The Pharmacy a solid 3.5 stars out of 5 for their pleasant atmosphere and unique sodas.
Hattie B's Hot Chicken
It was nearly 100 degrees the day we decided to step into our first experience with Nashville's hot chicken. We stood outside in a long line until we were able to enter the bright, mostly-red interior. The menu is humorous - blazing red roosters bookmarked their chicken "Heat Levels." There was:
"Southern (No Heat)
Mild or Medium (Touch of Burn)
Hot! (Feel the Heat)
Damn Hot (Fire Starter)
And SHUT THE CLUCK UP!!! (Burn Notice)"
On our first visit, because - yes - we liked it enough to return that same week, Daniel got the Medium Chicken. I mix-and-matched with 2 mild chicken tenders and 1 hot chicken tender. Their plates average $9 and are served with 2 sides, bread, and pickles - it's plenty of food! On the first visit, we both opted for the pimento mac & cheese, I got cole slaw, and Daniel got the black-eyed-pea salad.
It was delicious - and really quite unique! It was unlike any experience with chicken that we've had before. (Particularly the chicken, rather than the tenders. On the second visit, I opted for the medium chicken as well.) The chicken is melt-in-your-mouth with just the right amount of spice-rub and grease. Prepare yourself with a handful of napkins before you dig in. The pimento mac & cheese is incredible - it tasted like a spicy Velveeta, but in the best way. The only slight disappointment was the black-eyed-pea salad (mostly because we weren't expecting it to be pickled), so Daniel opted for french fries on our second try. Also during the second visit, we got the banana pudding that a local had recommended - and, like everything else, it was delicious. Nilla wafers soaked in a thick banana pudding; can you beat that? Hattie B's was our favorite 'Nashville Eats' experience, and we give it 5 starts out of 5.
Jeni's Ice Cream
Picture a bouquet of wild flowers - specifically the ones that are all the rage among brides nowadays ... Now picture that bouquet morphing into an ice cream shop. That's really the best way I can describe Jeni's Ice Cream. The interior is bright and modern with the flavors scripted in chalk behind the counter. Flavors like 'Birch and Marshmallow," "Roasted Strawberry Buttermilk," and "Intelligentsia Black Cat Espresso." And those aren't even the most outlandish. They had flavors that you wouldn't even begin to dream what they would taste like unless you asked for a sampling. Because who really knows what "Brambleberry Crisp" or "Atlantic Beach Pie" tastes like? I opted for two flavors I (thought) I knew and loved: Darkest Chocolate and Milkiest Chocolate. Perhaps I should have been more adventurous, because I was not a fan of the 'Milkiest' Chocolate. It was, dare I say, too milky? Just not what I was used to when it comes to chocolate ice cream. The darkest chocolate, however, was rich and delicious; I could practically taste the 'homemade.' Though I'm not sure I would have been singing Jeni's praises even if I had tried one of the more unique flavors; Daniel ordered one scoop of Churro, and one scoop of Salted Peanut Butter with Chocolate Flicks and, when I tried a bit of each, I didn't really fall in love with those flavors either. Daniel, however, enjoyed them; but perhaps my pallet just isn't as elevated when it comes to ice cream! Or perhaps their chocolate flavors aren't fantastic, but their brambleberry is to die for.
Jeni's has multiple locations in Nashville and has expanded to other cities in the USA like Chicago and Columbus, Ohio. It's a little heavy on the wallet, though ($5 for a small - and the small is ... small), so you'll probably only go once unless you really love the unique flavors. You certainly won't find them anywhere else!
We give Jeni's Ice Cream a 3 out of 5 because Daniel did enjoy it, and I enjoyed the experience. When in Nashville, I do think it's worth a visit just to see what you think.
Five Daughters Bakery
Now this is where you should stop for dessert when you're in Nashville. This family-owned, local shop is named after and inspired by the owners' five daughters. Their website is full of buzzwords to get you pumped for the experience - like "we believe in love, we believe in family, and we believe in quality food." Their selections are made from scratch, locally sourced and all natural. They offer vegan donuts, stuffed donuts (though I heard these are really rich) and, what we opted for: the 100 layer donut. Though we're bad New Yorkers who have never sampled a cronut, I hear there is an astonishing similarity between Manhattan's famous cronut and Five Daughters' 100 Layer Donut. Daniel and I decided to get one to split (I feared it being too sweet that I wouldn't be able to finish) but I'm pretty sure I could have eaten 3 more in that visit alone. It's perfectly flakey, perfectly sweet, and covered in melted sugar. You can try to eat it layer by layer (like I did) or eat it all in a couple of bites. Their 100 Layer Donut is $4.50, and worth it. We recommend the plain for your first time; if you enjoyed that as much as we did, then give their flavors like Maple Glaze, Vanilla Cream and Milk Chocolate Sea Salt a try.
When in the South, you have to get BBQ, right? We asked locals where to get the best BBQ, and it seemed to be a toss-up between Martin's and Edley's. We chose Martin's, simply because it was closer to where we were staying. When you walk into Martin's, your eyes are drawn to a large, open area of the kitchen where the meat is smoking before being served. It was really crowded, so I grabbed a table while Daniel got in line. (The set-up is a typical BBQ joint - order your food, get a number, put it on your table and then they'll bring the food to you.) The menu is interesting, with a list of sauces like "Sweet Dixie" and "Devil's Nectar" to add to your meal if you opt to. The prices are average - around $11 per meal, sides included. We both opted for our go-to BBQ menu item: the pulled pork sandwich, with the cole slaw on the side. I usually judge a BBQ restaurant by their cole slaw, and Martin's didn't disappoint. The pulled pork was melt-in-your-mouth, and we spent our lunchtime sampling it with a small platter of each of the offered sauces. The sauces may have been the most unique part of the meal: there was the Sweet Dixie, a "sweet vinegar-tomato sauce," the mayo-based Alabama White BBQ sauce, Jack's Creek "classic sweet and spicy vinegar sauce," Palmetto Gold, the "tangy and sweet mustard-based sauce," and Devil's Nectar, a (as you may have guessed) "scalding hot" BBQ sauce. Though all were fun to try, Daniel and I both agreed that we most enjoyed the Jack's Creek. And, even though Alabama White was recommended with chicken, we thought it was delicious with the pork. Aside from the saucy sandwiches, we sampled (the typical Southern) sides like mac & cheese, baked beans and potato salad. It was delicious, a solid 4 out of 5 stars.
The Red Bicycle
Second only to Hattie B's, one of our favorite food experiences in Nashville was at The Red Bicycle. Recommended to us by a local (who we are indebted to, because it was so delicious!), we had to be careful to show up at the right location. There is 'The Red Bicycle Coffee' on Nolensville Pike, and then there's 'The Red Bicycle Coffee & Crepes' on 5th Avenue North. If you're hungry, definitely go to the Coffee & Crepes location! They have savory and sweet crepes, and their menu is mouth-watering! With options like the "Maple Bacon" crepe (bacon, apples, cheddar, and maple syrup) and the "Highlander" (chicken, apples, blue cheese, tarragon aioli), you can't go wrong. I opted for the "Hamilton" - chicken, bacon, tomato, mozzarella and ranch dressing all wrapped up in a perfectly fluffy crepe. Daniel helped himself to a "Mexi" - eggs, manchengo cheese, chorizo, salsa and sour cream. (Check out the rest of their menu here!) There wasn't much seating available in the small-but-quaint location, so we sat at a communal table in the middle of the restaurant. From the time we got in line until the time our crepes were served to us, it may have been 30-40 minutes (so prepare for a wait), but the lunch was worth it. It was absolutely delicious; I haven't yet had a savory crepe comparable to Red Bicycle's. Even though the lunch crepe was huge, we still decided to split dessert (because, c'mon, you can't get a savory crepe and not get a sweet one.) We went with a classic - Nutella and strawberries - and it was the greatest thing I tasted during our entire visit to Nashville. We live in New York City - there's no denying that we have access to some of the very best food in the world - but I just haven't had a crepe that rivals The Red Bicycle's. A five out of five. (And affordable, too! Each savory crepe averages $8.50-$9.50, and the dessert crepes are even less!)
The Soda Parlor
T-shirts with your favorite Star Wars character or a scripted "I can't adult today" across the chest adorned the walls and advertised themselves with colorful price tags, board games sat on the windowsills and were available for anyone to play with, and comfy couches wrapped around the location: The Soda Parlor has a "come in and stay for a while" vibe about it. Being another local gem, Daniel and I were excited to give it a try. Though we went during a time when we weren't very hungry, it was still fun to look over their unique menu: they has specials like the "Obi Wan" (berry lemonade and vanilla ice cream), and "Battle Bear" (cream soda + moosetracks ice cream.) They also had sundaes on their menu, but we steered clear of those simply because we didn't have the appetite. I did, however, get the classic root beer float with vanilla ice cream (called "The Master Commander"), and Daniel got vanilla ice cream with his orange cream soda (called "Freaking Fosters.") Both floats came in plastic cups with The Soda Parlor's logo (you could wash them out and take them home with you!) and vintage striped straws. There was whipped cream and sugar sprinkles on the top of both floats. Though they put the both of us into a sugar coma, they were delicious. We spent our time there sipping on our floats and chatting on the comfy couches, but we'd definitely like to return one day and break out one of the board games! And, since the floats were only $5, why not spend an afternoon there?! 4 out of 5 stars.
Caviar & Bananas
This unique marketplace has a variety of options wrapped up into a well-packaged and well-branded eatery. There’s a soup, sandwich and salad bar, a corner to shop through local meats and cheeses, a stand to order hot food at (including delicious jalepeño grits!), a counter of baked goods, a cellar of local wines and beers, and more! It’s a really interesting mix of cafeteria foods-meets sit-down restaurant-meets shop and wine cellar, but the food is delicious and local and the upscale branding makes it a really enjoyable experience!