Nashville is a cosmopolitan city with a hearty culinary scene that appeals to all tastes. Menus are packed with wood-fired grills, barbecue, locally grown produce, fresh sustainable seafood and shuck-to-order oysters (this one was a surprise to me). It’s all served and seasoned with southern flair.
As a recent guest of the Nashville Convention & Visitors Bureau, I feasted at several of Music City’s fine eateries.
Among the highlights:
* Martin’s Bar-B-Cue Joint. Even if you’ve never been to Nashville, you may have heard of Martin’s legendary slow-cooked whole-hog barbecue from television food shows or glossy magazine articles. It’s a pit joint where they cook everything, including sides and sauces, fresh every day. Not a freezer or microwave on site. Most everything is a family recipe, from Grandad’s catfish to Grandma’s pecan pie.
I LOVED: Pulled pork sandwich soaked in Jack’s Creek Bar-B-Cue sauce and topped with slaw.
410 4th Ave. S., and three more Nashville locations.
* Urban Grub. Located in the trendy 12South neighborhood, Urban Grub entices with an eclectic menu and warm wood-paneled décor. Among the offerings: fresh fish, smoked and grilled meats, fresh-shucked oysters and regional favorites. Our server recommended the “life-changing pork chop,” which was coated in grain mustard and smothered with fresh smoked peaches. Life-changing, I’m not sure. But the thick, tender chop definitely set a hard-to-beat benchmark.
I LOVED: Mix-and-match charcuterie board. Also the Cuban corn on the cob.
2506 12th Ave. S
* Baja Sexto is a casual taqueria located inside the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Spanish for “sixth bass,” the largest guitar used in a mariachi band, the name is a playful riff on its location. The restaurant celebrates authentic Mexican street foods like tacos, flautas and nachos as well as cerveza and tequila. Relax in the dining room or order from the walk-up window.
I LOVED: Carnitas taco with salsa verde and organic corn tortilla.
216 5th Ave. S.
NOTE: Many of the museums and arts centers have attached to dining venues. These are destinations, not afterthoughts. The Café at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts, for example, has freshly made sandwiches, soups, salads and delectable desserts. Beer and wine also are available. PAM’S TIP: The homemade potato chips are highly addictive!
* Le Sel is an elegant and warm French bistro without being pretentious about it. Your first clue is the whimsical décor; ie, fanciful murals with deliberate paint drips and salmon-colored banquettes. The menu puts a modern spin on iconic French dishes along with a few well-placed nods to the South and a high-end raw bar. Craft cocktails are a specialty.
I LOVED: Pure white halibut with zucchini and a delightful yellow wine sauce.
1922 Adelicia St.
* 360 Wine Bar Bistro. Such a charming venue spot with a modern but comfy décor with extensive wine and spirits offerings. The 60-page wine list comprises more than 700 selections—40 are by the glass, but don’t be intimidated. Selections are easy to explore via in-house iPads. Have fun! The menu changes daily but is always farm-driven and made from scratch.
I LOVED: Shrimp sandwich with slaw and avocado on a buttermilk bun. And the hammered copper sink in the ladies’ room.
6000 Highway 100
* Hattie B’s Hot Chicken. For the uninitiated, hot chicken has nothing to do with temperature. It’s a type of fried chicken—a Nashville signature just like the Philly cheese steak—that is coated with seasonings. Primarily cayenne pepper. Hot chicken isn’t spicy, it’s fiery. For some people, the more blaze on their palate, the better. I prefer the medium range, so I can still taste the chicken. Hot chicken is typically served with pickles and white bread to dull the pain.
Hattie B’s, a family-run restaurant with locations in Midtown and Charlotte, boasts sandwiches and plates in five heat levels: Southern (no heat), Mild, Hot, Damn Hot and Shut the Cluck Up. For sides, consider the Southern greens or pimento mac and cheese.
Dine in or order carryout, but give yourself time. The lines are always long, except maybe between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.
I LOVED: My introduction to hot chicken.
PAM’S TIP: Beer soothes the burn. Here are a few local craft brewers to try: Fat Bottom Brewery, Tennessee Brew Works, Tailgate Beer, Black Abbey Brewing Company.
112 19th Ave. S.
Nashville Convention & Visitors Bureau