Southerners love their food and the people of Nashville are justifiably proud of the cuisine dispatched from the kitchens onto the plates of hungry diners - residents and tourists alike. You certainly come expecting fried chicken, biscuits, barbecue and fine southern hospitality, all done exceptionally well, but you might be surprised to find excellent tacos, sublime cocktails and a vibe more akin to Brooklyn than Dixie. Expect the unexpected as the Music City aims to please.
Nashville is well-connected with a number of highways, and while traveling by car from Atlanta, I made a beeline to a restaurant recommended by seemingly everyone, Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack.
As you’d expect by the name, you won’t find white tablecloths, servers, or even a credit card machine (bring cash!) but you will find some of the hottest, most flavorful chicken around. You’ll find a busy dining room full of patrons eating their chicken, but as luck will have it seats usually open up by the time your food arrives, and I gladly shared my table with a writer from New York who only had a few hours in Nashville and had to make it to Prince’s. You have a choice of temperatures - mild, medium, hot, extra hot. Even if you love hot food, you might want to get an order a temperature level down for at least one of your pieces. Even at the medium level, you’ll get plenty of heat with tons of flavor. Easily some of the best chicken I’ve had. Call ahead and take it to go, if you’re not interested in waiting, especially during busy times on the weekend. They’re open late into the night on Fridays and Saturdays and close Sunday and Monday.
If fried food isn’t your thing, Rolf & Daughters may be the perfect spot to add to your dining itinerary. In a historic building on the edge of downtown in Germantown, Rolf & Daughters serves up food with an Italian and Mediterranean tilt with a hipster vibe. I enjoyed a delightful seasonal cocktail with Tennessee whiskey, a housemade peach shrub, and a local beer from Turtle Anarchy. They have a full range of pastas, again made in-house and full on entrees that change throughout the seasons.
Prior to James Beard award winning chef Sean Brock making a name for himself in Charleston, SC he served as executive chef at Nashville’s Hermitage Hotel. Brock’s restaurant Husk opened to large crowds and high praise from national media, and recently opened the second branch of his restaurant in Rutledge Hill. You’ll be greeted by a list of Southern purveyors supplying the restaurant’s kitchen, even the olive oil is sourced from South Georgia. The menu features an extensive beverage menu, that although known for its whiskeys, carries a surprisingly inventive list that’s completely non alcoholic. Fans of local sodas all find Dr. Enuf, Ale-8-1 and NuGrape an exciting find on the list.
On my visit I dined on a delicious heirloom tomato salad with produce brought to the restaurant by area Mennonites, a General Tso’s style crispy pig ear dish (pressure cooked, smoked, and of course- fried!) and a local beef entree accompanied by roasted cauliflower and chanterelles.