I love to snack. In fact I love to snack so much that I would almost opt out of traditional meals in favor of light bites every two hours or so. A perfect day in my eyes involves non-stop exploration punctuated by frequent small plates. Perhaps this is why I love traveling. It’s the perfect excuse to do just that and you better believe I capitalize on this.
Before I moved to New York City for college, I erased Nashville from the foodie hotspot list. New York City loomed ahead of me like a hot fudge sundae and Nashville was nothing but a cone of old deep fried oreos.
I am not sure when it happened but out of nowhere Nashville up’d the ante. No longer just a haven for fried foods, barbecue, and the traditional meat and three, Nashville has become a sort-of locavoe foodie paradise, with new independently owned restaurants making use of the abundant fresh produce and tastes of the South at its fingertips in style.
Here is a list of my favorite spots for eating and spending time in and around Nashville. Next time you’re in my hometown, do try a couple. You won’t be sorry. And New York, you better watch your back. There’s another city in the town and she’s a looker!
1. The Wild Cow: This vegetarian restaurant in the “it” neighborhood of the moment, East Nashville, offers fun and flavorful vegetarian/vegan friendly dishes in a laid-back, low-key atmosphere. Make sure to order the homemade hummus of the day and the sweet potato black bean tacos. Save room for one of their vegan cakes of the day!
2. Jenni’s Splendid Ice Cream: Simply the best and most unique ice cream flavors I have ever had the pleasure of enjoying, and I am an ice cream addict, too. I loved the cognac fig and goat cheese as well as the buckeye state (pb and chocolate mixture). The queen city cayenne, a nod to the chocolate and chile sensation, is delightful and spicy, while the bangkok peanut really does taste like pad thai in ice cream form.
3. Germantown Cafe: This elegant restaurant is perfect for a date night with it’s indulgent yet refined menu and small portions. Where this restaurant lacks in portion size, it makes up for in sheer flavor. The green plate features perfectly tender swiss chard with a crispy potato leek pancake and marinated artichoke hearts and is every bit as delicious as the hunk of peanut butter cheesecake we ordered for dessert. Do not miss the lobster bisque!
4. Burger Up: This is your neighborhood burger joint on crack. Unique burger combinations served with your choice of house fries, onion rings, sautéed spinach, or sweet tater fries and homemade Jack Daniels Ketchup. The quinoa based veggie burger is delicious no matter which way you spin it with its avocado and creme fraiche garnish on a soft brioche bun. Great salads and fried pickles to boot, I am obsessed.
5. Cowgirl Cupcake Company: I am not usually a cupcake gal, but this adorable and artsy little bakery could turn the biggest cupcake hater into a fan. I love the unique flavors (gingerbread spice, pumpkin cinnamon, eggnog) and their awesome displays. Go just for the ambiance and then buy yourself a couple to consume while you walk the streets of historic downtown Franklin
6. The Red Pony: High off the sugar intake from the aforementioned cupcakes, hurry in to The Red Pony, also in Franklin, for “sophisticated Southern cuisine”. I love when you can see the chefs at work in the kitchen because you know how hard those guys are working to wow you, so snag a seat near the glass windows and watch as your meal is prepared. The spinach salad is a mud with its ample candied pecans and and goat cheese. Say yes to the shrimp and grits and the almond dusted mahi, both rich in their own ways. I dare you not to lick the dish clean. Order the Chocolate Demise for dessert. This gooey, hot out of the oven chocolate cake is paired with rich, dense brownie chunks and vanilla ice cream that achieves that “oh my god, this is good” moment.
7. PortaVia: Nashville doesn’t have many great Italian offerings. If you are interested in quality over quantity in this department, more than likely you must prepare to be disappointed. However, relative newcomer, PortaVia, serves up simple Italian classics at affordable prices. This is your go to spot for a relaxed mid-week dinner amongst friends. I love the Grande salad with its mixed greens, balsamic vinaigrette, artichoke hearts, cherry tomatoes, olives, and roasted mushrooms as a starter to share. The paninis are fresh and delicious as is somewhat decadent lobster ravioli. The home-made gelato offers a refreshing end to the meal.
10. Bongo Java/Fido’s: Good coffee, good desserts, great ambiance. This is Nashville’s New York inspired coffee house in the ever-trendy Hillsboro Village/Belmont University areas of town.