The idea of food is so exciting to me because the possibilities are completely endless. What is better in life than endless possibilities? Food can be delicious, exciting, and even beautiful. It can awaken multiple senses, nourish our bodies, and keep us alive. I honestly don’t know what could be better than a plate of food (ok, maybe water, but still.)
I’m a woman born and raised in the southeast with the extreme privilege of amazing foods surrounding me. Since this month is focused on the beauty of “Local”, I’m ecstatic to be able to shout from the rooftops about several of my favorite local food and cocktail stops in the heart of my hometown, Nashville, TN. I plan to highlight some of the smaller locales in the city that I adore that you can truly only experience by simply visiting and trying for yourself.
First off, brunch. Ie. Every basic girl’s dream. For those who live here or are simply visiting, you’ll quickly recognize the passion this city has for brunch. It’s honestly beautiful to observe a couple huddled together over crystal flutes of mimosas with plates of handmade french toast, croissants, frittatas, and fluffy crepes surrounded by intimate and comfy european style decor that transports you to a small cafe you perhaps stumbled upon whilst walking down the Champs-Élysées one bright sunny Sunday morning… This little gem I speak of is one of the best brunch spots in Nashville titled Marche Artisan Cafe and just so happens to reside in my little neighborhood of East Nashville. It’s a must that cannot be missed. For those that enjoy perhaps a bit more traditional brunch and who just can’t stop eating, do not skip out on Adele’s. The all you can eat weekend brunch combined with the gorgeous aesthetics of this restaurant make this place to die for.
For faster (but just as delicious) pastry breakfast delicacies, head on over to Sweet 16th Bakery and do yourself the biggest favor by purchasing one (or multiple, I’m not here to judge) of their handmade savory cheddar biscuit scones that literally melts in your mouth along with their homemade breakfast casserole will make you forget you ever tasted Grandmas. For those who prefer the sweeter side they have a fabulous selection of various homeade tarts, crumble streusels, and cakes as well that are undeniably phenomenal. Be forewarned as this is a small Jewish owned bakery and therefore can be closed at unique times in observance of Jewish traditions/holidays.
Other honorary mentions go out to CREMA (try their macaroons!), Barista Parlor, and Proper Bagel.
Moving on to your standard mid-day meal, (most commonly referred to as Lunch). Here are a few of both my friends and I’s favorite establishments that are largely unknown still. First, Joey’s House of Pizza. Some would dare say this is the best New York style pizza in Nashville (perhaps Five Points Pizza being the only one to rival.) $11 gets you a drink, two massive slices and either a salad, pasta salad or spaghetti as your delicious side. Telling all you lovelies about this joint feels, as my best friend puts it, “like I’m sharing the best kept secret in Nashville.” But by the line out the door everyday, there’s a lot of us that know about it already.
For this particular place, I asked my longtime close friend why she loves Joey’s Pizza and here was her most excellent response: “Be aware, the line is long but the chaotic nature is also kind of its charm – it’s loud, it’s hot, doesn’t seem to be a method to its madness because my order comes out right every time. Their pizza sauce is on the sweeter side. The pizza slice is easily 2x the size of my hand. The crust is super crispy but still foldable. Their glops of mozzarella on top is to die for. What more can I say – it’s a super delicious grease monster that is out if this world, and if you really want to challenge yourself (and your doctor) don’t hesitate to try the Gladiator.”
SO, if her response doesn’t make you drop everything this instant and send you running to Joey’s then I’m honestly not sure you even have a stomach.
Another recommendation comes from a tiny little spot resting inconspicuously in a small strip mall just off the Harding Place exit off I-65 with a simple name, Back to Cuba. My friend smiles as she tells me about her favorite lunch spot. Upon walking into this place you immediately notice the homeliness of it, from the handwritten menu tacked up on the corkboard above the countertop, to the clean but very simple decor. For those who enjoy ethnic tastes, this place is phenomenal. They offer to die for traditional Cubanos but do yourself a favor and focus on the empanadas. You won’t regret it. The beef choice is super flavorful and the crust is astounding. Don’t leave here forgetting to try the Yuca fries either, the dipping sauce is so good and you’ll need the fries to sop up all those flavorful empanada juices. Another menu item where you can’t go wrong is to try the Lechon Azado – roasted tender and juicy pork with rice, beans, and boiled yuca. Need I say more? (Also, make a stop at the Donut shop nearby. BEST homemade donuts ever!)
Other honorary mentions go out to Mas Tacos, Rotiers, and Martin’s BBQ.
Next, are some wonderful Dinner and Cocktail places. My number one recommendation for one of the most romantic and delicious cuisine dinner spots is hands down, Rolf & Daughters. Ask any local Nashvillian and this will always appear on their list, and I promise you’ll never hear anyone say it’s bad. It’s the perfect setting for friendships or romances to abound in one of the most delicate and beautiful outdoor settings in town. The food is sharable and divine. Beware the reservation list is hefty, and you’ll have to plan far in advance to snag a coveted spot. For more romance and amazing cuisine, make your way over to Sinema in the historic Melrose neighborhood off of 8th avenue. This gorgeous modern day Great Gatsby style restaurant packs some cool history due to the fact it was an actual original cinema called The Melrose Theater that delighted movie-goers back in the day when it opened in 1942. Today, Sinema provides an experience truly inspired by the history of the theater: your mouth will drop in awe at the grandness of it all. From its architectural design and the classic white and black films playing on a large brick wall via an old school projector in the upstairs cocktail lounge to the restored curved staircase and exposed brick walls that leads you to the upstairs lounge, with cozy velvet tufted chaise lounges and nostalgic photography hung on every wall – it’s a dream you won’t want to wake up from. Oh and one more thing, don’t forget to take a peek in the bathroom and take a selfie in the huge mirrors surrounded by the stunning decor and keep in mind we haven’t even gotten to the food! The Truffle Flatbread with roasted mushrooms starter will change your life and don’t forget the Pasta Bolognese and Prince Edward Mussels as appetizers either! The burger is made from Wagyu beef (only the best) and a smoked cheddar cheese that drips and oozes smoky goodness. The duck breast is ‘coffee rubbed’ with browned butter and coffee hazelnuts, and you’ll wonder how a meat could possibly taste as good as it does. The sides include crispy steak frites with creamy garlic aioli and a unique twist on a roasted cauliflower that includes macadamia nuts that will have your taste buds spinning.
Other honorary mentions go out to City House, Butchertown Hall, and Lockeland Table.
Some of my personal favorite late night haunts include the ever so unique Public House. This little cozy outdoor spot is attached to the most gorgeous Bed n’ Breakfast in town (Urban Cowboy) and sports a gorgeous outdoor fireplace with the largest buffalo skull you’ve ever seen overseeing the crowd from the tip top beckoning you to come on in and warm up next to his roaring fire. They have a wonderful hodgepodge collection of mismatched vintage patio furniture that when grouped together in small intimate settings suddenly looks beautiful and inviting. The food is reminiscent of camping under the open skies of Montana cooked over the open flames of a fire pit and in the cooler months, order the chili which is served in a piping hot, single serving cast iron skillet with homemade cornbread. Your entire body will instantly warm and you won’t be sure if it’s from the hot chili, the roaring fireplace, the excellent whiskey cocktail pouring down your throat, or from the intimate huddled conversations of true Nashville creatives surrounding you. But in the end, you won’t care what it is that makes it so special, you’ll just sit and smile.
Some favorite cocktail haunts include the classic bar, Duke’s. They serve drinks cheaper than you would expect and delightfully simple sandwiches that are better than you would think. Make sure to pick from their list of beers n’ shots and sit back to enjoy the various DJs spinning out whatever tunes on whatever vinyl they’re feeling vibes for. The various decor and patrons that frequent this place will make you feel as if you’ve stepped back in time to 1972, and it’s fantastic. Bar Sovereign and LA Jackson are two places that will make you feel as if you’ve stepped into a swanky New York establishment with LA Jackson winning the award for the most gorgeous rooftop bar in town with a stunning view of the city and Bar Sovereign giving that small, underground, dark and secret yet deliciously hip vibe and style with amazing cocktails. My last recommendation goes out to Rosemary and Beauty Queen. This quirky and unique bar sits unobtrusively in a small east Nashville house in the 5 Points area that touts a lovely victorian style decor with hazy darkened lights inside with a library room-esque lounge and gorgeous curved bar. The best part however is the back yard that has been transformed into a hipsters paradise of music, disco balls, lights, trees and grassy areas. This place is always full of Nashville’s best creatives and you might just even spot a star or two.
Other honorary mentions go out to No. 308, Bastion, Robert’s, HQ Beercade, and Craft Brewed.
As one can hopefully take away from this, I love food and more importantly I love my city. Nashville offers such a unique culture with so many food, music, and activity offerings that I could write 10 more pages on it. So to spare your eyes and attention span the best thing I can tell you to do is to simply come and experience it for yourself!
There is an authenticity and a truthfulness to Nashville unrivaled by most that reveals itself in the most beautiful of ways to those who choose to take the chance.
So come on down y’all! It’s a party 🙂
Hi! My name is Carrie Pickering and I am a wannabe creative who would love to work for herself one day. In the meantime while that dream is still being worked on, I am a Product Fulfillment Manager for a small tech company that builds event based mobile apps. This means I manage a team of iOS and Android developers on a daily basis, keeping all things organized and ensuring we fulfill our production goals on time.
My side hustle includes freelancing Digital Project Management work for any digital projects (ie. website, email marketing, tech etc) where my skills work to keep all project details organized, on time, and on/under budget.
As of yet I have no website but plan to one day! Dreams include: owning my own business/blog while traveling the world. You can follow me on Instagram @carrie_pickering
*Photo by Christy Shaterian