I’d been to Tennessee a few times, but never to Nashville. When I finally did get to visit Nashville over a long weekend, I found myself stunned by everything the city had to offer. Luckily, my wife and I had friends living in Nashville that were willing to show us around. We got to try dry rubbed BBQ, Nashville Hot Chicken, some fine dining, and learned a lot about the city’s history just by walking around. Nashville is a great place filled with wonderful food, nice people, history, and a contagious love of country music that will infect even the most stalwartly opposed ears!
Below is a review of my weekend in Nashville with recommendations for where to go in a short amount of time. This list only scratched the surface and, of course, there are always more places to explore, but this is a great starting point.
Bakery / Breakfast
516 Hagan St #103
Nashville, TN 37203
If there was a food MVP during this weekend trip to Nashville, it would have to be Dozen Bakery. Nashville is know for its BBQ and Hot Chicken, but it doesn’t get enough credit for its bakeries as far as I’m concerned. A visit to Dozen Bakery for breakfast along with an employee led sneak peek behind the scenes gave me a glimpse into the magic happening in the kitchen. Bakeries are usually a dime a dozen, but Dozen Bakery is anything but ordinary.
A true test of a bakery is not only how delicious their sweet pastries are, but how good their bread is. It’s easy to stuff sugar into something until it tastes good. It’s much harder to master bread, which is perhaps one of the simplest forms of baking, but also one of the hardest to perfect. As a testament to this mastery, my simple breakfast of a baguette with avocado spread on it left me completely and utterly satisfied. The buttery avocado danced wonderfully on top of the French bread that remained soft on the inside and crispy on the outside, but not so much so that it tore up the roof of your mouth with every bite like some overzealous French breads.
If you have the opportunity to visit Nashiville, you will definitely find a lot of places with great BBQ and many with great Hot Chicken, but you would be hard pressed to find a bakery on the same level as Dozen. Go here. Try everything. Compliment the staff and thank me later!
BBQ / Barbecue
Peg Leg Porker
903 Gleaves St.
Nashville, TN 37203
Nashville has a reputation for some great BBQ and there are far too many restaurants to try in a weekend. Nonetheless, Pitmaster Carey Bringle’s Peg Leg Porker was recommended to me by locals and tourists alike as one of the best BBQ joints in Nashville. They don’t serve beef, but instead focus on pork, chicken, and sides. When I visited Peg Leg Porker, I wanted to try everything and luckily I was there with a group of friends willing to share. We didn’t get to try everything, but we did get to try some of the big staples like the dry rubbed ribs, pulled pork, dry rubbed half chicken, and all of their side dishes.
I can honestly say that everything we ate was absolutely fantastic. The dry rubbed ribs were full of flavor and didn’t need any sauce, but they tasted great with the house sauce as well. The pulled pork was tender, smoky, and flavorful. The half chicken was juicy and the dry rub permeated the skin to complement the chicken. While the BBQ game at Peg Leg Porker is strong, the side dishes were surprisingly delicious in their own right. So many BBQ places tend to skimp on the quality of the sides, but Peg Leg Porker is the first place I genuinely enjoyed every single side, including the completely new to me, smoked green beans that just blew my mind with the originality.
Highly recommended. Expect a long line that moves at a moderate pace, but stick around because it’s worth it!
Nashville Hot Chicken
719 8th Ave S.
Nashville, TN 37203
OK, before I start, let me just say that I am not going to tout Party Fowl as having the best Hot Chicken in Nashville. What I will say is that this is a great alternative if you want to avoid standing in line for an hour in the blazing sun to get in to Hattie B’s (lauded as probably the best Hot Chicken). This was how we ended up at Party Fowl. We drove by Hattie B’s and saw a line around the block, so we just kept driving.
The Nashville Hot Chicken at Party Fowl is their mid-level heat and while it is a bit spicy, I expected a little more heat from something called Nashville Hot Chicken. They do have a higher level of heat, but I’m guessing that they are trying to cater to a larger crowd without burning the lips off most people with low tolerances. The half chicken’s skin covered in spices along with the pickles tasted delicious. The hot chicken wings (allegedly a step lower in spiciness than the Nashville hot) were actually spicier than the half chicken. The reason, I think, is because of the spice to meat ratio. The sides weren’t especially great, but the beer menu made up for it.
I recommend Party Fowl as a great place to grab a good beer and a solid alternative to try some Hot Chicken if you can’t get into Hattie B’s or some of the other acclaimed Hot Chicken restaurants.
37 Rutledge St.
Nashville, TN 37210
Husk is a fine dining restaurant that specializes in taking local ingredients to make Southern staples, but with an interesting and unique spin. A reservation is definitely required considering the popularity of the restaurant. Everything we ate really delivered on big flavors. The lightly smoked oysters were fantastic and just barely cooked so they retained the best parts of eating an oyster raw, but coupled them with a slightly more solid texture and smoky flavor. The Pig Ear Sliders were possibly my favorite thing that I ate over the weekend. They sound unappetizing to those that have never had them before, but I would urge anyone to try them. The crispiness of the cherry glazed ears provided a satisfying porky crunch that resonated well with the Vietnamese banh mi inspired flavors of the slider. I tried the grass fed steak entree and actually found myself enjoying the side accompanying butter beans more than my steak. I can honestly say that I’ve never enjoyed beans more than meat before, but this was one of those times. We all tried entrees at Husk, but agreed that the real stars at the restaurant are the starters.
I would recommend Husk as a place to grab a well-crafted cocktail along with appetizers or small plates to share with friends. The entrees are decent, but the small plates provided much more interesting and delicious takes on the fresh ingredients.
Las Paletas Popsicles
2911 12th Ave S.
Nashville, TN 37204
I’ll be honest that when I think of stopping somewhere for a dessert or a sweet snack, I almost never consider popsicles or ice pops as an option. That’s probably because I had’t tried Las Paletas. This little shop features Mexican ice pops in fruit and cream-based flavors. Two sisters named Norma and Irma Paz started the business with the goal of creating treats that actually tasted like their ingredients rather than some sugary, syrupy reflection of them. They use actual fruit and cream to create their pops and it shows. I tried the pineapple chili pop and was surprised that not only did I taste real pineapple, but actual chili flakes that made this frozen treat delightfully spicy!
Highly recommended as a cool treat for those hot Nashville days.
Honky Tonks are basically just Nashville bars with live music (usually country music). They’re a lot of fun and many serve food. I didn’t eat while visiting a Honky Tonk, but I did enjoy a fine selection of beers while listening to the only kind of country music I can stand – Live country music. When it’s on the radio, I don’t really get into it, but when you’re there sitting with people who love the music along with a live band pouring their heart and soul into the sound system, it’s definitely much more enjoyable!