Local Favorites

Local Favorites In and Around Nashville

“Where do the locals eat?” I’ve rounded up a roster of affordably priced favorite restaurants spread across the city. Nothing particularly fancy–just good eats.

Elliston Place Soda Shop

Midtown. The original location next door wasn’t easily updated so it’s been enlarged and modernized while trying hard to retain that feeling of nostalgia. The combined power of house-made pies, an expansive soda fountain, and solid food choices make it a winner. Whether you want short-order breakfast, something hot off the grill, a creamy shake, or meat-and-three dinner, EPSS keeps bringing people back. (Pictured above)

San Antonio Taco Company

Midtown. Started in 1984, it may be Nashville’s introduction into Tex-Mex cuisine. My standard order is the chicken taco salad with a side of queso and chips but you can’t go wrong. Parking can be a challenge.

The Cookery

Edgehill. Just north of the 12South restaurant and retail row is this all-day breakfast, lunch, and dinner spot. The cinnamon rolls are addictive, the scrambles are delicious, and you can’t go wrong with anything involving their seasoned potatoes. Added plus: their mission involves teaching culinary skills to people who were formerly homeless.

Brown’s Diner

Hillsboro Village. Open since 1927, the recently-added deck and a change of ownership blunt the nostalgia of this streetcar turned neighborhood grill. Americana artist Nanci Griffith was a regular and The Black Keys considered it a favorite when they lived close by. Old-school music biz folks still stop in for their no-frills cheeseburgers ($9). Fun fact: they received Nashville’s first beer license post-Prohibition.


Germantown and near the airport. Even though it gets touristy, there’s a lot of local love for their nearly 30 years of serving southern favorites family-style. Killer skillet-fried chicken, peachy preserves for the biscuits, creamy corn pudding…I could go on. My wife’s bridesmaids had breakfast here the morning we got married and we’re still going strong. Note: unless you have a tableful of people (typically 10 or more), you will seated with other parties. I think that’s part of the fun but some folks don’t like dining with strangers. The second location is in an old antebellum mansion.

Big Al’s Deli

Salemtown. Only open for breakfast and dinner, this little spot is a treasure just north of Germantown. And if they can find parking, folks from across town will stop in for Big Al’s warm hospitality. You’ll find southern staples plus a few zingers like his raspberry chipotle chicken. And the best scrambled eggs I’ve ever eaten.

Green Hills Grille

Green Hills. My wife’s favorite restaurant. A little fern bar-ish but a consistently solid menu. Love their chicken tortilla club, fish and chips, salmon, and enchiladas. The hot chicken salad makes you think you’re eating healthy. Don’t sleep on the Heath Bar Crunch Pie–a miniature iceberg of ice cream, chocolate, and caramel. Call when you’re heading in to shorten your wait.


Green Hills. Imagine a New York deli with a refurbished interior. Vince Gill’s favorite breakfast spot, the menu includes includes griddle cakes, bagels, smoked fish, corned beef hash, and omelets. Lunch brings out the Reubens, the matzo ball soup, sweet and sour cabbage soup (my favorite), club sandwiches, patty melts, and a variety of salads. Only open for breakfast and lunch.

Fox’s Donut Den

Green Hills. A tradition for 30+ years, nobody does doughnuts quite like Dr. Fox and company. Lots of choices but our top picks are the fritters, the old-fashioneds, and the chocolate cake doughnuts. I only wish his coffee was as good as his pastries.

The Cafe’ at Thistle Farms

West Nashville. An enterprise of a non-profit organization founded to support female survivors of trafficking, prostitution, and addiction, this lovely cafe is open for breakfast and lunch serving tea-room favorites in a warm, inviting atmosphere. The cool teacup chandelier is their icon of hospitality.

Loveless Cafe’

West Nashville. I miss its well-worn former self with limited seating and uneven floors but its reincarnation still serves a mighty breakfast (with its famous biscuits), and a southern menu that’s stretched to add a few fancier entrees. With the influx of tourists, locals are a little less likely to frequent the Loveless. TIP: If you’re in a hurry for a sausage biscuit or such, pull into the Loveless Biscuit Kitchen at the gas station next door.

Sam’s Sports Grill

Belle Meade, Old Hickory and Hendersonville. We are big fans of their cheeseburgers with fries but I’ve yet to find a dud on their menu. Ribs are popular. So are their salads. The Old Hickory location is at Blue Turtle Bay Marina if you’d like a little more atmosphere.

Baja Burrito

Berry Hill. The line to order your food can get long but, man, the rewards are great. My standard order: la tinga (that’s spicy chicken) on a spinach tortilla with black beans and lots of enhancements. Oh, but the fried fish tacos are fabulous too. Look for the salsa bar just beyond the cash register for added flavor. Nan’s fruit tea is a popular detour from sodas. If weather permits, eat on the patio because it’s very noisy inside.

Park Cafe’

Sylvan Park. There are a ton of newer upscale restaurants around town but for casual sophistication we love this Sylvan Park trooper. Be thrifty with their happy hour specials (4-6pm, Mon-Sat) or splurge a little with a full meal (around $25/entree). Dolly Parton’s fav item is their green chili mac’n’cheese. My wife loves their salmon with chili plum sauce and their roasted chicken breast is a taste sensation.

Bobbie’s Dairy Dip

Sylvan Park. You don’t find soft-serve chocolate ice cream many places these days. But that’s only one of many reasons people flock to Bobbie’s. Hot dogs, burgers, and fries are the mainstays but they’re just the prelude to the dairy bar goodness of cones, shakes, sundaes, and banana splits. Place your order, linger by the other window for your name to be called and plop down at a picnic table on the patio to enjoy your treat. Typically closed mid-December through March. TIP: It’s a great cool-down if you incinerated your tongue on Hattie B’s hot chicken across the street.

McDougal’s Chicken

Edgehill and Brentwood. Even if the owners weren’t friends, I’d recommend the chicken tenders at McDougal’s. Never frozen and cooked when ordered, they come hot and fresh with fries and a slice of Texas toast. Order them fried or grilled as a basket or get the chicken atop a salad. Sauces range from sweet to spicy. Locations on 12th Avenue South a few blocks south of The Gulch and in Maryland Farms in Brentwood.

City Cafe East

Spence Lane. Admittedly, it’s off the beaten path. If it was in a high-traffic area, business at Chef George’s meat-and-three would double. Lucky me that I don’t mind entering the zone of industrial buildings and cemeteries. Everything I’ve ever tried has been stellar–the chicken tortilla soup (which can count as a vegetable),  meatloaf, roast beef, green beans, Cajun corn cake, and his crazy-rich brownie. My friend Dan is addicted to his Reuben, another CCE specialty.

For more ideas, check out Nashville Originals, a coalition of more than 40 local restaurants ranging from pubs to upscale dining.

Featured on The Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives”

Trust Guy Fieri more than us locals? Here are places he’s visited:

Athens Family Restaurant Greek restaurant? Breakfast mecca? Sandwich shop? Yes x 3.
Mas Tacos Por Favor Among the first taco shops to capture Nashville’s heart.
JamaicaWay Got goat? Yep and a bevy of other Jamaican delights.
The Grilled Cheeserie From a simple concept food truck to a Hillsboro Village brick-and-mortar that also features spiked shakes.
Phat Bites Phunky little joint for the health-minded who want big flavor, not just good-for-you.
Caffe’ Nonna It feels a little like New York when you step into this intimate cafe–and more like New York when you nosh on their signature entrees.

There are several websites devoted to Nashville restaurants so I’ll send you their way for reviews and deeper details: