Favorite Places to Eat in Nashville

  Favorite Places to Eat in Nashville

I've lived in Nashville 5 years this month and have thoroughly relished eating my way through the city. There are, of course, plenty more restaurants I wish I had time to try before I move to San Francisco but these are the places I'll miss the most.

(While some have establishments in a couple of neighborhoods, I listed the one I go to. A few restaurants are in ambiguous areas so if you don't see a neighborhood listed, that's why.)


Coffee and Tea

Crema (Rutledge Hill)- If you go in the fall and they have Bourbon Barrel Double Sorghum Latte on the menu, order it post-haste. Otherwise, you can't go wrong with the Cuban. I've done a lot of great writing and conversing in this place. Amanda and I used to have weekly writing dates there, which means it will always have a special place in my heart.


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Edgehill Cafe (Edgehill)- This place is my other staple, whether I'm writing or meeting up with friends. They have a great loose-leaf tea selection from Rishi and I am especially fond of the Tangerine Ginger. When I'm in a latte mood, I go for Always Fall Somewhere or Abbe Road or one of their fun specials.


2014-11-16 08.29.17-1Tea cup chandelier at Thistle Stop Cafe

Thistle Stop Cafe (West Nashville)- The cafe is a part of Thistle Farms, a social justice enterprise for women who survived prostitution, trafficking, and addiction. I'm a huge fan of their work. The cafe has a tasty menu (always get the soup) but I go mostly for the tea. You can order a pot of their loose leaf tea and it will be served to you in a china teacup. The cafe is lit by various teacup chandeliers. However, they also have great coffee and lattes, if that's more your style.


Ugly Mugs (East Nashville)- This shop sits next to Silly Goose, which is next to Jeni's Ice Cream, so basically all your needs are met for the day. Whatever special drinks they're offering that day, go with it. They've never steered me wrong.


The Well (Brentwood)- This is a nonprofit missional coffeehouse, which means any profit they make is put toward building wells in impoverished areas around the world. So there's that. But they also offer a range of loose leaf teas and various fancy ways of preparing coffee.


Breakfast and Brunch

Biscuit Love (The Gulch)- Started out as a food truck and now serving up breakfast and brunch daily. I could weep from how delicious the East Nasty is. Try it and thank me later.


Edgehill Cafe (Edgehill)- You can't go wrong with their frittatas but when I'm feeling indulgent, I get The Grilled PBCB, which is a grilled peanut butter, chocolate, and banana sandwich. Amazing. Their specials are top notch- I'm still dreaming about the Biscuit and Peaches dish I had last summer.


Marché (East Nashville)- I head here when I want a little nicer breakfast. They use local and seasonal food and the menu changes regularly. It's almost always busy so try to get there early. Otherwise you can order coffee and pastries at the counter while you wait.


Mere Bulles (Brentwood)- The best Sunday Brunch Buffet I've ever experienced. They have crab bisque, an omelet station, and crème brulee French toast. I rest my case.


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Pinewood Social
(Rolling Mill Hill)- The Pot Roast Hash won me over from the start. More on this interesting place below.


Star Bagel (Sylvan Park)- This is my breakfast (and lunch) go-to from even before I moved to Nashville. They have amazing bagel sandwiches. I usually order The Breakfast Sandwich with bacon or The California. If it's closer to lunchtime, I'll get the Asiago Turkey. And you MUST get the fruit tea. It is the best in all of Nashville.


Tavern (Midtown)- Brunch is served up on the weekend only. I recommend getting there right when they open. If they have a dish with their homemade sausage, get it. The Red Velvet Waffle sounds good but it sadly doesn't live up to its reputation. Skip the waffle and get a libation instead.


Lunch and Dinner

312 Pizza (Germantown)- I'm from Chicagoland so I have high standards when it comes to pizza. Lucky for me, the owners also hail from Chicagoland and decided to remedy Nashville's pizza situation. Lou Malnati's is my favorite Chicago pizzeria and this is almost as good as that. No small feat. I also love that you can get your Chicago sports fix here. It gets busy fast so I recommend trying to go early if you don't want a long wait.


Burger Up (12 South)- I go here for the Lamb Burger and fried pickles. I've ventured out into other burger territories but the Lamb Burger always tempts me back and rightly so. If lamb isn't your thing, try the Woodstock. My best friend swears by their Chopped Kale Salad and another friend raves about the Marathon Burger, which is vegetarian. 


The Dog of Nashville (Hillsboro Village)- This is the hot dog place of your dreams. I'm especially fond of the Chicago dog (shocker). The basket of fries is enormous so order one and plan on sharing. Be sure to take in all the Chicago sports memorabilia. Go White Sox!


Edgehill Cafe (Edgehill)- Yes, this is the third time I've mentioned this place. It is that good! The lemon-basil chicken salad is a refreshing choice, as is their kale salad, and I've loved every sandwich I've ever consumed there. But 9 times out of 10, I go with a special. The BLT Flatbread I had a few weeks ago might have changed my life.


2014-01-18 07.56.52Fried pickles and BBQ Nachos at Edley's

Edley's Bar-B-Que (12 South)- How do I love thee, Edley's? Let me count the ways. I love thee for thy fried pickles, BBQ Nachos, and Chicken Sandwich. And I love thee most for thy Brisket Sandwich. Get in my belly, right now, please and thank you.


Epice (12 South)- This is a Lebanese restaurant and it is beyond amazing. Try the hummos, of course, and any of the lamb dishes. The Fattayer, a trio of savory pies, is also a great choice.


Fido (Hillsboro Village)- While you can go to Fido for all your coffee and breakfast needs, I prefer to go there for lunch or dinner. I alternate between the Local Burger, which is one of the best in Nashville, and the Braised Beef Sandwich. I always get the fries. Sometimes I only get fries.


2015-02-19 17.52.03Hanging at Flip Burger with my best friends.

FLIP Burger (Sylvan Park)- If you're a fan of Top Chef, you'll be excited to learn this is Richard Blais's restaurant, which first started in Atlanta. Nashville got a location earlier this year and we are better for it.  I'm partial to the Lamburger, though the RBQ and Oaxaca are also quite tasty. Last time I was there, they used liquid nitrogen to create my cocktail, which had a mesmerizing effect. Viva la Gingerita! (Sadly now closed.)


The Local Taco (Sylvan Park)- I used to live a couple blocks away and loved walking down for an easy meal. Pick how many tacos and/or enchiladas you want. Mix and match to your heart's content. Favorite tacos: Tequila Lime Chicken, Carnitas, Smoked Brisket, Portabella. Favorite enchiladas: Chicken Tinga, Mushroom & Spinach. I always get the lemon crema sauce on my enchiladas, though I also love the verde. The Chicken Salad (really, a salad with chicken) is another great choice, especially if you get the jalapeno ranch dressing.


The Loveless Cafe (Bellevue)- This is a local institution that you should experience at least once. Go during off hours, otherwise plan on waiting a while. The Loveless is known for their biscuits and jam and I've been known to eat more than my fair share. A classic meat-and-three, I'm partial to their poppyseed chicken when it's on the menu. Otherwise, it's fried chicken all the way. (They also serve breakfast.)


Mas Tacos Por Favor (East Nashville)- It's not much to look at but the flavor that comes out of this kitchen is no joke. The menu is always changing but if you see cast iron chicken tacos listed, get at least one. This is another place to head to early, as seating is limited and the line can be long. They also have a food truck!


The Pharmacy Burger Parlor & Beer Garden (East Nashville)- If the weather's nice, plan on sitting outside. It can take over an hour to get inside so head here early. The burgers are great but if you're feeling adventurous, try one of the homemade German wursts to accompany your beer. Not in the mood for beer? They've got a soda shop, too.


2014-08-05 10.52.38-2Drinking the Good Sinner

Pinewood Social (Rolling Mill Hill)- Meet friends for coffee and stay for lunch or grab a seat at the bar or chill poolside. Bowl, if that's what you want to do. What I'm trying to say is: this place has options. They also have super fun cocktails. I recommend the fried broccoli if you order an appetizer. Really. I'm also partial to the fried chicken.


The Silly Goose (East Nashville)- This place never fails me. It's hard to pick a favorite: maybe the Sicilian Couscous or Bird Wrap. But I can't forget The Frisby either. The dinner specials change on the regular. No matter what, you can count on good fresh, quality ingredients. Plus, if you've got room, you can head next door to Jeni's Ice Cream for dessert. (Sadly now closed.)


Taco Mamacita (Edgehill)- The guacamole is top notch. I come here for the stellar margaritas (and drink specials!), as well as their interesting take on tacos, like the California Club, Loaded Gyro, and Oy Vey. I've been known to polish off the Grande Chopped Salad with jalapeno ranch dressing in one sitting. 


Thai Esane- This is my favorite Thai restaurant here. It might seem unexpected but order the homemade sausage. It's an experience! The papaya salad is as good as what I ate in Thailand.


Treat Yo Self Restaurants

2014-01-10 22.34.56Scenes from my 34th birthday at City House. Look at all that mood lighting.

City House (Germantown)- I love coming here when there's something to celebrate or I have company in town. The menu is ever changing according to the season and what's available locally. But I can tell you this: try the pizza, made in their wood-burning oven. Add a farm fresh egg. Revel in ecstasy. The cocktails are inventive and refreshing. Reservation recommended.


Husk (Rutledge Hill)- This place, y'all. If I could afford to eat there weekly, I'd sign on in a heartbeat. The menu changes with the season and each dish comes together thanks to complicated technique and layered flavors. Sean Brock is a culinary genius. I had a filet of beef that practically melted in my mouth from the tenderness. I'm drooling just thinking about it. I haven't tried going for lunch but I hear the fried chicken is out of this world and sells out fast. My friend and I treated ourselves a couple of years ago and decided to save room for dessert. This was a wise decision, as Lisa Donovan was still the pastry chef at that time. I got to take a baking class from her and she is the real deal. Dinner reservation recommended.


Rumours East (East Nashville)- On a nice evening, there's no place I'd rather sit than their back patio. The food is tremendous, as is the extensive wine and cocktail list.



Food Trucks

There are literally hundreds of food trucks in Nashville. These are the ones I can't resist. Follow them on social media to find out where they are.

Deg Thai

Grilled Cheeserie

Loco Donut (not currently operating as a food truck but I hope for your sake they come back around)

Riff's Fine Street Food

Sum Yum Yum (banh mi!!!!)


Sweets and Treats

The Cupcake Collection (Germantown)- The perfect cake-frosting ratio, I'm a happy camper when Red Velvet, Blackout, and Peanut Butter Mousse are on the menu.


IveyCake (Franklin)- Gold Digger (chocolate cupcake with peanut butter frosting) is my absolute favorite. I'm not ashamed of how many of their flavors I've consumed over the past 5 years.


Jeni's Ice Cream (East Nashville)- Nothing wrong with this gourmet ice cream and I've sampled about every flavor to prove it. Get out of your comfort zone and try something new, like Goat Cheese and Cherries (tastes like cheesecake) or Queen City Cayenne. Just make sure you leave enough Buckeye State for me. Flavors change seasonally.


Las Paletas (12 South)- These Mexican popsicles are a refreshing treat. Avocado is my favorite but I've been known to eat the fruity paletas, too. You can also go to Hot & Cold in Hillsboro Village and get your paleta dipped in chocolate or dunked in your coffee.


Fried Pickles

I will never turn down fried pickles and have eaten more than my fair share around this town. These are especially superb.

Bobby's Dairy Dip (Sylvan Park)

Burger Up (12 South)

Edley's Bar-B-Que (12 South)


Whiskey Kitchen (MStreet)

I Went to a Southern Baking Class

I've long thought of myself as more of a cook than a baker. I like the freedom of cooking. Adding this and that. Substituting here and there. Eyeballing quantities. Maybe I have a knack for it but my meals always turn out well.

Baking requires more precision and maybe a dash of perfectionism. I really like when other people bake so I can enjoy their efforts.

But when I think back, I realize baking has been there all along. Helping Grandma make coffee cake. Decorating Christmas cookies with Mom. Making my first loaf of bread when I was in 3rd grade- my right arm in a hot pink cast, no less. Perfecting a Whiskey Cake recipe for friends. Trying my hand at biscuits this past year.

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Husk opened its Nashville location earlier this year to much aplomb. (I haven't eaten there yet. For shame.) The pastry chef Lisa Donovan decided to offer a Southern Basics Baking class.

First, I was amazed that a talented pastry chef would be willing to part with her recipes. Second, I knew I needed to attend the inaugural class. I didn't know if my friend could make it (turns out she couldn't) but I didn't hesitate to sign up. And it's a good thing I did! I later learned the 10 initial spots filled up in 15 minutes. When Donovan added additional spots to the class, she still had a large wait list.

I had no idea what to expect. Truth be told, I was nervous. I feared walking into a room full of pastry experts...like a baking version of karaoke in Nashville. (Because everyone wants to be discovered on the karaoke stage. They're not looking for a fun time like the rest of us.)

But there was nothing to fear. The class was held in the Stable House behind Husk. There wasn't a lot of wiggle room with 24 people, plus Lisa, but we made it work. I ended up at a table of 5 and loved getting to know each person. We christened ourselves the redheaded stepchildren, as we always seemed to be the last to receive the butter/salt/baking powder that was passed around.

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Lisa Donovan is funny, self-deprecating, and knows her way around a pie tin. I loved hearing the stories behind her recipes and her struggle in sharing them- even though she wanted to teach the class. We learned how to make pie crust first.

I'd never attempted pie crust before. It always seemed too complex and risky. Intimidating. Better to buy one at the grocery store than have a homemade one fall apart.

Pie Crust
Lisa walked us through the steps and checked our work as we incorporated butter into flour. My tablemates' efforts all differed from one another and we weren't sure who was doing what right. And then an unexpectedly awesome thing happened.

Lisa looked at my incorporated butter and said, "this is exactly how it should look." She took my bowl and had the class look at it as an example.

(I couldn't take a picture because my hands were covered in butter and flour but it was a proud moment.)

Perhaps I have a knack for pie crust after all?

After pie crust, we made the filling for Buttermilk Pie, which is similar to a chess pie. Then it was on to biscuits.

Because of the size of the class, we went longer than scheduled and needed to assemble and bake our pies at home.  But there was no way I was going to leave before my biscuits came out of the oven. I ate one on the way to the car and another while I was driving. So, so good.

These recipes are keepers and if you want them, you'll have to take the Southern Baking class. Lisa has so many tips and tricks and I hope she'll decide to share a few other recipes so I can take another class from her some day.

In the meantime, who needs a biscuit?

An Open Letter to Winter

Dear Winter,

There was a time in my life when I looked forward to seeing you again. You meant snow angels, snow forts, snowmen, sledding, and the most sacred yet rare Snow Day. You meant Christmas and ringing in the New Year. You meant cozy sweaters and hot chocolate. Every child's dream, right?

LK2The good old days

I'm not sure when it changed. Probably when I hydroplaned in to a curb as a 16 year old driver. Suddenly, I viewed you and your choice of precipitation in a whole new light. And I most assuredly did not like it.

I'd brushed aside your less than positive moments before. We all know you have to take the good with the bad each season. But Winter, you always had to go one step too far.

Exhibit A: my January birthday. Sub-zero temperatures, snowstorms, icy roads all of which translate to changed plans, missing guests, or rescheduled parties. Why can't you leave my celebrations alone?

Exhibit B: my phobia of walking/slipping on ice. Is that a real phobia? In any case, I'm slower than a Grandma when the roads and sidewalks are iced over. Don't mind my shuffling steps and for the love of Lloyd Dobler, sprinkle some salt!

Exhibit C: it's so freaking cold. It's hard to be fashionable when you have several layers going on. Also, I miss spending time outside.

Exhibit D: Seasonal Affective Disorder. Enough said.

My Midwestern roots prepared me well for whatever you tried to throw at us. I own long johns and the best snow scraper known to mankind. I'm a self-described sweater whore.  I may not like it but I know how to drive in the snow. I can scoff at your attempts to break us with the best of them.

I will concede that I do not have quite the same enmity toward you since moving to Nashville. Why, just the other day saw weather in the 60s. In December. Be still my heart! While it's presently only warming up to the 30s and 40s, we'll see 60 again on Wednesday. This is a gift. Thank you, dear Winter, for being kind to middle Tennessee.

I take that back. When you bring snow to middle Tennessee, roads become parking lots. No one knows how to drive in an inch of snow here. But let's let bygones be bygones.

Winter, I'd like to propose a truce. I realized last year that my hatred of your ice and cold has clouded my judgment. I've missed out on the unexpected beauty of snowflakes. I don't want to forget the fun of making a snow angel or ignore your purpose. You pave the way for Spring, when all things are made new again. You are in fact necessary.

Christmas is one of my favorite holidays and part of its allure is the weather. Truthfully, I don't know what I'd do if I had to celebrate Christmas in the heat and humidity. My favorite Christmas movie is White Christmas. I joke that Christmas is the only time I want there to be snow- and it should fall overnight Christmas Eve, melt after the holidays and not come back until next year. I recognize it's not fair of me to limit how you express yourself, Winter.

I walked outside my house the other morning, greeted by the white rime of frost on the ground. I had a rather violent reaction and cursed your name. But when I saw Facebook status updates from loved ones back home talking about actual snowfall, I was thankful to live in snow-less Tennessee.

I made a decision then and there: I would not spend the next 3 months complaining about you and your weather. Instead, I will seek beauty wherever I am, enjoy another cup of tea, and discover the gift in hibernation.

However, when it does snow and the whole state forgets what they learned in driving school, all bets are off.


Leigh Kramer, former Winter hater

(Thank you, Megan, for reminding me what Winter could and should be about.)


How do you feel about Winter?

What I've Been Into- October Edition

Read and Reading: Normally I read around 6 or 7 books a month but I only read 2 books in October. One of those was the fantastic Orchid House (Cindy Martinusen). I'd read 2 of Martinusen's books years ago.  I participated in a focus group for Thomas Nelson's fiction division a few months ago (nothing like an excuse to talk about books!) and picked a few free books for my trouble.  When I saw Martinusen on the list, I knew I'd like it but didn't expect to love this book as much as I did.  Set in the Philippines in the early 90s, we journey to this interesting country through Julia's eyes, there for the first time to bury her grandfather. I learned much about the turmoil and unrest in the Philippines at that time, as well as its distinctive heritage and traditions. There was much to relate to in our character Julia, a woman who is ready for a fresh start though she does not know what this will entail. Nothing is certain in the Philippines, not her safety nor the outcome of her time there. The way Julia's story intersects with that of guerillas is breathtaking.  And, of course, the love story didn't hurt either.

The reason I didn't finish more books is because I'm in the middle of so many! My friend Jennifer Luitwieler's book Run with Me is absolutely lovely. I invariably tweet her after almost every chapter about how great it is and what I relate to. After years of recommendations, I started The War of Art (Pressfield). It's good stuff and I'm letting the page or so long chapters sink in before moving on to the next one.

Then there's When Helping Hurts (Corbett and Fikkert) and Consumer Detox (Powley), which make me think. There are similarities between the two, though the subject matter is largely different. I especially appreciate Powley's humor and insight.

Finally, I've been working on Metaxas's Bonhoeffer biography. Absolutely fascinating.  I knew very little about Bonhoeffer before starting, other than his involvement in the Hitler assassination attempt. 

TV: My TV habits have changed a bit this year. I'm no longer watching Glee, for one. Second, there are a few new shows I've added to my repertoire. Thanks to USA marathons, I'm now watching NCIS's regular season. I can't get enough of Gibbs and his team. I'm swooning with love for Once Upon a Time. Revenge is fascinating, a good blend of intrigue and soap. I've been watching The New Girl and I want it to succeed but sometimes Zooey's character sets my teeth on edge. Why are they making her so over the top weird and clueless?

Shows that are still great: Parenthood, Vampire Diaries, Chuck, Psych, Parks and Recreation. Show that I'm monitoring: The Office. Shows that could still be great but had a boring season: Project Runway. The only name I could ever remember was Anya's. At least it ended well.

Movies: If you haven't seen 50/50 yet, please do so now. Absolutely fantastic movie about a young man who is diagnosed with cancer. It could come off as sad and schmaltzy but it's funny, sentimental, and spot on. My true love Joseph Gordon-Levitt did an amazing job. The only thing I didn't like about it was the attempt to go Prince of Tides with the main character's young therapist. The social worker in me wanted to yell, "red alert! boundary issues! ethical mayhem!" at the screen. Also, it made me aware of what an awesome medical social worker I was, compared to Anna Kendrick's character's fumbling intial attempts.

Music: Truthfully, I have not stopped alternating Josh Garrels and The Avett Brothers the past few months. There are tons of great free downloads from NoiseTrade that I need to listen to but they'll have to wait. The Vespers put on a great show at The Station Inn on Friday. They are always a treat, all the more impressive that they're so young. If you live in or near Nashville, do yourself a favor and go to Live on the Green next fall. So many great, free shows! The last one I saw in October featured Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors and Brett Dennen. Good, good stuff.

In the Kitchen: I bought apple cider but knew I'd be unable to drink it all myself. So I headed to AllRecipes.com and found a couple of great cider coffee cakes. Unfortunately for you, I didn't bookmark them. The same goes for the Rice Pudding I made the other week- inspired by the surplus of milk. I don't buy milk normally because I don't eat cereal for breakfast and it would otherwise be wasted. But I buy it when I make Baked Potato Soup and then use it as an excuse to try other recipes.

What were you into during October? I love a good recommendation in any of these categories.

Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click through to Amazon from HopefulLeigh, any purchase you make supports this site.

One Year in Nashville

Today marks the day. The anniversary of my Tennessean life. 

Celebrating at Arrington Vineyard

So much has changed in so many ways this past year.

I think about why I chose to move here and the reasons I've given people when they ask why. It was time for a change. I was tired of Illinois winters.

This, all this, is change. Though I can't tell you the specifics right now, more change is coming. Just as my move to Tennessee was a litmus test, this will be too.

Everything that happened in the final days before my move was affirmation that Nashville was where I was supposed to be.  While nothing turned out the way I thought it would, I still know that Nashville is exactly where I'm supposed to be.

What can I say about the weather here? I traded cold harsh winters for milder, very little snow ones. We may have more tornado warnings here but it's a fair trade.

Best of all, the friendships.  Living in the same town as my best friend once again.  The excitement in her daughter's voice when she sees me, shrieking "Leigh, Leigh!" which sounds more like "Whee! Whee!"  Leigh=Fun. I like it.

Connecting with fellow Midwestern transplants and Southern mainstays. Growing my blog and finding new writing opportunities. 

I have had to confront my weaknesses and leftover demons. My character has grown as I have forced myself to be vulnerable.  I've had to face hard truths about my identity and work's role in my life, as I find myself becoming more of an introvert the longer I stay in social work.

I miss living by my family. I've hated missing out on annual gatherings, whether the 4th of July parade or the Pitchfork Music Festival. I don't like that I'm not getting to watch my dear friends' children grow up, that I settle for seeing them whenever I happen to be in town. I miss Caribou, Honey, and even Muldoon's.

I've been able to go to amazing shows and discover new artists that I love. I've found new restaurants to haunt and coffee shops to frequent. I've tried to get used to buying wine from a liquor store instead of picking up a bottle when I get groceries. I've only been lost a few times and I still don't understand the highway system.

But I know that Nashville is my home.