As we made our way into Nashville Tennessee, it was dark and while we were staying only a 20 minute walk from the city center for our first two nights, we were too tired to meander there, even in a 5 minute cab. A stone’s throw from the hotel was Division Street however, home to night clubs and bars, most of which are regularly frequented by college students given the nearby vicinity of Vanderbilt University.
And so, with very little vigor, we became 20 again on that very late evening. The first place that tried to made us youthful again was the fried chicken eatery called Hattie B’s. Known for their extra spicy fried chicken, you can decide from varying degrees of “spicy hot” — Southern (no heat), Mild (touch of heat), Medium (warming up), Hot (feel the heat), Damn Hot (fire starter) and lastly, Shut the Cluck Up (burn notice).
Casual in every way, you’ll sit at either outdoor or indoor picnic tables. Once you land a table, you’ll be asked to fill out your “chicken” card, choosing your preferred degree of hot and spicy as well as your choice of sides. While the chicken was tender (I preferred the dark meat thighs and legs), my favorite memory of the evening was in fact, their sides – the Southern Greens, Baked Beans, and Homemade Cole Slaw are worth the trip alone.
You know you’re truly in the South when three out of four canisters of iced tea were sweetened and only one is ‘sans sugar.’ Local beer or iced tea were your choices to accompany your baskets of deep fried chicken. Hattie B’s is a bit where classic American diner, fast food and hipster late night converge.
Details: (one location listed below of two locations in Nashville)
Hattie B’s Hot Chicken
112 19th Ave South
Nashville, TN 37203
Acme Feed and Seed, which is owned by the same folks who own Southern Steak & Oyster, is uniquely Nashville and in a casual, quirky and artsy way, honors the unparalleled character of the city’s past. Tom Morales transformed the former Acme Farm Supply space into a three-story venue with a honky tonk bar, vintage lounge and rooptop patio.
This massive 22,000-square-foot space offers cocktails, live entertainment, a casual bar scene on the main floor, and two other floors, each with their own unique style.
Their rooftop patio on top of the Acme Building overlooks the entire downtown area, with direct views of Broadway and the Riverfront. I especially liked their unusually prepared cocktails.
Fun and creative choices include a Side Saddle, which is vodka, pomegranate, fresh lemon, St. Germain and orange bitters, the Sunset Grove, which is a combination of Maestro Dobel Tequila, Ginger Simple, fresh lime and Stiegl Radler Grapefruit, the Back Porch, which includes American Born Moonshine Dixie, sweet tea, lemonade and grenadine, The Stable, where you can choose from strawberry whiskey, Corsair Gin or Heroes Vodka with ginger beer and lemon, or the Poor Man’s Fashion, which is made up of Old Forester, orange soda, grenadine and bitters.
Food options are casual but delicious, ranging from the oh so southern Beautina Hash, which is sunny side eggs over slow-cooked brisket potatoes and caramelized onions, banana hotcakes, and fried eggs with seasoned fried pork, black means, plantains and sweet habanero slaw to shrimp and grits, burgers, sandwiches and Heaven-Lee ribs, served with mac n’cheese, collard greens and slaw. Yum!
Acme Feed and Seed
Nashville, TN 37201
The Southern Steak & Oyster is on the corner of 3rd Avenue and had a band playing when we arrived for lunch one day. Located on the first floor of the 29-story Pinnacle tower at Symphony Place, The Southern offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily, as well as a bustling bar.
The menu features a combination of indigenous flavors and exotic ingredients and they boast fresh seafood, including oysters on the half shell, so I was naturally in heaven. I was surprised just how extensive their oyster offerings were — from Prince Edwards Island’s Cooke’s Cove, Malpeque and Thundercap to New Brunswick’s Beausoleil and Fanny Bay from British Columbia. They also had Shigoku from Willipa Bay Washington, Blue Points from Long Island and Black Duck Salt from Hog Island Virginia, to name a few.
Since it was mid-day and we started with seafood, rather than go for a glass of wine which would be sure to put me to sleep, they encouraged us to try their mixed drinks – it was great choice, btw, as they have plenty of interesting choices. How’s this for compelling? Tom’s Dirty Sock, which is a Myer’s dark rum with orange and lime juice, or the Blackberry Mountain Tea, which is made with Ole Smoky Blackberry Moonshine, sweet tea and muddled fresh blackberries.
There’s also the Coarse Hair Southern Mule, where you can choose from either gin or vodka and then top it off with ginger beer and lime juice. The Zydeco boasts mango rum, fresh jalapeno, and lime juice and the Hillcrest has Buffalo Trace, white peace, and Vermont maple with bitters. Delicious and oh so refreshing.
Brunch offerings range from healthy and light salads to heavier southern options such as Steak & Biscuit Benedict, Shrimp & Grits (popular in Nashville), Grilled strip steak with potatoes and eggs, a Southern Fried Egg sandwich with Applewood Bacon, fried eggs, cheese and avocado and the Cuban, which is a pork tenderloin, mojo marinated overnight, served with pan fried with black beans, yellow rice, skillet debris and sunny side up eggs.
Below is the Crab Cake salad, which is crab over arugula, shaved fennel, grapefruit, red onions, avocado and dijon vinaigrette.
A cool thing about the restaurant is its open kitchen area where you can watch them prepare food and cut the freshly delivered fish and meat right on-site.
The art on the walls is also tastefully done – be sure to walk down the main hallway to the bathroom and take notice of the paintings on the walls as well as the ever so funky wall hangings to the left of the open kitchen. For country fans, there’s a very tasteful painting of the legendary Johnny Cash.
The entryway is also creatively decorated, from the southern spicy hot bottles of spices and sauces on shelves to the flooring (below). This is the area btw, that they section off for bands to play during brunch. Top notch!
And, anytime of day is a great time for dessert. From red grits (fresh berries, tapioca pearls, vanilla bean sauce and whipped cream), and Strawberry Rhubarb shortcake to Banana’s Foster Bread Putting (caramelized bananas, rum sauce and whipped cream), Chocolate Whiskey Cake (chocolate Jack Daniel’s cake, buttercream, chocolate granache and raspberry coulis) to the variety of port and espresso options, you’ll have plenty to keep you busy.
TWO thumbs up! We would definitely return and oh btw, they offer complimentary valet parking and it’s a stone’s throw to many of the more interesting museums and activities in Nashville including the Country Music Hall of Fame.
The Southern Steak & Oyster
150 3rd Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37201
For high end dining, you can’t beat the AAA Four Diamond rated Capitol Grille at the historic Hermitage Hotel, where we stayed for part of our time in Nashville. The service at this only 5 star property in Nashville lives up to its A+ reputation at both the hotel itself and the attached Capitol Grille on the bottom floor of the property.
Executive chef W. Tyler Brown creates elegant yet creative southern cuisine with an emphasis on the best available local products and we were lucky enough to have the ever so amusing Ian as our waiter, who entertained us with his British accent while educating us on the menu. While we were not planning to order the Sweet Onion Bisque, he talked us into it because apparently it’s a specialty and oh so delicious that we’d be remiss if we left the restaurant without a taste.
The ingredients are simple but purely decadant — imagine and savor the sound of Brie grilled cheese and bacon with chives. It was out-of-this-world!
Quite frankly, Ian helped us with our entire order, starting with our first healthy and light option – the Farm Salad, which is made with fresh beets, pine nuts and goat cheese.
While they had a lighter calorie and fat trout option on the menu, we went for the Lamb Shank served with sea island red peas, turnips, arugula and satsuma and the Painted Hills Short Rib, which they serve with Rye Berry, sunchoke, oyster mushrooms and shallots. OMG!!
The braised button mushrooms and roasted winter root vegetables were beautifully presented and oh so delicious. They also had a wide array of other interesting sides, such as Anson Mills grits with poached eggs and tomato gravy and brussels sprouts with bacon and maple sugar.
It’s worth noting that they take great care in choosing fresh, local and organic as much as possible. They get veggies from nearby Glenn Leven Farm which is farmed by their team at a historical revolutionary land tract four miles from the restaurant. They use their own Red Pole Scottish breed cattle (sustainably raised) for their beef. The lamb on the menu is from Porter Springs Virginia and Double H Farms is the Hermitage Hotel’s sustainable farming project.
Desserts at this conscious top notch restaurant you must put on your Nashville restaurant list, are equally decadent. Thanks to Ian for setting us straight. Could you say no to a Chocolate Pot de Creme, a French macaroon, salted chocolate crumble and passion fruit sorbet or a Coconut Cake made from cream cheese, blueberries and yuzu? No, I’m sure not, and nor could we.
They also offer a Caramel Cake with blood orange candy, anglaise, and ginger gelato, a White Chocolate Semifreddo, which they make with Myer Lemon marmalade, candied pecans, and white chocolate ice cream.
A perfect way to end a night is with one of their Tawny ports, which ranged from 20 years to 40 years old, or the Thomas Jefferson Reserve Madeira. They also offer a nice range of dessert wines and ciders from France, Austria, Canada and California to name a few.
Below, is a fresh fruit selection we had in the very same restaurant the next morning for breakfast.
For recipe fans, I thought I’d include the recipe to the Sweet Onion Bisque, which they were generous enough to share with us. The receipt below serves 4-8 people.
10 Sweet Yellow Onions
1 plugra butter
1 quart of heavy cream
Salt and Pepper to taste.
Like I said, simple, but very decadent and rich. First, you peel and chop the onions into one inch chunks. In a heavy bottomed sauce pot, melt the butter until it becomes foamy and then add the onions. Add about 1 TBL of salt at this pint and stir to combine all the ingredients in the pot and continue to cook for about 15 minutes on medium heat. Continue cooking the unions until they have completely softened and exuded the majority of their moisture.
Keep in mind that you really don’t want to get any color on the onions during this process, so if you see it happening, lower your heat a bit more. When the onions are soft, add the heavy cream and heat it through When everything is hot and combined, the final stage is pureeing, using a good quality blender. At the restaurant, they pass the soup through a fine mesh strainer after its pureed but this is not a necessary step apparently, but a recommended one. Enjoy!
We enjoyed our meal here so much that we must have hung out leisurely for at least four hours taking in the well-curated ambiance and exquisite food. Make a reservation just to be safe, or better yet, stay at the Hermitage Hotel as well, so you can dine at the Capitol Grille for both dinner and breakfast. Two thumbs up!
Capitol Grill (inside the Hermitage Hotel)
231 6th Avenue North
Nashville, TN 37219
Let’s now move to the ever so surprising Kitchen Notes inside the Omni Hotel in the center of Nashville. Adjacent to the Omni, this modern flared bistro restaurant combo serves Southern and sustainable dishes handed down from generation-to-generation made from treasured family recipes.
Kitchen Notes is an innovative farm-to-table concept that meets vintage on its interior The casual but extremely tastefully done dining rooms have been designed with repurposed materials that include décor discovered from local antique stores and flea markets. As for the food, it was so surprisingly good that we had hoped to return for a quick bite before leaving Nashville but didn’t have the time.
I’ll start with our favorite dish by a long shot, however you might be a tad confused when you hear the unusual combination of this very southern styled concoction.
They call it Buttermilk Fried Quail but the eclectic blend of ingredients is what throws you off when you first hear them and later, after you taste the dish. This culinary delight is made with Asher Blue Waffle, then topped with Quail, Asher Blue Cheese and green tobasco mayo with a cabbage and carrot mixture. Glazed on top of this delicious creation is a Tennessee blackberry and honey preserve. OMG is this dish to die-for!!! As rich as it was, we couldn’t put our forks down.
On the lighter side, but not as much fun, is a variety of salad offerings on the menu — organic baby greens with a sherry vinaigrette, kale salad with apple, fennel underneath a roasted garlic dressing, and the incredibly delicious beet salad (I rarely say no to anything with beets), which they serve over wild arugula, Corsair malt whiskey pecans, goat cheese and a maple-balsamic vinaigrette.
Hats off to the chef for two back-to-back winners, and that was before we dove into the homemade Black Eyed pea and Tennessee ham soup. My grandmother, Aunt Betty and Aunt Jo would have all been impressed.
For more classically southern mains, they had a coffee rubbed prime sirloin with bitter greens, cracklin’ Nashville hot pork with collard greens, grits and pickled vegetables and our favorite of the three – the Rustic meatloaf, which they rightfully served with whipped potatoes, housemade Raisin ketchup and green beans.
On the leaner but equally delicious side, is the pan roasted striped bass with braised baby gem roasted cauliflower with a blood orange vinaigrette. The beautiful colors and presentation was also exquisite.
Two thumbs up! If you go to Nashville, make it a must stop, even if it is just to try one of the rarest dishes you may have ever tried – that insanely delicious Buttermilk Fried Quail. Hopefully they’ll never take it off the list.
For desserts, they had a banana pudding with smoked caramel sea salt and marshmallow meringue (banana pudding is very popular in the south), a mud pie with caramel, a warm cast iron cobber, a pie a la mode and a coconut cake with blueberry preserves.
We happily filled our tummies here right before heading off to see the historically famous Ole Grand Opry at the Ryman — be sure to read our write-up.
Kitchen Notes (inside the Omni Nashville Hotel)
250 5th Ave South
Nashville, TN 37203
A few other restaurants worth noting where we either stopped in briefly or received strong recommendations from locals, include the following:
- Adele’s on McGavock Street – this establishment is where celebrity chef Jonathan Waxman of New York City’s Barbuto Restaurant now hangs his hat. His style is a mixture of French and California style cuisine.
- Husk Nashville on Rutledge Street – those who have been to Charleston know of the first Husk Restaurant there…Chef Sean Brock is a James Beard Award winner and specializes in Southern farm-to-table cuisine. Historians will love the fact that the restaurant is housed in an 1895 building, which is registered on the National Registry of Historic Homes. It also has a great view of downtown Nashville.
- Rolf and Daughters on Taylor Street — Think old world feel with 18 foot ceilings, exposed brick and concrete and iron windows that adds a modern twist to it. Chef Philip Krajeck focuses on fresh and local and its wine list includes both European and American vintages.
- Josephine on 12th Avenue South – Here, you’ll get refined American farmhouse cuisine but within a hip modern styled restaurant.
Update as of June 2, a few additions to add as recommended by a local named Willie.
- Brown’s Diner has a great burger and has the oldest beer license in Nashville.
- International Market is a great little Thai place.
- Steak and Pizza for pie and calzone.
- Hermitage Cafe is a great little diner and is only open overnight from around 8 pm through noon the next day.
Note: we were hosted by some of the restaurants above, however all opinions are entirely our own.