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Insider Guide to Nashville Restaurants

Nashville-transplants Josh Habiger and Erik Anderson, 2012 Best New Chefs and chef-owners of The Catbird Seat, guide F&W through the city’s famous hot chicken and meat-and-three lunch spots and reveal where they eat and drink on days off. To view the 10 must-try plates in their city, click through to the slideshow here.

Nashville Restaurants

Classic Meat-and-Three: Arnold’s Country Kitchen

“This is a family-run cafeteria-style restaurant with five meats and 12 sides to choose from. They’re smart because the desserts are first in the line; if they put desserts at the end, you’d realize how much food you already have and wouldn’t get it. So you grab a piece of pie, then at the next station choose three sides and one protein, like meat loaf, tilapia, roast beef, or chicken and dumplings. For sides, I almost always get the mac and cheese and the turnip greens, which are good because they use a lot of pork fat,” says Habiger. Anderson’s must-get side is the tomato pie: “It’s just a really classic Southern baked pie with tomatoes, mayonnaise, cheese and basil. No one can make it as well. It’s never on the board and you have to ask for it.”

Prince's Hot Chicken Shack in Nashville
Photo © Jacob & Corrie Bonk

Hot Chicken: Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack

Says Anderson: “I love hot chicken. It’s really red from being doused in cayenne and it’s always served with Wonder Bread and dill pickles. After you eat the chicken, the bread that’s underneath it is probably the best part because it’s soaked with chicken grease and chile.”

Quirky Southern Joint: Monell’s Restaurant

“Here, it’s like eating Thanksgiving dinner without having to deal with your family. You go into an old house and all the tables are set for 10 or 12 and you sit with random people. Once there are enough people at the table they start bringing out the food. There’s lots of soul food like fried chicken, meat loaf, green bean casserole and biscuits. It’s kind of cool because you’re forced into a situation with people you wouldn’t otherwise know and are saying, ‘Hey, can you pass the sweet tea or lemonade,’” says Habiger. monellstn.com

City House in Nashville
Photo © Abbey D

Ingredient-Driven Italian: City House

“Chef-owner Tandy Wilson can cook octopus like nobody’s business,” says Habiger. Anderson agrees: “Tandy always changes the preparation; sometimes he serves it with cauliflower and chiles but it’s always crispy, salty and superdelicious. It’s a must-have.” cityhousenashville.com

Nashville Restaurants: Las Paletas
Photo © Stefan Engström

Artisanal Mexican Popsicles: Las Paletas

“The homemade popsicles here are made from scratch with fresh ingredients like tamarind or lime and mint. It’s pretty awesome,” says Habiger.

Korean Go-To: So Gong Dong Tofu House

“This place serves really simple Korean food, but everything’s done perfectly,” says Anderson. Habiger likes the tofu and fish soups. “The soups come to your table super-hot and they crack in a raw egg that cooks in the broth. The light and crispy seafood pancakes are also really delicious.” nashvilletofuhouse.com

Best Sandwiches: Mitchell Delicatessen

Anderson comes here for the Reuben: “There are lots of places in town that make sandwiches, but here they do it right.” mitchelldeli.com

Bella Nashville
Photo courtesy of Bella Nashville

Pizza Lunch: Bella Nashville, in the Farmers’ Market

“Everything at this lunch-only pizza joint is made from scratch and the owner will run through the farmers’ market for the special ingredients of the day,” explains Habiger. “The owner makes a sourdough crust that’s really awesome,” adds Anderson. nashvillefarmersmarket.org

Vietnamese Hole-in-the-Wall: Interasian Market & Deli

“Go to this little Vietnamese market that has awesome banh mi sandwiches. They don’t sell them outright, you have to ask the kid at the front counter, who has to radio to his mom in the back and she’ll make you a sandwich that costs about $2. She makes her own pâté and pickles her own vegetables,” says Anderson.

El Amigo
Photo © Ronny Perry

DIY Tacos: El Amigo

“There is a taco shop in a converted gas station. It’s a funky little place to sit down and have some tacos. They have this giant oil-drum grill in the parking lot and for $10 they give you half of a charcoal-grilled chicken with rice, beans, salsa, avocado and tortillas. So you pull off the chicken and make your own tacos. It’s more food than two people could eat,” says Anderson.

Late-Night Stop: Paradise Park Trailer Resort

“This little redneck bar has outstanding classic cheeseburgers and a grilled Spam sandwich,” says Anderson. “At 2 a.m. when you’re drunk, it’s the greatest thing ever. It’s not for when you’re sober.” paradiseparkonline.com

Crema
Photo © Joshua Cole

Coffee Obsessives: Crema

“I am starting to be pretty discerning about coffee because of this place. They roast their own coffee and use a gram scale to weigh the dry ground espresso, then use the scale again to weigh the liquid volume of the brewed espresso to see if they got the perfect ratio for the perfect shot,” says Habiger. “I’ve traveled a lot and it’s not just one of my favorite coffee places in Nashville. It’s one of my favorite coffee places, period. I rarely order flavored coffee drinks but theirs are never overly sweet. They do a house coffee soda and one of my other favorite drinks is the Tom Cut with espresso, coconut milk, cardamom and kaffir lime leaves—shaken like a cocktail.” crema-coffee.com

Habiger’s Favorite Bars

Nashville Bar: The Patterson House
Photo courtesy of The Patterson House

Expert Cocktails: The Patterson House

“This is a great cocktail spot under the same ownership as The Catbird Seat. When I moved to Nashville I opened the Patterson House—that was my hiatus from cooking and then we opened the restaurant right above. I’ll come once every other week after work and they’re on point with New York’s best bars.” thepattersonnashville.com

Classic Daiquiris and Beer: No. 308

“Sometimes when you’re in a cocktail bar you really just want a beer and a shot but feel like a jerk for ordering them. Here, it’s the best of both worlds. The owners make awesome cocktails (I love the daiquiris), but if you want to have Pabst Blue Ribbon, you can have that too. Also, they have a house-made soda program so if you want a whiskey ginger, it’s topped off with ginger soda that they carbonate right in front of you.” bar308.com

Dive Bar: Dino’s Restaurant

“The bartenders here are also the cooks. There’s a little flat top griddle where they throw on the burgers as they’re pouring the beer. They make a really good burger that’s less than $3.”

Anderson’s Hotel Pick

Nashville Hotel: The Hutton Hotel
Photo courtesy of The Hutton Hotel

Local Find: Hutton Hotel

“It’s comfortable, the beds are nice and there’s an espresso machine on every floor.” huttonhotel.com

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