Until recently, Nashville, Tennessee, was known mostly for two things: country music and unfortunate political leanings. Well, times are changing for the Jewel of the South and Nashville has quickly become a hot little food destination in its own right. I recently toured the city and found that while some of the United States’ hottest new restaurants are certainly adding to the scene there, it’s the mainstays of the city’s culinary fabric that make the trip truly worthwhile.
One of my first stops in Music City was the legendary Hattie B’s Hot Chicken. Real Southern-fried hot chicken served with traditional sides like mac and cheese and potato salad. The hot chicken had a slow burn and the heat intensified as I continued to eat. The chicken was perfect and was washed down with a Yazoo 10-Year Anniversary IPA. Outstanding. It was so good that we went back for lunch the next day.
Our first sit-down dining experience was at one of the hottest new restaurants in the US, Rolf and Daughters. It is a welcoming room housed in an old manufacturing building, which is a perfectly suited design for the bistro-style menu and classic cocktails list. I started with a “More or Less” cocktail (1776 Rye, Amaro Ciaciaro and Genepe de Alpes). Dinner was fantastic with the maitake mushrooms with Parmesan dashi and mixed roast of pork as the standouts.
On day two of the trip, I hit a local favourite, City House. This is an amazing room. The restaurant is built into a colonial-era home that is an historic and iconic building in the city. The atmosphere was warm and casual. Knowledgeable and friendly staff that are clearly passionate about food and service serve traditional Italian fare. While some of the dishes at City House missed the mark, I was really impressed with the pie. We had an anchovy pizza and a dry salami pizza, and both were stellar.
Without a doubt, my most unique dining experience was at Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack. This traditional fried chicken shack is the favourite of locals and is located in a part of town that I wouldn’t likely frequent too late past sundown, but, man, was it worth the trip. Prince’s chicken is quite a bit spicier than Hattie B’s. It’s the type of hot food that prohibits you from eating it slowly: you have to keep driving it into your face or you are going to fail. Make sure that you have enough napkins on hand to wipe the tears from your face. There was no room in the restaurant, so I ate my fried chicken on the hood of the rental car with a bottle of beer wrapped in a brown paper bag, gangsta style.
Our final restaurant dining experience was Husk. This was by far the best overall dining experience of the trip. Our server was insanely knowledgeable about the entire menu and wine list and walked us through a fabulous, Southern, slow food experience that reached crescendo with a 32 oz. ribeye and a roasted pork hock. Simply outstanding.
I visited more than 25 places in the area and had many more great (and a few not so great) experiences, so please feel free to contact firstname.lastname@example.org for the comprehensive list with links to websites if you are planning a trip to the South. Y’all eat well, ya hear!
By Jeff Jamieson