Nashville's food scene is a unique blend of traditional southern favorites, unique culinary fusions, and unusual local creations that simply aren't found anywhere else. This helps to give the city an identity that is all its own, surprising and delighting visitors with spicy conceptions, sweet confections, and some of the best down-home dishes that Tennessee has to offer.
If you're headed to the Music City, these are the absolute best foods that you have to try while there.
Nashville Hot Chicken
If Nashville has a signature dish it has to be hot chicken. Prepared like traditional fried chicken, but with the spiciness turned up to the max, this is one food that will either leave you craving more or cowering in the corner in fear. Make no mistake, this one will leave your taste buds burning, but if you like spicy food it is delicious.
There are a handful of regions across the U.S. that are known for their barbecue and thankfully Tennessee is one of them. In Nashville, you'll find a variety of places selling mouth watering brisket, ribs slathered in sauce, and some of the best pulled pork imaginable. Many places make their own sauces and sell them on the side, allowing you to take them home and use them on your own cuts of pork, chicken or beef. If you consider yourself a BBQ connoisseur, you're going to be extremely happy in Nashville.
Meat & 3
Another southern tradition that got its start in Nashville, a "meat & 3" restaurant is one that presents customers with their choice of a single type of meat (beef, chicken, ham, etc.) and the option to select three sides to pair with it. Those sides can include such items as mac and cheese, potatoes, corn, vegetables, or any number of other items. In this way, you get to build a perfect plate filled with your favorite comfort foods.
Biscuits and Gravy
Biscuits are another favorite across the South, often appearing at breakfast, lunch and dinner. When done right, these light and flaky breads can be eaten with nothing more than a layer of butter slathered on top, although there are many that love to smother them in gravy. Biscuits and gravy are a staple in Nashville, with a number of places offering a fantastic rendition of this classic dish.
The humble American burger is a popular food no matter where you go, although Nashville still manages to offer a few stand out options. That's due in part to the level of creativity you'll find on the food scene here, where various restaurants have found ways to stand out from the crowd. Farm burgers are a local favorite for instance, often incorporating an egg into the traditional mix of beef, cheese, lettuce and tomato. Depending on where you go, you'll find everything from the basic burger done perfectly all the way up to gourmet burgers that blend tastes and textures in inventive ways.
Fried pickles often appear on menus as an appetizer throughout Nashville and if you come across a place that is serving them you should definitely take the opportunity indulge your taste buds. This surprisingly addictive snack wraps a savory pickle slice in a light, golden batter and then its fried until warm and perfectly crispy. Some recipes include a variety of spices, like garlic, onion, or just good old salt and pepper. Others prefer to keep it simple and straightforward, but either way you're likely to be satisfied.
One of the great joys of being a traveler, and enjoying pizza, is that you get a chance to see how different destinations put their spin on the dish. In the case of Nashville, the recipe for good pizza doesn't wander too far from the Italian source material, using great sauces, savory cheeses, and a blend of fresh meats and vegetables, all placed with great care atop a flaky and delicious crust. Once again, the best places in town use locally-sourced ingredients whenever possible and make their crusts from scratch.
Deli sandwiches are another common food found in many cities across the country but once again, Nashville's creative side has helped to turn the humble sandwich into an art form. Staying in step with the city's healthy lifestyle and innovative food scene, Nashville delis go to great lengths to not only use fresh, locally sourced ingredients, but to find unique and unusual combinations of breads, cheeses, meats, and other toppings. The result is often something that goes well beyond just a traditional sandwich, offering unique and unexpected flavor combinations.
Mac and Cheese
You wouldn't think that something as simple as macaroni and cheese could be turned into a gourmet dish that would leave you longing for more. But in the South, mac and cheese is another staple that pairs nicely with a wide variety of other foods or is incredibly delicious all on its own. In Nashville you'll find all kinds of creative options when it comes to mac and cheese, including versions that are rich and creamy, blending a variety of different cheese, while others mix in chicken, pork or even crab.
After a large meal filled with all kinds of wonderful foods dessert may be the last thing on your mind. Thankfully, one of the local favorites is banana pudding, which makes a wonderful chaser to the other courses you've already eaten. On its own, the pudding is light and sweet, but add in slices of its namesake fruit, mixed with a couple of vanilla wafers, and you get a snack that is almost irresistible. Satisfying on its own or as a complement to barbecue or Hot Chicken, banana pudding is one of those can't-miss foods in Nashville.