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This yearly festival gathers all the hot chicken in town (and everything hot chicken-related) in one place. It takes place every year on July 4th, so it's a great way to spend the day, igniting some fireworks in your mouth before heading out to watch fireworks at night. Voted the best local food even in the Nashville Scene readers poll, admission to the Hot Chicken Festival also gets you a pretty nifty commemorative cup to drink your beer from.
This place is amazing. If you're visiting Nashville and would like a unique, quality souvenir to get someone, that's good enough to stand on its own as a gift, you should visit the green wagon. They have a ton of wonderful, locally sourced, organic, or otherwise environmentally friendly products. I bought my boyfriend a print of the Nashville neighborhoods here for a gift and he loves it. For the foodies out there, they have a wide array of gifts and goodies, including gluten freen mixes and Olive & Sinclair chocolate, which is stone ground and made in Nashville.
One of a bunch of local microbreweries to pop up in and around Nashville in the last few years, Jackalope has a pretty solid idea of its identity. Several bars around town offer its beers on tap, but to get special seasonal varieties or try a sampler of everything, you've got to go to the source. Sit down at one of their rustic wooden tables with esoteric song lyrics carved into them (I spotted a Todd Snider lyric in one) and try a pint (or two, or three) of their varietals. They also serve a bloomy rind cheese tray, so it's a great way to sample some artisanal regional cheeses along with your local microbrew.
The first offshoot of the well known and celebrated HUSK restaurant in Charleston, SC, HUSK Nashville brings the same southern food philosophy that won Brock a James Beard award and worldwide acclaim to Nashville. Every tine you're there, you can expect something different. But I MUST implore you to eat the catfish cooked over embers and served with tomato gravy, if you're lucky and its available. I grew up in Nashville, so I've had a LOT of catfish in my day. But I say without reservation that this is the BEST catfish I've ever eaten. It's that good. Reservations are recommended, but if you forget, you can either get their pretty late at night or try your luck at the bar downstairs, which is first-come, first-served. On your way in, pick up a copy of "Gravy", the Southern Foodways Alliance's quarterly zine.
As far as I know, there is only ONE cheese shop in all of Nashville, and that's The Bloomy Rind. It shares a building with Porter Road Butcher, so you can knock out two foodie shopping destinations with one trip. The staff REALLY knows their cheeses. These are the kind of people who use the word "cheesemonger" with reverence. But don't worry about snootiness if you're not the world's most dedicated turophile (someone who is obsessed with cheese). They love spreading the gospel of the cultured curd and will be more than happy to explain everything you've ever wanted to know about their selection of Southern, artisanal cheeses (and offer tastings!).
You know you're going to have a good time when they bring you the bread basket and it's filled with not just bread, but homemade pimiento cheese and slices of watermelon. This place celebrates the kitschy-ness of southern food with offerings like summer succotash and fried okra, but turns it on its ear: the succotash is all farm fresh and season, served with gnocchi and tomato confit while the okra is tempura battered and fried whole. They have a great, relaxing patio and a nice selection of locally themed drinks, like the BLVD Belle, while uses Belle Meade bourbon. The price range is very affordable, which makes it a great option for a weeknight meal or foodies on a budget. They have a ridiculous and amazing assortment of french fries that make the perfect guilty snack.
Three words: chicken liver pate. Don't turn your nose up at it. It may be the best organ grind you ever eat. A regular inclusion on all the local "best of" lists, Lockeland Table offers a host of other delicious dishes but you'll be missing out if you don't try the pate. Sweet potato gnocchi if you're a vegetarian, bone in pork loin if you're not. And dessert is in season-- try the regional fruit plate if you want something light and sweet that offers a true taste of what's going on around you (I think cooking shows have some fancy French word to describe that) to end your meal.
There's a reason why Bon Appetit magazine chose Rolf and Daughters as the third best new restaurant in the entire nation. It's not just about the James Beard award, or food that will revolutionize the way you think of pasta. It's not just about the wait staff, who may be the friendliest and most knowledgeable in town. It's not just about the unpretentious decor mixed with pretentious drinks that sets up an atmosphere you'd spend all day in if they'd let you. It's a combination of all these things that make Rolf and Daughters a must-eat for anyone who loves good food. Try the pate. Even if you think you hate pate, you will like this. Trust me.
You can't turn the page of a food magazine without running into the name "Chef Tandy Wilson" and it's because of the amazing things he's doing with food at his restaurant, City House. Of course, Tandy would tell you that they're not amazing things he's doing-- it's just honest, good food, treated with respect. The staff here is really friendly and down to earth, and they know their food. If you're going to order a pizza, don't be a jerk: get there a little early. They make all the dough fresh and have to let it rest, so there's a good chance they'll run out if you get there later in the evening.
Part of a chain with only a few franchises in NY and select other cities, Two Boots serves pizza by the pie and by the slice with regional specialties and varieties. In Nashville, my favorite is the Kitty Wells-- a pizza version of our famous hot chicken, with jalapenos and blue cheese sauce. They've also got a pizza with crawfish. CRAWFISH PIZZA. I haven't tried it yet because you have to order it whole and I can't find anyone adventurous enough to eat it with me.
The newest hot chicken joint is a throwback to the old grandaddies of hot chicken. Located in the working-class neighborhood of Antioch, a suburb about 15 minutes southeast of downtown Nashville, there's nothing slick about Hot Stuff. It serves up hot chicken and fish without pretense, and even goes so far as to try its hand at a tossed salad topped with a grilled hot chicken breast.
A tiny little family restaurant located in a trailer in the parking lot of a Bellvue strip mall, Pasgetti's doesn't look like much. But there's a reason why they've been around for decades. A weird little joint with a gigantic menu, Pasgetti's serves a combination of Italian and Southern dishes, including "spicy fried chicken" which is really hot chicken with a more didactic name. They'll ask you how spicy you want it, and you can order it in relative terms ("Not quite like a Prince's hot, but spicier than a Bolton's medium.") There's a mind-boggling array of side dishes, some of which, honestly, aren't that great. Keep it simple and you won't be disappointed. Mac-n-cheese is a good go-to.
If you've heard of The Catbird Seat, then you probably know it's Nashville's hottest haute cusine restaurant. And if you know that, then you're probably wondering why I'd include it in my hot chicken guide. Well, there's two reasons: First, it's an amazing restaurant, and any foodie worth her salt should never pass up the opportunity to eat here. Second, they have a hot chicken dish. Of course their menu is always evolving, but the Catbird Seat take on Nashville hot chicken is an interesting mutation of fried chicken skin, white bread puree, and powdered dill pickle salt.
Probably my favorite of the "new" hot chicken places, Hattie B's offers one thing in particular that all the other joints lack: beer on draught. If you've never had the pleasure of cooling a hot chicken burn with cold craft beer, you haven't lived. Hattie B's chicken isn't as spicy as Bolton's or Princes (their "damn hot" is about a Prince's medium) but it still sufficient to get your eyes watering and your endorphins pumping. They also have the best sides of any of the hot chicken joints, in my humble opinion. Be sure to try the pimiento mac-n-cheese.
Let's get something straight: Pepperfire's "hot chicken sandwich" is not the same as Prince's or Bolton's. At those places, what they call a "sandwich" is bone-in fried chicken that's only tangentially a sandwich because it happens to sit atop a piece of white bread that soaks up all the spices and becomes hotter than hell. Pepperfire's sandwich is an actual sandwich of tenders on a bun. There, now that we've got that out of the way....
Pepperfire is more "new style" Nashville style hot chicken. For one thing, their spiciness is orders of magnitude lower than the older joints. For another, they offer a wider menu that includes chicken tenders, a "peppercheese" (deep fried spicy grilled cheese) for the vegetarians among us, and something called an apple fire: belgian waffles topped with hot chicken and apples. HOT DAMN.