Genius is a word that gets thrown around a lot, almost to the point of being devoid of meaning. The sort of high praise that perhaps should be saved for the likes of Einstein and Curie, not heaped on a cup of coffee. On the other hand, some days it is only a good cup of coffee that saves your job or you sanity, and that is its own kind of genius.
Certainly those from outside Music City have been piling the G-word on Nashville’s culinary scene in the last two years. The growing creative class has helped fuel a number of innovative places to eat in Nashville, from farm-to-fork standouts to coffee shops that defy description. Here are a few of the must-eats (and drinks) on the current Nashville dining scene:
To call Barista Parlor a coffee shop is to call the Olympics a sporting match. Yes, they serve java over at East Nashville’s Barista Parlor, but they elevate it to an art, using a handmade Slayer espresso machine, unlike any other in the country. Speaking of art, the building, a former auto shop, is a work of art itself, with pieces by the local Isle of Printing. In fact, after you place your order (I recommend the Salted Caramel Tennessee Whiskey Latte, by the way), you will be given a piece of art design to fit in your table so the staff knows where to bring your custom-made coffee.
Sean Brock has been blessed with all kinds of accolades, from James Beard nominations to inclusions on best restaurants lists from Bon Appetit to Zagat’s. So, naturally there was a lot of hype when he decided to open the second outpost of his Charleston restaurant, Husk, in Nashville. Husk Nashville has lived up to the hype.
For lunch, dinner and weekend brunch it serves dishes made with local, Southern ingredients, but that doesn’t necessarily mean Southern food. The menu changes based on what’s available, but the vegetable plate is always more inventive than any vegetarian meal you’ve been served. You’ll choose your own steak knife if you order the beef.
While Husk Nashville is more of an expense account kind of place, Mas Tacos Por Favor is more of a couch-cushion-change kind of place. But even though it is easier on the wallet, it still ranks among the city’s favourite kitchens.
Pinewood Social’s Josh Habiger has been sighted in line at Mas Tacos, and many other local chefs are counted as regulars. Dishes vary by the day, but the fried avocado taco and the chicken tortilla soup aren’t to be missed.
Speaking of Pinewood Social, this is one of the most exciting, and eclectic, places to eat in Nashville. It is a restaurant/coffee shop/bowling alley/swimming pool/social club.
Chefs from some of the city’s best restaurants developed a sharing menu for large parties (think: fried chicken, pot roast, mushroom pot pie). Except, this stuff uses spices and combinations that are nothing like what your mother used to make. There’s an extensive cocktail menu and comfy seats for lounging and reading the paper.
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Written by Margaret Littman