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Nashville's Top 10 Best Restaurants

A comprehensive list of the 2013 very best restaurants in Nashville.

Written By:  Erin B. Murray

Photographers:  Ron Manville

Don't miss the 2014 collection of Nashville's 25 Best Dishes.


No. 1 — Arnold’s Country Kitchen

Were you expecting something more refined? A tasting menu, perhaps? When considering the restaurant that best exemplifies this city’s current dining scene, and one that we all hands-down love, Arnold’s simply nails it. The cafeteria-style, steam-table meat-and-three has been doing for more than 30 years what many today only attempt to get right: a fully from-scratch menu made with fresh, local ingredients, and a love for the customers that you just can’t fake. Owners Jack and Rose Arnold are still dining-room staples but their second son Kahlil now runs the kitchen, carrying on the family tradition by putting out soulful, country fare like the café’s sliced roast beef, slabs of meatloaf, long-simmered collard greens, home-made yeast rolls, candied yams, and those world-famous fried green tomatoes. What’s more, it draws fans from every corner of the city and beyond, who all stand patiently in line and wait their turn for a heaping scoopful of turnip greens and a pass at that legendary hot chocolate pie.

605 8th Ave. S., 615-256-4455
Order the back issue of our April 2013 Best Restaurants magazine!

No. 2 — The Catbird Seat

See the 2014 collection of Nashville's 25 Best Dishes.

No mere restaurant, The Catbird Seat is an experience. And as enamored as we all are by the 32 seats, stage-like kitchen, and culinary wizardry put on by chefs Josh Habiger and Erik Anderson, that experience happens to be one of the hardest to come by in this town—and admittedly isn’t for everyone. Dining at The Catbird is for those who appreciate inventive haute cuisine and can accept a playful intensity and twists on familiar taste sensations. It’s a place to give up complete control (including any aversions to certain foods since they rarely allow substitutions) and spend three to four hours savoring a jaw-dropping array of seven to 11 courses and the liquid pairings that go with them (alcoholic or otherwise). It is a place to get lost in the food, the guys’ charmingly sweet hospitality, and a killer soundtrack. If this sounds like you (and even if you’re not sure but want to try), then stalk the reservation system and keep your fingers crossed for a finale that involves bourbon balls.

1711 Division St., 615-810-8200; thecatbirdseatrestaurant.com
Order the back issue of our April 2013 Best Restaurants magazine!

No. 3 — Etch

Try out the new Nashville Lifestyles Restaurant Guide — search by cuisine, neighborhood, feature and price!

If we were ranking Nashville’s best new restaurants, Etch would easily crack the No. 1 spot. The return of chef Deb Paquette has netted our city a sharp, ethnically diverse menu inspired by the Mediterranean, Asia and the spices of North African as well as a modern downtown dining room that echoes the evolution and change happening on the city blocks directly around it. Paquette creates powerful, spice-fueled flavor combinations and turns standard ingredients (roasted cauliflower; hot dogs) into best-dish-you’ve-ever-eaten cravings. Across the board, we are fans of that big, open kitchen, especially since being perched on a seat there gives full view of Paquette’s beloved plancha, rows of microgreens supplied by CC Gardens Microgreens, and a peek at the ever-calm presence of a Nashville stalwart with her head down and hard at work.

303 Demonbreun St., 615-522-0685; etchrestaurant.com
Order the back issue of our April 2013 Best Restaurants magazine!

No. 4 — F. Scott’s Restaurant and Jazz Bar

One of the city’s first independent, chef-driven restaurants opened more than 25 years ago but since landing under the ownership of Wendy Burch and Elise Loehr has continually impressed diners with its locally inspired fare. The room might not be the sexiest in town but as one expert justified it: That doesn’t matter because every chef they’ve brought in has done better than the last. Kevin Ramquist, now at the helm, pulls regularly from a host of hero farmers while beverage director Loehr draws superb pairings from the restaurant’s 2000-plus-bottle cellar. And no one in the city offers a better dining deal than the “Nine Dine” during which almost the entire menu (with the exception of a few beef dishes) is half price in the dining room after 9 p.m.

2210 Crestmoor Rd., 615-269-5861; fscotts.com
Order the back issue of our April 2013 Best Restaurants magazine!

No. 5 — City House

Chef Tandy Wilson broke new ground when he opened this Germantown spot in 2008. Bold flavors. Truly Italian antipasti (that octopus!). House-made charcuterie. And ethereal, charred pizzas featuring anchovies, pork belly, and a healthy pinch of salt. But folks pulled up a chair at the chef’s bar, dug into the rabbit sugo, watched the kitchen crew swill back PBRs, and quickly realized that it was most definitely a Nashville joint. It’s casual and industrial with its exposed brick and beams—a look that’s been replicated around town time and again since. Now jam-packed nightly with customers from all over town and everywhere else, it stands as a beacon of proof that the culinary tides in this city have most certainly turned.

1222 4th Ave. N., 615-736-5838; cityhousenashville.com
Order the back issue of our April 2013 Best Restaurants magazine!

No. 6 — Capitol Grille

Try out the new Nashville Lifestyles Restaurant Guide — search by cuisine, neighborhood, feature and price!

While the subterranean dining room fits just fine for special occasions, we’re all headed to the bar where chef Tyler Brown’s polished-yet-down-home Southern dishes can be eaten alongside the restaurant’s stellar collection of rare bourbons. Brown is a disciple of the whole animal, farm-to-table movement—more so than most since he spearheaded a partnership with the nearby Farm at Glen Leven as well as the hotel’s recent purchase of the 245-acre Double H Farm in Dickson County to ensure sustainably raised beef and produce. It’s that dedication and respect to food and land that brings us back to his table time and again.

The Hermitage Hotel, 231 6th Ave. N., 615-345-7116; capitolgrillenashville.com
Order the back issue of our April 2013 Best Restaurants magazine!

No. 7 — Margot

See the 2014 collection of Nashville's 25 Best Dishes.

One of the original East Nashville trailblazers, Margot McCormack opened her eponymous dining room in 2001 and has been steadily feeding a dedicated clientele ever since. From a perch at the bar, she pens out daily menus based on what’s in the kitchen that day, always with a focus on country French and Italian-inspired cuisine. Nothing fancy or overdone—braised rabbit, whole grilled loup de mer, bruschetta with caramelized onion and goat cheese—just good, rustic cooking with a heart and sensibility that radiate directly from the chef-owner herself.

1017 Woodland St., 615-227-4668; margotcafe.com
Order the back issue of our April 2013 Best Restaurants magazine!

No. 8 — Rolf & Daughters

Chef Philip Krajeck is going to mesmerize this town. Right out of the gate, his new Germantown hang Rolf & Daughters made waves with its stylishly simple, wood-hewn room, tailored cocktails, and shareable plates of intensely flavored pastas, grains, and salads. And while almost every other restaurant in the top 10 had its feet firmly planted when we came together to make our list, Krajeck (who opened in November) had already beckoned most of us back for multiple visits. The squid ink canestri and parsley garganelli top our indulgence list but we’ll also happily visit the bar for the simplicity of a well-made craft cocktail, the house-made sourdough, and a Brussels sprout salad.

700 Taylor St., 615-866-9897; rolfanddaughters.com
Order the back issue of our April 2013 Best Restaurants magazine!

No. 9 — Flyte World Dining and Wine

For those who haven’t been to Flyte lately, know that you’re missing one of the most dynamite kitchen teams at work in this city right now. Run with a farm-to-table ethos, Flyte is helmed by chef Matt Lackey who is walking the walk of sourcing sustainable and, in most cases, local ingredients. Menus change daily based on what’s available and with his nightly three-course local tasting menu, you’re getting a true taste of Tennessee (at a steal for just $35 per person). But don’t skip dessert since pastry chef Tony Galzin easily nails the spot of the city’s best pastry chef.

718 Division St., 615-255-6200; flytenashville.com
Order the back issue of our April 2013 Best Restaurants magazine!

No. 10 — Kayne Prime

See the 2014 collection of Nashville's 25 Best Dishes.

One of the few independent steakhouses in town, Kayne Prime stands heads above the rest for its exceptional steaks and service. Tucked in the shadow of a railroad trestle, this spot truly stands apart from the mainstream restaurant scene, which means it’s a destination in and of itself—and one worth seeking if you obsess over the source of your wagyu (theirs is often flown from Japan), revel in a rich wine to pair with it (32 selections by the glass, plus 300 labels and an extensive reserve list), and pay as close attention to the starters and sides as the sirloin (look for cream corn brulee, duck tacos, and carrot latkes).

1103 McGavock St. 615-259-0050; mstreetnashville.com
Order the back issue of our April 2013 Best Restaurants magazine!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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