My list for restaurants to try in Nashville, Tenn. gets longer and longer every year. Luckily, the two hour drive makes it fairly easy to try out some delicious treats every so often. The hardest part? Deciding whether to try somewhere new or go back to an old favorite.
Recently, my girlfriend Callie and I decided to spend a weekend in Nashville to celebrate our upcoming birthdays. I bribed her with tickets to the hockey game, but it quickly became a food centered trip as soon as we parked in the city.
This trip I decided to try new places (with the exception of one) in an effort to make a dent in my long list of restaurants, bakeries, and coffee shops that I had compiled from magazine articles, television shows, and research over the past few years. I had already tried famed restaurants such as Husk for dinner, so this trip I decided to take a brunch approach when planning our stops.
After reading about the brûléed latte at Steadfast Coffee, I knew this would be stop number one after our early morning arrival.
We drove straight to the Germantown district to try it out. Steadfast was beautiful and inviting with a grassy lawn outside for locals to gather and sip on. Placed next to a CrossFit gym, this coffee shop seemed like a local hidden gem where regulars were treated like family but always given exceptional service as if they were trying it for the first time. The shop, which offers specialty coffee beverages as well as adult beverages, had a walk-up bar concept where you ordered directly with the barista that would prepare your drink. You then pay for your drinks (as you eye the unique items in the pastry case) and sit to wait for your coffee to be brought to your table.
I ordered the brûléed latte made of charred milk, burnt orange, and rested espresso. The hints of orange brightened up the sweet milk and deep espresso tastefully, and the latte was a warm treat perfect for the gloomy morning. The overall feel of the shop transported me back to Portland, Ore. with the views of bright greenery outside and its clean, warm, and industrial styled decor inside (the gloomy day probably helped create that atmosphere too).
Callie and I sat for a few minutes enjoying the atmosphere then decided to take our drinks to go as we headed to our next stop: the Nashville Farmers’ Market.
Rain or shine, weekend or week day, the Nashville Farmers’ Market is a great place to stop anytime you venture to the city. The market features a traditional covered outdoor space where vendors set up tables of produce, fresh flowers, lines of colorful pumpkins in the fall, and nursery space. There is also an indoor permanent market featuring small shops and wonderful food stands of all types and tastes.
We picked up two pumpkins and some ice cream at Jeni’s Ice Cream (disclaimer: this was not my first time at Jeni’s, but every time is like a first time since the flavor line up is always different – and amazing). We grabbed a late morning ice cream snack that included flavors like sweet potato eclair, sweet corn blackberry, and of course, chocolate. Jeni’s flavor line up never fails, and with around 20 flavors to choose from there is always something for the picky eater and the adventurous one.
We packed up our pumpkins and made our way to our brunch reservation at Le Sel.
Located adjacent to Vanderbilt University, Le Sel serves traditional French cuisine in a modern setting. The beautiful interiors like the marble raw bar, elegant pink furniture, and large wall displays rivaled artistic creations in any modern art museum.
After the beautiful interiors left me in awe, I hoped that the food would have the same effect. The restaurant is known for their weekend brunch which includes punch bowls, savory or sweet treats, and light or heavy meal options for all of your brunching desires.
We began with the beignets with peach preserve and followed with our savory main course, which solved the dilemma of savory or sweet for brunch. Why choose one when you can have both? The beignets were sweet and petite, perfect for a starter. It is hard to mess up fried dough, so the special treat in this dish is the fresh peach preserve. The preserve was not too sweet and brought the punch of fresh flavorful peaches laced with a hint of cinnamon. It was delicious atop warm fried beignets.
For my main, I ordered the croque madame and my girlfriend ordered the cheeseburger. The best brunch I have ever had included a croque madame, so I had very high expectations for this meal. It came warm with a mornay cheese sauce that covered the brioche bread and a side of crispy fried potatoes. It was delicious topped with a perfectly fried egg, filled with savory ham, and doused with decadent cheese sauce. The perfect brunch meal that fills you for the day. Although it was hard to find room to eat the side of crisps potatoes, I managed to taste a few and they were just as delicious. My friend’s cheeseburger included patties atop a fresh bun, which was also sinfully good.
Later that evening we strolled Broadway and then headed to Bridgestone Arena to watch the Tampa Bay Lightning take on the Nashville Predators. In true sporting event fashion, we enjoyed a nice hot dog at the game.
We stayed the evening after the game in the city so that we could, of course, enjoy another brunch the next day. This adventure led us to the 12 South district on the edge of the city near Belmont University.
A slower side of Nashville that still exudes Southern hospitality and Nashville’s unique flare, 12 South is filled with locally owned farm to table restaurant and coffee shops. Locals stroll the neighborhoods on weekend mornings and wait in line to meet friends for brunch. The beautiful 75 degree weather made way for the perfect Sunday morning before our drive home.
I had seen several picture of Five Daughters Bakery, that recently opened its second location due to popularity, and knew I wanted to try it before I left. Although, I still had one more brunch spot in mind while I was in the city. The solution: donuts to go and brunch to stay.
We parked and made our way to Five Daughters to find ourselves in a line out the door of a small house-turned donut shop. The donuts come at a cost of four and a half dollars, but are combinations and donuts like you have never seen before. They pride themselves on their unique 100-layer donut concept that combines the unique fluffy layers of a perfect croissant with the delicious sweetness of a donut. Now, I have had several “cronuts” and none have been as good as the Five Daughters’ 100-layer donuts. Some of their donuts are injected with icing, topped with preserves, or even sprinkled with toppings. As an added bonus, they even offer paleo and gluten free options for those with dietary restrictions. I picked up three for the road including the chocolate coffee crunch, traditional vanilla bean (topped and injected with fresh vanilla icing), and the chocolate sea salt (also injected and topped with chocolate icing). The delicious donuts were a great take home souvenir that left me in a food coma for the following three days.
After grabbing 16 dollars worth of donuts for the road (it was a first time experience after months of Insta-drooling over donuts, I had to) we grabbed our final brunch at The Flipside.
A short walk across the street led us to The Flipside, a crisp white building with open walls that gave way to the beautiful fall breeze outside. We sat down in the vintage industrial style dining room to skim the menu.
The Flipside is best known for their thin pan-fried chicken which is what almost every menu item is centered around with various toppings. I opted for the ultra-Southern chicken and waffles while Callie enjoyed the appropriately named “Brunch chicken.”
My chicken was perfectly seasoned and pan-fried to perfection. The waffles and syrup made a nice compliment to the savory and sweet dish. My friend’s meal was equally as good, covered with a fried egg, bacon, and cheese. The famous chicken did not disappoint and the open breeze dining area was the best way to end our weekend in Nashville.
The restaurants on this trip were all wonderful in their own unique way. If visiting Nashville, I would highly recommend a stop in 12 South on your way out to walk around and experience the hidden gem.
Until next time, Nashville… I already have several more spots on the list to try.