Tennessee Travel

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    by Meha Desai, Caroline Hatchett, and Sean Kenniff
    Antoinette Bruno, Meha Desai, Aliza Elizarov, and Caroline Hatchett
    February 2014

    Eating the best of Tennessee requires a good rental car to take you from Nashville—that big, beautiful Hollywood of the South—to Memphis in the south and up to the mountains and Knoxville to the east. You’ll need to stay a few days (really a full week) to hit the best of Music City—a town where chefs we met strive for the model pioneered by Tandy Wilson when he opened City House in 2007: buy a building, open a business, and build an institution by making food that wins the hearts of a whole city. It's possible here—as is owning your own farm, reviving your family’s whiskey legacy, and switching careers to open a badass ramen shop. Build a 32-seat atelier restaurant or plop greasy, hot-as-hell fried chicken on white bread, and they will come.

    Chef-driven restaurants and serious bar programs are coming slower to the rest of the state, but passionate chefs occupy every grit-eating pocket of Tennessee—from the gentlemen of Hog & Hominy, who are converting a Memphis neighborhood into culinary hotbed, to Keri Moser, who’s turned a mountaintop in Sewanee into a serious food destination. If you leave Tennessee hungry, you haven’t done your job. And if you don’t leave satisfied, we haven’t done ours. (But we have a hunch our recommendations below will more than do the trick.)

     
     

    EAT

    1808 Grille at Hutton Hotel

    1808 West End Avenue
    Nashville, TN 37203
    (615) 340-0012
    www.1808grille.com
    Hours: Mon-Thu 6:30am-midnight; Fri-Sat 6:30am-1 am

    A serene dining room with tufted, cream banquets; sea-hued chairs; and a towering wooden sculpture set the scene at Hutton Hotel’s 1808 Grille. The room is open and flooded with light, and Chef Charles Phillip’s dishes follow suit. Phillip displays a deft hand with vegetarian dishes—they’re wholesome and healthy but never penitent. Meat is not the star of the table. Phillip veers sharply from Nashville’s Southern cooking streak, composing dishes that suit Hutton’s eclectic clientele and draw in locals looking for fresh not fried. 1808 also pours resources into its wine program, sending certified somms onto the floor to help make wine service more accessible.

    Recommended:
  • Port-poached Quince, Duck Confit, Apple, Duck Chicharones, and Chive Oil
  • Pumpkin Soup, Persimmon Relish, and Pepitas

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    The 404 Kitchen

    404 12th Avenue South
    Downtown
    Nashville, TN 37203
    (615) 251-1404
    the404nashville.com/kitchen
    Hours: Tue 5pm-10pm; Wed-Sat 5pm-11pm

    If only there were more seats in The 404 Kitchen, a small, industrial-chic restaurant that opened in Nashville’s Gulch neighborhood in fall 2013. To be exact there are 40 seats inside, and another 16 on the patio in warm weather. The kitchen is tiny, too, but Chef Matt Bolus makes the most of it, cooking food that’s bigger than the wooden walls that surround it. An alumnus of Mike Lata’s FIG in Charleston and, more recently, Nashville’s Flyte, Bolus’s food is intensely personal and honest. Southern and Low Country references seep in—benne seeds and Carolina gold rice make cameo appearances on the menu—and mingle with a stylish international pantry. There’s Benton’s ham on the menu, sure, but it’s sidled up to house-made burrata and Burgundy truffles. Bolus has a way with texture and acidity, making sure there’s always enough of both to go around and keep dishes interesting.

    Recommended:
  • Fluke Crudo, Blood Orange, Shaved Fennel, Pistachios, Bee Pollen, Vidal Late Harvest Vinegar, and Espellette
  • Swordfish, Hoppin' John, Collards, and Ham Broth

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    Acre

    690 South Perkins
    Memphis, TN 38117
    901-818-2273
    acrememphis.com
    Hours: Mon-Fri 11am-2pm, 5pm-10pm; Sat 5pm-10pm

    Tucked away on South Perkins Road in east Memphis, Acre is a cozy, welcoming restaurant, built inside an once-upon-a-time-house that boasts all the refinement and comfort one could want from an old home. Inside the kitchen, Hong Kong-born, Mississippi-raised Chef Wally Joe serves Asian food with a Southern touch—or Southern food with an Asian touch, depending on what you’re eating. The lighting, linens, wood, and yellow accents lend the interior a quiet, rustic elegance. The patio, full of sunlight, invites you to linger over lunch, while dinner in this idyllic space promises to be enchanting—a fairytale written in food with Chinese themes and an American happily-ever-after.

    Recommended:
  • Smoked Pork Brisket, Hon Shimeji Mushrooms, and Sprouted Rye Risotto, and Miso-Maple Sauce

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    Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen

    712 West BrookHaven Circle
    Memphis, TN 38117
    (901) 347-3569
    www.andrewmichaelitaliankitchen.com
    Hours: Tue-Sat 5pm-close

    If you’re looking for old-school Italian food, but don’t want the “old-school” everything else, Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen is the place to be. With their wonky imaginations at doing overtime, Chefs Michael Hudman and Andrew Ticer are taking classic Italian recipes (courtesy of their time spent cooking in Italy and with their grandmothers—from whom they learned their love of all things food) and giving them unexpected contours. The intimate, cozy dining space feels like eating at a friend’s house—but in nicer clothes with impeccable cocktails and service plus a back bar just in case unexpected company drops by. Hudman and Ticer have mastered the pastas from every town in Italy, to suit the personality and tastes of anyone who comes to their kitchen.

    Recommended:
  • Taleggio Tortellini, Celery Root, Truffles, Butter, Roasted Garlic, and Parsley
  • Maw Maw’s Ravioli, Meat Gravy, and Parmesan

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    Arnold's Country Kitchen

    605 8th Avenue South
    Downtown
    Nashville, TN 37203
    (615) 256-4455
    Hours: Mon-Fri 6am-2:30pm

    What do union workers, the Tennessee governor, country music stars, and grandpas know that the rest of the world doesn’t? To show up early at Arnold’s Country Kitchen (doors open at 10:30am) for one of Nashville’s most coveted tables. Arnold’s doesn’t look like much—it’s a squat, cinderblock building with a cafeteria-style buffet line and Formica tables—but it’s one of two restaurants in Nashville with a James Beard Award (Prince’s is the other). Arnold’s isn’t of the new brand of fashionable Nashville dining; it’s a soul food institution maintained and kept relevant by the Arnold family, most notably Kahlil Arnold, who runs the kitchen. The South’s greatest hits—fried green tomatoes, grits, roast beef, greens, creamed corn, bread pudding—are all cooked with love and the expert hand of a chef, who respects the past but isn’t afraid to tinker. Arnold’s is last meal food; soulful, Sunday supper fare; and a potent reminder of just how damn good real Southern cooking can be.

    Recommended:
  • Molasses-candied Sweet Potatoes and Smoked Chicken Thighs
  • Fried Green Tomatoes with Chow Chow
  • Bread Pudding

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    Blvd.

    2013 Belmont Boulevard
    Nashville, TN 37212
    (615) 385-2422
    blvdnashville.com
    Hours: Sun-Thu 5pm-11pm; Fri-Sat 5pm-1am

    Arnold Myint has restaurants in his blood, and his global, casual Blvd. sits right across the street from his mother’s restaurant that’s been open on Belmont University’s campus since the 1970s. The converted home welcomes guest with big windows and lots of nooks for dining. Myint likes to have fun with food, and he makes it accessible to all walks of diners. There’s an impeccably dressed Brussels sprouts salad on the menu, alongside hot dogs and steak. And in Nashville, Myint’s food stands out for his refreshing combinations and worldly culinary view—a meal might take your palate on a tour from Spain to the Middle East. It’s not your standard comfort food, but it just feels right.

    Recommended:
  • Banh Mi: Curry Tempura Duck Liver, Lardons, Chicken Skin, Ramp Kimchi Slaw, Mustard Seeds, and Micro Herbs
  • Lamb Kefta, Quinoa Tabouleh, Cilantro Yogurt, Baby Eggplant, Celery Root, and Beet Chips

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    Broad Street Grille

    1201 Broad Street
    Chattanooga, TN 37402
    (423) 424-3700
    www.chattanooganhotel.com/dining/broad_street_grille
    Hours: Mon-Sat 6:30am-10pm; Sun 11am-2pm

    At the delightful Chattanoogan Hotel, you will find the equally delightful Broad Street Grille. At the helm of it all is Chef Ryan Randolph and with his quiet determination, he’s cooking impressive food. Randolph’s priority is to showcase local ingredients and with the farm to table menu here, he’s doing a fine of job it. He works with local farmers and fishermen to source the best of the region’s produce, and all of it ultimately ends up in a tasty bite on your plate. Even his ricotta is made in-house. If you’re lucky enough to be here on a Sunday, don’t forget to stop by for one of Tennessee Valley's favorite Champagne Sunday Brunches.

    Recommended:
  • Mâché, Baby Beets, House-made Ricotta, Blood Orange, and Cured Duck Leg
  • Sprout Farms Pork Chop, Baby Carrot Purée, Pan Seared Brussels Sprouts, Smoked Onion-Dried Cherry Compote

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    Capitol Grille at The Hermitage Hotel

    231 6th Avenue North
    Nashville, TN 37209
    (615) 345-7116
    www.capitolgrillenashville.com
    Hours: Mon-Sun 6:30am-10pm

    Capitol Grille at The Hermitage Hotel is easily one of Nashville’s best restaurants. Chef Tyler Brown has helmed the kitchen there for more than 10 years, taking a storied but traditional program and transforming it into a model for hotel dining. His plates draw from a four-acre vegetable garden he and his staff farm through the Land Trust for Tennessee, and last fall, Brown and The Hermitage launched 65-acre Double H Farms, raising red poll cattle for the restaurant and area chefs. For lunch, that beef might be served as meatloaf on a blue plate special, and in the evening, Brown might cook it sous vide with turnips, apples, and truffles as accoutrement. Rising Star Pastry Chef Kayla Swartout upgrades Southern desserts without losing sight of their origins. Her coconut cake is simply the best possible (and most beautifully plated) version you can imagine.

    Recommended:
  • Crispy Chicken Thigh, Celery Root Farrotto, and Preserved Lemon-Celery Root Salad
  • Sunburst Farms Trout, Ember-roasted Carrots, Onion Soubise, Pickled Celery, Charred Cipollini, and Celery Leaves
  • Tennessee Corn Cake, Cruz Dairy Buttermilk Ice Cream, Meringue, Blood Orange Curd, and Citrus
  • Chocolate Root Beer Cake, Boylan's Red Birch Beer Sorbet, Ginger Marshmallow, Cherry Sphere, and Cherry Pearls

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    The Catbird Seat

    1711 Division Street
    Haynes Area
    Nashville, TN 37203
    (615) 810-8200
    thecatbirdseatrestaurant.com
    Hours: Wed-Sat 5pm-10pm

    Since it opened two years ago, Catbird Seat has been a major force in transforming the Nashville dining scene—from a town of meat-and-threes to a city where atelier dining can thrive and push culinary boundaries on a national level. Its original chef duo has now departed, with Josh Habiger manning the kitchen at nearby Pinewood Social and Erik Anderson moving on to open his own project. No doubt incoming chef, Noma-alum Trevor Moran, will keep up the ground-breaking work, accessible to diners 32 seats at a time. And the team will keep in tact the intimate mingling of chef and somm and diner. The cook who toiled over your dish will deliver it to your table, explain it in detail, and rush back behind the line to prepare your next course. Sommelier Adam Binder is also a mixing genius, atomizing an aperitif-wine with Scotch and making his own cordials. Binder rounds out any experience at Catbird Seat, an experience that is sure to evolve in the coming months.

    Central BBQ

    2249 Central Avenue
    Memphis, TN 38104
    (901) 272-9377
    www.cbqmemphis.com
    Hours: Mon-Sun 11am-9pm

    If you’re looking for barbeque, (which, if you are in Memphis, you most definitely are), look no further than Central BBQ. Amid the quilted curtains, old black-and-white photos, football posters, and picnic tables complete with red and white plaid covers, Pit Master Craig Blondis and his team are serving up award-winning Memphis-style ‘cue. All the rubs, spice blends, and sauces are house made, and the super tender, juicy meat is left to marinate overnight until it’s ready to be meticulously smoked in an old-school hickory smoker. Blondis’s other passion is making hot sauce and his search for the next-hottest pepper, almost always works its way into the dynamite smoked hot wings. Afterwards, when you’ve worked your way through all the meat you can eat, stroll across the street to the Lorraine Motel and the National Civil Rights Museum for a touch of history to complete your day.

    Recommended:
  • Pulled Pork Nachos, Barbeque Sauce, Nacho Cheese Sauce, Jalapeños, Shredded Monterey, and Cheddar
  • Smoked Chicken Wings Three Ways: Wet with Wing Sauce, Dry with House Hot Rub, and Jerk with Caribbean Seasoning, Louisiana Hot Sauce and House Vinegar Sauce

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    City House

    1222 4th Avenue North
    Germantown
    Nashville, TN 37208
    (615) 736-5838
    cityhousenashville.com
    Hours: Mon, Wed-Sat 5pm-10pm; Sun 5pm-9pm

    Ask any chef in town where he wants to eat, and it’s City House. Tandy Wilson set the model for new school Nashville restaurants when he opened the doors in 2007. And everything from the restaurant’s design (raw wood, concrete floors, exposed duct work) and casual, comfort-first menu has been respectfully sampled as the city’s food scene has boomed. Expect charred pizzas (from a signature belly ham to funky catfish-potato-bagna cauda) from a blistering wood-burning oven, simple salads and pastas, and a range of charcuterie from Wilson’s whole-animal butchery program. City House’s wine list is tight but one of the more original in town, and the cocktail menu is full of amaro and whiskey adventure. Whether you come in for a full-blown feast or a post-service bite, the City House experience is quintessential Nashville dining.

    Recommended:
  • House-made Sausage, Apples, Red Onions, and Citrus Zest
  • Belly Ham Pizza

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    Crema

    15 Hermitage Avenue
    Downtown
    Nashville, TN 37210
    (615) 255-8311
    www.crema-coffee.com
    Hours: Mon-Fri 7am-7pm; Sat 8am-6pm; Sun 9am-4pm

    Crema has served as a center of Nashville coffee for the last five years, and especially in the last two with Winston Harrison and Sean Stewart leading its in-house roasting program. Focusing on single-origin light roasts that best express their immaculately sourced beans, the roasting duo explores the coffee-producing world to the tune of 1,000 pounds a week. They sell coffee to Catbird Seat, Pinewood Social, Husk, and Kitchen 404, but their beans are best enjoyed in Crema’s open, cinderblock home with Bagelface bagel in one hand and hot coffee, latte, or coffee soda in the other. Buzzing with caffeinated, computer-toting creatives, it’s a community spot, and Owner Rachel Lehman wants to grow the coffee program instead of opening new outposts.

    Recommended:
  • La Lia, Santa Rosa, Tarrazu, Costa Rica
  • Las Delicias, El Salvador

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    Drew's Brews

    7 Ligon Avenue
    Nashville, TN 37207
    (615) 262-4099
    www.drewsbrewscoffee.com

    If you’re drinking Drew’s Brews coffee roasted by Drew Park, you’re probably sitting in an East Nashville restaurant or Tandy Wilson’s City House, or maybe in the warm morning light of your breakfast nook (with a bag of beans purchased at Whole Foods or hip clothing shop, Imogene + Willie). Park has been roasting and making blends for some of Nashville’s best restaurants and retailers for the last seven years, hand-labeling each bag of coffee (and signing them with a Sharpie extra fine point). And though he hadn’t been able to add new customers for the past five years, Park upgraded his roaster in 2013 and is slowly adding to his client base, meaning his light- to medium-roasted blends will be more easily accessible all over town.

    Recommended:
  • Zappia Family Espresso Cappuccino

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    Etch

    303 Demonbreun Street
    Nashville, TN 37201
    (615) 522-0685
    www.etchrestaurant.com
    Hours: Mon-Thu 11am-2pm, 5pm-10pm; Fri 11am-2pm, 5pm-10:30pm; Sat 5pm-10:30pm

    Chef Deb Paquette has a space worthy of her talent in Etch. Situated in Nashville’s Encore building, the 4,000-square-foot space sports an enormous open kitchen, framed from above with bold, red pendant lights. Etch marks the return of Paquette to Nashville’s dining scene. She and her husband ran Zola for 13 years before she took a brief hiatus, traveling and working in Turks and Caicos Islands, Cape Cod, the Bahamas, and Mexico. Influenced by her travels and evolved industry palate, Paquette’s menu borrows from an eclectic pantry to liven up dishes. Pastry Chef Megan Williams, who’s worked in several Nashville pastry programs, now has a menu all her own, filled with sweet, comforting desserts that play to diners’ inner child.

    Recommended:
  • Chocolate Hazelnut Crunch Tart, Chocolate Crumb Crust, Hazelnut Feuilletine, Caramel, and Whipped Cream

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    The Farm House

    210 Almond Street
    Nashville, TN 37201
    (615) 522-0688
    thefarmhousetn.com
    Hours: Mon-Sat 4pm-10pm; Sun 10:30am-2:30pm

    The Farm House is one of Nashville’s newest restaurants, opened in late 2013 and set downtown in the Encore building next to Deb Paquette’s Etch. The interior is all Tennessee pride with local folk art, reclaimed barn wood, and apple crate pendant lighting—finished off with Nashville’s design du jour touches of exposed brick and concrete floors. Farm House is Chef Trey Cioccia’s first solo restaurant after significant time at Capitol Grille and Cantina Laredo. Cioccia is clinging to his Southern roots with dishes like upgraded deviled eggs and crispy fried quail and waffles, and he knows how to go all-in with richness—bone marrow, fines herb biscuits, and bacon jam share a plate. Cioccia’s local sensibility translates to his walk-in, a veritable who’s who of Tennessee product, not to mention his bar stocked with Nashville-made moonshine and whiskeys of every stripe.

    Recommended:
  • G & G Buttermilk Quail, Smoked Sweet Potato Waffles, and Tennessee Cream Honey
  • Bone Marrow, Bacon Jam, Norwood Biscuits, and Duck Prosciutto

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    Flyte World Dining

    718 Division Street
    Nashville, TN 37203
    (615) 255-6200
    www.flytenashville.com
    Hours: Tue-Thu 4:30pm-11pm; Fri-Sat 4:30pm-11:30pm

    Flyte World Dining is on the edge of the Gulch, just a block or so away from Third Man Records. Housed in an open warehouse, its raw interior (concrete floors, exposed duct work, etc.) is juxtaposed by large-scale art, bright orange walls, and the intimate glow of candlelight. After working for Sean Brock in Charleston, South Carolina, Rising Star Chef Matt Lackey moved back home to Nashville, took on the sous chef role at Flyte, and was quickly thrust into the role of executive chef—and for good reason. Lackey’s food speaks of now, and the deep devotion he has to the land and farmers who supply his pantry. Lackey devotes much of his time to sourcing and growing product (he helps run a family farm outside town), and when it’s time to cook, he cleverly works to lightly manipulate that product—showing deference for the effort it took to grow or raise.

    Recommended:
  • Trio of Beets: Cured, Forgotten, and Pickled Beets with House Ham and Dill Sauce
  • Bear Creek Beef Cheek; Coulotte; Bone Marrow Stuffed with Mushrooms, Herbs, and Cornmeal Crumble; Beet Purée; and Anson Mills Farro
  • Warm Apple Cider Doughnuts, Cream Cheese, Pecan Streusel, Currants, and Pear Sorbet

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    Hog & Hominy

    707 West Brookhaven Circle
    Memphis, TN 38117
    (901) 207-7396
    www.hogandhominy.com
    Hours: Mon-Wed 11am-2pm, 5pm-10pm; Thu-Sat 11am-2pm, 5pm-2am

    For the love of pork, go to Hog & Hominy. Go for the charcuterie and stay for whatever the hell comes out the pizza oven. There’s also ’nduja in their collards (hell yea!) and tangy, Italian-style cheese curds topping their smoked pork-neck gravy poutine (Lord, have mercy!). Mostly, Rising Star Chefs Andrew Ticer and Michael Hudman pump bold flavors into whatever dishes strike their fancy—there’s no hot dog, pizza, pasta, or seasonal veg that’s safe from their sights. And it’s all served in a restaurant that feels a whole lot like home. The modern space reads chic, industrial Brooklyn loft, even as the restaurant sits surrounded by strip malls. Wooden benches and distressed white beams surround the open kitchen and the brick oven from where enticing smells lure you in, and while you can check out any time you want, you never really want to leave.

    Recommended:
  • Beef-Cheddar Frank, Yellow Mustard, and Pretzel Bun
  • Collard Greens, ‘Nduja, Pork Belly Ends, Hominy, and Pepper Vinegar
  • Sautéed Beets, Spinach Yogurt, Bacon, Plums, Spicy Black Pepper Peanuts, and Pickled Peppers

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    Husk Nashville

    37 Rutledge Street
    Downtown
    Nashville, TN 37210
    (615) 256-6565
    www.husknashville.com
    Hours: Mon-Sun 11am-9pm

    Housed in a late 19th century red brick home, Chef Sean Brock’s Husk sits on Rutledge Hill, and from its front porch you can look out across the city. Upstairs the walls are painted a bold purple and elegant chandeliers hang from the ceiling. On the way to more casual downstairs dining, guests walk by the pass of a dazzling open kitchen. In true Brock form, the plateware is hand crafted, and big windows look out onto a garden that supplies the restaurant with herbs, lettuces, and more. The chef’s all-Southern ethos translates to dishes that are at once honest, elegant, and full flavored (we’re still not quite sure how his team packed so much umami and balance into a dish of steak, brassicas, and shiitakes). Pastry Chef Lisa Donovan sticks with impeccable versions of home-style desserts—think hand pies and some of the most addicting soft-serve we've ever eaten. And Sommelier Kenny Lyons crafts a beverage list that includes Southern sodas and beers and divides wines by soil type rather than region or grape.

    Recommended:
  • Boudin-stuffed Manchester Farms Quail, Butter Beans, and Chow Chow
  • Bear Creek Farm Flatiron Steak, Brassicas Purée, Bread Purée, Shiitakes, and Chicharones
  • Eggnog Softserve with House-made Graham Crackers

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    IvyWild

    36 Ball Park Road
    Sewanee, TN 37375
    931.598.9000
    www.ivywildsewanee.com
    Hours: Thu-Sun 5pm-9pm

    We’ll go out on a limb. IvyWild is the best little restaurant you’ve never heard of. It’s hidden well enough in the 2,000-ish-person mountain town of Sewanee, Tennessee, but we guarantee it’s worth pulling off exit 134 for a chance to eat Chef Keri Moser’s playful, offbeat cuisine. She builds her plates with improbably good and often wild flavor combinations and her food reflects a deep curiosity, an artistic bent, and a creative streak that’s hard to come by. (She even employs art students and puts them to work plating on the line.) The picturesque setting, a drive through mountain fog, up and down again until you find the unusual dining spot, lends IvyWild a romantic excitement that’s rare. And the BYOB policy lets you bring your favorite bottles to add your own personal touch to a deeply personal and delicious dining experience.

    Recommended:
  • Pork Shoulder, Pickled Peaches, Cornbread, Foie Gras Butter, and Sorghum Vinaigrette
  • Smoked Salmon, Cracked Wheat, Black Barley, Elberton Blue Cheese, Tomatillos, Romanesco, and Chamomile-Lemon Aïoli

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    Kitchen Notes

    250 5th Avenue South
    Nashville, TN 37203
    (615) 782-5300
    www.omnihotels.com/FindAHotel/Nashville/Dining/KitchenNotes.aspx
    Hours: Mon-Sun 6:30am-2pm, 5pm-10pm

    Opened in fall 2013, Kitchen Notes is the sprawling, light-filled restaurant that feeds the bustling Omni Nashville. Blond wood, linen covered chairs, and a few kitschy touches give the dining room a country-meets-modern vibe. Breakfast time means a biscuit bar, where fluffy, Southern-style biscuits are a vehicle for Benton’s ham and sausage gravy. There are gluten-free and healthy options, too. (But we both know you spent last night on Broadway. Go for the biscuits.) For lunch and dinner, Chef Peter McCall makes comfort staples with addictive layers of flavor. Patty melts have pimento cheese and Tennessee whiskey-onion jam, and fried chicken is accompanied by tangy, house-made hot sauce. Kitchen Notes is fun and accessible—and a much welcome addition to downtown Nashville dining.

    Recommended:
  • Eggs Benedict, Smoked Pork Loin, and Fried Potatoes
  • Tennessee Patty Melt: Southeast Family Farms Beef, Pimento Cheese, Applewood-smoked Bacon, Special Sauce, Caramelized Dickle No. 8 Whiskey Onions, and Grilled Rye with Barbecue Potato Chips

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    Knox Mason

    131 South Gay Street, # 101
    Knoxville, TN 37902
    (865) 544-2004
    www.knoxmason.com
    Hours: Mon-Sat 4pm-11pm; Sun 10am-2pm

    Matt Gallaher is giving his hometown the kind of unforgettable, chef-driven food it deserves with Knox Mason (Knox for Knoxville and Mason for the iconic jars). Trained by his mother’s side and in the trenches of Blackberry Farm, the flavors of Eastern Tennessee run through his veins. That’s how rice grits get cooked up like risotto and showered with Tennessee truffles and pitch-perfect gnocchi go swimming with Sea Island red peas and Cruze Dairy crème fraîche. Knox Mason, though relatively new on the scene, is part of a newly vibrant downtown Knoxville, and Gallaher is part of the growing legion of chefs who are passionately bringing world-class food to every pocket of America—all with a young, hip vibe.

    Recommended:
  • Tennessee Truffle Risotto, Loudon County Mushrooms, Anson Mills Middlin’ Rice, and Sequatchie Cove Cumberland Cheese
  • Potato Gnocchi, Loudon County Mushrooms, Sea Island Red Peas, Young Arugula, and Cruze Farm Crème Fraîche
  • Charcuterie Board: Chicken Liver Pâté, Corned Beef Tongue, House Bresaola, and Pickled Tomatoes
  • Chai-spice infused Cruze Farm Buttermilk Panna Cotta, House-made Apple Butter, and Crispy Meringue

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    Martin's Bar-B-Que Joint

    7238 Nolensville Road
    Nolensville, TN 37135
    (615) 776-1856
    www.martinsbbqjoint.com
    Hours: Mon-Fri 11am-8pm; Sat-Sun 11am-9pm

    Pat Martin started selling barbecue on the roadside, out of a cooler. But since he opened his original Nolensville Pike location in 2006, he’s added two more restaurants to his smoky empire, with a third on the way in central Nashville. There’s obviously something special about his ’cue. Martin dabbles in Memphis-style barbecue with a mighty fine rack of dry-rubbed ribs, and his Czech-style smoked sausage nods to Texas tradition. But what he loves most is the hog, a staple of western Tennessee pits. Martin smokes his hogs whole for 18 to 20 hours (it’s all about reading the fire and coals), transforming pig into smoky, unctuous pulled pork for sandwiches or his signature redneck taco. Sauces and rubs are besides the point, but if you’re sticking with Tennessee tradition, reach for the vinegar-tomato sauce Martin grew up with.

    Recommended:
  • Pulled Pork Sandwich with Coleslaw
  • Smoked Texas-style Sausage
  • Memphis-style Pork Ribs

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    Mas Tacos Por Favor

    732 Mcferrin Avenue
    Nashville, TN 37206
    (615) 543-6271
    Hours: Mon-Thu 11am-4pm; Fri 11am-9pm; Sat 9am-3pm

    There’s no food better than your abuela’s, and even though Teresa Mason has no formal training or even an authentic abuela to speak of, she’s making deeply satisfying, home-style Mexican food that would sate even the most homesick Mexican. Set in a cinderblock building with bars over the windows, mismatched seating, and Christmas lights strung across the ceiling, Mason’s Mas Tacos Por Favor is fun and spirited. She and her team stick with the simplest versions of traditional Mexican home cooking on a menu that changes daily. Her tacos are simply dressed, letting baked and shredded chicken shine. Her soups are refreshing and sing with acidity. It’s wholesome (dare we say healthy) Mexican food that’s been clearly translated.

    Recommended:
  • Cast Iron Chicken Taco, Charred Cnions, Jalapeño, Roasted Tomatillo Salsa, Sour Cream, Cilantro, and Lime
  • Cast Iron Chicken Taco, Charred Cnions, Jalapeño, Roasted Tomatillo Salsa, Sour Cream, Cilantro, and Lime
  • Pineapple-Cilantro Agua Fresca

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    Mason's at the Loews

    2100 Westland End Avenue
    Nashville, TN 37203
    (615)321-1990
    www.loewshotels.com/Vanderbilt-Hotel
    Hours: Mon-Fri 6:30pm-3pm, 5pm-10pm; Sat-Sun 6:30am-3pm, 5pm-10pm

    Mason’s at the Loews Vanderbilt is the South gone cosmopolitan. A wall of Mason jars greets guests at the entrance, and then the dining takes a sleek turn with modern, leather banquettes and posh pendant lighting (don’t worry, there are still bottles of hot sauce on the table). Chef Brandon Frohne, just in from Atlanta, keeps up the playful juxtaposition with whimsical plating and a penchant for molecular gastronomy. Tasty little deviled eggs arrive nestled on dried corn silk, and bao buns get Dixie twisted with sweet potatoes, confit pork, peanuts, and slaw. Dinner at Mason’s is a fun affair with surprises—look out for liquid nitrogen—at every turn. Most successfully, Frohne and Mason’s deliver deeper reflections of Southern staples with the thoughtful additions and techniques of a chef who’s pushing his native cuisine.

    Recommended:
  • Devil of an Egg, Bacon Jam, Mustard Seeds, and Hickory Smoke
  • Sweet Potato Biscuit Bao, Pork Confit, Peanut Slaw, and Cilantro
  • Logan Turnpike Stone Ground Grits, Shrimp, Pepper Brodo, Tasso Ham, Peppers, and South Carolina-style Reduction

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    Merchants

    401 Broadway
    Downtown
    Nashville, TN 37203
    (615) 254-1892
    www.merchantsrestaurant.com
    Hours: Mon-Thu, Sun 11am-11 pm; Fri-Sat 11am-1am

    Upstairs at Merchants is an anomaly in downtown Nashville. The Michel Bras-inspired salads, locally sourced proteins, and fine wine selection rub elbows with Bud Light and big hair of neighboring honky tonks. (Don’t get us wrong. We’d sidle up to the bar at Robert’s just about every night of the week, if we could.) We just didn’t expect to find the power chef-somm duo Barclay Stratton and Andy Wedge operating amidst the neon lights of Broadway. Strategic Hospitality Group reclaimed the 132-year-old space in 2010, giving downtown Nashville a classic gastropub (downstairs) and fine-dining space (upstairs) all in one. While Blue Hill alum Stratton served us the aforementioned and perfectly dressed salad, upscale grits and greens, mouthwatering lamb, and a delicious (but still trashy-in-a-good-way) Butterfinger rendition, Wedge introduced us to wines like a funky, just bubbly Grolleaux-Gamay from the Loire and a big and beautiful Aussie Shiraz.

    Recommended:
  • Braised Lamb Neck, Smoked Cauliflower Purée, Almonds, Apricot, Cauliflower, Green Onions, and Mizuna
  • Soft Grits, Poached Egg, Pears, Winter Greens Purée, and Tatsoi

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    Mitchell Deli

    1402 McGavock Pike
    Nashville, TN 37216
    (615) 262-9862
    www.mitchelldeli.com
    Hours: Mon-Sat 7am-8pm; Sun 7am-4pm

    East Nashville favorite Mitchell Deli got bigger, swankier digs in late 2013, and we’re happy to report its community spirit and sandwiches endured the transition. Just a few blocks down from the original, Mitchell offers a hot breakfast line, a market for produce and dry goods, artisanal sodas on tap, beer!, and a roster of to-die-for sandwiches. The chef and owner—Rising Star Concept Chef David Mitchell—knows when to leave a classic alone (Benton’s bacon, juicy tomato, lettuce, and mayo) and when to chef-ify (sous vide pastrami, house-fermented kraut, and Russian dressing on rye). And his new digs, 50-indoor-seats-and-40-patio-seats strong, finally live up to the finesse and technique that Mitchell and his staff pour into their unassuming, affordable sandwiches—made for and loved by families, food lovers, hipsters, and blue collars alike.

    Recommended:
  • Reuben: Corned Beef, Sauerkraut, 1000 Island Dressing, Swiss, and Silkes Light Rye
  • Banh Mi: Pork Butt Confit in Benton’s Bacon Grease, Jicama-Carrot Slaw, Cucumber, Cilantro, Lime Mayonnaise, and Silkes Hoagie
  • Asian Flank Steak Sandwich: Asian-marinated Flank Steak, Jardinera, Provolone, Mayonnaise, and Silkes Hoagie

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    Olive and Sinclair

    1404 McGavock Pike
    Nashville, TN 37216
    (615) 262-3007
    www.oliveandsinclair.com

    If the Aztecs, Mark Twain, and Jacques Torres had to come to a consensus on chocolate, Olive and Sinclair would make it—and sell it with as much success as Rising Star Scott Witherow is achieving with his passion, talent, and distinctly Southern chocolates. To set his bean-to-bar operation apart, Witherow uses brown sugar in all his bars. There’s buttermilk in his white chocolate, too. Hell, the ham-god Allan Benton smokes his cacao nibs—the ones that aren’t aged in whiskey barrels. Recently moved into newer, larger digs (decorated with Witherow’s flea market finds), Olive and Sinclair now has a retail space and will open up tours soon, so visitors can see just how much work goes into roasting, winnowing, grinding, flavoring, and meticulously molding chocolate. There are no short cuts at Olive and Sinclair, just the pure joy of making some of the South’s premier chocolate.

    Recommended:
  • Mexican Chili Chocolate
  • Smoked Nib Brittle

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    Otaku South

    Sarah Gavigan ate ramen for 17 years in Los Angeles, falling in love with soulful bowls of noodles and stock, and when she and her husband moved to Nashville, she jumped at the chance to explore ramen more deeply and serve it to a city hungry for good Japanese food. For her pop-ups at Nashville’s farmers markets (with a brick-and-mortar to come soon), Gavigan relies on local Porter Road Butcher to supply her with the bones (literally and figuratively) of her operation; whatever they have in-stock ends up in hers. Once she nailed traditional tonkatsu ramen, Gavigan began to establish a style all her own—with Southern soul food and local farmers as inspiration. She tops her bowls with pulled pork and cooks down collard greens until they’re silky. She also makes tasty little hot chicken bao buns, a nod to her new city’s most famous dish.

    Recommended:
  • Szechuan Pork Ramen, Egg, Chicken Broth, and Japanese Greens
  • Otaku Hot Chicken: Chile-coated Fried Chicken, Bao Buns, and Pickles

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    Porter Road Butcher

    501 Gallatin Avenue Nashville
    Greenwood
    Nashville, TN 37206
    (615) 650-4440
    www.prbutcher.com
    Hours: Mon-Fri 11am-7pm; Sat 10am-6pm

    Central Tennessee is livestock country, and an outsized number of small famers raise lamb, beef, pork, and poultry on the land surrounding Nashville. Porter Road Butcher takes that bounty—specifically, pasture-raised animals from no more than two hours away—and breaks it down for the good people of Music City. Chefs-turned-butchers James Peisker and Chris Carter process about three cows and five pigs each week, selling the meat at Whole Foods prices (ground meat is $8 per pound, steaks $30). Their original location is a community market in East Nashville that sells meats, sausages, and dry goods. The duo’s Charlotte Avenue shop opened in 2013 in a former fast food outlet, and Peisker and Carter take full advantage of the drive-thru window, serving to-go sausage biscuits at breakfast and French dip sandwiches at lunch.

    Recommended:
  • Breakfast Sausage, Egg Souflée, and Lard Biscuit
  • French Dip: Roast Beef, Caramelized Onions, Provolone, Au Jus, and Hoagie

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    Restaurant Iris

    2146 Monroe Avenue
    Memphis, TN 38104
    (901) 590-2828
    www.restaurantiris.com
    Hours: Mon-Sat 5pm-10pm

    Nestled near the historic Overton Square in midtown Memphis, Restaurant Iris is as quietly elegant and charming as they come. Inside the kitchen, Chef Kelly English cooks the food of his childhood (spent in Southern Louisiana), adding to it a bold French-Creole twist, a reminder of his time spent in New Orleans with Chef John Besh. Step in for dinner, linger over a bottle of wine, indulge in all the attention and care that will most definitely be bestowed on you, and you’ll begin to understand why this restaurant is not only a local favorite, but has won the hearts and minds of everyone who’s dined there. Each meticulous plate is potently flavorful, but also always accented with a taste of the chef’s complete earnestness and sincerity.

    Recommended:
  • Duck Hearts, Brussels Sprouts, Cauliflower Purée, Persillade, and Burnt Butter Vinaigrette
  • Seared Pork Belly, Mushroom Ragout, Turnip Greens, Maitake Mushrooms, Shiitake Mushrooms, Potlikker Jus, and Fried Okra

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    Rolf and Daughters

    700 Taylor Street
    Germantown
    Nashville, TN 37208
    (615) 866-9897
    www.rolfanddaughters.com
    Hours: Mon-Sun 5:30pm-10pm

    Rolf and Daughters was designed to be a neighborhood restaurant. Set in an abandoned Germantown factory, it’s all casual cool with large communal tables, lots of blonde wood, an ample bar, and Chef Philip Krajeck’s collection of cookbooks lining the back wall. But Krajeck’s dream of low-key neighborhood eatery has been hijacked by his superb cooking, and his dining room is now the bustling setting for all manner of Nashville diners and food-obsessed travelers. Krajeck just has that something extra—a knack for pushing ingredients far beyond their average capacity for good. To put a finger on his talents is to dive into one of his bowls of pasta or schmear decadent chicken liver pâté, sweet-tart green tomato jam, and Olive and Sinclair chocolate onto a slice of bread and take a bite. Rolf and Daughters also has a solid bar program and a wine list (play list, too) worth exploring.

    Recommended:
  • Chicken Liver Paté, Green Tomato Marmalade, and Olive and Sinclair 100 Percent Dominican Chocolate
  • Squid Ink Canestri, Squid and Shrimp Sauce, House-cured Pancetta, Toasted Garlic, and Calabrian Chiles

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    The Silly Goose

    1888 Eastland Avenue
    Five Points
    Nashville, TN 37206
    (615) 915-0757
    www.sillygoosenashville.com
    Hours: Tue-Thu 11am-9pm; Fri-Sat 11am-10 pm

    Chef Roderick Bailey’s distinct cooking style and design ethos make Silly Goose one of the most fun and original restaurants in Nashville. Bailey started the restaurant (whose moniker derives from his niece’s nickname) with little more than a steam kettle, a blender, and a George Foreman grill. So, he focused on couscous, sandwiches, making purées, and using hard spices to flavor his food. Though his kitchen has seen serious upgrades since the early days, Bailey’s food still draws from those early survival techniques. He balances straight-up French duck confit with chimichurri and spice-laden red mole; Gulf shrimp take on new character from floral Marash chiles. Bailey decorated the space on a budget, but it doesn’t look it. Sterling silver flatware came from Goodwill, the napkins are red bandanas, and local artists supplied the rest. And it’s those unexpected touches in the restaurant and in Bailey’s cooking that make Silly Goose ever so lovable.

    Recommended:
  • Maltese Falcon: Crisp Duck Confit, Green Chile Basmati Rice, Red Mole, and Tomatillo Chimichurri
  • Freewheelin: Seared Sea Scallops, Preserved Lemon-Goat Cheese Polenta, Charred Red Pepper Jam, Lobster-Basil Fume, Oyster Mushrooms, and Radishes

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    Silo

    1121 5th Avenue North
    Downtown
    Nashville, TN 37208
    (615) 750-2912
    www.silotn.com
    Hours: Tue-Sat 4pm-11pm; Sun 10:30am-2pm, 4pm-11pm

    Set in the heart of Germantown, Chef Larry Carlisle’s Silo serves a captive audience (coming downstairs from their freshly built condos) American and Southern staples. Stop by the busy bar for a charcuterie board and glass of wine, or linger over a dinner, watching Carlisle and his team cook from their open kitchen. There’s no flash in Carlisle’s shrimp and grits or confit chicken—just honest, satisfying cooking by a native Nashville son. The interior by Greg Ibáñez is a refined version of Nashville’s prevailing style (wood, concrete, communal tables) and boasts an austere private dining space crowned by large swaths of woven wood.

    Recommended:
  • Shrimp and Grits: Gulf Shrimp, Falls Mills Grits, Tasso, Okra, and Scallions

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    St. John's Restaurant

    1278 Market Street
    Chatanooga, TN 37402
    (423) 266-4400
    www.stjohnsrestaurant.com
    Hours: Mon-Thu: 5pm-9:30pm; Fri-Sat: 5pm-10pm

    When Chef Daniel Lindey returned home to Chattanooga to help his brother open a restaurant, he was not planning on staying back and running it as well. Fourteen years later, Lindey has changed the dining scene in this mountain city in more ways than he could imagine. For this, locals and visitors alike are forever indebted to him. At St John’s Restaurant, the food is sophisticated and smart. Lindey’s exquisite taste can be seen not only on his plates, which are as aesthetically pleasing as they are delicious, but also in the space that he has created—chic, refined, and stylish. Massive lampshades mingle with high backed wooden chairs and marble floors. The openness of the space is inviting, and Lindey’s commitment to using local and seasonal ingredients is reflected in his menu, which changes daily.

    Recommended:
  • Broken Arrow Ranch Axis Venison, Mascarpone Grits, Shiitake Mushrooms, and Apple-Fennel Compote
  • Crabtree Farms Baby Rutabaga and Beets, Lardo, and Walnut Purée

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    Urban Stack

    850 Market Street
    Chatanooga, TN 37402
    (423) 486-1743
    www.urbanstack.com
    Hours: Mon-Thu 11am-10pm; Fri-Sat 11am-11pm; Sun 11am-10pm

    What started in downtown Chattanooga as a hunt for the not-so-traditional burger, has fast evolved in to the city’s top pick for two of America’s foodie favorites—burgers and bourbon. Mike and Taylor Monens have taken what was once the Southern Railway Baggage Building (circa 1867), and turned it in to an upscale joint that is LEED certified and focuses on sourcing locally as much as possible. The exposed brick walls and beams make the space hip and fun, and people from all walks of life are rubbing shoulders here over burgers, fries, and the American food dream. You’re spoiled for choice as far as the burgers go and the bourbon selection doesn’t disappoint either—120 options— and while all these options may bedazzle you, they’ll never bore you.

    Recommended:
  • Fried Bologna Sliders: House-made Sequatchie Cove Peppercorn Beef Bologna, American Cheese, Fire and Ice Pickles, and Dijon Mayo
  • The Steakhouse Burger: Beef, Barbecue Sauce, Bacon, Atomic Horsey Sauce, Crispy Onion, Cheddar Cheese, and Green Onions

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    DRINK

    Corsair Distillery

    1200 Clinton Street #110
    nashville, TN 37203
    (615) 200-0320
    www.corsairartisan.com
    Hours: Tue-Fri 3pm-8pm; Sat-Sun 12pm-6pm

    Whiskey is at home in Tennessee, but brand diversity isn’t, at least not as much as it could be. But Corsair Artisan Distillery, led by Darek Bell and Andrew Webber, is out to change that with a portfolio of groundbreaking and experimental whiskeys and other spirits. Anchoring one side of Nashville’s Marathon Motor Works (and with another operation in Kentucky), Corsair has around 22 spirits in its portfolio, including award-winning Triple Smoke Whiskey, along with niche products like Quinoa Whiskey and Hopmoster, a hopped whiskey with an IPA nose. Home-brewer-turned-head-distiller Andrea Clodfelter is in charge of the distilling floor (complete with a copper-clad pre-Prohibition gin still), close to 20,000 cases of product, and the next generation of Corsair product. (We got a sneak sip of cask-strength red and white wine barrel-aged whiskeys and can’t wait until they hit the market.)

    Recommended:
  • Triple Smoke
  • Red Wine Barrel-aged Whiskey with Oatmeal Stout, Amaranth, Two Row Barley, and Triticow

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    Fat Bottom Brewing

    900 Main Street
    Nashville, TN 37206
    (615) 678-5715
    www.fatbottombrewing.com/
    Hours: Tue-Fri 4pm-10pm; Sat midnight-10pm

    Each of Fat Bottom Brewing’s signature and rotating ales is represented by a pin-up poster girl with an ample backside. And the ladies of Fat Bottom—Black Betty, Java Jane, Ruby, and Knock-out, to name a few—hold court over the brewery side of the operation, looking onto the open, airy bright tanks and mash tuns, where Brewer Ben Bredesen makes his signature beers. An East Nashville production facility and pub with global aspirations, Fat Bottom supplies local restaurants and its own six-tap bar. Happy hour, trivia, an outdoor patio, and an inventive menu are all reasons to stop by, and Bredesen’s hop-tastic beers are all reasons to stay and enjoy another pint.

    Recommended:
  • Ruby American Red Ale
  • Java Jane Coffee Porter

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    Holland House Bar and Refuge

    935 West Eastland Avenue
    Greenwood
    Nashville, TN 37206
    (615) 262-4190
    www.hollandhousebarandrefuge.com
    Hours: Mon-Thu 5pm-10pm; Fri-Sat 5pm-11pm

    When you enter East Nashville’s shabby-chic Holland House, a generous square bar welcomes you with open bottles. With its residential location and mixed feminine-rustic interior (exposed beams, crystal chandeliers, lavender and brick walls), Holland House really does feel like you’re home, and regulars treat it as such, showing up for industry night on Monday and happy hour on Thursday—and lots of nights in between. Though he recently departed, Bartender Jeremiah Blake set up the bar program, making solid riffs on classics (the Village Reserve is a bacon Old Fashioned) and finding new ways to highlight his city’s favorite spirit (his Baseburner is a simple ginger ice cube dropped into bourbon). Chef Kristin Berington makes tasty bar snacks to fuel a night on the town, along with a locally sourced dinner menu that offers a broad range of options—from burger and wings to lentil stew and bakes cheddar grits.

    Recommended:
  • Daisy if You Do: Four Roses Bourbon, Benedictine, CioCiaro, Grapefruit, Agave Syrup, Barrel-aged Whiskey Bitters, Sugar Cube, and Lemon Peel
  • Eight Centuries of Conquest: Mezcal Sombra, Varnelli Caffe Moka, Graham's Port, Apricot Brandy, Peychaud's Bitters, Angostura Bitters, Olive and Sinclair Cocoa Nib and Spice Rim, and Orange Twist

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    Jackalope Brewing Company

    701 8th Avenue South
    Downtown
    Nashville, TN 37203
    (615) 873-4313
    www.jackalopebrew.com
    Hours: Thu-Sat 4pm-8pm

    Do epic shit. This might be the unofficial motto of Jackalope Brewing Company and its Brewmaster Bailey Spaulding. Spaulding ditched a Vanderbilt law degree to pursue a life in beer, and, along with business partner Robyn Virball, opened Jackalope in 2011 (business partner Steve Wright joined shortly after). Three years later, the trio is on track to produce more than 4,000 barrels of beer with four signature and three seasonals on tap any given time. The Jackalope crew, like their mystical, wonky mascot, isn’t afraid to do different. They enjoy introducing the market to beers like Leipzig-Style Gose and slipping spruce tips into their black IPA. The brewpub interior is an eclectic mix of taxidermy (obviously) and vintage prints—with an adjoining ZolliKoffee for anyone who likes to mix their uppers and downers.

    Recommended:
  • Bearwalker Brown Ale
  • Spruce Bearstein Black IPA

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    Music City Tippler

    1922 Adelicia Street
    Nashville, TN 37212
    (615) 329-1329
    www.musiccitytippler.com
    Hours: Mon-Wed 5pm-1am; Thu 5pm-2am; Fri-Sat 5pm-2:30am; Sun 10am-3pm

    Music City Tippler (Southern sister to New York City’s Tippler) wants to bring respectable craft cocktails to the masses, and with its large, high-volume-ready space and carefully assembled team led by Bartender Alan Kennedy, it’s doing just that. Kennedy (who also runs Cask Strength Consulting) believes in making cocktails accessible, turning a Blood and Sand into a tasty little cobbler sneaky enough to convert non-Scotch drinkers. He also uses vodka as a tool to lure drinkers to more interesting spirits like Cynar. Four out of 16 cocktails on the list are draft cocktails, making for quick service. There are cocktail shots, too, and there’s a section of the menu dubbed “Fun.” Velvet couches, Italian tapestries, antebellum doors, and antique books lend the massive space character and make its nooks feel intimate. It’s a bar meant for a party between you and 194 of your new and closest cocktail swilling friends.

    Recommended:
  • Santa Clara: Maestro Dobel Diamond Tequila, Del Maguey Vida Mezcal, Yellow Chartreuse, Dolin Sweet Vermouth, and Orange Oi
  • Ready Freddy: 16-year Sheep’s Dip Scotch, Cherry-infused Peychaud's Bitters, House Falernum, Cinnamon Syrup, and Citrus

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    Nelson's Greenbrier Distillery


    Nashville, TN

    www.greenbrierdistillery.com
    Hours:

    As of February 2014, Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery is a closed warehouse space in Nashville’s Marathon Motor Works. But something magical is happening inside. Brothers Andy and Charlie Nelson are building out a distillery that will restore their family’s Tennessee whiskey making heritage. In 1885, Nelson’s Green Brier outsold Jack Daniels to the tune of 357,000 gallons. But Prohibition—that great historical bummer—shuttered the family business, until the Nelson’s dug deeper into their family history and found their new calling. Until they can roll-out their own Tennessee whiskey and open the distillery to the public, the brothers are blending and distributing Belle Meade bourbon, a distinct spirit made from three recipes that are aged for six years in 53 charred American white oak barrels, some of which are more than 8 years old. A fairly hefty proportion of rye (30 percent) adds extra flavor.

    Recommended:
  • Belle Meade Bourbon

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    No. 308

    407 Gallatin Avenue
    Five Points
    Nashville, TN 37206
    (615) 650-7344
    www.bar308.com
    Hours: Mon-Sun 5pm-3am

    Alexis Soler and her team at No. 308 are out to provide a mixed high-brow, low-brow drinking experience. Soler came to Nashville from the high-volume, luxury market of Miami, and she knows how to sling a craft cocktail—and serve the dive-bar crowd that spills over from Dino’s next door. Her menu features $5 shots…named after her favorite authors, Charles Bukowski, Dorothy Parker, and William S. Burroughs, among them. (The bar top is covered with pages from novels.) But whether it’s a tiki drink, swizzle, aperitif, or strong and stirred cocktail, Soder has it covered on her tight, inviting menu. The space carries on with the good fun. They have a Museum of Natural History-esque display of skulls in the back, along with irreverently posed taxidermy.

    Recommended:
  • Knob Creek Rye, Maraschino Liqueur, Cocchi Americano, Orange Bitters, and Orange Zest
  • The Romero: Hakushu 12-year Whisky, Black Pepper Syrup, Lemon Juice, Basil, and Cherry

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    Patterson House

    1711 Division Street
    haynes Area
    Nashville, TN 37203
    (205) 777-5691
    www.thepattersonnashville.com
    Hours: Mon-Sun 5pm-3am

    A Patterson House there’s likely a wait. There’s a mysterious velvet curtain. There’s low lighting, speakeasy-chic suspenders, and some of the best cocktails in Nashville. And every night, the cocktail-loving crowds descend on the bar manned by some of the city’s finest mixing talent, including Head Bartender and Rising Star Doug Monroe. The extensive menu offers both drinks steeped in history and cocktails crafted with an adventurous spirit. Case in point: the classic Ramos Gin Fizz sports an enviable meringue high-top, and Monroe champions the herbal Hungarian liquor, Zwack, on each menu (as with his Cinnamon Toast Crunch-esque Lazy Maisie). It’s this old-new, serious-whimsical dichotomy that defines the cocktail program at Patterson House—a program that’s molding Nashville’s collective cocktail palate with none of the pretensions you’d expect in a dimly lit, seating-room-only cocktail den set below the city’s highest-of-high-end restaurants.

    Recommended:
  • The Golden Suit: Belle Meade Bourbon, Lemon, Marie Brizzard Apry, House Falernum, and Nutmeg
  • Rest in Pieces of Eight: Cynar, Smith and Cross Rum, Licor 43, Ginger Syrup, Demerara, and Egg White
  • Lazy Maisie: Zwack, Crème de Cacao, Cinnamon Syrup, Lillet Rouge, Louisianne-infused Gordon's Gin, Lemon Bitters, and Fee's Old Fashioned Bitters

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    Peter Kern Library at The Oliver Hotel

    407 Union Avenue
    Knoxville, TN 37902
    (865) 521-0050
    www.theoliverhotel.com
    Hours: Mon-Sun 5pm-close

    The Oliver Hotel’s Peter Kern Library speakeasy is a cozy space with Old World charm. It’s also where Mixos Brit McMahan and Palmer Mason let their boozy imaginations run wild, resulting in some pretty unusual mélanges. Stepping inside the room is like stepping back in time—to a very Mad Men-esque era. There’re bookshelves and a fireplace at one end, and bar at the other, with a painting of the infamous mayor for whom the bar is named, hanging over it. Though most patrons will come for the cocktails, the bourbon selection is formidable as well. Find your spot, settle in to the leather couches, and choose your poison from the menu hidden inside an old world book encyclopedia.

    Recommended:
  • Honey Crisp Apple Juice, Lemon Juice, Crushed Ice, Honey Simple Syrup, Bulleit Rye, and Bitters
  • Aviation: Blue Coat Gin, Violet Liqueur, Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur, Lemon Juice, and Aged Cherry

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    Tennessee Brew Works

    809 Ewing Avenue
    Nashville, TN 37203
    (615) 200-8786
    www.tnbrew.com
    Hours: Thu-Fri 4pm-8pm; Sat 2pm-6pm

    Frustrated with their work in finance, Garr Schwartz and Christian Spears decided to pursue a longtime dream of beer making. After three years of planning, Schwartz and Spears opened Tennessee Brew Works in 2013 with a formidable 50,000-barrel system, state-of-the-art facility, and tap room opened Thursday through Saturday. Drinkers can also enjoys Tennessee Brew Works beers in restaurants across the city; Schwartz and Spears are self-distributing and have more than 30 accounts added so far. Their core beers have a classic backbone with distinct flavor additions: witte is laced with chamomile; saison is brewed with Thai basil; and the stout has a Southern dose of sweet potato.

    Recommended:
  • Southern Witte
  • Extra Easy

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    Velo Coffee Roasters

    509 East Main St
    Chattanooga, TN 37408
    (423) 718-8161
    www.velocoffee.com
    Hours: Thu-Sat 10am-3pm

    A love for all things coffee and bicycles inspired Roaster Andrew Gage to sell his car and move to Chattanooga, a place he fell in love with for its natural beauty and artisan culture. Now at Velo Coffee he gets to do the two things he loves best—roast coffee and collect bikes. Specializing in small-batch, specialty roasts, his focus is to sustainably produce and distribute coffee and to educate people about the hows and whys of it. Walk in for cupping and tasting sessions and stay to have a cupper at the coffee bar. Attention to detail is the name of the game here, and you’ll find everything you would ever need to step up your own coffee game chez vous—including some very thoughtful advice.

    Recommended:
  • Ethiopia Yirgacheffe, Dry Process
  • Sumatra, Harimau Tiger

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    STAY

    Chattanoogan Hotel

    1201 Broad Street
    Chattanooga, TN 37402
    (800) 619-0018
    www.chattanooganhotel.com

    Blocks away from Chattanooga’s vibrant hipster Main Street, the Chattanoogan Hotel is a warm and welcoming place from the moment you walk into its grand lobby, which is modern, elegant, and rustic all at once. Contemporary art hangs on the walls and sturdy rocking chairs line the sides of the room, while a fireplace, complete with couches to sink into, makes you feel comfortable right away. The hotel is conveniently located within walking distance of art galleries, vintage stores, the Chattanooga Choo-choo (of course!) and the new, emerging dining scene in the mountain city. With the Broad Street Grille offering its own enormous selection of farm–to-table cuisine, the hotel offers the quintessential Chattanoogan experience.


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    Crowne Plaza Knoxville

    401 West Summit Hill Drive
    Knoxville, TN 37902
    (865) 522-2600
    www.ihg.com/crowneplaza/hotels/us/en/reservation

    This conveniently located hotel offers you a window to the city’s buzz and urban sprawl—literally if you’re lucky enough to snag a room on one of the top floors. The recently renovated rooms are refreshingly modern and the hotel’s overall relaxed vibe is a nice juxtaposition to the hustle-bustle right outside. Behind the scenes, Chef Gerry Gardner is leading the revamping of Mahogany, moving past what’s expected from a hotel restaurant. He’s making all desserts in-house (to improve quality in small-batch production) and has big plans for the savory side. The hotel also offers meeting facilities, event spaces, a fitness center, and pool.


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    Gaylord Opryland Hotel

    2800 Opryland Drive
    Nashville, TN 37214
    (615) 889-1000
    www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/bnago-gaylord-opryland-resort-and-convention-center

    The Gaylord Opryland Hotel welcomes more guests than anyone in Nashville, serving country music lovers and convention goers in the thousands. Pastry Chef David Schwab makes sure the endings to those guests-meals are always fun with nostalgic takes on classic desserts—think doughnuts and coffee and tropical mango-coconut torte. Former Bostonian and StarChefs.com Rising Star Richard Garcia took on the executive chef role in the hotel’s Entertainment District this fall, meaning diners can expect the hotel’s casual fare to get an injection of cheffy precision and care.


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    Hermitage Hotel

    231 6th Avenue North
    Nashville, TN 37219
    (615) 244-3121
    www.thehermitagehotel.com

    A hundred-plus years do a lot in the way of charm at the Hermitage Hotel in Nashville. The lobby is exquisitely ornate with molding and pastel frescoes; you can just imagine the dances that have taken place in adjacent ballrooms. During our stay, Memphis’s Peabody Ducks had spent the night and warmed themselves next to a roaring fire. In-room Nespresso is just the start of small luxuries, including personalized stationary waiting on your desk, a deep soaking tub with an adjacent TV and phone (don’t you just hate it when you can’t order room serve, bathe, and watch “Downton Abbey” all at once), and a stack of magazines you actually want to read (Garden & Gun, Condé Nast Traveler, and American Songwriter). The furnishings are elegant and understated with sumptuous curtains framing the room. The Hermitage also is home to Capitol Grille, led by Chef Tyler Brown, one of the city’s best chefs, and Rising Star Pastry Chef Kayla Swartout.


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    Hotel Indigo

    301 Union Street
    Nashville, TN 37201
    (615) 891-6000
    www.ihg.com/hotelindigo/hotels/us/en/nashville/bnaus/hoteldetail

    When we walked into Nashville’s Hotel Indigo on a week night, there was a live music session going on. Welcome to town—and a lively lobby with a full crowd at District Bar & Kitchen (a bar that turns breakfast spot in the morning). Hotel Indigo knows how to do budget boutique better than anyone, and the design downstairs reflects the company’s careful, playful editing. A library-worthy bookcase is lined with books recovered in shades of orange and red, the ceilings are soaring, and intimate seating arrangements encourage lingering. The rooms are all clean lines with hardwood floors (goodbye cheesy hotel carpet), bright white walls, and generous chairs for lounging.


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    Hutton Hotel

    1808 West End Avenue
    Nashville, TN 37203
    (615) 340-9333
    www.huttonhotel.com

    Nashville’s Hutton Hotel is sultry. The boutique property looks trés corporate on the outside, but its lobby welcomes guests with fine art—sculpture, photography, and paintings—and modern furnishings. Soft linens in rooms inspire you to curl up after a long day of traveling (or shopping or eating or jamming—whatever your Music City preference), and red accents keep the aesthetic fresh and modern. Bathrooms are all honey-colored wood and glass with gorgeous stone showers made for a long steam. It’s luxury for the modern traveler who expects to lodge as beautifully as they live. And with Chef Charles Phillip at the helm of the property’s 1808 Grille and a bar well-stocked with bourbon, there’s more to enjoy than a plush interior.


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    Loews Vanderbilt Hotel

    2100 Westland End Avenue
    Nashville, TN 37203
    (615) 320-1700
    www.loewshotels.com/Vanderbilt-Hotel

    The Lowes Vanderbilt exudes luxury with high-end business travelers and ladies with their Louis Vuittons exiting the lobby to valeted cars. The lobby is flanked by a stone-encased gas fireplace and massive mosaic of a country music star, with sleek, blond seating arrangements scattered throughout. The rooms have a splash of Music City charm, soft sheets, and soothing blue, cream, and red tones—more warm and inviting than serene. It’s a room to get cozy in. The bathrooms are fitted with modern fixtures, and walls are covered in Lichtenstein-meets-Hatch-Show-Print paper. Downstairs at the Loews also hosts a bourbon country-worthy bar and Mason’s—the Southern-goes-modernist restaurant led by Chef Brandon Frohne.


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    Omni Nashville

    250 5th Avenue South
    Nashville, TN 37203
    (615) 782-5300
    www.omnihotels.com/FindAHotel/Nashville.aspx

    The Omni Nashville traded in its old digs for its current property and enormous sparkling lobby in fall 2013. Snuggled up to the Country Music Hall of Fame and adjacent to the city’s convention center, the Omni is at the center of life and entertainment in downtown Nashville. The folks at Omni corporate also decided to let their Nashville showcase have a heart and soul all its own. There is custom art in every room (complete with upgraded, modern furnishings) and music-themed photography lining the halls. The building is home to the iconic Hatch Show Print, the oldest letterpress factory in the country. And its signature restaurant, Kitchen Notes, does its city proud with a biscuit bar, banging fried chicken, and a stellar menu of Southern classics. There’s lots to explore within the walls of the Omni, your ticket to exploring country music in Nashville.


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    River Inn

    50 Harbor Town Square
    Memphis, TN 38103
    (901) 260-3333
    www.riverinnmemphis.com

    A stay at the River Inn is a sweet night spent near downtown Memphis—without the bright lights and crowds. There is wine waiting for you when you arrive in the evening, and coffee outside your room every morning—there’s even a free daily breakfast attentively served by a ready staff. And you’re almost guaranteed a view of the Mississippi, flowing lazily by from your window. Make sure to head over to Terrace to watch the sun set, as you enjoy happy hour. When you stay in any of the generous suites, named for riverboats that sailed down the river in years past, you’ll revel in true Southern hospitality, and might even end up with a case of true Memphis Blues when its time to leave.


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