re-posted from the Tennessean
Each year, Nashville Lifestyles gathers a team of food experts and sets out to compile a list of the city’s best restaurants. Here are the ones recommended for reservations tonight, compiled by Chris Chamberlain, Jennifer Justus, Kristin Luna, Erin Byers Murray, Jim Myers and Vivek Surti. The piece originally ran in Nashville Lifestyles’ : The Restaurants We Love Right Now.
The 404 Kitchen
404 12th Ave. S.
Within 24 hours of arriving in Nashville five years ago, chef Matt Bolus was showing off his considerable culinary skills as a competitor in the Iron Fork contest. Although he didn’t win, Nashville was put on notice that a young gun was ready to take over the town. Since then, his cuisine has matured, and his mastery in the kitchen is showcased nightly at The 404 Kitchen in The Gulch.
Known for his contemporary take on traditional European cuisine, Bolus emphasizes seasonal local ingredients along with seafood sourced from the Atlantic that plays to his strength as a former fish butcher at Mike Lata’s acclaimed FIG restaurant in Charleston, S.C.
No meal at The 404 is complete without an order of housemade burrata, a fresh cheese made from mozzarella and cream, or a beverage from either the inventive wine list or the cocktail menu, which features an eclectic selection of liquors. With only 56 seats and Bolus at the helm, The 404 is one of the city’s top dining destinations.
Arnold’s Country Kitchen
605 Eighth Ave. S.
When Kahlil Arnold took over the reins of Arnold’s Country Kitchen from his father, Jack, he moved slowly. It’s a venerable meat-and-three steam table, for crying out loud, and with customers who return every week for that one thing, you don’t mess with it.
The thing is, Kahlil does mess with it, but in a nuanced way that coaxes the food into the 21st century without leaving the past behind. From hot sauce in his catfish brine to his play on tomatoes and grits, he makes simple Sunday table food an exaltation of Southern art. And with the current expansion, we may finally see three things we all pine for: breakfast, dinner and hooch.
Biscuit Love Brunch
316 11th Ave. S.
They paid their dues serving biscuit sandwiches from a borrowed food truck. Then they renovated an Airstream to do the same. And now they have a bright, airy space with no wheels attached.
You can’t help but root for Karl and Sarah Worley of Biscuit Love Brunch for their hard work and creative interpretations of our regional fare — from mod bonuts (yes, biscuit doughnuts) to the all-but-forgotten beaten biscuit offered as homage to beloved writer John Egerton through the restaurant’s “John’s Ham Bar.”
The line can wind out the door on weekends, so it’s best to visit weekday mornings. The early bird gets the biscuit, after all.
The Catbird Seat
1711 Division St.
When it opened in 2011, The Catbird Seat was a game changer. Suddenly, Nashville had a national spotlight, and from there, the floodgates opened.
Founding chefs Josh Habiger and Erik Anderson impressed diners with their carefully constructed, multi-course feasts, all whipped up within a tiny kitchen surrounded by bar seats. And then, in 2014, the restaurant rewrote its own rules. Habiger and Anderson moved on, opening the door to chef Trevor Moran.
Almost immediately, Moran’s Ireland-by-way-of-Denmark cuisine had the food elite buzzing. Here he was, putting out dishes that incorporated Southern ingredients, recalled his Irish heritage and looked like Noma masterpieces — all to harmonious effect: Think potato-broth tea infused with herbs; beef tartare served with hibiscus leaves, snail eggs — and no utensils (it works, we swear); and poached oysters with buckwheat hollandaise foam. Get yourself a seat — reservations still fill up fast, but if you’re flexible and check back often, cancellations can quickly work in your favor.
1222 Fourth Ave. S.
Among the new restaurants and “It” city-ness in Nashville, this place feels like a warm quilt we can count on. It’s still a great space for getting dressed up and celebrating over family-style bowls of cornbread gnocchi and sopping up egg with slices of wood-fired pies. And it offers a bevy of clever surprises at Sunday Supper, such as pork snacks, wings and lamb chops under Sunday gravy. But it’s also a safe spot to grab a seat at the bar for some of the best cocktails in town.
Do dessert first with pastry chef Rebekah Turshen’s modern takes on classic cakes or cookie plates, or split a simple off-menu kitchen pizza pie (just tomato sauce, garlic, oregano, grana padano and chili oil used to test the heat of the oven).
With chef Tandy Wilson melding his travels, Southern studies and Nashville roots, it’s far more real than any newfangled showplace, but you still can’t spell “It city” without it.
2902 12th Ave. S.
Maher Fawaz’s Lebanese bistro is still a hidden gem in Nashville’s restaurant scene. Fawaz, who also owns the popular fast-casual joint Kalamata’s, named his more upscale endeavor after the French word for spice.
On the menu? A journey of exotic Mediterranean flavors. Start with the makdous (pickled eggplant with walnuts and olive oil) and work your way through the kabobs (especially samak, the spiced fish) before ordering the fassoulya (lamb shank with white beans). Finish off with a glass of hot tea — then sit back and savor one of the city’s coolest dining rooms.
303 Demonbreun St.
There’s no stopping Deb Paquette. The chef-owner of Etch continues to rack up accolades, including Etch being named top restaurant in Nashville last year by Zagat. And with an inventive roster of dishes such as a cornmeal-fried catfish dressed up with walnut, red bell pepper and pomegranate sauce, fiery plum preserve, lime crema, pickled onion, pumpkin seeds and greens, it’s easy to see why.
Desserts are truly the icing on the cake and weekday happy hour (from 4 to 6:30 p.m.) is the perfect time to drop in for discounted drinks and small bites.
4111 Charlotte Ave.
In a town that seems to be rapidly filling up with gourmet hamburger emporiums, chef Richard Blais would appear to be very brave, or perhaps foolhardy, to open the fifth location of his Flip Burger chain of restaurants here in Music City. But Blais isn’t scared. He calls it a “restaurant that happens to serve burgers,” with chefs who “treat a $6 burger like a $65 steak.”
Indeed, those burgers are upscale, like the Oaxaca, made with Angus beef, avocado and cilantro-lime aioli; there’s also the raw tuna tartare sandwich with Asian pear, pine nuts and wasabi mayo. Then there’s his version of Nashville’s iconic hot chicken: the Hot Rabbit appetizer. Served with the traditional white bread plus bread and butter pickles, that bunny packs a punch.
In addition to a full bar with wine, beer and cocktails, Flip offers up a selection of decadent milkshakes that show off the former “Top Chef Masters” winner’s skill for molecular gastronomy — they use frozen nitrogen to freeze the alcohol without diluting the drink. Add-ins like Krispy Kreme doughnuts, Cap’n Crunch and even foie gras ensure that you’ll be back for more.
2316 12th Ave. S.
Here’s what we know: Andrew Little is a really talented chef who is not afraid to inject into Nashville the robust Teutonic-laden flavors of his Pennsylvania upbringing. But it’s really not that weird to link the rural traditions from there to here.
What’s more, we think that chef Little is building a good team around him that just plain gets it and can move his vision forward. Nowhere is that more evident than in his large-format menu for groups of six, with platters of tongue and marrow to curry emotional outbursts of joy.
1103 McGavock St.
You can thank the team behind M Street Nashville for kick-starting The Gulch’s culinary revolution. Restaurateur Chris Hyndman was considered a groundbreaker when he opened Whiskey Kitchen in 2009. As his empire’s grown, changed shape and improved, Kayne Prime has consistently offered some of the city’s best steaks — from American filet to Australian wagyu.
And the sides can make a meal all on their own: Creamed spinach gets a fried egg and bits of truffle, while risotto tater tots are crusted in brown butter bread crumbs.
1520 Woodland St.
Some restaurants feel instantly comfortable and lived in from the moment they open their doors. Lockeland Table, which served its first wood-fired pizzas and chicken liver pâté in 2012, is such a place due partly to the good bones of a historic building and partly to the good stock running the place, with chef Hal Holden-Bache in the kitchen and Cara Graham welcoming regulars up front.
And a comfortable spot means comfortable food. Holden-Bache was making a version of chimichurri long before Lockeland opened, yet with its bright bits of green set alongside a juicy strip steak, it’s a taste that always feels fresh.
33 Peabody St.
It’s hard to deny Pinewood Social’s star power. Open for three meals a day — and all the hours in between — seven days a week, it’s a much-needed constant in the ever-changing downtown landscape, particularly for the remote worker who can take full advantage of Pinewood’s living room, outfitted with comfy couches and workstations and conveniently located next to the Crema coffee counter.
The outdoor lounge and adjoining pool area — complete with a tiki-style Airstream trailer bar boasting its own drinks menu — gives us even more excuses to hole up at Pinewood.
Rolf and Daughters
700 Taylor St.
Chef Philip Krajeck has made very few changes to his Germantown restaurant since it opened in 2012. And those he has made seem to have been carefully plotted and quietly installed. There was the addition of a chef de cuisine from New York, Owen Clark, in 2014. Then, the menu shifted gears ever so slightly, with dishes being listed from small to hardy and pastas standing out on their own (well warranted, considering those pastas are typically the stars of a meal there).
Guest chef dinners featuring some of the country’s top culinary talent — like Jonathan Benno (Lincoln) and Ari Taymor (Alma) — continue to sell out with little more than a casual email invite sent by manager Mollie Ward. All this is to say that Krajeck has his head on straight when it comes to both his business and his food — meaning you can expect a consistent and exceptional experience with every visit. Just don’t forget to order the pasta.
Two Ten Jack
1900 Eastland Ave., Suite 105
No matter when you find yourself at Two Ten Jack, it always feels like you’ve arrived at the party precisely on time.
Aside from the addition of a few more vegetable-focused options, the menu hasn’t changed much since the spot opened in 2014 — we, however, have learned how to better navigate the offerings by, say, making a meal of the hot starters, specialty rolls and yakitori on some nights or pulling up a stool at the bar and slurping down a bowl of rich, heady broth nestled with noodles.
When picking a dinner destination, you can count on two hands the number of places in Nashville that know how to cook a great steak. Add in the requirement that they also serve excellent seafood, and you’re down to five. Combine that with a refined ambiance, and it’s Union Common.
From a sophisticated bar menu to perfectly cooked steaks to decadent desserts, Union Common provides just the right elements for a contemporary steakhouse experience.