City Guides

23 Iconic Nashville Foods & Where to Find Them in 2024

Published on Mar 28th 2024
Nashville food

This country music mecca is known for a whole lot more than live music and singin’ the blues, there is a bustling culinary scene of Nashville food that’s worth discovering.

In a city bursting with creative spirits, there are bound to be some pretty top-notch restaurants to dine at.  From the classic hot chicken or meat-and-three diners to fluffy buttermilk biscuits, there are some truly unique places to eat in Nashville no matter what type of cuisine you’re craving.

So, what food is Nashville known for? Hot chicken might be the first thing that comes to mind, but there’s an emerging farm-to-table scene that is sweeping the city, plus you’re in the South so you’re bound to stumble upon some incredible BBQ. 

Whatever brings you to Music City, don’t leave without checking out a few of these iconic Nashville foods. 

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23 Iconic Nashville Foods & Where to Find Them 

1. Cook With Nashville Chefs

If you not only love to eat good food but make it too, then cooking classes in Nashville should be high on your list. Talented local chefs will teach you how to make your favorite dishes like a pro.

No need to worry about getting a reservation at the best restaurant in town when you’re equipped with the skills to make it yourself at home.

Choose from local culinary favorites like homemade frid chicken or fluffy biscuits to spicy Thai street food or handmade noodles. The class itself makes for an enjoyable date idea in Nashville, too.  

cooking classes in Nashville
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2. Hot Chicken

What is Nashville’s signature dish? Hot chicken is always going to be near the top of the list. When it comes to the best place to get this Nashville food favorite, there are a few contenders.

Hattie B’s is a staple, with locations sprinkled across the city and offering five different spice levels.

Slow Burn also offers a nice selection from mild to fiery inferno and some delicious milkshakes to help dull the heat.

Finally, Prince’s Hot Chicken counts as one of those famous places to eat in Nashville. Plus, they claim to be the original hot chicken spot. 

3. Biscuits

Few things are better than traditional Southern biscuits, whether you like ‘em smothered in gravy or with a smearing of homemade jam.

To some, biscuits are just a side dish, but this Nashville food has main character energy at a few hot spots around town, like Biscuit Love or Big Al’s Deli where you can choose from a variety of fillings for your biscuit and opt for smothered or plain.

The Nashville Biscuit House is another go-to spot for buttery, melt-in-your-mouth bites, and it’s a charming, family-run spot.  

4. Meat and Three

If you’re not from the South, you might be wondering what the heck a meat-and-three is? Simply put, it’s your meat of choice plus three sides, typically from a BBQ joint.

There are tons of Nashville restaurants and diners offering up a million varieties of meat-and-three for you to choose from. Check out Shotgun Willie’s BBQ for brisket and banana pudding, or head over to Puckett’s for their famous skillet mac ‘n’ cheese, the perfect pairing for smoked meat.

This type of dining really defines comfort foods in Tennessee so it shouldn’t be too hard to find some amazing Nashville food at whichever BBQ shack you choose. 

5. Goo Goo Clusters

If you’ve never heard of a Goo Goo cluster, chances are good you’ve still enjoyed most if not all of the delicious ingredients that make it so special. Marshmallows, nougat, caramel, peanuts and a thick layer of milk chocolate sounds sort of like heaven.

This iconic Nashville food originated in 1912 and made waves as it was the beginning of a new shape and style of candy. Today, you can visit the original Goo Goo Chocolate Co. or your favorite local candy store to search for these tasty medallions. 

goo goo clusters Nashville food
via Goo Goo Clusters

6. Tennessee Whiskey

There’s a reason this Nashville food (or drink) has thousands of songs about it. Tennessee whiskey undergoes a unique charcoal filtration process that leaves it with a sweeter and smoother taste.

Make the most of your Nashville bachelorette party or turn team building activities in Nashville into a party with a distillery tour. Check out George Dickel or Belle Meade Bourbon for local distilleries doing it right, or hop over to Husk, a whiskey bar, for the best selection in town. 

7. Fruit Tea

You’re probably familiar with classic Southern sweet tea, but this Nashville food gets a little extra flavor with the addition of fruit juice. Yes, you can easily make your own, but there are a few great spots around town to quench your thirst on a hot summer day.

Bread & Company or Calypso Café offers a great selection of fresh-squeezed fruit juice for their fruit teas. From simple orange juice to tropical pineapple and everything in between, this one really hits the spot.  

8. Bushwackers

While this Nashville food technically originated elsewhere, it’s become so popular it’s now a staple in town. Essentially a boozy milkshake, Bushwackers are typically served with a base of rum but the Nashville spin involves a heavy pour of whiskey instead.

Head to ReBar, Two Bits or Broadway Brewhouse for your first Bushwacker. 

9. Catfish

Fried catfish is a Southern staple, and there are tons of great Nashville food spots serving it up in an impressive way. Catfish is abundant in the fresh waters throughout Tennessee, and a quick dredge in flour and breadcrumbs leaves you with a mild yet flavorful and wonderfully crunchy bite.

Top it with lemon juice and dip it in tartar sauce or aioli and you’re in for a treat. Monell’s or Papa Turney’s BBQ should be top of your list for fried catfish fingers. 

fried catfish with toast
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10. Donuts

What food should you not miss in Nashville? It’s tough to choose just one, but considering some of the truly delectable donut offerings, it’s safe to say these should be on your Nashville food list.

Start with McGaugh’s Donuts for yeast or cake donuts that will delight your tastebuds. They open at 4 AM daily, which should tell you something about their popularity!

Or head over to Donut Distillery for a more modern, artsy take on dessert for breakfast and some out-of-the-box donuts to boot. 

11. Farm-to-Table Fare

Knowing where your food came from is the hot new thing, and there are plenty of Nashville food purveyors hopping on the trend. Farm-to-table means you’re getting the best, freshest food available and often it’s coming from your neighbors.

Local meat, produce and dairy can be turned into anything you like, so if you’re looking for the best places to eat in Nashville downtown, you first need to decide what type of cuisine sounds good.

Adele’s offers classic American cuisine while Yolan has some of the best Italian food you can find outside of Italy. 

12. Burgers

If you’re wondering what dish is Nashville particularly known for, burgers might not be the answer you’d expect to get. It’s true, hot chicken is probably a more accurate answer, but there are a ton of incredible burgers in this town that deserve a place on the best Nashville foods list.

You’ve got to start with GrillShack which is quite literally a shack serving up some of the juiciest burgers in town. Redheaded Stranger also deserves a mention, serving up a green chili cheeseburger that is the perfect combination of Southern influence and classic American cooking. 

13. Southern Barbecue

It really doesn’t matter where you are South of the Mason-Dixon line, you have to try some classic Southern Barbecue. From smoked wings to tender, melt-in-your-mouth brisket or pork ribs, there’s something comforting about slow-cooked meat and savory sides.

Swett’s has a heartwarming story and a long history right here in Nashville. Edley’s BBQ is another favorite amongst the locals and is also family-owned and operated. 

Southern BBQ sandwich Nashville food
via Canva

14. Fried Pickles

While fried pickles might seem like just an appetizer, if you’ve had really good fried pickles you know they can be the main event.

Crunchy, crispy and fried to golden perfection, you’ve got to head over to BB King’s Blues Club or Wildhorse Saloon for an authentic, knock-your-socks-off taste of these golden delights. 

15. Artisanal Pizza

No, it’s not a New York slice, but there is a thriving artisan pizza culture shaking up the Nashville food scene. Za over in Hillsboro Village offers communal seating for their wood-fired pizzas and gourmet toppings while Folk offers pizza among a few other Italian favorites for you to choose from.  

16. Mac and Cheese

A popular side at BBQ joints or a meal all on its own, mac and cheese deserves a spot on the list of best Nashville foods.

The Mac Shack is serving up loaded mac and cheese bowls while Tailgate Brewery offers loaded mac and cheese fries. If you’re a purist, the 12 South Taproom has delicious gouda mac and cheese. 

17. Banana Pudding

This iconic Southern dessert deserves a place on the best  Nashville foods list for years and years of hitting the spot. Best served up from a barbecue joint as a sweet treat, Edley’s BBQ or the Southern Steak and Oyster has a recipe your grandma would beg for. 

mini trifle of banana pudding
via Canva

18. Brunch

Technically a meal, not a single food, but there is a thriving brunch scene full of some of the most incredible Nashville foods you need to try.

Lou doesn’t skimp on flavor with options like chili-fried eggs and salmon rillette while Audrey is not only visually stunning but the food matches. You’ve got to try the crab and grits with a cured egg yolk. 

19. Chicken and Waffles

If you don’t love to feel the burn from a spicy chicken sandwich, maybe chicken and waffles will suit you better. Typically a milder dry rub, served atop a fluffy waffle and covered in maple syrup, chicken and waffles are what Nashville food is all about.

Perfect for brunch, lunch or dinner, check out 417 Union or Milk & Honey Gulch for your first time. 

20. Fried Bologna Sandwich

For some, bologna is reminiscent of soggy lunchtime sandwiches, but this Nashville food gets a Southern makeover with a little pan-frying and some tasty toppings like pimento cheese or honey butter.

Roberts Western World serves up an authentic fried bologna sandwich, and the Elliston Place Soda Shop offers a version that’s geared toward breakfast. 

21. Moonpies

Originating in Nashville in 1917 as a snack for coal miners, this chocolate-dipped and stuffed graham cracker treat is famous around the country now.

Skip the mass-produced grocery store version and head to the Moon Pie General Store, Five Daughters Bakery or Fox’s Donut Den for a gourmet moon pie.

While the original was plain marshmallow filling, now you can find interesting flavors like mint or pumpkin spice. 

moonpie Nashvlile food
via Canva

22. Kurdish Food

You might be surprised to know that Nashville has the largest population of Kurdish people in the United States, and they are adding their mark to the Nashville food scene.

With marinated meats, flavorful sides of rice and grilled vegetables and plenty of delicious dipping sauces, you’ve got to check out House of Kabob, around since 1997, or Edessa Restaurant for the best, authentic Kurdish cuisine in the states. 

23. Stack Cake

This old-school Appalachian dessert is traditionally made with layers of skillet--cooked cake made with molasses and a sweet apple filling. The dish has been around for hundreds of years and is considered a staple in Appalachian cooking.

Magpies Bakery is about as authentic as it gets, and their apple stack cake is to die for. Five Daughters Bakery also serves up their version of this iconic cake, among other goodies. 

As you can see, there’s more than one reason to check out the booming Nashville food scene. From dishes that have been around for hundreds of years, cooked over an open campfire to trendy new bites, it’s an exciting city to live (and eat) in.

You’re sure to find plenty of super-casual spots serving up the best bites you’ve had in your life, and right alongside them are high-end local tasting menus.

This unique melting pot means there’s always something delicious waiting for you. Take it upon yourself to find the best hot chicken or the best fried bologna sandwich by trying all the spots around town. Classic recipes always have a secret ingredient or two!

For even more fun things to do in Nashville, check out other experiences happening on Classpop!