From Dolly Parton to Kitty Wells, Nashville has always been the heart of country music, with a rich history of iconic artists, record labels, and music venues. But between the landmarks in Nashville, like the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Grand Ole Opry, you’ll find some really incredible eats! Nashville food is a bright spot in Southern cuisine, bringing together classic Southern flavors and dishes with a unique twist and local ingredients.
There is so much great food in Tennessee, we don’t want you to miss any of it! Here are some things that are special about all the food to try in Nashville!
What’s Special About Nashville Food?
Nashville food embraces the rich tradition of Southern comfort food, offering hearty and indulgent dishes, like Meat & Three, fried green tomatoes, and barbeque. The city also has a strong farm-to-table culture, which emphasizes the use of locally sourced, seasonal ingredients. Many restaurants in the city prioritize supporting local farmers and artisans, which means you’re getting the best foods available!
While Nashville cuisine leans heavily towards Southern flavor and dishes, the city has experienced a culinary renaissance with an increasing number of innovative and diverse dining options. If you’re looking for a different flavor, you can find a range of cuisines, from fusion to global flavors to fine dining experiences and food trucks. Nashville has a little bit of everything!
To find the hidden local gems, you can always hop on the many interesting foods tours in Nashville which are also great introduction to the city.
Most Famous Food In Nashville
If you ask anyone, “What food is Nashville known for?” the first answer will be Nashville hot chicken! This iconic delicacy has gained worldwide recognition for its mouthwatering combination of crispy texture, bold spices, and unforgettable heat, making it a must-try for spice enthusiasts and food lovers alike. Nashville hot chicken is famous for its unique “hotness” levels, ranging from mild to extra hot, with the exact spiciness varying by the establishment.
The dish consists of crispy fried chicken that is marinated in a spicy blend of seasonings, typically including cayenne pepper, paprika, and other spices. The chicken is traditionally served with pickles and white bread to balance out the heat and add a touch of tanginess. Each restaurant has its own twist on the classic dish, so you can tour the city and try all the different varieties of this famous Nashville food.
If you want to get a taste of this classic, and other famous foods in Nashville, you should consider taking the Downtown Nashville Walking Food Tour! This adventure will take you to the notable downtown landmarks while you try all the typical Nashville foods, such as hot chicken, barbeque, craft beer, and more! It’s a great way to start getting to know the local favorites!
Nashville Food: Meat & Fish Dishes
Meat & Three Meal
When you’re visiting any place in the Southern United States, you’ll see a variation of the “Meat & Three” meal on the menu. It is a quintessential Southern dining experience that combines hearty meats with a selection of three sides. You can pick your protein, typically a choice of fried chicken, country ham, or meatloaf, and three side dishes of your choice.
This is a great way to get a taste of a few famous Nashville foods. The side dishes can range from classic Southern staples like collard greens, fried okra, baked beans, and more! You’re guaranteed to see this option in bunches of restaurants, so there’s no excuse not to give it a try!
Among the things and food Nashville is known for, Nashville-style barbeque certainly makes the list! The barbeque style of this city is a unique variation of traditional Southern barbeque. It is characterized by its tangy and slightly sweet flavor profile.
Typically, Nashville-style barbeque features smoked meats, such as pulled pork, beef brisket, or ribs. The meat is slow-cooked to perfection and coated in a tangy, vinegar-based sauce with a touch of heat. If these meaty delights sound good to you, there are walking food tours that feature Nashville-style barbeque and insights into the local culinary scene.
Nashville-Style Hot Dogs
If you’re looking for a regional twist on an American favorite, be sure to pick up a Nashville-style hot dog. This simple yet iconic Nashville food is typically topped with a combination of traditional and unique ingredients that reflect Nashville’s favorite flavors. The toppings often include mustard, diced onions, chili, and coleslaw, offering a balance of tanginess, crunch, and spiciness.
The flavorful chili used on Nashville-style hotdogs can vary between meaty and hearty to thin and tangy. No matter which you encounter, the combination of tastes and textures is a delicious representation of the city’s culinary creativity!
Fried Catfish Sandwich
This is the most famous fish dish among food in Nashville without a doubt! You’ll find a crispy, fried catfish filet served on a soft bun. The catfish is breaded and fried until golden and crispy, giving a delicious crunchy outside and a flakey inside.
The sandwich normally comes with traditional Southern toppings like tartar sauce, lettuce, and tomato, which brings a bit of tangy flavor and freshness to the sandwich. The combination of the crispy catfish, creamy sauce, and fresh toppings makes for a flavorful sandwich that captures the region’s love for seafood and hearty flavors.
Nashville Food: Side Dishes
Fried Green Tomatoes
Fried green tomatoes are a Southern classic, made from unripe, firm green tomatoes. The tomatoes are sliced, coated in seasoned cornmeal or flour mixture, and then fried until crispy and golden brown. The result is an awesome combination of the tangy, tart tomato flavor with a crunchy exterior that always satisfies.
You can find this delicious dish served as an appetizer, side dish, or star ingredient in sandwiches or salads. Fried green tomatoes are definitely a famous Nashville food you should enjoy during your visit!
Southern Baked Beans
If you are having a barbeque or at a family gathering, you’re likely to see Southern baked beans among the sides. Baked beans are known for their rich and savory flavors, typically made with navy beans or other varieties of beans, slow-cooked with a combination of ingredients. The beans are simmered in a sauce that includes ingredients such as bacon, onions, brown sugar, molasses, mustard, and spices.
The long cooking process allows the flavors to meld together and helps the beans get tender. Southern baked beans often have a balance of sweetness, smokiness, and tanginess that is very unique. This is an amazing compliment to food in Nashville and something that should not be missed!
Calling all cheese lovers out there, this one’s for you! Pimento cheese is a classic Southern spread that is known for its tangy and creamy flavor. It is made by combining grated cheddar cheese with diced pimentos, mayonnaise, and various seasonings.
The sweet red peppers (pimentos) give a subtle heat and vibrant color to the spread. You can enjoy this delicious food in many different ways, such as a spread, sandwich filling, or vegetable dip. This is a versatile and delicious staple among food in Nashville, perfect for a snack or a whole meal.
Southern grits are a beloved Southern dish made from coarsely ground corn kernels. They have a creamy and slightly grainy texture with a subtle corn flavor, which makes them a classic alongside breakfast foods in Nashville.
Often, grits are seasoned with salt, butter, and cheese or bacon to give them a very rich flavor. Grits are excellent as a breakfast porridge or served alongside savory dishes like shrimp and grits. No matter how you enjoy them, make sure you get a taste of this classic Southern side dish.
While biscuits are not unique to Nashville cuisine, they are a beloved staple of Southern cuisine in general, known for their fluffy texture and buttery flavor. These delightful baked treats are made from a simple combination of flour, leavening agents (baking powder or soda), fat (butter or shortening), and liquid (buttermilk or milk). The simple ingredients contribute to that beautiful golden exterior and soft fluffy interior.
You’ll see these offered on their own, slathered with butter, jam, or honey. They can also be used as a base for dishes like biscuits and gravy or sausage biscuits. With its incredible versatility and texture, Southern biscuits are a quintessential comfort food you have to try!
Nashville Food: Desserts
There is probably no dessert more classic than banana pudding! This famous Nashville food consists of layers of vanilla custard, fresh bananas, and vanilla wafers. The custard is typically made with a combination of milk, eggs, sugar, and vanilla extract, resulting in a smooth and creamy texture.
The bananas add a natural sweetness and a delightful fruity element to the dessert. Finally, the vanilla wafers provide a delicious crunch and act as a sponge, absorbing the flavors of the custard and the bananas. Banana pudding is often chilled to allow the flavors to meld together, creating a mouthwatering dessert that you’ll find at picnics, family gatherings, and restaurants.
Chess pie is a notable Nashville food that stretches back generations. It is a sweet, rich pie with a simple yet indulgent flavor profile. The filling is made from a mixture of eggs, sugar, butter, and a touch of vinegar, resulting in a creamy and slightly tangy custard-like texture.
The pie is typically baked until the filling sets and develops a golden brown top. It is often served at room temperature or slightly warmed, allowing the flavors to meld together. Nashville Chess Pie is a comforting and timeless dessert that captures the essence of Southern baking traditions.
Goo Goo Cluster
If you’re looking for an authentic Nashville candy, look no further than Goo Goo Clusters. Originating all the way back in 1912, .this famous Nashville food consists of a combination of chocolate, peanuts, caramel, and marshmallow nougat. The clusters are carefully crafted with layers of these ingredients, creating a delightful mix of textures and flavors.
The chocolate coating adds a smooth and rich touch to the cluster’s sweet and salty combination. Goo Goo Clusters are undoubtedly a cherished part of Nashville’s culinary history, offering a nostalgic and delicious treat for candy lovers of all ages.
While Nashville is not specifically renowned for its donuts like some other US cities, it has its fair share of excellent donut shops that are popular around town. Donuts are a beloved treat in Nashville cuisine, and there are several places where you can find delicious, creative donut creations. Whether you’re looking for a traditional or artisanal donut, you can find it in Nashville!
For handcrafted, artisanal donuts, consider Status Dough in the heart of Nashville. For a more unique option, check out the 100-layer donuts at Five Daughters Bakery. If you simply can’t decide between all the amazing donuts, check out the Nashville Donut Tour, where you hunt down some of the best treats around town with fellow Donut lovers.
Nashville Food: Classic Drinks
If you’re looking for the perfect pairing for your food in Nashville, you’ve probably heard of Tennessee whiskey. Tennessee has a long-standing tradition of whiskey distilling that dates back to the late 18th century. Early settlers in the region, including Scottish and Irish immigrants, brought their distilling skills and knowledge, laying the foundation for the whiskey legacy Tennessee has now.
If you’re looking to try one of Tennessee’s most famous whiskey brands, hop on to the Jack Daniel’s Distillery & Whiskey Tastings Experience. This iconic, globally recognized whiskey brand has contributed immensely to Tennessee’s whiskey fame, so make sure you check it out!
This frozen cocktail is a popular choice among visitors and locals in the Nashville food and drink scene. The Bushwacker consists of rum, coffee liqueur, cream of coconut, and occasionally chocolate syrup, blended with ice and topped with whipped cream.
It can get pretty warm in Nashville, so this famous cocktail offers a tasty way to cool down! You can even grab one of these while chilling at the beautiful beaches of Tennessee.
If you’re interested in getting a taste of this Nashville classic, hop on the Taste of Nashville Food and Sightseeing Tour, which includes classics like hot chicken, barbecue, and Bushwacker! If you’d prefer a pick-your-own drink adventure with more nightlife, hang out with other travelers and night owls on a Nightlife Pub Crawl!
FAMOUS FOODS IN THE US
Sampling Famous Foods In Nashville
Nashville is one of the destinations Tennessee is known for, owing to its great history in country music and the famous Nashville food scene. It brings together the flavors of traditional Southern cuisine while giving it a unique twist and local ingredients. From hot chicken to pimento cheese, you don’t want to miss out on the food in Nashville!