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My essential Nashville.

With a quick Google search, you can find tons of lists of top Nashville coffee shops, hot chicken restaurants, tacos, burgers…anything goes. Nashville gets specific enough to have a top 10 list of burgers, y’all. And I am grateful for it.

It’s not surprising that we could have a top 10 list of coffee shops for each neighborhood. The people here are well-caffeinated. Again, I am thankful for it.

But here’s my list. These are the places I’ve loved over the years and make Nashville mine. These places are where I’d take you, readers, if you visited. We would be eating well–but it’s hard not to in Nashville. Here goes!

  1. Portland BrewI’ve talked about it before, but PB has the three best things I could ask for in a Nashville coffee shop: good and cheap coffee, reliable WiFi, and a parking lot. Enough said. It just works. It’s the highlight of 12th Ave South (and probably Nashville) for me. So much of my writing and editing (and manuscript reworking) happened (and will happen) at those tables.
  2. Burger Up. Any burger on their menu is delicious. It’s one of the few places I’d willingly order a turkey burger or quinoa/black bean burger instead of a regular one. Plus, the fries and aioli to dip them in…sheesh. Don’t even get me started on their fried pickles. (It’s also a good first date location, according to Ben and me.)
  3. Jack’s Barbecue. Best barbecue in Nashville, in my opinion. Pile pickles and red onions high on your plate of pulled pork…mmm. They have several different sauces you can try and tons of delicious sides. There are a few locations, but it’s most fun to go to the one downtown when the line is snaking out the door (so you can simultaneous enjoy and be confused by the madness that is downtown Nashville). I’ve been there with friends, but it’s the place my parents love most.
  4. Hattie B’s. Best hot chicken in Nashville. Tons of spice but never so much that the flavor is lost. Even Alton Brown agrees! And listen, y’all. The chicken at Hattie B’s (and other Nashville faves like Prince’s) is Nashville hot chicken. That’s the real deal.
  5. Gina’s. Okay, this is technically a Franklin restaurant, but it’s not to be missed. Gina’s is family-owned and serves the best garlic knots I’ve ever eaten. They’re truly covered in minced garlic, y’all. And their simple grilled chicken sandwich with lemon and balsamic is to die for. Really, anything on the menu is delicious. The pizza, wings–it’s all good. This is the place where I really got to know Ben’s family, so it’ll always mean a lot.
  6. Taqueria del Sol. Another 12 South wonder. Their tacos are delicious–my favorite, besides the carnitas taco, is the veggie. Refried beans with cheese and this delicious salsa…mm. Their salsas are all fresh and spicy and best when paired with some guacamole. Dienesa and I once embarrassed ourselves here by asking for multiple baskets of chips and trying to pretend we didn’t want to keep eating. Our waiter knew otherwise.
  7. Fido. A grad school favorite. Not the best place to work, since they tend to turn off the WiFi during busy hours, but great in the morning for breakfast (the cheese & herb eggs were my go-to) or late at night for reading/snacking. It’s best during the summer when it’s not crawling with Vandy students all the time–and the Grey Skies latte is on the menu–but maybe even better as a first meeting location (pumpkin spice lattes for Ben and me, please!).
  8. Oscar’s. More tacos and more Franklin spots! Oscar’s serves tacos sort of open-faced with all the toppings piled on and everything cut into tiny pieces. Their small order of chips is huge and will feed the whole table. The salsa is spicy and packed with cilantro and onion and I could basically drink it, guys.
  9. The Grilled Cheeserie. I’ve only had it once but oh my word. Custom grilled cheese with tots and pickles. It’s just good. And they’re opening a brick-and-mortar soon, so I won’t have to chase the truck around the city!
  10. Coco’s Italian Market. Homemade pasta. The best Italian food in Nashville (Gina’s takes the Franklin title). They have a little market at the front with tons of Italian ingredients, a spot to buy their gelato, and bocce ball courts outside. Everything I’ve had there is good–pasta, pizza, salads. Delicious.

One of the best things about Nashville, too, is that I haven’t discovered it all. I’m writing this today from the Red Bicycle in Germantown–never been here before!–and it’s just the cutest little place. And there are so many more little spots to find.

In some ways, this is my favorite part of living in a place, getting settled in–finding those tables to pull your chair up to no matter where you go.

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