The city of Nashville is growing all the time, and as it has continued to evolve some of its longstanding traditions have been left behind. Not so with the much-beloved Goo Goo Cluster; a giant chocolate confection that had been made in the Music City for over 100 years thanks to the Standard Candy Company. You can find them in most stories around town, or if you like, a single storefront in downtown near Honky Tonk Row where you can watch the candies be made. The shop gives a ton of insight into how this great Nashville tradition came to be.
Now with three locations around Nashville, Edley’s brings the classic barbecue counter a little bit of new dimension with a modern bar and a nice selection of drinks for evening groups. But the main reason people come to this place remains the same: the barbecue! This spot has that classic, sticky and smoky meats cooked top-notch. I like the spot for that nice, welcoming feeling and a very convenient system that prioritizes good food over everything.
As downtown Nashville has exploded and vibrancy has spread to nearby Midtown, many new restaurants and businesses have found their way into the city’s core. This has been bad for some venues as the competition has stepped up, and some have folded entirely. But it has also shown some of the bigger and better places which have survived, and continued to serve Music City. The Row, a music venue and barbecue joint, is hard to forget. Even for a city known for its smoked meats, this one rises far.
Set up as a taproom ever-so-close to the Vanderbilt University area near downtown Nashville, Belcourt Taps is kind of a dive bar with a heavy focus on providing local beers on tap. Set up as a sometimes-music venue, sometimes-sports bar and always an out-of-the-way place to get a good sandwich to eat, this place has a niche appeal—a hole in the wall, easy to pass up, with a glimpse into many of the things that make the Music City shine.
It’s a chain of enormous beer hall-style restaurants with a big play on providing the chance to try hundreds of craft beers, and each location of Flying Saucer, which is in many major cities around the country, is all about the beer. With each spot sporting 50 to 75 taps at once, this is a spot where you go to try local beer, and many varieties of it. But between the long tables, the many decorative plates, pool tables and dart boards, the spots to offer some bar cuisine to match. The place is an attraction to be sure, but the food isn’t going to bring you back.
Hendersonville has seen great change, as have many of the suburbs of Nashville, but the change here has been especially striking. The expanding city has brought in new chains and concepts focused on bringing the new and hip to the places where many new houses and developments are springing up. In that context, the tiny hole in the wall along main street known as La Loma has survived even as new competitors have arisen. The spot sticks to its guns with a local fan base that favors large groups, but the end result didn’t impress.
Barbecue: anywhere you go in Nashville, you’re almost certain to find some great options for smoked meats. Drifters BBQ, just east of the city, is a nightlife spot that offers live music, good craft beers, ample patios for games and a great menu of affordable barbecue dishes. I would primarily call the spot a good nightlife option and place for music near downtown, with the added plus of good food that is served late into the night.
The District in downtown Nashville; it’s got some of the best character in the city, and this historic nightlife spot features many music bars, dives and venues where some of the most legendary Music City expatriates got their starts. In this environment rests Wild Horse Saloon, a converted warehouse which opened in 1994 to capitalize on the craze of line dancing, then expanding into a music venue. This three-story attraction gets busy early in the night, but for all it has to offer, I might say you’ll want to avoid the dinner menu.
For over 25 years, Merchants Restaurant has served downtown Nashville, Tennessee. This beautiful bar and nightlife spot exudes class; the ample bar hosts space for mixed drinks and the interior alludes to the namesake of this restaurant, Merchant’s Hotel, which opened in 1892. The spot holds much of the historic marble and some of the decor that brought that hotel to life, with a much more modern American cuisine menu. The food to be tried here has a great allure to it as a lunch spot or cocktail shop.
A local Nashville chain with a pretty simple focus, Sicilian Pizza and Pasta is a neighborhood Italian food joint with a niche in the take-out pizza and sandwiches world. Keyed into the suburbs here with several locations and price points focused on convenience, Sicilian Pizza & Pasta serves up calzones, stromboli, sandwiches, and heaping tons of spaghetti, manicotti, ziti and more. But it’s the pizzas that will most likely bring people back to this spot.