Now, I’m as big a fan of new restaurants and innovative food as the next girl. My Instagram (and belly) are full of all the latest food fads, but sometimes it’s nice to reminisce with comfort food and old favorites.
I went to university at Belmont in Nashville, TN and have some great memories of this big city with a little town feel. Since 2008, Nashville has said goodbye to some of the greats. We’ll never again meet up for a drink at Sam’s in Hillsboro Village. And if you’re in the mood for midnight nachos at Sunset Grill, you’re out of luck. Feel like visiting the sketchy drive through that dispenses cigarettes (and once gave me a free lighter in case I ever decided to take up smoking)? You’re gonna be disappointed… It’s a Smoothie King now. Ok… so maybe some of the goodbyes aren’t so sad.
Thankfully, so many of Nashville’s classics are still going strong! Check out the list (and some major moments of nostalgia), and support an old favorite for dinner tonight.
Bobbie’s Dairy Dip
Bobbie’s Dairy Dip has been providing ice cream-induced smiles since 1951. Grab a chocolate malt or a specialty shake like the James Brown, Chubby Checker or Barney Rubble. Sit outside while you eat and feel yourself be transported to the era of sock hops and drive-ins.
Bongo Java became world famous when the NunBun was discovered in 1996. You don’t remember that? It was a cinnamon bun that bore an uncanny resemblance to Mother Teresa. This coffee shop stuck around through the years, though, because it’s awesome. The food, coffee and intimate theater and music venue upstairs has called to university students, artists, musicians and locals. P.S. There’s still a $5,000 no questions asked reward for the safe return of the stolen NunBun.
Cabana was my go-to spot for a fancy and fun dinner, so I’ve celebrated many occasions here. I love their private cabana seating and how the garage doors can be opened on warm nights. The menu seems a little more “down home” than I recall… but I love the sound of the Lobster Brie “mac and cheese” martini!
Bongo Java’s sister cafe has won “best coffee in Nashville” awards for several years running… and rightfully so. Their delicious food made with locally-sourced ingredients, inventive drinks and an atmosphere buzzing with so much more than caffeine makes it a perfect place for meetings, brunch with friends or a first date.
Fox’s Donut Den
It may have received a little facelift and a menu update, but Fox’s Donut Den is the best good old fashioned donut place in Nashville. Made fresh every day, these donuts are delicious morning, noon or night. (They’re open until 10pm… because donuts aren’t just for breakfast.) My best friend and I once shocked the staff when we ordered a Texas-sized donut (usually reserved for parties) and sat down in the shop to eat it. I don’t think we finished it, but we gave it our best shot!
Jackson’s was my JAM in 2004. Their chicken salad torrado was my lunch (and dinner) of choice more times than I can count. I blame this meal, accompanied by a cookie dough egg roll or gooey butter cake for dessert for my Freshman 15.
I remember when Las Paletas was a signless, cash-only, secret spot. The line was always out the door, though, so Nashvillians are clearly not so great at keeping secrets. The hot chocolate with chili is a spicy, sweet combination that will rock your world. And the watermelon inexplicably tastes more like a watermelon than the actual fruit.
One of the things I missed most about Texas when I went off to college in Tennessee was the Tex Mex. Would you believe that one of the things I missed the most when I left Nashville was Las Palmas? Their white queso, chimichangas, and margaritas were a staple of my college years. Thankfully they’re still there for the times when my friends get together to reminisce about the good old days.
If you haven’t had a biscuit at the Loveless Cafe, you haven’t actually been to Nashville. A bit harsh, but I stand by my statement. The Loveless family began serving fried chicken and biscuits from their home in 1951, providing a bit of hospitality to folks on the road, and the Loveless Cafe still personifies a little bit of home on the road.
Some things never change… and that’s a good thing. Some of my very first friends at Belmont told me about this great local pizza joint that offers 2 for 1 slices on Tuesday. Post-21, they also have a 2 for 1 beer special that night. It’s nice to know that some traditions never die.
McDougal’s Chicken Fingers & Wings
I am indecisive. I’ve gotten a little better, but I’ve got this whole paralysis of too many choices thing going on. (Please don’t ask me what I’m doing with my life in 2 months.) Thankfully, McDougal’s has you covered. With choices like chicken tenders or chicken wings and with fries or without, it’s a low stress decision because everything’s good. I especially like that I can get a 3 finger basket, 2 grilled and 1 fried with honeybee sauce. And save room for some free ice cream!
Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these breakfast-goers from waiting in line for delicious pancakes. There is most certainly always a line at Pancake Pantry, so I took to getting my fix at 6am or 2pm in the middle of the week. My recommendation? Two sugar and spice pancakes, one sweet potato pancake, sausage (patty, not link) and an over medium egg. Incidentally, that’s also my order if you’d like to bring me some breakfast…
PM has been around since 2003, which may not seem old enough to qualify for this list, but stick with me. This restaurant was started by Arnold Myint to pay homage to his mom, Patti, a Thai immigrant who started the International Market and Restaurant in 1975. They’re kind of a big deal on Belmont Boulevard. It’s the first place I tried sushi, and the place where (after a few attempts), I grew to love it.
San Antonio Taco Company
SATCO, as it’s affectionately called, is the place to be if you want good, cheap eats and plentiful deck seating. With tacos and enchiladas available for less than $2, it will be providing full bellies to college kids and frugal foodies for years to come!
The Villager Tavern
I have not actually ever cashed in on the ‘free dog bowl of beer’ on my birthday… but this dive bar is still kicking, so maybe I will someday!