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15 classics that survived the NEW Nashville

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.

Classic restaurants Nashville

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

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 RIP 2018

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.

Las Paletas

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.

Las Paletas Nashville classic

Las Palmas

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.

Loveless Cafe

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!

Pancake Pantry

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…

Pancake Pantry Nashville Classic Restaurant


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!

Which of these classic Nashville restaurants is your favorite? What else would you add to this list? Share your story in the comments!

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15 classic Nashville restaurants that survived NEW Nashville


Wednesday 22nd of February 2017

What no Baja Burrito on your list! They are a cult classic right up there with Donut Den. People still line up 30 minutes before Baja opens! Mafiaoza’s is a miss on this list... in my opinion. Just because they give the pizza and beer away doesn't make it great. Use to go there after the Sounds game, but just got to be too expensive if you didn't go on the "special nights".


Wednesday 22nd of February 2017

30 minutes before!? This sounds like the Pancake Pantry of burritos! I've been once or twice, but I'll have to go again and check it out next time I'm in Nashville.


Tuesday 21st of February 2017

I would add the Elliston Place Soda Shop, Swett's, and Rotier's, to the list, as well! They've all been around since the 50's and 60's. My parents used to frequent those places back in the 70's, and now they take me and my daughter every now and then. Good list, and glad to still be able to grab a bite from these places!


Wednesday 1st of March 2017

And Hermitage Cafe!!! It was better before the facelift, but still one of the best breakfast joints in this city.


Tuesday 21st of February 2017

Sounds like you've got some great memories in Nashville! How have I missed those places? Thanks for adding to my list!


Tuesday 21st of February 2017

You left out Cafe Margot at Five Points in East Nashville.


Tuesday 21st of February 2017

Sadly, I didn't spend much time in East Nashville while I was at Belmont. I love the area now, though, and need to visit Cafe Margot next time!

Melissa Hall

Tuesday 21st of February 2017


You left out Noshville Delicatessen, it has been a Nashville staple for over 20 years!


Tuesday 21st of February 2017

How could I?! It was the first restaurant I visited when I was in Nashville for Belmont's orientation!


Tuesday 21st of February 2017

I was there around the same time, sure I saw you at Jackson's (my meals were the buffalo feathers a chicken wrap).I do miss the back bar at Sunset for late night eats; Fido was my favorite place. Other survivors- Arnold's Country Kitchen (since 1982) on 8th, meat and 3 place- ; Hog Heaven BBQ in a shack by Centennial; Cafe Coco-; and Prince's Hot Chicken.


Tuesday 21st of February 2017

Ok, Mark. You are making my mouth water. What I wouldn't give for some Prince's Hot Chicken right this second. And I'd occasionally branch out at Jacksons and try the buffalo feathers. Pretty amazing. Sidenote: did you know that most Australians have NO IDEA what buffalo sauce is? Tragedy!