On a recent vacation down to Nashville with Hailey I had the chance to check out some great restaurants. Below are some of my favorite picks.

Restaurant: The Pancake Pantry – 1796 21st Avenue South, Nashville, Tennessee

This mom and pop restaurant has withstood the test of time, since 1961, and rightfully so. The Pancake Pantry has a laid back and relaxed atmosphere with lots of seats and a quick diner turnover. However, this popular pancake destination still has lines out the door – with waits in excess of an hour on weekends. On a Thursday around 10:30 we only had to wait for about 10-15 minutes.

Santa Fe Cornmeal Pancakes
Santa Fe Cornmeal Pancakes

The pancakes at The Pancake Pantry were delicious. We ordered:

  • Santa Fe Cornmeal Pancakes: This recipe comes from the Village Smithy restaurant in Carbondale, Colorado. Three stone-ground cornmeal pancakes with chunks of bacon, cheddar cheese, and roasted green chiles cooked inside.
  • Sweet Potato Pancakes: Real sweet potatoes in a fluffy batter make this our most unique pancake. Sprinkled with powdered sugar and cinnamon.
  • Hash Browns

Yes, that’s a lot of food. The Santa Fe pancakes were unlike anything I’d ever had before. The cornmeal was unusual in pancake form but I liked the different and unique texture. The bacon, cheddar cheese and green chiles were plentiful and cooked directly into the middle of the pancake – not just on one side as chocolate chips sometimes are. The hash browns were equally as good and were more like home fries with a crunchy crust on the outside.

Restaurant: Hattie B’s Hot Chicken – 112 19th Avenue South, Nashville, Tennessee

Hattie B’s is almost like a road-side drive in. It has a small interior area with a counter to order, along with a few tables, and an outside covered area with some white picnic tables providing additional seating. This outside area is covered in tin – from a tin roof to tin lining the sides. it almost feels like you’re in a shed (in the good way sitting in a shed in Nashville eating hot chicken should feel).

Hattie B's Hot Chicken
Hattie B’s Hot Chicken

We of course had some hot chicken. Unfortunately, they were out of chicken breasts and wings so I opted for tenders instead. You have the option of a number of different heat levels – southern to damn hot – and I went for regular hot. The chicken tenders were enormous and placed on top of a slice of white bread. They were extremely juicy and had a lot of great flavor with a very crispy fried exterior. The chicken wasn’t overly spicy, but it did have slow burn and hot flavor to it that wasn’t immediate but built up as I continued eating. We also got some crinkle cut fries which were very crispy. They were sprinkled with some sort of seasoning (I think it was Old Bay) and also had a slight spice to them which was a result of being right next to the hot chicken.

Restaurant: Hog Heaven – 115 27th Avenue North, Nashville, Tennessee

Pulled Pork
Pulled Pork

Hog Heaven is literally a shack enclosed with chicken wire, almost like a chicken coop, with a window where you place your order and a few picnic tables for seating. I ordered a pulled pork sandwich which came out on a regular hamburger bun. There were large chunks of pulled pork in this sandwich which were awesome. The barbecue was dry, so you had to add sauce yourself. Hog Heaven has a white barbecue sauce which was creamy and somewhat tangy. It gave the pulled pork a great flavor that was slightly different from what you’d get at someplace like Hill Country Barbecue here in New York City.

Restaurant: Cafe Monell’s – 2826 Bransford Avenue, Nashville, Tennessee

Monell’s is a Tennessee establishment. We checked out Cafe Monell’s meat and three (1 meat + 3 vegetables) since we didn’t have time to go to the family style one closer to downtown Nashville. Cafe Monell’s seems like it is a house that was converted into a restaurant. It felt like I was eating in a family’s sunroom. The food is served cafeteria style, where you walk up to a counter and give your order to a woman in front of heating trays filled with food. The woman behind the counter was very straightforward and fit the cafeteria lady “no funny business” stereotype perfectly.

Cafe Monell's
Meat and Three

I went all out and ordered skillet fried chicken (meat), cornbread, mac and cheese (vegetable 1), corn pudding (vegetable 2), and mashed potatoes (vegetable 3). (Interesting how mac and cheese and mashed potatoes are considered vegetables.) For the fried chicken, I got two huge pieces (a chicken breast and wing). The chicken had a semi-crunchy coating to it. i would have preferred something a little crunchier for fried chicken. The mac and cheese reminded me of Kraft mac and cheese and was extremely cheesy. The mashed potatoes were very light, fluffy, buttery and had hints of chive. The corn bread didn’t have a huge corn flavor but it was very thick and dense.

The Verdict

I think Nashville is like New Orleans with country music. Live music peppers the downtown area and every bar showcases different artists throughout the day/night. All the food I had down in Nashville was delicious. While it didn’t necessarily blow my mind, some of the dishes were very unique (hot chicken, cornmeal pancakes, white barbecue sauce). If you’ve never been before, go check out Nashville and hit up some of these local restaurants.