In recent years Nashville restaurants have climbed the ranks of culinary destinations as Music City’s signature hot chicken topped trend lists and Southern cooking continued its reign as comfort-food king.
Plenty of guidebooks happily send visitors on suburban sojourns for the best biscuits and consider a car a necessity for getting to the best spicy birds. But if you’re short on time and looking for a delicious way to spend a day, this tour will give you a taste of Nashville’s most famous foods — with just enough walking in between that you won’t need to be rolled home the next day.
Expect a bit of a wait here, as the line for the giant, fluffy, namesake biscuits can stretch out the door and around the corner. But it moves quickly, and the rewards once you get a table are ample.
Dig into golden, pillowy biscuits so light that if you didn’t weigh them down with plenty of butter, jam, gravy — or perhaps even a slab of fried chicken — it seems possible that they just might float away.
Order the off-menu special, the Nasty Princess, which combines the biscuit with Nashville’s famous hot chicken, tempered by aged cheddar and smothered in rich sausage gravy.
An almost mile-long stroll along Music Row from Biscuit Love brings you to Hattie B’s Hot Chicken. While Prince’s is the originator of Nashville Hot Chicken, Hattie B’s takes it to the next level with efficient service, high-quality chicken and a spice scale that is near-inedible at its peak — called “Shut the Cluck Up.”
A thick, shatteringly crisp crust of fire-alarm inducing coating surrounds the tender chicken meat in this Southern-fried specialty. Grab a plate, which comes with two sides (the Southern greens and pimento mac and cheese are highly recommended) and white bread to ease the searing pain of the spice. Remember: If you’re not crying or sweating, you didn’t order it spicy enough.
If you walk directly to Arnold’s from Hattie’s, take your time and burn a few extra calories — and gain some stomach space. Once at this meat-and-three cafeteria, you’ll be armed with a tray and will face down a long counter stuffed with Southern classics and daily specials.
Options range from sliced-to-order roast beef to battered grouper, plus sides like stewed okra, turnip greens and creamed corn. And hard as it is, you’ll want to save room for the parade of pies and puddings offered for dessert because this is Southern comfort at its finest.
Timing Note: Arnold’s opens only weekdays from 10:30 a.m. to 2:45 p.m., so plan your excursion around making it there.
If you’ve got time to spare, take a detour and settle your stomach at City Winery or Tennessee Brew Works before making the (just over half a mile) trek to Martin’s. This Downtown outlet of a country classic brings the traditional art of slow roasting whole hogs to a lively atmospheric barn — and pairs it with a bar full of local beers.
Get your whole hog on a sandwich or as part of a tray, but don’t be distracted by the other meats: The whole hog is the one true barbecue and rarely found outside the rural south.