Owner Terry Carr-Hall is obsessed with the art of bread-making, and even spent six weeks in France at bread school before opening his bakery. In the process, he has given Nashvillians an education as well; Provence offers more than 20 types of bread each day, as well as classic French pastries. Bread needs cheese, and Provence’s selection is unrivaled. Well before noon, customers patiently queue up for the heavenly daily soups, salads and sandwiches.
A coffee shop for all ages, Fido blends gritty atmosphereexposed brick walls, local art, study hall tableswith sneakily refined dining. Along with a menu of bagels, organic muffins and breakfast dishes, a rotating roster of local and seasonally influenced entrées elevates the cozy coffee shop to an unexpectedly food-focused restaurant. Caffeinated college kids can cram next to families enjoying seared shrimp with white bean cake and mâche, fennel-orange and avocado salad, and peanut butter and jelly. A Hillsboro Village landmark, this former pet shop is a diners best friend any time of day. — Carrington Fox
Little has changed at the Elliston Place Soda Shop—Nashville’s oldest continuously operating restaurant in the same location—since it was opened by Lynn Chandler in 1939. (He has since sold it.) The fountain and grill serve up a typical pharmacy/soda shop menu of breakfast, burgers and fries, sundaes, shakes and banana splits; the kitchen serves up a daily changing repast of meat-and-three. No smoking.
One of the oldest meat-and-threes in the area, this also remains one of the most popular. No one minds the worn floors, dusty windowsills or creaky booths once one of the veteran waitresses puts down a plate of fried chicken, country-fried steak, turnip greens, mashed potatoes or stewed tomatoes. Leave room for Sylvan Park’s true calling card: pie. The chocolate meringue is worthy of reverence, but you can’t go wrong with the sweet potato or buttermilk. A larger outpost recently opened in a former diner in the Melrose area, which is on the brink of a surge of redevelopment.
Meat-and-three restaurants have long provided common ground for Nashville’s blue- and white-collar populations, but Swett’s is distinguished by having the most racially mixed dining room as well. The family still uses the recipes handed down from family matriarch Susie, who opened the restaurant in 1954 with husband Walter, and everything is made fresh daily. Pig’s feet, when available, always sell out; the smothered beef tips, fried chicken and collard greens are other specialties.
Cozy bakery serving fresh bagels, deli-style sandwiches and coffee.
Offering an inclusive mix of bar fare, a dozen different entrée-sized salads, and faves like patty melts, barbecue on cornbread and baked spaghetti. Sportsman’s is particularly known for its spicy Cajun cornbread, moist fried catfish, fresh-cut fries, chicken tortilla soup and double-fudge brownie with homemade hot fudge sauce. The 21st Avenue location is more fern-bar-ish than the 5405 Harding Road place; the huge Sportsman’s Lodge will transport you from Brentwood (1640 Westgate Circle) to a first-class hunting lodge in the Montana mountains.
For a long time the neighborhood alternative to Belle Meade Country Club, Sperry’s was once considered to be just as exclusionary. But when second-generation owner Al Thomas bought the institution from his father and uncle, he added some spark to a menu that had remained virtually unchanged for years. In addition, he has woken up the wine list, made the restaurant appealing to a more youthful demographic and positioned it as a destination dining choice while maintaining its steadfastly loyal local clientele. In July 2006, Thomas—with partner Sam Sanchez—cloned the original Sperry’s and opened a second location in Cool Springs, where it will bring the sprawling suburban compound of chain restaurants much-needed devotion to personal service and non-corporate dining. Not only is the interior an exact replica of the Belle Meade store, so—thankfully—is the menu, which preserves time-tested classics like escargot, French onion soup, bleu cheese-stuffed filet, broiled lobster tails, 20-item salad bar (with Green Goddess dressing!) and Bananas Foster prepared tableside in a flaming grand finale. Reservations recommended.
Professional sports fans enjoy climate-controlled viewing for the price of a beer or two at Sam’s. Owners Al Thomas and Sam Sanchez boast big-league credentials in the restaurant industry, and their menu is a notch above most game-day fare. The onion rings are excellent, and the burgers are big and juicy. Gourmet pizzas with a crispy-chewy crust are the house specialty, delivered steaming-hot on big aluminum platters.
Four generations of Nashvillians have settled into the cozy booths of this family-owned, diner-style restaurant opened in 1945 by John and Evelyn Rotier. Not many places offer American cheese and crackers as an appetizer anymore, but Rotier’s does. Meat-and-three “Night Plates,” short orders from the fryer, and head lettuce salads are staples, but the most popular item remains the patty melt: a cheeseburger served either grilled or on French bread. Special mention goes to the best milkshake in Nashville. It’s the real deal, delivered icy-cold in the classic aluminum milkshake cup.