A hybrid of every restaurant that industry veteran Randy Rayburn has ever worked in or run (and there have been plenty). A legendary taskmaster with eyes in the back of his head, Rayburn insists on a 150-percent effort from every member of his staff, and it shows. Like any successful restaurateur, he is always there, and nothing escapes his attention. Under Executive Chef Brian Uhl’s discerning eye, the California-influenced cuisine has remained contemporary and fresh, with periodic updates on the set fare and daily specials that lure diners off menu. For 15 consecutive years, Sunset Grill has received Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence, getting the nod for its 65 wines by the glass and 500 by the bottle. Wine classes are offered in a private room on Wednesday nights.
A casual, come-as-you-are kind of place, Jackson’s pulls a youngish crowd attracted to its comfortable outdoor seating corral, moderately priced food, small but well-selected wine list, boutique beers and fancy cocktails. The extensive menu offers something for everyone: salads, pastas, burgers, spinach wraps, paninis and bistro dinner plates such as chipotle pork chops and steak frites. Signature appetizers include superb fried green tomatoes, andouille pups and buffalo feathers (pulled white chicken meat flash-fried in hot sauce).
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
Randy Rayburn, veteran restaurateur and owner of Sunset Grill and Midtown Café, partners up with two longtime employees—Sunset GM Craig Clifft and executive chef Brian Uhl—to create Cabana, an ambitious project that will put the trio’s legendary talents to the test. Bar, restaurant, lounge and a 2,900-square-foot year-round outdoor patio is the multiple-personality concept envisioned by the team, offering something for everyone—the drinker, the diner and scene-makers looking for a late-night hang. Ten private cabanas—each outfitted with a flat-screen TV—offer the ultimate in private parties. Uhl envisions his menu as playful and spontaneous, with items like chicken-wing lollipops, mini lobster corn dogs, oyster shooters and Tennessee Sliders.
Once a trailblazer among local brewpubs, Boscos has aged into a sturdy anchor of the Vanderbilt dining corridor. The Hillsboro Village store brews beer on site, which it provides to the newer Cool Springs location. Both stores serve lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch, with a focus on brick-oven pizzas. On Sunday, Boscos jazz brunch shines with a roster of eggs Benedict that includes fried oysters, artichoke hearts, ribeye and crabmeat. — Carrington Fox
Rosepepper features fresh cooked and grilled entrées, as well as traditional Mexican dishes prepared with a light hand. Owner Ernest Chaires calls it Sonoran-style, which incorporates classic ingredients of old Mexico with more international influences that seeped into the northwestern region of the country. While the food lacks some of the heat typically associated with Mexican cuisine, it doesn’t skimp on flavor. Three types of homemade salsa, guacamole made daily, one of the best margaritas in town, 30-plus brands of tequila, moderate prices, an outdoor dining deck and a casual, fun room add up to a successful concept.
Jenny Piper, who worked in a Baskin-Robbins store in college, returned to her dippin’ days in a big way, attending Carpigiani Frozen Dessert University in Winston-Salem, N.C., for six days, where she honed her recipes for whimsical and punny flavors such as My Cherry Amor, Minty Python, Are You There God? It’s Me Margarita, and Oatmeal Raisin in the Sun, all of which she makes by hand in the back of this adorable and colorful cottage. In the front, Pied Piper offers a used book exchange where customers can trade two of their own books for one of the store’s. Piper even has a MySpace page for The Pied Piper, on which she recently promoted Trailer Trash Tuesday: anyone who referenced the blog got a regular-sized scoop of the candy-Oreo-fudge-vanilla blend for the price of a junior scoop. Check myspace.com/piedpipercreamery for more specials.
Take one step inside the gleaming burrito bar at Five Points and it's clear the owners have thought about the enterprise from a lot of angles. The signage is professional and polished and the combinations of flavors in the burritos and so-called "ques-ideas" are inventive--with fresh mash-ups such as the Heart of Dixie (sweet potatoes with caramelized Vidalia onion, coleslaw, sweet corn relish, black beans, Monterey Jack cheese and bacon) and the Plymouth (ground turkey, dried cranberries, black beans, spinach, brown rice, cheddar and a subtle sweet poppyseed dressing). With chic stained concrete floors, biocompostable flatware, sleek blond wood finishes and jewel-toned walls and seat coverings, Nuvo Burrito is a well-packaged, casual spot to fritter a way a lunch hour. Especially if you like burritos.
When it comes to destination dining, Margot is where you want to set your compass. As much as residents in the restaurant’s East Nashville neighborhood would like to keep this jewel to themselves, they would have to secure the perimeter of Five Points to stem the flow of devotees who stream over the river from points near and far to taste Provence and Tuscany in this charming, renovated brick building. From the open kitchen on the first level, intoxicating scents waft through the first-floor dining room, over to the half-moon bar, up to the mezzanine and out to the enclosed patio. Chef/co-owner Margot McCormack sets the bar high, changing her menu nightly based on what comes freshest to the kitchen door that morning. Business partner Jay Fein is in charge of the French/Italian/German wine list, and servers offer informed assistance. Margot’s Sunday brunch—to order, not a buffet—is all the reason many need to get out of bed early and beat the crowds.
Margot McCormack of Margot Café renown strikes another chord with Marché Artisan Foods, a gorgeous lunch-and-grocery spot that could have been plucked from the high-rent sidewalks of New York or London and set down in the alley behind Margot Café. Floor-to-ceiling windows douse the dining room with sun, which gently bounces from marble tabletops to potted palms, to glasses of Perrier, flutes of champagne and bottles of Orangina. In this light, a palette of edible colors—salmon pink, beet purple, arugula green—splashes across the canvases of oversized white plates. With regional products and French- and Italian-inspired flavors consistent with the big-sister restaurant next door, Marché offers a lighter opportunity to explore McCormack’s creative and vegetarian-friendly style—during the day. A simple breakfast roster includes breads, pastries, cheeses, cereals and French toast, while lunch revolves around soups, salads, omelets and sandwiches, with an occasional quiche or crêpe thrown in. Like at Margot, the menu changes with the chef’s whim and the availability of seasonal products.
Owners Rachel Fontenot and Neil Clark renovated the worn-and-torn Radio Café nightclub in 2007 to produce this eye-catching restaurant boasting a chic decor and a trendy drink list. While more watering hole than culinary landmark, Mad Donna's does offer several notable dishes-including butternut squash ravioli, Thai curry salmon, or roasted ricotta stuffed chicken-to devour before ordering a hot & dirty martini. Brunch is available on Sat. and Sun.
A gay-friendly club in East Nashville with weekly karaoke nights and the occasional live act.
Bartender/entertainment booker/musician Jamie Rubin owns this cozy East Nashville interpretation of a neighborhood pub. Hungry diners will want to try the hefty shepherds pie, available in a meat and a vegetarian version, or the roasted chicken with roasted garlic gravy and mashed potatoes. Live music is featured nightly.