1. Alpine Bagel Co.
2. Star Bagel Cafe & Deli
3. Bruegger’s Bagel Bakery
1. Sunset Grill
2. The Melting Pot
3. Provence Breads & Cafe
Best Sub Sandwich
1. Jersey Mike’s Subs and Salads
3. Sub Stop
Best Place to Buy Bread
1. Provence Breads & Cafe
2. Bread & Company
3. Great Harvest Bread Co.
1. Elliston Place Soda Shop
3. Steak ’N Shake
Best Sunday Brunch
1. Opryland Hotel
2. Mere Bulles
3. tie: O’Charley’s and Tin Angel
Best Happy Hour
1. Chili’s Grill and Bar
2. The Flying Saucer Draught
3. Broadway Brewhouse
2. Fat Mo’s Burgers
3. Brown’s Diner
Best Meatless Burger
1. Cheeseburger Charley’s
3. Ruby Tuesday
Best Pizza (Chain)
1. Papa John’s
2. Pizza Hut
Best Pizza (Non-Chain)
1. Pizza Perfect
2. Da Vinci’s Gourmet Pizza
3. Obie’s Pizza
1. Whitt’s Barbecue
2. Corky’s BBQ
3. Hog Heaven
1. Uncle Bud’s Catfish
2. Sportsman’s Grille
3. Cock of the Walk
Best Seafood (Not Fried)
1. Red Lobster
3. The Crab House
1. Ruth’s Chris Steak House
2. Outback Steakhouse
3. Logan’s Roadhouse
Best Asian Restaurant
1. Orchid Thai Cuisine
2. P. F. Chang’s China Bistro
3. Siam Cafe
Best Sushi Bar
Best Indian Restaurant
Best Italian Restaurant
2. Caesar’s Ristorante Italiano
3. Sole Mio
Best Mexican Restaurant
1. Las Palmas
2. La Hacienda Taqueria
3. La Paz
Best Greek/Middle Eastern Restaurant
1. Mediterranean Cuisine
2. Tabouli’s Restaurant
3. House of Kabob
Best Meat and Three
1. Sylvan Park Restaurant
2. Arnold’s Country Kitchen
3. Swett’s Restaurant
Best Hometown Brew
1. Market Street Brewery
2. Blackstone Restaurant & Brewery
3. Boscos Nashville Brewing Co.
Best Brew Pub
1. Blackstone Restaurant & Brewery
2. Boscos Nashville Brewing Co.
3. Market Street Brewery
Best Dive Bar
2. Slow Bar
3. The Gold Rush
Best Sports Bar
1. Sportsman’s Grille
2. The Box Seat
3. 2nd and Goal Sports Cafe
2. Bongo Java
1. Noshville Delicatessen
2. Goldie’s Deli & Restaurant
3. Schlotzsky’s Deli
Best Place for a Romantic Dinner
1. The Melting Pot
2. F. Scott’s Restaurant & Jazz Bar
3. Sole Mio
Best Place to Eat Healthy
1. Wild Oats Market
2. Calypso Cafe
Best Health Food Store
1. Wild Oats Market/Sunshine Grocery
3. The Produce Place
1. Becker’s Bakery
2. Provence Breads & Cafe
3. Bread and Co.
2. Corky’s BBQ
3. Tony Roma’s
1. Calypso Cafe
2. The Corner Market
3. Steak Out
1. The Clean Plate Club
2. Charlie Cates
3. The Mad Platter
Best Outdoor Seating at a Restaurant
1. Rio Bravo Cantina
2. Blue Moon Waterfront Cafe
3. San Antonio Taco Company
1. Krispy Kreme
2. Donut Den
1. Christie Cookie Co.
2. Becker’s Bakery
3. Provence Breads & Cafe
Best Produce Store
1. The Produce Place
2. Farmers Market
3. Wild Oats Market
Best Specialty/Gourmet Food Store
1. The Corner Market
2. Wild Oats Market/Sunshine Grocery
3. Harris Teeter
1. Pancake Pantry
3. Cracker Barrel Old Country Store
Best Liquor/Wine Store
1. Frugal MacDoogal’s
2. Bud’s Discount Wine and Liquors
3. Nashville Wine and Spirits
Best Restaurant With a View
1. Sole Mio
2. Blue Moon Waterfront Cafe
Best Selection of Beers on Tap
1. The Flying Saucer Draught Emporium
2. The Beer Sellar
3. Broadway Brewhouse
Best (Most Original) Menu
1. Bound’ry Restaurant
Best New Restaurant
1. tie: P. F. Chang’s China Bistro and Mirror
3. The Palm
Best Restaurant in Brentwood
1. Quail’s Restaurant
2. Wild Iris
3. Royal Thai
Best Restaurant in Franklin
1. Magnolias Restaurant
2. Antonio’s Ristorante Italiano
3. 4th & Main
Best Restaurant in Murfreesboro
1. Demos’ Steak and Spaghetti House
2. Don Pablos
Best Restaurant in Nashville
1. Sunset Grill
3. The Mad Platter
Best Restaurant in Hendersonville
1. Chef’s Market Cafe and Take Away
2. Copeland’s of New Orleans
3. Mason Jar Restaurant
Best East Village Transposition: Mirror
Entering the Mirror for the first time, I found myself miraculously transported from the familiar 12 South environs to a hip East Village eatery. Sky-blue walls, a striking broken-mirror mosaic, sheer white floor-to-ceiling curtainsthe restaurant has a funky, inviting feel unlike any other in Nashville. And the food doesn’t disappoint. Colleen and Michael DeGregory’s menu boasts a flavorfully eclectic array of choices, ranging from Spanish tapas to a rotating regional selection (March’s Russian offerings were especially strong) to more traditional fare such as bacon-wrapped crabcakes and seared tuna. I was admittedly skeptical when the DeGregorys retooled their original concept, but the execution remains strong, and the decision itself reflects the couple’s commitment to nurturing a creative, responsive neighborhood institutionan independent establishment that grows and evolves with its community.
Best Restaurant About to Open in East Nashville: Cafe Margot
Five years ago, Margot McCormack came to F. Scott’s, then a somewhat stuffy restaurant popular among a conservative, older Green Hills crowd, just before it was purchased by young bucks Ben Robichaux and Allen Fuziat. They set out to reposition and reintroduce F. Scott’s to a younger, warmer, and hipper demographic. One of the first things they did was promote McCormack from sous chef to executive chef and charge her with adding some much-needed excitement in the kitchen. She did the trick, turning out fresh, simple, beautiful food with clean yet lively flavors. It was only a matter of time before she spread her wings to fly, and she has now landed at Five Points in East Nashville, joining a hub of recent activity that includes Slow Bar, Bongo Java Roasting Company, and an impending health-food grocery. Cafe Margot, a small room with exposed brick walls and a birch-floored mezzanine, will focus on country French and Italian food and wines from the Provence and Tuscany regions. Look for a mid- to late-April opening.
Best New Restaurant, West Nashville: Park Café
When local chefs refer to Willie, everyone knows they are talking about Willie Thomas, who made an immediate impact on the culinary front here when he opened Capitol Grille five years ago in the Hermitage Hotel. When the hotel was sold to a national hotel chain a couple years later, Willie left, unwilling to compromise his standards to comply with a corporate-kitchen budget. He went to Bound’ry, where he supervised the eclectic “upscale global” food that has made that restaurant a favorite among frequent diners. But his legion of fans urged him to find a place of his own. This March, with the opening of his own Park Café in Sylvan Park, Willie is free to do food his way, and that is good news for Nashville epicureans.
Best New Restaurant, Green Hills: Le Cou Rouge
As the name implies, Le Cou Rougewhich translates from the French to “The Red Neck”has a sly sense of humor. The restaurant’s simple marketing campaign also provokes chuckles, posing questions like “Cassoulet or Casserole? Baguette or Biscuit? Pommes Frites or Potato Skins?” The answer lies in the menu, which adapts classic French cooking techniques to regional, Southern products and influences. While chef/partners Richard Graham and Kevin Alexandroni may have tongues planted firmly in cheeks when it comes to their name, their taste is impeccable. The interior of this Green Hills restaurant is elegant country French, the service professional and solicitous, and the food is out of this world. What to eat? Roasted escolar served over balsamic braised red cabbage and caramelized with apple-brand sauce, or Creole honey-glazed rack of lamb on braised kale and a sweet-potato mash? Seared foie gras served over hash browns with caramelized apples and a brandy caramel sauce, or fried oysters and sautéed mushroom ravioli served with chili-buerre noisette? Sure, it’s hard to choose, but it’s impossible to make a bad choice.
Best New Restaurant in Printers Alley: Sam’s Sushi
Printer’s Alley has been home to country, blues, jazz, piano, Latin, and strip clubs through the years. Still, the late David “Skull” Shulman, owner of the infamous Skull’s Rainbow Room and unofficial mayor of Printers Alley, might have raised an eyebrow at the newest tenant in the historic entertainment enclave. A few months ago, Sam Kapakura, a familiar face to maki and nigiri fans around Nashville, opened Sam’s Sushi at the corner of Church Street and Printers Alley. The teeny, 16-seat room is in direct contrast to the huge portions of soups and salads Sam prepares, which may leave you with no wiggle room for spider rolls or eel. It’s not the best or the most exotic sushi in town, but it’s good, and the pricesjust $2.50 for crunchy shrimp, California, and New York rollsare apparently a relief to stock-market-slammed biz-folks downtown.
Best Meat and Three: Arnold’s Country Kitchen
Nearly 20 years ago, Jack Arnold, a Vanderbilt fine-arts alum, started Arnold’s Country Kitchen with his wife, Rose. Ever since then, they’ve been offering some of the finest meat-and-three plates to be found in Nashville. From the garlic-impregnated roast beef to the peerless banana pudding and chess pie, Arnold’s selections are uniformly tasty. Large gallery-quality photographs taken by Jack of their children hang humbly alongside the signed promo pix that typically adorn local diners, creating an idiosyncratic and friendly vibe that is always pleasant, whether or not there’s a crowd.
Best Fish Monger: Josh Weakley, Atlantis
Revered the world over, Le Bernardin is New York’s only four-star seafood restaurant. When it opened in 1986, it revolutionized the way fish was prepared, with an approach that stressed total freshness and simple preparation. Josh Weakley, a Florida native and graduate of Culinary Institute of America, was fortunate enough to obtain a position in the kitchen at Le Bernardin, where he spent three years learning the late Chef Gilbert de Coze’s much-acclaimed techniques. In turn, Nashville was lucky enough to snag Weakley when he came to Nashville to cook for F. Scott’s, then Loews Vanderbilt Plaza. In early 2000, he came on board at Atlantis as new owner Susan Cone’s partner and chef. The two committed themselves to providing landlocked Nashvillians with the best and freshest seafood that money can buy. That means the menu changes daily, according to what Weakley finds on the Internet, what the FedEx truck brings, and what passes inspection from Nashville’s most scrupulous fish eye.
Best Restaurant Service: The Palm
The Palm restaurant, opened in NYC in 1926, is one of the nation’s best-known dining institutions and has spawned 20 more locations around the country. The 21st opened in Nashville this December. While distinguished from other national steak restaurants by its celebrated caricatures of local luminaries painted on its walls, The Palm still needed to make its mark on carnivores in Music City, who could already make their cattle call on brand-names like Morton’s, Ruth’s Chris, and Fleming’s. The restaurant did it by adopting a proven formula for success: It’s the people, stupid. At the front door of The Palm’s Fifth Avenue South location, they installed vivacious Charlene Walker, a native Nashvillian familiar to power diners, thanks to her lengthy tenure as GM of Morton’s. In the dining room, they put a crew of servers who introduced Nashvillians to a most unusual concept: servers who actually enjoy serving! Palm waiters are not doing the diner a favor by waiting on them between songwriting appointments, but instead seem honoredwithout being fawning or obsequiousto have you at their table. MVP is the ultra-smooth Gene Zane, a Brooklyn native who conducts every dining experience with the skill and confidence of a maestro.
Best Desserts: Sylvia Harrelson at Cibo
Similar to the spell Juliette Binoche weaves on a small village with her sweet concoctions in the movie Chocolat, chef Sylvia Harrelson has seduced downtown workers with the delectable and apparently irresistible desserts she makes daily for Cibo, the Church Street cafe she owns with partner Greg Fox. Most popular is the amaretto carrot cake, which induces some customers to indulge their cravings twice a day, every day, with a slice for breakfast and another for lunch. It’s usually gone by noon, but the beautiful Sylvia has plenty more sweet somethings in store: the comfy bread pudding, a sparklingly tangy Key lime pie, a voluptuous tiramisu, an intoxicating French chocolate cake, or the complex and elegant caramelized sugar cake. When it comes to Sylvia’s goodies, too much is never enough.
Best Healthyand HappyMeal: Baja Burrito
Troy Smith knows fast, fresh, healthy, fun food; he and his wife, Jeanie, were franchise holders of the 100 Oaks Calypso Cafe for five years. After their contract was up, they said ciao to the Caribbean and chowed down on the idea of San Francisco Mission-style burritos popular in Texas and coastal California. Mission burritos, at least as interpreted by the Smiths, are huge-two fisted affairs, stuffed with chicken or beef, beans, brown rice, and all sorts of extras. The tiny self-service restaurant is sunny and bright with vivid colors and prints, alive with friendly faces and chatter, and bouncing to a happy beat.
Best Chefs in Search of a Restaurant: Anita Hartell and Corey Griffith
Sasso survived both the 1998 tornado and the perception that its East Nashville location was geographically undesirable to establish a reputation as one of Nashville’s most creative new restaurants. That was in large part due to co-chefs Anita Hartell and Corey Griffith, who partnered with businesswoman Nina Neal to open in late 1998 the neighborhood restaurant that brought plenty of folks across the river for the very first time. Unfortunately, Sasso could not survive internal management conflicts, and early this year, Anita and Corey took their toques and knives and departed. Currently, they are cooking around town and actively looking for a new restaurant where they’ll once again be able to duet together.
Best Makeover: Krispy Kreme
Faith Hill is a strong contender for this award, given her remarkable transformation from little Mississippi country girl to the Robo Glamour Diva she is these days, but the nod instead goes to the Thompson Lane Krispy Kreme doughnut store. A Nashville fixture for 33 years, the store’s original, beloved, but rather shabby location was showing signs of wear and tear. Many tears were shed when it was torn down last year, but just before Christmas 2000, a magnificent, brand-spanking, sparkling-new Krispy Kreme arose in its place. During the weeklong opening celebration, Vince Gill was the first in line and took home a dozen to his then-pregnant bride. A posse of Titans players formed a hulking huddle around the counter. But the coup de glaze? Santa Claus, of course, who apparently brakes his sleigh for the famous Hot Doughnuts Now sign.
Best Restaurant to Be Featured in a Bad Sitcom: Sam’s Place
I like Sam’s Place all right, and it’s certainly a massive improvement over its predecessor, Jonathan’s, where you were lucky to be greeted by a server within 90 minutes of your arrival. Truth is, Sam’s Place offers good bar food and impressive service. It has lots of TVs to catch the big games, and unlike Jonathan’s, the servers know how to change the channels if a college basketball game gives way to Touched by an Angel. But what a dull name for a bareven one as formulaic as this. Maybe they’re hoping Ted Danson will eye their joint as the setting for a new Cheers spinoff.
Best Catfish: Ashland City
Nothing prompts a road trip like the call of the cat, and Brantley’s in Ashland City serves up the Mid-South’s tastiest bottom-feeder in style, with perfectly crisp cornmeal breading and without a puddle of grease. Just make sure not to fill up on the hush puppies and the friesand don’t even think about running the lemonade scam. (If they catch you squeezing your lemon wedges into your water glass and adding sugarand they will [trust us] charge you for it.) And if Brantley’s isn’t open, you can’t go wrong with the nearby Bill’s, which has been dishing out the whiskery fish since 1971. Why does Ashland City have two of the most beloved catfish restaurants in the state? Must be something in the water.
Best Reason to Drive to Murfreesboro: The Slick Pig
In its earlier incarnation as the East Main Market, the specialty of the houseapart from gallon jugs of beerwas the barbecue burger, a gale-force gutbomb featuring a hubcap-sized hamburger patty under a pile of pork barbecue. That boom you just heard was the jaw of every cardiologist in Middle Tennessee hitting the floor. Now the main attraction is smoked chicken wingsexcuse me, the smokiest, tenderest, most meat-falling-off-the-boningest “wangs” ever to honor a chicken’s demise. And as long as you’re in the ’Boro, would you mind picking up an order of noodles from the Far East Market, a hamburger from Buster’s, some corn cakes from the Kleer-Vu, and a dozen cake donuts from Donut Country U.S.A.? Elizabeth, I’m comin’ to join ya!
Best Meatless Burger: Parco Cafe
Vegetarians are still treated as the freaks of the food world, and nothing makes this more painfully obvious than the veggie burger. All they want is the taste and texture of demon hamburger without the killing and gristle, and what do they get? A frozen patty of indeterminate composition, toothsome as a beer coaster. That makes the meatless burger at this Farmers Market jewel all the more satisfying. The Parco version, hand-patted and prepared from co-owner Chun Fu’s own recipe, is as juicy and loosely textured as a sloppy Joe, with spicy, tantalizing bits of tofu and chopped vegetables. Sure, it falls apart and leaves you scooping up the filling with the remnants of your bread. But it has...what? Personality? Care? A respect for the veggie diner’s tastes and life choices? All of the above.
Best Place for Ice Cream: Maggie Moo’s
Whether it’s a sweltering summer afternoon or a cool Friday night, for the best ice cream in Nashville, look no farther than Maggie Moo’s. Located in the Green Hills Mall shopping area, this new ice cream spot has joined the ranks and reputation of its neighbors, Alpine Bagel and Smooth Moves, as one of the best and most colorful snack joints in town. With its bright decor, Maggie Moo’s captures the fun in feasting on buttery-rich ice cream while engaging customers with its unique, interactive way of preparing these treats: Choose your flavor of ice cream or yogurt and a “mix-in” such as cookie dough, chocolate chips, or sprinkles. Then Maggie Moo’s ice-cream specialist combines the ice cream with the mix-ins on a frozen granite table. After this, the “folded” treat is served to the customer in a cup, waffle cone (plain or chocolate-covered), or sundae. If you’ve been to Steve’s Ice Cream in Boston, you know Maggie Moo’s isn’t the first place to do thisbut they’re first in Nashville, and in this case that makes them the best.
Best Fish Sandwich: Crow’s Barbecue
For 10 years, Catherine Wilson and son Howard have served the barbecue needs of their peaceful East Nashville community from a neat, gray cinderblock storefront with red awnings near the corner of Cleveland and McFerrin avenues. Although it’s hard to not order porkit’s staggering in both value and flavorour recommendation is the fish sandwich. At Crow’s you get a carefully prepared meal between two pieces of white bread that can barely contain three or four pieces of flaky whiting fish, lettuce, tomato, onion, yellow mustard, pickles, and hot sauce. Anticipating a dining mishap, Mr. Crow packs an extra piece of white bread to catch the crumbles.
Best Steamed Dumpling: Siam Cuisine
This much we know: Nothing can be tastier than a steamed dumpling done right, and nothing can be more disgusting than a steamed dumpling done wrong. The tricky part is the pulverized mixture of chicken, shrimp, and vegetables that fills the plump bundles of soft dough. On the one hand, filling that’s the texture of instant mashed potatoes is a bad sign; on the other, nobody wants to bite into an oversized lump of some unrecognizable something. White Bridge Road’s Siam Cuisine, one of the best Thai restaurants in town, aces the assignment. Topped with crunchy bits of roasted garlic, their dumplings are firm to the bite, yet soft, flavorful, and finely prepared. After a helping of these, you’ll have a hard time going back to deep-fried spring rolls.
Best Meal in a Bowl: Bibimpap at Koreana Restaurant
This delightful restaurant in Madison (considered by some to be one of the best in Nashville) offers many fine Korean and Japanese specialties, but if you’re hankering for a heaping mess o’ grub all mashed up in a bowl, try the Bibimpap. This Korean dish is served in a big bowl and includes white rice, spinach and other vegetables, beef, a fried egg, and a few other ingredients I wouldn’t know how to pronounce. It’s served with a semi-sweet, semi-hot sauce on the side, and you just stir it up and dig in. For a little bit extra, you can get the Dol Sot Bibimpap, which comes in a special heated clay pot that actually crisps up the rice as you’re eating it.
Best Dessert Deal: Belle Meade Cafeteria’s Chocolate Cheesecake
Too often, restaurant desserts are a disappointment to the taste buds and the pocketbook. Not at Belle Meade Cafeteria, where the chocolate cheesecake is to die forbut the price isn’t. The cake is more chocolatey than cheesy, though there’s plenty of cream cheese in the velvety-smooth filling. Still, it’s the real Belgian chocolate used with abandon in the cake that takes center stage. A crust of crushed chocolate wafer cookies makes for a double-chocolate whammy, and there’s a dollop of real whipped cream on top, just to make sure the treat equals about a third of an average adult’s daily caloric intake. At just $1.75 a slice, this is the best sweet-tooth bang for your buck in town.
Best Reuben: Noshville
Never mind that it’s a little priceyit wouldn’t be reminiscent of the Big Apple if it were cheaper. Noshville’s combination of corned beef, ’kraut, and melted Swiss on rye is right up there with the Third Avenue Deli in Manhattan’s East Village. Add a bowl of matzo ball soup, and you have a remedy for everything from boredom to a broken heart to a small waistline.
Best Place to Find Duck Heads: K&S World Market
Not the pants, but the actual tête du canard. You can find them right there beside the headless torsos and packaged feet in the fresh meat department of K&S World Market, which two months ago took over the former Service Merchandise building on Nolensville Road. Owned by the Korean Kim family and Chinese Sun family, the huge store stocks every canned, bottled, bagged, fresh, and frozen ingredient that could possibly be called for in Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Japanese, and Thai cooking. There is also a section devoted to Hispanic foods, and as other ethnic groups in the neighborhoodincluding Southernersventure in to check it out, K&S will add to its fascinating inventory.
Best Nashville-Made Vegetarian Sausage Substitute: Primm Springs Soysage
Though I’m not a vegetarian, a friend recently introduced me to this sausage alternative available at Sunshine Grocery and Wild Oats, and now I’m hooked. Available in mild and hot varieties, Primm Springs Soysage can be sliced up and fried up just like any other sausage. And while I can’t say that it tastes exactly like “real” sausage, it tastes damn good nonetheless. The Primm Springs motto, printed on every label, is worth the price alone: “Whole hog soysage...we keep the hog WHOLE!” And if you feel like you’re not getting enough cholesterol and saturated fat in your diet, just fry it up in some butter!
Best Cheese Counter: Provence Breads & Cafe
Whether it’s a Shropshire blue or a Gorgonzola dolce, odds are that you’ll find it at Provence. From creamy Taleggio to mushroomy Chaource, this bakery’s assortment of cheeses needs only the addition of wine, pears, or simply some crusty sourdough bread to make a lovely meal. Even if the wide variety of goat- and sheep’s-milk cheeses is especially pleasing, decisions between so many good choices can be tough, so it’s good to know that the staff is knowledgeable and friendly, and not averse to letting the curious try different cheeses when things aren’t too busy. Whether your bent is for Muenster or Morbier, this little bit of culinary heaven in Hillsboro Village will have you itching to pack a picnic lunch.
Best Cocktail: Pear Saketini at Virago
There’s something decidedly sexy about Virago’s barthe curves, the shimmer, the low light, the crowdthat cries out for an elegant cocktail. The Pear Saketini is just the call. With a delicate infusion of pear in chilled Momokawa sake, this concoction is a light, crisp alternative to the traditional gin or vodka martini. Garnished with cucumber and pickled ginger, it’s a divine aperitif or a wonderful accompaniment to sushi, and the stemware is the perfect accessory to go with high heels.
Best Bartender: Anthony Guerriero at Pub of Love
One of the best things a bartender can do is make you feel at homesomething Guerriero does with ease. You couldn’t find a more welcome retreat from the New New Nashville than to make an early-evening visit to the nearly empty bar, where you’ll smell burning sandalwood and find Guerriero painting to some old Tom Waits. His open-mic Wednesday nights draws an eclectic crowd that enjoys a wide variety of jams, from Celtic bluegrass to hard rock to poetry. And there’s never a cover charge. If you’re lucky, you can catch him peeling the paint off the walls with his amazing band, Fields, but my favorite place to see Anthony is behind the bar, giving customers his sardonic grin. Oh, and did I mention that he’s a babe?
Best Budget Meal for the Bachelor: Brown’s Diner
Located in a modest double-wide trailer with a building addition at the rear, Brown’s has been at the corner of 21st Avenue South and Blair for eons. Nashville newcomers who don’t know any better probably think it’s the temporary on-site shack for a construction company. In short, it’s the perfect place for a slouchy single guy: The bar is dingy, low-ceilinged, and refreshingly unpretentious, with Chicago Cubs stickers plastered to the wall. And for a little more than $6, a callow young man can grab a classic, greasy-grilled cheeseburger, a plate of fries (extra-crispy), and a Bud draft. That’s hardly more than you’d spend at McDonald’s, and you get alcohol to boot! They don’t take credit cards, but they will take your personal check. What’s more, one of the bartenders looks like Waylon Jennings. Come to think of it, maybe he is Waylon Jennings.
Best Place to Drink Coffee and Smoke a Cigarette: Jackson’s in Hillsboro Village
Caffeine and nicotine go together like, well, like coffee and cigarettes. Coffee is in abundance around townBongo Java, Fido, Portland Brew, et albut when Jackson’s came to Hillsboro Village, the smoking set figured it was just another pansy-ass place where they’d be relegated to the sidewalk. Surprise! Jackson’s has a modest but useful menu, serves booze, and offers plenty of room inside to drink your coffee and puff on the deadly weed. No more frozen winter afternoons sitting outside all the other coffee joints. Jackson’s is cozy and arty at the same time. And you don’t have to ask, “Can we smoke?”
Best Restaurant That Needs to Open in the Gulch: Red Bar
Wild speculation? Wishful thinking? Ever since the former Buddie’s Drive-In across from 6º was painted a deep red a couple months ago, the Nashville rumor mill has been working overtime, pumping out completely unsubstantiated reports that Grayton Beach’s wildly popular Red Bar was coming to town. Red Bar fans, which are legion among Nashville’s Florida vacationers, speculate that it’s only a matter of time before 6º owners Kevin Boehm and Scott Alderson talk their good buddy Ollie Petit (who with brother Phillipe owns Red Bar) into opening a Music City outpost of the funky beachside establishment. Nashvillians heading to Florida this summer are encouraged to work their powers of persuasion on Ollie, up to and including offers of Titans season tickets.
Best Vegetarian Restaurant: None
Fifteen years ago, there were three vegetarian restaurants in Nashville: Slice of Life, Laughing Man, and Country Life. Laughing Man closed nearly that long ago; Slice of Life became Peaceful Planet, then closed last year and is now Virago; and Country Life, as popular for its vegan menu as it was for its inclusive, soothing ambience, shuttered its doors about two years ago. In between, Garden Allegro made a stab at the granola crowd, but it didn’t last a year. Though the opening of Wild Oats Market in Green Hills has broadened the shopping opportunities for vegetarian, healthy, organically inclined eaters, there remains no restaurant devoted to the cuisine. The popularity of the Wild Oats cafe within the store indicates an audience for meat-free fare, but a little more oomph would be appreciated. It will take a devoted chef who can introduce Nashvillians to more creative uses of fresh produce and grains, and a public willing to consider the concept that a vegetarian diet isn’t just beans, rice, and steamed vegetables. Of course, the current international livestock crisis might provide further inspiration.
Best Coffeehouse Bob Bernstein Doesn’t Own: Portland Brew
Good coffeehouses take on the flavor of their neighborhoods, from Kijiji on Jefferson Street to Fido in Hillsboro Village. That’s especially true of this mellow Sylvan Park java joint, which boasts a laid-back crowd that includes anyone from morning joggers to Rudy Kalis. But the best reason to go is the coffee (duh). For us, it’s actually the hazelnut mocha, an addictive concoction that will suffice until Starbucks starts peddling liquid heroin. The friendly faces behind the counter are reason enough to return. Say hi to Eliza.
Best Place for Chai: Tie: Jackson’s Coffee & Tea/Cafe Coco
In local coffee shops, chai tea is gradually becoming the heir to cappuccino. Like cappuccino, it consists of half-milk, comes hot or iced, and is just as trendy. Although chai can be found in nearly every local coffeeshop, the quality varies considerably from store to store. Chai from the wrong place can taste like liquefied Teddy Grahams and cause a gastrointestinal condition known as chaiarrhea. The most reliable sources for the concoction are undoubtedly Jackson’s and Cafe Coco. Though Cafe Coco provides the least costly chai in Nashville, its Gothic cast of characters (employees and customers alike) might turn the customer to a more accommodating alternative such as Jackson’s. In addition to having some of the best chai in town, both Jackson’s locations provide a classy atmosphere and an expert staff of chai-alchemists.
Best Place to Indulge Your Inner Wino: Village Wines
Hoyt Hill, who spent many years conducting some of Nashville’s finest dining experiences in restaurants that included Julian’s, F. Scott’s, and Wild Boar, is one of the most knowledgeable experts in the wine biz. Two years ago, tired of long and wearing restaurant hours, he purchased Hillsboro Village Wine & Spirits, a neighborhood liquor store for more than two decades, and in a preview of things to come, renamed it Village Wines. He hired a top-notch staffRaymond, Thomas, Andy , Mike, and Pamand thanks to his enviable contacts in the industry, started growing his inventory of fine and hard-to-find wines. Weekly, sometimes more often, he sends out e-mails to fellow oenophiles tagged “Amazing Wine Treasures at Village Wines.” The advisories list about a half-dozen featured wines with wine-speak descriptions, point ratings from Wine Spectator, the normal retail price, and Hoyt’s price. Grape expectations, to be sure.
Best Bar Where Time Stands Still: The Villager
The view out of this Hillsboro Village mainstay’s only window has changed drastically many times since proprietor Henry Piarrot took over thousands of beers ago. And therein lies its charm: a no-frills, beer-only pub with darts and foosball, sinfully addictive New Orleans-style Po’ Boys, and possibly the best jukebox in town. The more things change, the more The Villager stays the same.
Best Place to Buy Beer From the Czech Republic: Beer World in Green Hills
A fairly recent addition to Green Hills, Beer World boasts the best selection of ales, lagers, stouts, bitters, and porters this side of 440. Not only does it carry foreign and domestic, macro- and micro-brews, but its selection is organized by locale, and that makes exploring the beers a lot easier. Even better, the staff creates mixed six-packs of related beersa great way to sample some of the best lagers Eastern Europe has to offer, whether it’s Rebel or Staropramen.
Best Hefe Weizens on Draft: Broadway Brewhouse
Ah, spring, when a young man’s fancy turns to thoughts of, well, beerspecifically, in my case, hefe weizens. This Bavarian style brew, boasting a hazy, golden hue and spicy, well-carbonated palette, is a refreshing accompaniment to the outdoor pleasures of Nashville’s fairest season. The Flying Saucer may have the edge in sheer quantity of weizens on tap, but that establishment’s temperate, ale-friendly refrigeration tends to punish German wheat beers. On the other hand, the Brewhouse’s weizens are almost always perfectcold, crisp, and fresh, with a welcoming aroma of cloves and banana. And the style, with its oft-noted rep as a thirst quencher, provides ideal fortification when facing a bowl of Texas red chili or a habañero-sauce-augmented Santa Fe chicken plate from the adjacent Mojo Grill.
Best Black and Tan: The Sherlock Holmes Pub
As something of a beer aficionado, it pains me to admit that I’m not much of a Guinness fan. Similarly, I find the ever-present Bass an uninspiring (though nonetheless reliable) British pale ale. But layered one atop the other, these two beers enact a perfect marriage: Bass rounds the dry stout’s signature bitterness without masking its complexity and heft. There’s no real secret to drawing a quality black and tan, but The Sherlock Holmes Pub gets the nod for its well-kept Guinness (probably the best in Nashville) and its cozy, old-world atmosphere.