Best New Restaurant

It seems like the formula for greatness in 2017 has included building the kitchen around a giant oven.

Nicky’s Coal Fired was the best possible news for The Nations, an underserved area when it comes to great dining. Tony and Caroline Galzin opened their place in December with a Zen-simple menu that leans hard on Enrico, their giant coal-fired oven, which is named for Tony’s great-grandfather. A few appetizers, a few pastas, a few pizzas, a daily catch, a daily chop. That’s it. There’s nothing simple about the execution, though: Clams come in a broth rich from lardons of bacon (pro tip: keep the broth for dunking crusts), sourdough bread comes basted in butter then toasted in Enrico until golden, pizzas arrive with impossibly fresh toppings (mortadella and red onion with some spicy honey, anyone?), and seasonal gelatos like sweet corn surprise and delight. The Galzins have created the trattoria Nashville’s been missing.

It says something about how good Germantown’s Henrietta Red is that years after small plates lapsed into cliché, chef Julia Sullivan and general manager Allie Poindexter rolled out a shareable menu so good it melts the heart of even the hardest cynic. Sullivan uses wood rather than coal in her oven, but the results are just as satisfying, roasting pork sausage and oysters, braising lamb, and delivering some truly wonderful bread like her compatriots at Nicky’s, but with an anchovy butter that you’ll want to slather on everything. If you prefer your oysters fresh, Henrietta Red might boast the best raw bar in the city, with shellfish impeccably sourced from both coasts and the Gulf — don’t miss the mussels done escabeche-style. There are personal touches everywhere, from Poindexter’s play on jello shots at the bar to Sullivan’s version of caviar to a weekend menu that reveals their love of brunch (complete with monkey bread!).

These two places are a guide for future Nashville restaurants to follow, with their emphasis on service and food that is long on satisfaction and short on flash. Most years we’d be fortunate to get one truly great restaurant. This year we got two. Lucky us. STEVE CAVENDISH

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