International Market: Spicy Impossible Dumplings

When Anna and Arnold Myint reinvented their beloved family restaurant across the street from the old location, patrons were pleased to discover that many of their favorite dishes had returned to the menu and the steam table, albeit a little elevated in some cases. But the new additions to the menu are standouts — like Arnold’s Spicy Impossible Dumplings. Delicate but toothsome wrappers are artfully cupped around vegan protein topped with a house chili crisp oil, ponzu sauce, fried shallots and scallions. The lingering heat creates new memories at this Belmont Boulevard institution that will stick around long after the dish is gone. CHRIS CHAMBERLAIN

Xiao Bao at The Dive Motel: Hand-Pulled Noodles

Scene contributing editor Jack Silverman recently called Xiao Bao’s hand-pulled noodles with chili cumin brisket “hands-down the best noodle dish I’ve ever had.” Listen to Jack — find this low-key red trailer on Dickerson Pike and get an order immediately. Grab some of their incredible fried mochi while you’re at it. And keep an eye out for their full-service McFerrin Park restaurant, slated to open this summer. D. PATRICK RODGERS

The Pharmacy Burger Parlor & Beer Garden: Creamsicle Soda

The Pharmacy is known as a biergarten, but its sleeper hit is the nonalcoholic Creamsicle Soda. It tastes, as promised, like an orange Creamsicle. Made with cane sugar, it’s available in the Assembly Food Hall location downtown as well as the original spot in East Nashville. MARGARET LITTMAN

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Rolf & Daughters: Pork Ragù

Inventive Rolf & Daughters and Folk owner-chef Philip Krajeck is currently up for a James Beard Award for his flagship restaurant, Rolf, and the recognition is well-deserved. Krajeck & Co. regularly rotate the menu at the established Germantown fine-dining outpost, but you can typically find a delectable heritage pork ragù there. At last check, it’s being served with a tender rigatoni. Just an unbeatable dish. D. PATRICK RODGERS

Peninsula: Gin and Tonic Menu

A gin and tonic seems simple enough — it’s literally two ingredients — but it’s amazing how many bars can get it wrong with bad gin, cheap tonic and the saddest lime slice you’ve ever seen. In keeping with its Spanish influence, Peninsula boasts a bar menu featuring eight seasonal options of the classic libation, each highlighting a unique gin and featuring Peninsula’s housemade tonic syrup. The key is the garnishes, aromatic selections that perfectly complement the gin and range from Japanese chili and blackberry to saffron and grapefruit. The end result is a perfectly balanced, perfectly refreshing cocktail that will keep you returning to the cozy East Nashville dining destination again and again. NANCY FLOYD

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Duke’s: 2:17 Special

The folks behind the sandwich counter at beloved bar Duke’s in Five Points were wise to listen when they asked their 12-year-old selves how to make a turkey sandwich better: Just add chips. STEPHEN TRAGESER

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The Bar at Audrey: Cocktail Flight

Chef Sean Brock and bar manager Jonathan Howard have created a truly unique experience at the Bar at Audrey, a serene oasis upstairs from the energetic hustle of the restaurant below. Instead of a menu, mixologists present a basket of produce that might contain daikon radishes, Meyer lemons or even grains and mushrooms. Choose your produce as the base of a cocktail, or ask for a flight of half-portions of all of them and be prepared to take a mind-bending trip through flavor combinations. Each drink has only three ingredients — something derived from the items on the basket, a spirit from a short list of liquors and an extra infusion of a special ingredient created in the culinary lab around the corner from the bar. Rarely has something so seemingly simple turned into such complex flavors in a cocktail. CHRIS CHAMBERLAIN

Nicoletto’s Italian Kitchen: Italian Beef

When I miss living in Chicago, I stop by the East Nashville outpost of Nicoletto’s for a sandwich layered with spicy, thinly sliced beef, hot giardiniera and a roll that sops up all the extra juice for a messy, Windy City flashback. MARGARET LITTMAN

Maru Sushi & Grill: Baja Fresh Sushi Roll 

If I’m going to splurge on sushi, I’m getting the Baja Fresh roll at Maru. It’s got a foundation of spicy tuna, cucumber and cilantro, topped with yellowtail, jalapeño, avocado, ponzu and chili sauce. It’s bright, flavorful, spicy and delicious. KELSEY BEYELER 

Redheaded Stranger: Crunchwrap

You’ve gotta love the ingenuity of Redheaded Stranger chef-owner Bryan Lee Weaver. As soon as you come through the front door, there’s a wall covered with signs promoting past specials, sometimes wacky experiments coming out of the kitchen at the whim of the chef. Every now and then, one of them will make the official menu, like the insanely delicious Crunchwrap. Options include Texas red chile, Hatch green chile, a combo of the two (known as “Christmas style” because of the red and green) or vegetarian stuffed between housemade tortillas and griddled until perfectly crispy. Try one and you’ll never make a run for the border again. CHRIS CHAMBERLAIN

Butcher & BeeWhipped Feta

Perhaps the most beloved appetizer in Nashville, this East Side whipped feta is tangy, with enough bite to be interesting (thanks, fermented honey and black pepper), and smooth enough to be slathered on everything from pita to carrots. Or eaten straight from the takeout container with a spoon. MARGARET LITTMAN 

Attaboy: Any Cocktail

OK, we’re kind of cheating with this one. East Nashville’s resilient, cozy, speakeasy-style bar Attaboy — which is currently up for a James Beard Award — doesn’t have a menu. Instead they make improvised cocktails based on what you tell the staff you’re into. Bourbon and bitters? They’ve got you. Gin with citrus? Not a problem. Something more adventurous? Ask them to surprise you. You won’t be disappointed. D. PATRICK RODGERS

Drusie & Darr: Egg Toast

The first time I tried the egg toast at Drusie & Darr, executive chef Kelsi Armijo described it as “the best grilled cheese you’ve ever tasted.” She wasn’t wrong, although the dish in question doesn’t actually have any cheese — the decadent creaminess comes from two perfectly sous-vide egg yolks wedged between bite-size slices of crunchy, buttery toast. The entire thing is topped with 10 grams of osetra caviar — hence the $58 price tag on this appetizer — for one of the most complex and indulgent bites you’ll find anywhere in town. NANCY FLOYD

InterAsian Market & Deli: Original Banh Mi 

You have several options for a mightily satisfying banh mi in Music City, but this one sets the bar. Balancing all of those flavors and textures — savory, tangy, sweet, crisp — in one sandwich is a feat fit for an acrobat, and InterAsian sticks the landing every time. STEPHEN TRAGESER

Locust: Beef Tartare

Acclaimed chef Trevor Moran does a lot of stuff right with the rotating menu at his Asian-inspired 12South outpost Locust. But every time I go back, and every time it’s on the menu, it’s the Bear Creek Farm beef tartare — served with warm rice and toasted nori — that bowls me over. Just a remarkable combination of flavors. D. PATRICK RODGERS 

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D’Andrews Bakery & Cafe: Double Chocolate Dulcey Cookie

Double chocolate cookies are a dime a dozen and can be a lazy way for a bakery to get an upcharge for just adding chocolate chips to a chocolate cookie. (Yawn.) But David Andrews set out to create something unique with his version, combining two chocolates that seem to be at absolute opposite ends of the flavor spectrum. White chocolate usually tastes pretty much like sweet butter, but Andrews cooks Dulcey Valrhona Chocolate low and slow until it is converted into a caramel. He then gently blends the caramel with an intense 100 percent cacao to create an end product that is the essence of chocolate as the sweet and bitter perfectly balance each other beneath a dusting of powdered sugar. CHRIS CHAMBERLAIN

 

Mofongo Cafe: Empanadas

These empanadas at Berry Hill’s Mofongo Cafe (formerly Merengue Cafe) are sold in pairs and feature crispy and thin pastry — rather than a doughy shell — filled with your choice of tender beef, chicken, cheese, or cheese and guava. The hot buffet is delectable too, if you want some extra sides to go with the turnovers. ALEJANDRO RAMIREZ

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Conny & Jonny: Strawberry Pretzel Fritter

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Adorable local confectionary couple Constance and Jonathan Farro — aka Conny and Jonny — make the best doughnuts in Nashville. Possibly their most extravagant treat is the Strawberry Pretzel Fritter, which was recently one of the sweets included in their assorted-dozen preorder boxes. While C&J doughnuts are typically available at Crieve Hall Bagel and both Crema locations, the owners say they’re taking a temporary break from their baked goods in preparation for bigger things. Let’s all cross our fingers that they come back soon. D. PATRICK RODGERS

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Wild Berry Acai: Tornado Bowl

Order your swirl of acai with coconut oil drizzled on top. When the liquid oil hits the cold acai, it hardens, giving you the crunch of a dipped soft-serve cone. Blueberries and strawberries provide sweet contrast to the tart acai and lemon zest. MARGARET LITTMAN

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Henrietta Red: Poppy’s Caviar

The most popular appetizer at Henrietta Red is inspired by a recipe that chef Julia Sullivan’s father used to prepare for parties. Sullivan named Poppy’s Caviar after him, and we should all be so lucky to receive such a tribute. Scallions, oil, vinegar, shallots, dill, chives, garlic and lemon are whisked together to create a dip that is topped with a generous dollop of paddlefish caviar and sour cream. Drag a water cracker through it for a decadent treat. CHRIS CHAMBERLAIN

The 404 Kitchen: Whole Smoked Fried Chicken

If you’ve ever tried to fry a chicken, you know it’s a delicate art. The 404 Kitchen’s version is equivalent to the ceiling in the Sistine Chapel. The crisp crust is unbeatable, and the rich smoke flavor gets down to the bone. Even if you share with another person, there’s plenty for next-day leftovers (if you can wait that long). STEPHEN TRAGESER

Flora + Fauna: Cuban Latte

Flora + Fauna recently opened in the Highland Yards outpost on Douglas Avenue, and its Cuban latte is perfectly balanced. It’s smooth and creamy and not overly sweet, and the shop prioritizes locally and ethically sourced ingredients and sustainable packaging. JONATHAN SIMS

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Nicky’s Coal Fired: Olives With Citrus and Rosemary

I’ll let you in on a little secret: I was never a huge fan of olives as part of an appetizer platter. In fact, you could say that I was anti-antipasti. Until I tried the coal-fired olives at Nicky’s. These beauties benefit from a kiss of smoke from Enrico, Nicky’s massive coal oven, and arrive at the table warm, seasoned with rosemary and citrus. They are just salty enough to stimulate the appetite for the upcoming parade of pizzas and pastas that you should have already ordered at the front desk upon arrival. CHRIS CHAMBERLAIN

Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint: Fried Catfish Redneck Taco

With all the great smoked-meat options at Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint, who would’ve thought that their fried catfish would be so good? Not me, until Pat Martin himself suggested that I try the Redneck Taco with perfectly fried golden-brown catfish fillets instead of my usual whole-hog order. The cornbread hoecake topped with some crunchy slaw and Alabama white sauce — which is like a redneck remoulade — is a hidden highlight on the Martin’s menu. (Add sliced pickled jalapeños to raise it to another level.)  CHRIS CHAMBERLAIN 

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Jasper’s: Caulipoppers

It’s rare that an appetizer is the first dish that someone mentions when discussing a great restaurant, but that’s often the case with chef Deb Paquette’s famous roasted cauliflower starter at Etch. At Jasper’s, Paquette’s elevated sports bar/neighborhood restaurant in Midtown, she has reimagined that iconic dish as a more appropriate bar snack. Instead of roasting the cauliflower, she tempura-fries it until it has the crunch you crave. The elegant pea pesto, whipped-feta crema and red bell pepper essence that are artistically painted on the plate at Etch have been converted into dipping sauces. CHRIS CHAMBERLAIN

Barcelona: Eggplant Caponata

This plate converted me into an eggplant enthusiast. It’s a simple one, with sweet peppers, eggplant and basil tossed in a semisweet, tangy sauce that I suspect contains some combination of oil and vinegar. Eating it with Barcelona’s bread is essential. KELSEY BEYELER 

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Pink Door Cookies: Rainbow Brownie

It looks like a cookie and tastes like a brownie, and it’s impossible to be in a bad mood when you bite into this chewy, rich, moist confection, topped with chocolate frosting and a colorful candy rainbow. MARGARET LITTMAN

I Dream of Weenie: Rebel Yelp

This offering really puts the “hot” in “hot dog,” with mustard and red onions for savory goodness and hot chow-chow relish and jalapeños for a mean bite. Also, I Dream of Weenie in East Nashville’s Five Points neighborhood is one of the few places outside Alabama that I’ve seen Buffalo Rock ginger ale, one of the spiciest available. If you really wanna get that burn in your nose, order one to wash down your Rebel Yelp. STEPHEN TRAGESER 

Crieve Hall Bagel Co.: Jalapeño Cheddar Bagel With Sun-Dried Tomato Schmear

You can’t pick a loser from Crieve Hall’s menu, but the jalapeño cheddar bagel provides a superb foundation for their king of savory schmears, the bright and tangy sun-dried tomato variety. STEPHEN TRAGESER

Mas Tacos por Favor: Chicken Tortilla Soup

I don’t know how the avocado pieces don’t get mushy when they are combined with tomatoes, cheese, chicken and crunchy tortilla strips in this Mexico City-style soup from Mas Tacos in East Nashville. But I don’t need to know. I just need to know that it is available when I need it. MARGARET LITTMAN

Baked on 8th: Brown Sugar and Cinnamon “Pop-Tart”

Once upon a time, a cake from the now-long-gone Becker’s Bakery was a Nashville birthday tradition. Baked on 8th’s spin on this famous breakfast pastry, with its melt-in-your-mouth crust and just-right amount of decadent filling, is a worthy successor. STEPHEN TRAGESER

 

Radical Rabbit: Kentucky Fried Vegan

If you shop at the Richland Park Farmers’ Market on Saturdays, you’ve probably encountered the Radical Rabbit tent near the main entrance. With all the options spread throughout the park, it would be easy to walk right past, but the power move is to shop there first before Mariah Ragland sells out of her amazing Southern-fried vegan fare. The Kentucky Fried Vegan platter is a plate of fried jackfruit, mac-and-cheese, greens, mashed potatoes and gravy, and coconut cornbread. It actually reheats much better than fried chicken, so you can finish your shopping and take the KFV home for a fantastic lunch. CHRIS CHAMBERLAIN

 

Trinity Coffee: Arepas

The arepas at this Plaza Mariachi cafe are loaded and very filling. But if you have room, you should also order one of their Instagram-worthy iced coffees, and enjoy it all while listening to music in the food court. ALEJANDRO RAMIREZ

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CaityPies: Chicken Pot Pie

If you like your comfort food to feel like a hug from the inside, order this carrot- and chicken-filled gift, complete with flaky, buttery crust. Pick up the pie perfection at the Richland Park Farmers’ Market. MARGARET LITTMAN

Once Upon a Time in France: Coq au Vin

When you see steak frites on the menu at Melvil Arnt’s French bistro on the East Side, it might seem like folly to choose a chicken dish instead. But the coq au vin, beautifully seasoned and slow-roasted to perfect tenderness, will have you considering the gravy-sopping properties of every item on the table. STEPHEN TRAGESER

 

lou: Braised Lamb “Torta”

This sandwich doesn’t sound like the brunchiest of options on the menu at charming East Side spot lou. But one bite of the tender and flavorful lamb and accouterments, neatly tucked into supremely soft bread, will confirm that you made the right choice. Sadly, this one is a seasonal dish — but we're standing by for its return. STEPHEN TRAGESER 

Dino’s: Animal Fries

The 2019 closure of Hot Diggity Dogs (RIP) left a power vacuum in the contest for Nashville’s best fries, and Dino’s has a very worthy contender. The option to get them animal style (that’s with cheese, onions and a tangy sauce) sweetens the deal even further. STEPHEN TRAGESER

King Tut’s: Falafel

Are you someone who thinks falafel is some kind of cruel joke that Mediterranean cuisine is trying to play on herbivores? King Tut’s chef Rocky Rashwan has the real deal that puts pretenders to shame: crisp outside, tender inside, with a mouthwatering blend of spices in the chickpea batter. STEPHEN TRAGESER

Pastaria Nashville: Citrus Salad

Slicing citrus isn’t the most complicated of culinary tasks. But the skill is elevated to an art form when the oranges and grapefruit are combined with green olives, red onion, tarragon and arranged on a plate to look like stained glass. MARGARET LITTMAN

Silver Sand: Oxtail and Neck Bones 

I’ve got a T-shirt I bought from the SoulPhoodie website that shares an old Jamaican restaurant proverb: “No oxtail gravy unless you order oxtail meal!” You see, just about anything can be made better by ladling a little of that silky, rich beefy sauce over the top. Despite the fact that they come from two different ends of the cow, oxtails and neck bones are possibly the most delicious cuts you’ve never tried. Stop by the amazing soul-food restaurant Silver Sands near the Nashville Farmers’ Market on Thursdays, when they serve tails and necks over rice. CHRIS CHAMBERLAIN

 

Polling some culinary experts, picking 40 of our favorite local bites and more

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