We don’t have to look back all that far to remember when Nashville’s famous dish was really only found here. But now, you can sit down for hot chicken from Los Angeles to Brooklyn, and lots of cities in between.
While hot chicken’s been spreading its wings, we’ve gotten better at approximating other cities’ trademark foods too, much to the delight of the many Nashville transplants who love it here, but miss the culinary comforts of home.
This’ll almost certainly be met with a share of scoffs and grumbles, but we tried to think of some of our favorite cities’ (and states’) tried-and-true tastes, and where you can find at least passable versions here. Yes, we know we can’t say these places do it as well as they do back home. But we’d also put money on the fact that California hot chicken has nothing on Prince’s.
Chicago hot dogs
Hot Diggity Dogs
614 Ewing Ave., Nashville
There are a number of excellent dog options at Hot Diggity Dogs downtown, but Chicagoans go specifically for the Chicago dog, done right with a fresh pickle, relish, yellow mustard, celery salt, poppy seed bun… the whole deal.
805 Woodland, Suite 300, Nashville
Nashville is pretty well flooded with former Texans, all missing the ample culinary comforts of home. (Anybody have a line on particularly good migas?) At least as far as the Texas/Czech pastries known as kolaches go, we’re pretty set — Yeast Nashville in East Nashville makes excellent ones, from sweet to savory, along with lots of other fantastic baked goods.
Judge Bean’s BBQ
7022 Church St. E, Brentwood
Another Texan specialty, and another specialty that’s pretty tough to find done well here. In some ways it’s easier to make a name by making brisket than pulled pork, since the latter’s more Nashville’s BBQ thing. But then, if you smoke brisket in Nashville, you’re not cut a bit of slack by now-local Texans. So, damned if you ‘que… Judge Bean’s in Brentwood is among the few in the area focusing on brisket, and you’ll get a begrudging “it’s pretty good” from a fair share of Texas-to-Tennesseans. (If you didn’t grow up on the stuff, you’d probably upgrade it to “really good.”)
New York-style pizza
Five Points Pizza
1012 Woodland St., Nashville
If you want to start an easy argument in Nashville, point out which pizza place you think offers the closest thing to New York-style pies. Passions run high with this debate, but since our office is close to Five Points in East Nashville and we think they’ve done a solid job of approximating the delicacy, we’ll recommend Five Points Pizza. Its owners studied in Staten Island, and between the crust texture, size and sauce-to-cheese ratio, it’s clear they studied well.
New York bagels
2011 Belmont Blvd., Nashville
The other half of the New Yorker-turned-Nashvillian’s heartbreak. The owners of Proper Bagel in Belmont/Hillsboro came this way from New York, and deliver scratch-made kettle-boiled bagels baked in a stone oven, so they get the bite right, which is 98 percent of the battle. They’re nice and big, too, which knocks off at least another percentage point.
65 Arcade, Nashville
The Arcade downtown is a fun visit for a lot of reasons, but if you’re missing your cheesesteak roots, it offers one of the better local places to scratch that itch, too. Philly expats who miss chicken cheesesteaks from back home also get a pretty solid version here. It’s low-key, nothing overthought… just real meat, real cheese, real fries and real good.
New Orleans po’ boys
Bro’s Cajun Cuisine
3214 Charlotte Ave., Nashville
This’ll be a lot tougher when Bro’s Cajun Cuisine on Charlotte Avenue closes, but for now, it’s where to go for catfish or fried shrimp (plus lots of other Cajun favorites). If oysters are your preference, they have pretty good oysters at Rudie’s in Inglewood, so they have pretty good fried oyster po’ boys too.
Maine lobster rolls
Cousins Maine Lobster
These folks have trucks all across the country, including Nashville, and the widespread success makes sense as soon as you try one of their classic Maine lobster rolls, with a touch of mayo and super-fresh lobster meat. Another good tip for the Nashville New Englanders: The New England Clam Chowder is pretty good too.
121 Opry Mills Drive, Suite 315, Nashville
Sheboyganites are exceedingly serious about brats, and they have every right to be. In Nashville, we’re still… less so. Some Wisconsin-bred Tennesseans turn to Gerst Haus in East Nashville with good results, and many are feeling promising feelings about the brand new Bavarian Bierhaus, which is celebrating its grand opening as this post is going up, and offering several brats on the menu, including a kind of twist on pigs in a blanket, with brats in puff pastry.
Take issue with any of these picks? Have other comforts from home we should’ve thought of? Your helpful culinary comments are definitely welcome.
And if our team can help you feel more at home in Nashville by helping you find a new Nashville home, please let us know. Call or email ACRE here, or get your Nashville househunt started by filling out this quick form.