Nashville is much more than just the birthplace of hot chicken — it's also become a major destination for foodies! There are more biscuits and barbecue packed into this exciting town than you could eat in an entire lifetime. Nashville's dining scene is exploding thanks to a combination of chef-driven restaurants and classic dining spots. Lucky for us, we've got a handful of local chefs serving up a variety of flavors and revealing their signature Southern-style recipes. They're cooking up hot chicken pakoras, barbecue pork sandwiches with broccoli salad, caviar with fresh herbs, classic cornbread, roasted cauliflower and whipped feta with fermented honey.
Pat Martin: Martin's Bar-B-Que Joint
Pat Martin learned the art and craft of West Tennessee-style smoke and meat 25 years ago. It became a consuming passion that eventually led to a business when he left his job in finance and opened his first restaurant in 2006. Today, there are ten Martin's locations and it's a mainstay on every "Best BBQ in Nashville" list.
Whole-Hog Barbecue Sandwich with Broccoli Salad
"A lot of people try to associate a lot of mystery to rubs but there really isn't any," said Martin. "It's just a good balance of salt and sugar mixed with preferred additional ingredients."
Julia Sullivan: Henrietta Red
Nashville native Julia Sullivan made her mark on the food scene when she opened Henrietta Red in 2017. By 2018, the restaurant was a James Beard Award nominee, and by 2019, Sullivan was a James Beard Award semifinalist. The neighborhood gem focuses on sustainably farmed oysters, contemporary seasonal ingredients and homey Southern dishes.
"I love this dish because it’s an old family recipe that’s been handed down from generation to generation," said Sullivan. "As a born-and-bred Nashvillian, I love to cook with local ingredients. Featuring Tennessee paddlefish roe in this elegant appetizer makes it all the more special."
Maneet Chauhan: Chauhan Ale and Masala House
Maneet Chauhan is best known as one of the panel of judges on the award-winning Food Network program Chopped. For years she has taken Nashville by storm with four restaurants, three breweries, one cookbook and another on the way.
"Nashville is known for its hot chicken and I grew up on Pakoras, which are Indian deep-fried fritters," said Chauhan. "To me, this embodies where I've come from and where I am now. It's the best of both worlds!"
Matt Bolus: The 404 Kitchen
Before moving to Nashville, Matt Bolus worked as a butcher and fishmonger at some of the country's top restaurants. As executive chef of The 404, Bolus takes a hands-on approach to his cuisine, insisting upon seeing, smelling and tasting every ingredient that comes through the door.
"I'm a Southern boy through and through, and there will always be a place in my heart for cornbread!" said Bolus. "I love the caramelized sides, I love the sweet earthy center and I love how heart-warming it is when you eat it. I always prefer mine with beans and raw onion but think it's equally as satisfying with whipped sorghum butter."
Bryan Lee Weaver: Butcher & Bee
Since 2015, Bryan Lee Weaver has led the kitchen at Butcher & Bee with its Israeli-inspired menu. In 2018, Weaver opened Redheaded Stranger, with menus highlighting Southwestern food like Hatch green chilies and homemade tortillas.
Whipped Feta with Fermented Honey
"We put the whipped feta with local honey on the menu a few weeks after we opened," said Weaver. "My opening sous chef wanted something to complement a fermented honey condiment that I was working on. We use honey from bees that live down the street from the restaurant and mix it with liquid from fermented chiles. The cheese itself is sort of like a Middle Eastern queso. We go through almost 100 pounds of feta a week!"
Deb Paquette, Etch Restaurant
For more than thirty years, Deb Paquette has been a fixture in Nashville's ever-growing food scene. After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, she became the first woman in Tennessee to qualify as a certified executive chef. Paquette has won countless awards and accolades. She's a trailblazer for chefs in the area, especially women, and a mentor and consultant to some of Nashville's best talent.
The three flavorful sauces are just as much the star of this dish as the roasted cauliflower. A portion of the proceeds of each roasted cauliflower dish sold at Etch benefits Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee.
If you like those Nashville-inspired recipes, you should also try these: