The TasteBuds Do Germantown
Eat, drink & play in one of Nashville's hottest neighborhoods
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Melissa Corbin and Delia Jo Ramsey here. We’re a Nashville-loving duo who’ve bonded through the last few years over a little shared grief and a lot of love for food and travel. We love great dining experiences and the people behind them.
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So welcome to our new food-focused platform, “The TasteBuds,” thanks to The Nashvillian. The TasteBuds are a little bit salty and a little bit sweet — you can decide which is which! We have been dining our way around Nashville and beyond for … a few decades now. That’s a lot of fried chicken and biscuits, friends.
We’re always on the hunt for new music, too, and this month’s cover story about Joy Oladokun definitely struck a sweet chord with both of us. “Loving you is a sweet symphony,” she duets with Chris Stapleton on “Sweet Symphony,” and whether you’re celebrating Valentine’s Day with your sweetest, your best bud, or all by yourself, February is a month when love is on the tip of our tongues, where sweetness truly abides.
Since we’ve been at this for a minute, we’d like to share some of our favorites, old and new, within the neighborhoods you call home. And we’re starting with Germantown, where the old and new collide with often delicious results!
Germantown Cafe opened more than 15 years ago, when the best view of downtown Nashville was on order along with the cheesy goodness of their classic French onion soup. That view may be obstructed by progress these days, but you can still savor the best darn soup in town, along with many of the other staples from back in the day. The buzz on the street? Germantown’s new walk-up window, Fancy Sandy’s.
To really go old-school, though, head across Rosa Parks Boulevard and over to Silver Sands, the meat-and-three favorite that predates recently shuttered Arnold’s Country Kitchen by a couple of decades. From smothered pork chops and fried chicken to greens, mac-n-cheese, and hot water cornbread, this is one of those salt-of-the-earth originals that made Nashville synonymous with the meat-and-three concept.
And when it comes to salt of the earth, you can’t get any more earthy than the Nashville Farmers’ Market, where area farmers used to bring their harvests to town by horse. It’s unlikely you’ll spot many actual horses nowadays, but there’s sure to be a semi parked out by the sheds unloading field-to-plate favorites. Artisans, craftsmen, and food makers are also part of the bunch these days, as is the only garden center within the core of the city. Inside the nationally recognized Market House, several dozen eateries, a pub, an international market, and all kinds of local goodies await your next visit.
For another salty expression, you can’t deny Henrietta Red’s interpretation of “merroir” (that’s “terroir,” but underwater!), which made its Nashville debut in 2017 with seasonal cuisine that includes vegetable-forward dishes along with a stellar selection of oysters and other seafood. Are you a lover of bubbles? Don’t miss their daily cava-and-oyster happy hour.
If you need an hour of happy a little earlier, raise a stein or two at Von Elrod’s Beer Hall & Kitchen, where happy hour starts at 2 p.m. They offer something like 38 beers on tap, for goodness sakes. And any time of the day or week you can also enjoy house-smoked sausages, Southern-style barbecue, and a host of Oktoberfest-inspired eats. Come weekend brunch time, belly up for one of their Big Ass Mimosas, which comes in an enormous stein, of course!
From the NFL to the SEC Network, Germantown Pub has all your sports-watching needs covered. Kid-friendly through dinner service, this one is an all-skate kinda place. The kiddos will also love a night out with you at First Horizon Park — home to the Nashville Sounds, as well as a range of non-sporting events. But when it comes to ballpark fare? Sure, you can chow down on hotdogs and the like, but this venue also knocks it out of the park with local delicacies such as Nashville-style hot chicken and barbecue.
For the sweet side of Germantown, who could possibly pass up Rebekah Turshen’s cookie plate at City House? And it’s not just the cookies. Anything that woman makes is going to make you need a moment alone. Open since 2007, City House remains a go-to for the OGs who gave Music City that “it” factor, with rustic fare much like the recipes your Nonna would make if she spoke Italian with a Southern accent.
And City House doesn’t have the Germantown community all to itself when it comes to tastes-like-home international cuisine. Tailor Nashville opened its reimagined location last fall, where dining feels like you’ve been invited over to eat with chef-owner Vivek Surti’s Indian-American extended family. Dinner service is coursed, with set nightly tasting menus, a touch of theatrics, and flat-out fantastic service.
Finally, if you need a liquid pick-me-up, head over to the Germantown outpost of Barista Parlor. BP was established in 2012 and opened its Germantown store in 2015, with ethically sourced coffee beans its focus. From drip to pourover to exquisite lattes, they’ll keep you happily caffeinated.
Fun fact: My parents had one of their first dates at the former Stock-Yard restaurant, and I almost moved into the apartments that sit in that spot today.
Germantown is definitely on the top of my list when newcomers asks me which neighborhoods are best for walkability. Just a mile from downtown’s center, Germantown still has the look and feel of the forever-lamented “old” Nashville, without the bevies of boot-clad bachelorettes, parading party buses, and the cacophony of honky-tonk row. While I live downtown and love it (most of the time, anyway!), Germantown still feels like the Music City I grew up visiting and loving. Here are my current highlights:
With the number of lofty rooftop bar-crowned hotels downtown growing exponentially, I was tickled to recently experience a boutique Germantown gem for a staycation. I love staying and playing in neighborhoods and experiencing them like a local. The locally owned Germantown Inn touts itself as the only hotel in the historic neighborhood, and guests are welcomed into the circa-1865 home, which has been reimagined with historic charm and brims with fun, modern design. Guests receive complimentary breakfast, plus a wine-and-cheese hour every evening. The bathrobes and beds are cozy, and there’s ample street parking and walkability to all the great neighborhood restaurants and bars.
Open since Thanksgiving Day of 1995, Monell’s is the restaurant in Nashville that reminds me most of eating at my grandmother’s house growing up. The menu changes daily, but it’s always a family-style feast of Southern staples, eaten among friends and strangers at the large, communal tables. And, as it should be, fried chicken is served at every meal.
Another longstanding area restaurant for homestyle meals served with a smile: Big Al’s Deli. It’s technically in Salemtown, but Alphonso Anderson Jr. (the eponymous Big Al) merges hospitality with an ever-changing menu of classic breakfasts and Southern lunch staples such as fried catfish or spicy South Carolinian shrimp and grits.
If you want to try one of the restaurants that put Germantown on the map as a neighborhood culinary destination, head over to Rolf and Daughters. Chef Philip Krajeck’s neighborhood establishment has been recognized nationally for its ever-changing menu, which is anchored by handmade pasta, seasonal vegetables, shareable proteins, and sourdough bread served with seaweed butter (a fan favorite). Rolf and Daughters is also home to one of my favorite dishes in town: chicken with preserved lemon and garlic confit.
Atlanta-based chef and restaurateur Ford Fry has quadrupled down on Nashville over the last few years, with a new eat/drink/play trifecta in Germantown (in addition to Superica, his Tex-Mex destination in the Gulch). For dinner, Fry’s The Optimist consistently serves up stellar seafood, including opulent seafood towers, gumbo, Gulf shrimp a la plancha, and lobster rolls.
Across the street, Nashville’s outpost of Charleston-based sushi chain O-Ku has been serving up solid sashimi, rolls, and omakase feasts since mid-2019.
Lunchtime in Nashville can be tricky, but Little Hats Italian Market has changed the game for a midday meal in Germantown. With its market full of fine meats, cheeses, and contemporary Italian products, pastas by the pound, and a deli counter serving crowd-pleasing sandwiches such as the spicy Italian or the mortadella muffuletta, Little Hats has become a fast neighborhood favorite.
Looking for something sweet? Germantown has that covered, too. Founded by Mignon Francois, The Cupcake Collection offers a rotating selection of signature flavors such as sweet potato, King cake, campfire s’mores, and wedding cake.
And for impressive gifts for chocolate aficionados, Germantown’s Tempered Fine Chocolate comes through with stunning small-batch, handmade chocolates and candy bars. The shop draws inspiration from historic French and Swiss chocolate-making techniques, and offers whiskey and wine chocolate pairings by appointment. Even better, on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights, Tempered moonlights as absinthe bar The Green Hour. (If you’re not a fan of the green fairy, they also offer craft cocktails of all sorts, alongside cheese and charcuterie boards.)
While we’re on the topic of cocktails, I’ll also share my other favorite spots to grab a drink (with or without alcohol) around Germantown.
Lauded by cocktail lovers far beyond the historic Germantown neighborhood, Ford Fry’s Le Loup delivers on stunning vibes and excellent drinks.
The owners of Mother’s Ruin picked Nashville, and Germantown specifically, for the first-ever non-New York outpost of their beloved bar, offering great late-night food and playful cocktails.
Beer lovers were pumped in late 2021 when Monday Night Preservation Co. (from the folks at Atlanta-based Monday Night Brewing) brought a new taproom to the neighborhood. Located in the Neuhoff development on the bank of the Cumberland River, MNP’s taproom is definitely one of the coolest spots in town to park it and drink a beer. Constructed in the 1920s as a meat-packing facility, the space now offers plenty of patio seating, communal tables, and cornhole boards. The semi-enclosed seating area adjacent to the patio looks unfinished, but feels just right for hanging with friends on a beautiful day.
I never drank coffee until I moved back to Nashville in 2017. But since then I’ve found a love for all things cold brew, and every once in a while I’ll indulge in a “fancy” iced coffee drink. Nashville has an ever-evolving coffee scene, and one of my current favorites is Elegy Coffee, which just opened up its third location, an indoor-outdoor cafe in Germantown’s Griff building that serves excellent espresso, Anchorhead coffee, seasonal specials, pastries from Dozen Bakery and specialty drinks such as the Honey Bear Cold Brew (my favorite) and Black & White.
Owned by Eyes & Ears Hospitality brand, which also operates popular East Nashville spot The Fox Bar & Cocktail Club, Elegy opened in 2020. Andrew Cook, co-owner of Elegy, says the team is excited to expand to Germantown. “Germantown is growing so rapidly that opening a spot there was a no-brainer for us. Elegy Germantown gives us the chance to try things we’re unable to try in East, like an expanded food menu and indoor dining, offering a unique and memorable experience for our customers.”
Of course there’s live music to be found in Germantown! For ticketed events (and bowling) look to Brooklyn Bowl.
Meanwhile, on the eastern side of Germantown, the third piece of Ford Fry’s neighborhood trio, Star Rover Sound, opened at last in 2022. It’s a honky-tonk-inspired good-time place offering up live music, margaritas, and great bar snacks, including L.A.-style tacos, fried bologna sandwiches, burgers, and, of course, queso. Finish it off with a tasty take on a Frost-ee, complete with a bag full of crispy fries for dipping.