Best places for families to chow down in Music City
When it comes to Eats, Nashville is the land of “meat and three” (meat + three sides) and sweet tea. If you like your protein smoked and your side dishes heavy on the carbs, you’ll find plenty of places to chow down in Music City.
Photo courtesy: Justin Chesney
5209 Charlotte Ave. & 112 19th Ave. S.
Hattie B’s serves Nashville hot chicken, but don’t worry, you don’t have to get it hot. Spice levels range from Southern (no heat) to Shut the Cluck Up (guaranteed to light a fire in your mouth). Choose your chicken plate (dark, white, tenders or wings) and two sides. Favorites include the pimento mac n’ cheese and black-eyed pea salad. Don’t forget a beverage to cool your mouth; kids will enjoy the hand-squeezed lemonade, while adults may prefer a craft beer. On Sundays, Hattie B's serves chicken and waffles. $-$$
KidTripster Tip: There’s often a long line, so order online and take your food elsewhere to enjoy.
Photo courtesy: Joseph Woodley
2/The Loveless Cafe
8400 Highway 100
The Loveless Cafe is world-famous for its scratch-made southern cooking: fried chicken, country ham, 22-hour BBQ pulled pork, and amazing desserts; but it’s the biscuits that will make you swoon. It also offers up a daily special (chicken n' dumplings on Wednesdays, watermelon ribs on Thursdays), so check the website before you go. Reservations are available for parties of 12 or more; for smaller groups, expect to wait for a table during peak breakfast, lunch, and dinner times, especially on the weekends. $$
KidTripster Tip: While you wait for your table, stroll the property. The original motel rooms have been converted into shops, and there are several cornhole games scattered around. Pick up the game bags at Hams & Jams Country Market.
3/Bobbie's Dairy Dip
5301 Charlotte Ave.
Bobbie’s Dairy Dip brings the past to life! The 50s style burger joint is a family favorite, serving up freshly-grilled patties and hand-cut fries. In a nod to changing tastes, it's added a black bean burger and sweet potato fries to the menu, as well. But the real draw is the ice cream treats: old-fashioned banana splits, specialty milkshakes (Memphis Mafia blends vanilla ice cream with banana, peanut butter, and… bacon!), sundaes (try the Hot Fudge Cake Sundae), and the renowned dip cone! Closed on Sundays. $
4/Martin's Bar-B-Que Joint
410 4th Ave. South & 3108 Belmont Blvd.
Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint is my son’s favorite place and not just because of the name (yes, our last name)! He says that he could eat nothing but the brisket for the rest of his life. Known for its whole hog pit bar-b-que, Martin’s also grills up ribs, chicken, and sausage. From the sides to the sauces, everything is freshly made every single day. Most of its dishes are made from family recipes, including the desserts which feature Southern classics like Coconut Cake and Fudge Pie. If you’re not into bar-b-que, the restaurant also serves burgers and sandwiches. $-$$
5/I Dream of Weenie
113 S. 11th St.
If your kids are like mine, you can’t go wrong with hot dogs. I Dream of Weenie is a hot dog food cart created from a VW bus. Choose from a premium all-beef, turkey or tofu weenie, charcoal grilled, and served on a locally-made bun. You can always get it plain, but what makes this place fun are the amazing toppings. The Rebel Yelp is served with jalapeños, mustard, red onions, and spicy Tennessee chowchow (think relish), while the Flamin' Frank subs in chili and salsa for the chowchow. And don’t forget the daily specials that range from pimento cheese to Greek. It’s also a fun place for brunch with choices like the Eggs Benedict dog, French toast sausage dog, and cheesy hashbrown dog. $
500 Church St.
Puckett’s is a “meat and three” restaurant, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner. At the heart of its extensive menu is meat slow-smoked over cherry wood and home-cooked sides, but it also has a few non-smoked dishes including fillet mignon, Whisky Salmon, and shrimp and grits. Try its twists on old favorites like a fried green tomatoes BLT, a smoked meatloaf, and Piggy Mac (smoked pulled pork topped with smoked Gouda mac n’ cheese). If you have any room left for dessert, order the homemade cobbler of the day. Make a reservation online, so you don’t have to wait for seating. $$
KidTripster Tip: Puckett’s has live music every night of the week, but on Sundays, the show starts at 7:00 p.m. (no cover charge) and features local singer-songwriters. Go for dinner and enjoy dessert with music. This is as close to honky-tonking as you can get with the kids in tow!
7/Peg Leg Porker
903 Gleaves St.
Peg Leg Porker does BBQ Memphis-style. It’s a favorite of the Food Network, and once you try it, you’ll know why. The chicken and ribs are dry-rubbed and slow-smoked to fall-off-the-bone perfection. Add sauce, if you’d like, but you don’t need it (though I’m sure some would argue that it’s not ‘cue without sauce). There’s also a heavenly pulled pork sandwich. The best sides are smoked green beans, BBQ beans, and mac n’ cheese. And be sure to grab a fried pie for dessert! Closed Sundays. $-$$
4501 Murphy Rd. & 1100 Fatherland St.
Local Taco is Tex-Mex with a Tennessee twist. It’s quick, cheap, and has something for every taste. The restaurant has traditional tacos, but you’ll want to try the Southern Fried taco, filled with buttermilk fried chicken, honey mayo, iceberg lettuce, and tomatoes or the Local BBQ taco with 12-hour smoked pork, jalapeño coleslaw, and BBQ sauce. Or choose the Korean BBQ taco, filled with braised short ribs, coleslaw, toasted sesame seeds, and green onion. No meal would be complete without a little guacamole and a side of Cuban corn (if you don’t like spice, ask for it without cayenne). And don’t miss $3 Margarita Mondays! $
1000 Main St.
Marché is a European-style bistro known for its inspired brunch offerings. House-made pastries, croissant French toast, savory crêpes, quiche, and cheese plates will transport your tastebuds to Paris. It has a full espresso bar and well-curated beer and wine list, but folks rave about the fruity mimosas and the signature Spicy Bellini. Breakfast and lunch menus change seasonally, and dinner menu options update monthly. If you’re looking for a more grown-up place to dine, try its sister restaurant, Margot Café and Bar. $$
1222 4th Ave. N.
City House serves Italian food with a distinctly Southern influence. House-made sausages make their way into many dishes, which often substitute grits for more traditional Italian ingredients like pasta or polenta. The pizzas are a fantastic blend of complex flavors, so don’t expect to find plain pepperoni here; the belly ham pizza is a perennial favorite on the menu and should appeal to kids. And for a sweet treat, try the cookie plate - 10 cookies, 5 flavors - even if you get it to-go. Closed Tuesdays.
KidTripster Tip: The main level is loud, which means you likely won’t have to worry about boisterous kids, but if you want a quieter space, request a table upstairs. $$$
Leslie Martin is a journalist, who lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband and two sons. The only thing that she loves more than writing is reading, especially the latest from Gillian Flynn. She believes caramel is a legitimate food group. She also knows how to change the oil in her car and jump a dead battery.
This writer received some complimentary meals for the purpose of this review. However, all opinions expressed are solely her own.