Nashville, aka Music City, is the home of the Grand Ole Opry, the name of a well-known TV drama and a place where the food is as varied as the 12 million annual visitors who make it a vacation destination.
While downtown Nashville can be crowded and rowdy, with its open-to-the-street bars, tour buses and honky tonk music venues, there are places for great meal, minus the shouting and line dancing.
Downtown is not a big breakfast destination; given that many establishments serving alcohol are open all day and don’t close until 3 a.m., but for the early risers (and those who never made it to bed in the first place), Puckett’s Grocery offers a hearty breakfast in a rustic setting. A fancier place now than its original setting, but the tables are still rustic wood, industrial pipes line the ceiling and you can still buy “groceries”, though they are limited to jellies, jams, spices, mixes and chocolates. Old boxes, tins and signs line the walls, and the smell of smoked meats permeates every corner. There is a breakfast buffet featuring their most popular items, but if you’re looking for real innovation, stick to the regular menu. There’s pulled pork served over sweet potato pancakes with a topping of fried egg and fried apples, a French toast fit for Elvis (made with brioche, filled with peanut butter and bananas and deep-fried), cornbread waffles, ham with redeye gravy and steak, pork chops and chicken with white pepper gravy.
Puckett’s is also open for lunch and dinner, and in the evening it’s also music venue featuring local bands. You can get anything from burgers and salads to the classic Southern “meat and three” platter, cherry-smoked ribs and pulled pork mac and cheese.
Puckett’s Grocery, 500 Church Street, Nashville, TN. Phone (615) 770-2772(615) 770-2772. Three other locations in Franklin, Columbia and the Franklin Boat Locker, plus a mobile food cart known as the Trolley. Breakfast at the restaurant is served from 7 to 11 a.m. daily, with the buffet open from 8 a.m. to noon on Fridays and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. The Nashville location is open Monday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
And if you don’t mind a drive through the city, into the heart of some very pretty suburbs, you can eat at the famous Loveless Café. Comprised of the main restaurant, a gift shop and several outbuildings (formerly motel rooms, now used by local artisans and for meeting space), the restaurant was once a private home, turned into a motel and restaurant. The Loveless family and subsequent owners have served food to travelers since 1951, and while the place still maintains its charm and kitsch, it has also undergone extensive renovations.
The décor is Southern-accented with old posters and advertising signs, checkered tablecloths and a lot of “y’alls” from the staff. You get the requisite biscuits and preserves sampler to start, and this could be the end of your meal, if you eat all of it. The biscuits are buttery, the preserves are fruit first, with just a bit of sugar. The menu is varied, with everything from pit-cooked BBQ and pork chops to catfish, grits and fried green tomatoes on the BLT, but the signature dish is hot fried chicken, with the sinus-clearing spices included in the batter. One piece is fairly pleasant eating. A second piece is best left to those who genuinely like it hot. There’s no asking for mild or medium versions; this recipe has been on the menu from the beginning, and no one is going to meddle with it.
The gift shop offers plenty of jams and jellies, biscuit mixes, smoked meats, honey and gifts. You’ll want to take home a basket full of this place by the time you’re done eating.
Loveless Café, 8400 TN 100, Nashville, TN. Phone (615) 646-9700(615) 646-9700. Open daily 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.