Local Flavor  » Nashville, TN

Local Flavor Edition in Nashville, TN

In Nashville, you’ll find biscuits and hot chicken, but also organic brunch and mouthwatering vegetarian meals -- if you know where to look. Below, our list of foodie-approved diamonds in the rough.
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Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack

“I thought I could handle heat until I ate there!”, one Yelp reviewer exclaims of a trip to Prince’s. This strip-mall paradise’s offerings have prompted many spice addicts to admit defeat. The food is pretty much what it sounds like: chicken coated with a blend of cayenne and Tabasco before deep frying. Hot chicken is a Nashville favorite, and Prince’s thousands of loyal fans will insist they do it best (they even made a convert of famed health nut Gwyneth Paltrow). The menu is minimalist—you’ll probably end up with chicken on bread and pickles on the side—and the location is hardly glamorous, but as one local writer points out, “hot chicken isn’t for whiners.”

Arnold’s Country Kitchen

Pull up to Arnold’s blocky concrete building, and you’d never guess that what’s inside won a James Beard Foundation “American Classics” award. But the restaurant, operated by North Carolina natives Jack and Rose Arnold, couldn’t deserve it more. Their food fulfills’ the meat-and-three genre’s potential. In case you’re not familiar, the paradigm is simple: Choose a main course (meatloaf, fried chicken, roast beef), accompany it with sides like collard greens and fried okra. What sets Arnold’s apart is the care that’s put into each dish—whether it’s sweet, tangy squash casserole, rich mac and cheese, and roast beef with a peppery crust, they’re fresh and perfectly seasoned.

Las Americas

The place consistently tops Nashvillians’ list of best Mexican restaurants, but some of their best loved dishes aren’t Mexican. Owner Juan Cruz is from el Salvador, and his pupusas—Salvadorean corn pancakes stuffed with cheese, beans, and other goodies—are unforgettable. The spot also offers a range of fresh and delicious Mexican, from to ceviche to tacos and enchiladas. A 1.5 pound burrito is filled with chicken or beef, onions and cilantro, and served with spicy cabbage and tomato slaw—earning Las Americas a place on anyone’s “cheap eats” list. Friendly service completes the experience. Before leaving, check out the attached Hispanic market.

Gojo Ethiopian Cafe

African cooking makes stars of ingredients Americans often think of as humble bit players—split peas, lentils, cabbage, tomatoes and beets. Slow-cooked with traditional Ethiopian blends of turmeric, garlic, ginger and jalapeno, they’re anything but dull. At Gojo, you can fill up your plate with veggies and legumes, or try flavorful beef and chicken dishes like minchet abish (spicy ground beef). Either way, there’s no need for silverware; you’ll eat from traditional injera bread. Gojo’s friendly atmosphere and attention to ritual (order coffee, and the staff will pan-roast the beans, then give you a sniff before brewing the coffee in a clay pot) will leave you not just satisfied but serene.

Kien Giang

Get takeout Kien Giang, and you’ll find your food packaged with utmost care. A banh mi po’boy sandwich arrives in the form of pulled pork and separately wrapped French bread, because a soggy sandwich would be unthinkable. The care is warranted: This eatery’s fresh, crisp combinations of flavors deserve to be savored as intended. Fish sauce, lemongrass, mint, lime, cilantro, pickled carrots make each dish a taste explosion. Kien Giang offer a selection of pho, banh xeo (stuffed pancakes), and stir fries, as well as thick French coffee. The attention to detail is all the more remarkable at their bargain prices—at $2.75, the po’boy has kept many a broke musician alive. Cash only.