Slurping a Chocolate Shake at the Elliston Place Soda Shop (2111 Elliston Place (tel. 615/327-1090)
Sure, every city has its retro diner these days, but the Elliston Place Soda Shop is the real thing. It's been in business since 1939 and makes the best chocolate shakes in Nashville.
Sopping up Red-Eye Gravy with Homemade Biscuits at the Loveless Cafe, 8400 Tenn. 100 (tel. 615/646-9700; www.lovelesscafe.com)
This perennially popular country cookin' outpost serves the best traditional Southern breakfasts in the entire area. But be prepared to wait for a table.
Lingering Over Coffee and Biscotti after an Exquisite Lunch at Marché Artisan Foods, 1000 Main St. (tel. 615/262-1111; www.marcheartisanfoods.com)
This sunny East Nashville eatery is probably my favorite place for gourmet food in a casual setting. Chef/owner Margot McCormack oversees a menu featuring artisanal breads, luscious salads, and creamy quiches. Imported olive oils, pestos, and pastas are artfully displayed around wooden farmhouse tables.
Best Spot for a Business Lunch
Capitol Grille, 231 Sixth Ave. N. (tel. 615/345-7116; www.thehermitagehotel.com), at the Hermitage Hotel, is very popular with the downtown business set. Why? It could be the prime spot next to the state capitol, or the traditional ambience, or perhaps the secret is in the exclusive wine list, grilled steaks, and espresso fudge cake.
Best for Kids
It's not everywhere that you get to eat in a restaurant next to a full-size trolley car, and anyway, isn't spaghetti one of the major food groups? For less than most restaurants charge for a round of drinks, the whole family can eat at The Old Spaghetti Factory, 160 Second Ave. N. (tel. 615/254-9010; www.osf.com), in the heart of the District.
Best for Big Families
You'll think it's Sunday dinner at Grandma's when you enter the cozy Victorian home that houses Monell's, 1235 Sixth Ave. N. (tel. 615/248-4747), downtown. You'll share a big table with family and fellow travelers, passing dishes of old-fashioned Southern staples such as fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and greens.
Best Southern Soul Food
One of Nashville's oldest minority-owned restaurants, Swett's, 2725 Clifton Ave. (tel. 615/329-4418; www.swettsrestaurant.com), is still the benchmark for home-style comfort foods such as pork chops, slow-simmered green beans, cornbread, and macaroni and cheese. That first bite of banana pudding may bring tears to your eyes.
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