Nashville's Dining Diversity

Go beyond barbecue and hot chicken for a truly multicultural approach

Nashville has always possessed spectacular ethnic eats— and now they’re more prevalent than ever.

Indian cuisine

Multiculturalism thrives, in part thanks to the work of prominent folks like Maneet Chauhan and Vivek Deora, whose Morph Hospitality Group is behind Indian fusion locale Chauhan Ale & Masala House downtown.

Chauhan’s Southern-Indian fusion followed up with Chaatable Indian Street Food, the elegant Mockingbird—whose menu touches a little bit of every element of the globe from Italy to China to Mexico—and Tansuo, a flight through Chinese street food.

Nashville is also home to Indian fusion master Vivek Surti, whose Tailor Nashville blends the best of Surti’s native Indian cuisine with elements of the American South. It keeps to supper-club simplicity, offering a prix fixe menu full of intrigue and flavor (try the trout with saffron, fennel, toasted rice and spinach), but not an overwhelming number of dishes to select from.

Also keep an eye out for excellent, wholly vegetarian Woodlands, which offers innovative South and North Indian dishes. Paradise Biryani Pointe serves a wide range of meat and seafood dishes along with vegetarian fare. 

But it’s not just India with an elevated profile in the area—regardless of demographics, exceptional restaurants abound across Nashville and outlying communities. Multicultural dining here kept a low profile for some time. Today, there is virtually no part of the city that doesn’t offer something special, depending on your tastes.

Mediterranean flair

Nashville Farmers’ Market–The Market House has some of the best fast-casual food in the city from around the world. Make a visit to Jamaica Way for jerk chicken, ox tails, curried goat and plenty of fish, all served up with Johnny cake. Guy Fieri made Athens Family Restaurant a landmark, and the gyros are as good as they looked on the Food Network.

For something a bit more native, visit Greko Greek Street Food in East Nashville, where grilled octopus is a thing—a totally delicious thing. The kotosoupa (chicken soup) is good for anything that ails you. To keep on your radar: Persian cuisine at House of Kebab and luscious Lebanese bistro food at upscale Epice.

Nolensville Pike provides a conglomeration of some of the very best of the best ethnic foods in the city, created by talented chefs who come from the traditions they cook. Try Istanbul for a perfect kebab, and Dunya Kebab for Kurdish-style meals of kebabs, gyros and delicious, homemade baklava.

Mexican menus

For authentic Mexican cuisine, try well-established and family-owned La Hacienda, with a menu that includes items including molcajete with choice of meats, cactus, banana peppers, cheese, onions and salsa—delicioso! Craving street tacos? Swing by Tacos y Mariscos El Amigo or El Tapatío for tacos that offer traditional selections and a few for the adventurous—lengua (tongue) or buche (pork stomach), for example.

African options

In and around Nolensville, through Antioch and Smyrna, you’ll find the best Ethiopian options. Gojo Ethiopian Café has a terrific lunch buffet, including some excellent vegetarian and vegan options. The Horn Coffee restaurant and coffee shop offers authentic Somali dishes including sambusa and curried chicken and a variety of coffees and chais.

East Asian fare

Then there’s the East Asian contingency. Upscale Vui’s Kitchen has garnered well-deserved attention for outstanding pho and great bahn mi. Vui’s offers two locations in Berry Hill and Germantown. Polished Miss Saigon offers lunch for $10, including delicious bahn mi with eggrolls and tea.

If you possess the ability to eat your body’s weight in sushi, try Samurai Sushi not far from Vanderbilt—this is the genuine article, as good as it gets. Nama Sushi nearby has an excellent menu and a super-appealing vibe. Jasmine Thai & Sushi has great sushi and is also worth visiting for your Thai food fix.

For genuine Lao cuisine, gracious Smiling Elephant can satisfy your craving for epic pad Thai in a gorgeous little gem of a restaurant in the antique district. Check the curry schedule—just one version is offered daily. No curries contain dairy ingredients, and all but one of the seven are gluten-free.

Looking for a little Korean, with a dose of Japanese and a street food vibe? Check out Funk Seoul Brother in the Factory at Franklin, which was fittingly a former stove factory. What started out as a terrific food truck has become a must-visit restaurant as well, with fresh poke, a noodle bar—and still active truck (check out funkseoulbro.com to find out where they’re parked). For serious Korean barbecue, pay a visit to Seoul Garden

For Chinese cuisine, Corner Asian features Taiwanese trained chefs, and back menu pages brimming with native cuisine and spice palates. Chinatown has been a staple for a reason, as has its sibling, Lucky Bamboo—both with authentic Sichuan menus.

It’s an understatement to say that the Nashville-area cuisine scene has a lot to offer— some of it is off the beaten path, but every bit of it is worth tasting. 

Stephanie Stewart-Howard
About the author