Rowdy honky-tonks and the endless twang of country music will always define Nashville, but good eating isn’t far behind. The must-have biscuits at Loveless Motel and Café, the fried green tomatoes at Arnold’s Country Kitchen, and those fiery fried birds at Prince’s Hot Chicken have long attracted locals and tourists alike.

In recent years, the city’s become a hub for creative transplants from around the country, and restaurants have followed suit with imaginative cooking in on-the-rise neighborhoods such as 12 South and the Gulch. Sean Brock made Nashville home to the second outpost of Charleston’s acclaimed Husk, Dale Levitski left Chicago for Music City, and New York’s beloved Jonathan Waxman recently made a splash with Adele’s.

Nashville may flaunt one of the nation’s most exciting dining scenes, yet it’s the quirky, out-of-the-way joints that still satisfy chefs the most when they’re off the clock. Here, eight of the city’s finest cooks tell us where they flock to for no-fuss burgers and tacos.


Josh Habiger

Chef at Pinewood Social

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Favorite under-the-radar spot: So Gong Dong Tofu House (1310 Antioch Pike, Antioch; 615-781-2022)

Habiger says: “A short trek into the outer ring of Nashville, this little Korean place is fantastic. The servers are charming (until 9pm, when they want to get out of there), the food is abundant, and everything is on point. Once you order you are bombarded with the banchan, which are all great and interesting. They do some combo-type deals here, so you can get an order of the beef bulgogi and a bowl of kimchi soup for a decent price. There is also a really great biker dive across the street, Bikini Beach Bar, which is somewhere between beautiful and frightening.” (Photo: Linjuan S./Yelp)


Dale Levitski

Executive chef at Sinema

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Favorite under-the-radar spot: Fat Mo’s (several locations; fatmos.com)

Levitski says: “It’s walking distance from Sinema, and it’s just greasy enough. I like a simple burger: ketchup, mustard, pickles, onions, lettuce. No cheese.” (Photo: Kristina W./Yelp)


Tandy Wilson

Chef/owner at City House

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Favorite under-the-radar spot: Woodlands Indian Vegetarian Cuisine (3415 West End Ave; 615-463-3005, woodlandstennessee.com)

Wilson says: “I always feast here on the Gobi Manchurian. The flavors are so much more different than my everyday cooking.” (Photo: Canny F./Yelp)


Andrew Little

Chef at Josephine

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Favorite under-the-radar spot: Brown’s Diner (2102 Blair Blvd; 615-269-5509, brownsdiner.com)

Little says: “I’m 100% monogamous with my dive joints. Brown’s just feels comfortable to me. There is no pretense, and it isn’t ironic. It’s exactly what it is with no apologies. There’s one beer on tap, Budweiser, and there are beer caps as permanent fixtures in the floor. The bar stools aren’t quite stable, but I love, love, love it. It is the quintessential working-man’s bar. My order is the same every time: two cheeseburgers with everything, fries, and a Yuengling. I’ll have another Yuengling when the food arrives. I’m sure they cook other things, but to me this is the only way to go.” (Photo: Brown’s Diner/Facebook)


Matt Bolus

Chef at the 404 Kitchen

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Favorite under-the-radar spot: I Dream of Weenie (113 S 11th St, 615-226-2622)

Bolus says: “I’m a fan of the Frank and to the Point. It has everything I’m looking for on a hot dog: ketchup (yes, it’s okay to put ketchup on a hot dog), mustard, onions, and relish. The Rebel Yelp is fantastic if you like a little spice in your life. And I like to put it all down with an Orange Crush, the perfect accompaniment when a cold beer isn’t available.” (Photo: Matt D./Yelp)


Philip Krajeck

Chef/owner at Rolf and Daughters

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Favorite under-the-radar spot: Duke’s (1000 Main St; no phone)

Krajeck says: “It’s just a good hang—great music, good vibes, and really solid sandwiches. I order a custom one with ham, salami, Provolone, hot giardiniera, avocado, and Duke’s mayo. It’s everything you want in a neighborhood bar.” (Photo: Instagram)


Brandon Frohne

Executive chef at the Mason

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Favorite under-the-radar spot: Tacos y Mariscos el Amigo (3901 Nolensville Pike, 615-833-6434)

Frohne says: “It’s located on Nolensville Pike, a road that is home to a melting pot of cultural diversity and some of the best undiscovered food in the city. They converted an old gas station into a little undiscovered gem on southside. I’m a fool for tacos al pastor, and theirs score right up at the top. The tortas are pretty legit, too. Well worth the drive.” (Photo: Asher B./Yelp)

Sean Brock

Chef/partner at HUSK Nashville

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Favorite under-the-radar spot: Mary’s Old Fashioned Pit Barbecue (1108 Jefferson St, 615-256-7696)

Brock says: “They take a huge slab of ribs, dip it in hot sauce, and let it sit for a minute, then slap a couple pieces of white bread and some pickles on it and call it a sandwich. Amazing.” (Photo: Barry F./Yelp)