You can sample Southern staples in the state’s fine dining restaurants, mom-and-pop eateries and hidden gem cafes. Grilled, fried or blackened catfish and hush puppies; slow-cooked barbecue; hot chicken, crisp and crumbly cornbread; red-eye gravy; fried apples and banana pudding. Tennessee’s specialties mean secret family recipes, comforting and soulful, like your oldest and best friend.
Whether you like your biscuits with butter, jam, honey or sorghum, get your fix hot out of the oven at Biscuit Love or Loveless Café in Nashville, Cumberland Biscuit Company in McMinnville, Aretha Frankenstein’s in Chattanooga or Willington’s Restaurant in Johnson City.
Embark on a barbecue journey with dry-rubbed ribs or slow-cooked pork in simmering sauces at Charlie Vergos’ Rendezvous in Memphis, Helen’s Bar-B-Q in Brownsville, Top Hog BBQ in Gallatin and Heavy’s Barbecue in Harrogate. Lure in catfish, hush puppies and coleslaw at Boyette’s Dining Room at Reelfoot Lake, Catfish House in Springfield, Hagy’s Catfish Hotel in Shiloh or Top O’ the River in Michie.
Try the classic meat-and-three home-cooked to perfection at Arnold’s Country Kitchen in Nashville, the Old Country Store at Casey Jones’ Village in Jackson or Moss’s Southern Cooking in Clarksville. Pull up a chair with a plate of country ham at Nick and J’s Café in Chattanooga. Heat things up with hot chicken, at Prince’s or Hattie B’s in Nashville. Chef Joseph Lenn converts comfort foods like chicken and dumplings to an elevated culinary experience at J.C. Holdway in Knoxville. Try the simple-yet-elegant smoked catfish-onion dip with barbecue chips.
Immerse yourself in juicy burgers, comfort food and local culture at Tennessee’s diners and neighborhood dives, such as Chandler’s in Knoxville; Herman’s Soul Food in Chattanooga; Penny Hill Shoppe in Union City; Hoskins Drug Store in Clinton; Elliston Place Soda Shop in Nashville; and the Pig N Whistle in Bartlett.
Whether you’re looking for southern comfort food that feeds your soul or farm-to-table eateries, award-winning restaurants are standard fare from east to west. The Gray Canary in Memphis explores how cooking techniques influence flavor. Chef Sean Brock’s curated list of heirloom vegetables, pastured meats, ember-fired grill dishes and garden-to-glass cocktails delight at Husk in Nashville. Savor pizza at Tomato Head in Knoxville or truffle fries at STIR in Chattanooga, or experience Gourmet & Company’s seasonal favorites in Johnson City.
Satisfy your sweet tooth at local bakeries famous for flaky croissants and decadent desserts. Get treats at Dutch Maid Bakery in Tracy City; a chocolate peanut butter square from Phillip Ashley’s Chocolates in Memphis; ice cream from Hattie Jane’s Creamery in Murfreesboro; a scoop from Asbury’s Cruze Farm; Mayfield Dairy’s blueberry cream pie ice cream, a hand-dipped milkshake at Cream City in Cookeville; a cone from the recreated 1890s Ice Cream Parlor and Fudge Shoppe in Casey Jones Village in Jackson; Bush’s Baked Beans’ pinto bean pecan pie; a Goo Goo Cluster in Nashville; or a Moon Pie, first produced by a Chattanooga Bakery more than 100 years ago.