We’ve been astonished by our city’s nonstop growth and spate of newcomers to our dining scene. Moreover, we’ve been blown away by the irrepressible spirit of our long-standing chefs and restaurateurs who have dug in, gotten creative, and adapted so they can continue to serve delicious food and drink to us hungry diners. For this year’s Restaurant Issue, there are no bests. For anyone still in the business and doing the work, that’s a best, in and of itself. Salud!
We’ve looked back over the past year or two and assembled some favorites, including incredible chef experiences at local restaurants.
What began as pop-up supper club Vivek’s Epicurean Adventures has blossomed into a unique and highly acclaimed stand-alone restaurant. In a warm, familial setting, first-generation Indian American Vivek Surti treats diners to a delectable, creative multi-coursed meal entwining his family stories and culinary heritage. His South Asian- American fare is unparalleled, soon to be enjoyed later this spring in new digs on—where else—Taylor Street. (620 Taylor St.; tailornashville.com)
James Beard award-winning chef RJ Cooper, together with his chef de cuisine, Corey Hargis, hosts The Secret Society Tasting Counter, a 14 to 16 course avant-garde tasting menu designed anew every week. Guests are invited to engage with the chefs as they prepare and serve each dish—an artful combination of seasonal ingredients, forward- thinking techniques, and vivid imagination. (1300 3rd Ave. N.; saintstephennash.com)
After co-helming The Catbird Seat’s first iteration, Chef Josh Habiger set out to open a restaurant with similar intimate and interactive elements and sense of adventure, but instilled with a more laid- back, personal vibe. Bastion has 24 seats where diners feel like guests in Habiger’s home. He and his team serve an innovative, delicious, and ever-evolving multi-coursed meal to a backdrop of tunes from his collection of vinyl. (434 Houston St. Ste. 110, 615-490-8434; bastionnashville.com)
Years of exploring the breadth of Southern foodways have culminated in Chef Sean Brock’s flagship restaurant, Audrey. Named in honor of his maternal grandmother, it is a paean to the Appalachian food of his youth, crafted in five courses. Phase two is June (Audrey’s middle name): a multi- coursed tasting on the second floor, based on Brock’s current work in his adjacent state-of-the-art R&D lab. (809 Meridian St., 615-988-3263; audreynashville.com; junenashville.com)
With its aura of mystery, combined with boundary-pushing dishes created by chefs before your eyes, the debut of The Catbird Seat in 2011 changed the perception of Nashville to dining destination and introduced haute cuisine as performance art. Now, in its fifth iteration under the leadership of chef Brian Baxter, it continues to enthrall and delight diners, providing the most extraordinary 12-plus coursed tasting experience in the city. (1711 Division St., 615-810-8200; thecatbirdseatrestaurant.com)
The array of Bryan Lee Weaver’s innovative, flavor-packed dishes informed by the cultures and cuisines of the Mediterranean Rim might seem overwhelming. So, sometimes, it’s best to surrender and let those in the know choose for you. Skip the à la carte menu and Eat Like a Chef. The experience invites Weaver’s team to style your experience with their own favorites, so every course—and every bite—is a winner. (902 Main St., 615-226-3322; butcherandbee.com/Nashville)
Thursdays through Saturdays, two to four guests can take a trip down The Rabbit Hole, an innovative 14-course tasting menu designed, prepared, and plated by Executive Chef Kristin Beringson, in full view of Henley’s inner sanctum: the kitchen. As a favorite component of her job, Beringson shares her inspiration with guests, and likes to call the private meal “dinner with a show.” (2023 Broadway, 615-340-6378; henleynashville.com)