If you’re considering a local US vacation with the family, may I humbly recommend Nashville? Nashville has become a bit of an “It” city in recent years — if this Nashville resident does say so myself — and now it’s a foodie city too. Which is great news for locals like me, and even for families looking to brave the heat on vacation for our signature honkeytonks and hot chicken.
So in a bit of unabashed, civic pride, I hope you enjoy my local’s guide to the very best places to eat with kids in Nashville.
Trust me, you won’t regret any of these choices. Well, unless you get the really really hot chicken. More on that later.
For Southern Diner Food: Loveless Cafe
When you sit down at Loveless, the staff hits you with a basket full of biscuits, and they don’t stop coming until you’re done with your meal. Total win for impatient, hungry kids. It is a bit of a drive from downtown, but if you want a real taste of Southern hospitality and diner-style food, you’ll be glad you came.
For Burgers: Pharmacy
This hugely popular burger joint draws a crowd at peak hours — you’ll understand why on first bite — so try to hit it before or after the dinner or lunch rush. You’ll never want to leave their gorgeous beer garden, especially when you’re feasting on their handmade brioche buns, their juicy locally-sourced burgers, and their notoriously wide array of dips for French fries. Pharmacy’s handcrafted sodas and impressive beer selection will keep kids and adults happy, too.
For real Nashville hot chicken: Hattie B’s
There’s a reason Hattie B’s always has a line out the door. And yes, it’s really worth it. Hattie’s carries 5 different levels of spice including one called Shut the Cluck Up!!! which is a stop above Damn Hot! Don’t worry, there are options for non-heat lovers too, including a kid’s jumbo chicken tender. Get to Hattie B’s early so you can cut down your wait time — and be sure not to skip the peach cobbler on your way out.
For Donuts: Five Daughters Bakery
Probably the most frequently tagged location in my personal Instagram account, Five Daughters makes some of the most fabulous donuts in Nashville. They sell 100-layer cronuts (come to mama!) as well as paleo-friendly and regular donuts. Their 12-South location has a play yard with climbable animals that my toddler son loves, so you can enjoy your donuts in (relative) peace. Plus, it’s just right next to cool local shopping, including Reese Witherspoon’s Draper James, where you’re greeted with fresh sweet tea when you walk in the store. Yes please.
For Nashville BBQ: Edley’s BBQ
Edley’s BBQ is a local chain that seemingly won’t stop growing. I’m not a hard-core BBQ person, but I could honestly eat their brisket tacos every single day. Plus, Edley’s fast service and casual atmosphere make it a stress-free Nashville dining experience for even bigger families. Oh, and looking for an adult beverage? Try the Bushwacker. It’s our Associate Editor Kate Etue’s favorite.
Photo: Plaza Mariachi
For Mexican food and fun: Plaza Mariachi
Visiting Plaza Mariachi is like stepping from a strip mall parking lot into a charming Mexican village, complete with a full food court, boutiques, arcade, and a Mexican grocery store. It’s amazing and kids just love it. On the weekends, you’ll also find live entertainment, like aerial dancers, jugglers, and bands. I used to stroll my son here as a baby since all the ambient noise helped him go to sleep. Now we come during waking hours for the paletas and cheap tacos. Major fave with my family.
For the full hipster experience: Pinewood Social
Austin definitely does not have a lock on hipster restaurants in the south. For a fun Nashville experience with your family, head over to Pinewood Social where in addition to a cool bar and restaurant area, you’ll find got a bowling alley, an outdoor bocce area, and two pools with adjacent Airstreams serving refreshments. It’s in the heart of downtown Nashville, so it’s an easy jaunt to other tourist destinations like Nissan Stadium, the Ryman, and the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Photo: Frothy Monkey
For great local coffee: Frothy Monkey Coffee
If you need a cold brew fix while exploring Nashville with your family, skip the Starbucks and visit one of the five locations of Frothy Monkey, a Nashville original. I’ve always loved their roasts, but recently they’ve upped their food game, too, so it’s also a great place to grab lunch or breakfast. Their gorgeous new location in The Nations is my personal favorite, and it happens to be beside CMP clothing and handbag go-to ABLE.
Top image: Joshua Ness via Unsplash