Just as the Nashville sound is changing with every new release from Black country music acts like Mickey Guyton and Chapel Hart, so too is the city’s epicurean story being rewritten with each meal. Sure, hot chicken and Swett’s soul food have received plenty of praise over the years, but these recognition-worthy Black-owned eateries are singing a different tune, with inventive dishes like crawfish queso and creole salmon croquettes coming from their kitchens. Like the refreshing image of Guyton performing at the Super Bowl, the aromas wafting about Music City are new and exciting. Here are 5 Black-owned restaurants to try during your next Nashville visit.
Housed in the historic Melrose Theatre, Sinema is a fitting name for this gastronomic production. With a dining room decked out in velvety banquettes and whimsical light fixtures, the space feels like the set of a moody sixties drama. “Sinema reflects both the city’s rich history and the vibrant, exciting pulse of today,” says co-owner Q Taylor. During the week, you’ll find smartly dressed patrons sitting beneath black-and-white photos of Hollywood royalty while noshing on short ribs and pan-seared scallops. Come weekends, the eatery rolls out the red carpet for its beloved bottomless brunch, where dishes like Fruity Pebbles French toast and jalapeño cheese grits shine. And when it’s time to powder your nose, Sinema’s selfie mirror provides an Instagram-worthy photo op.
Husband-and-wife team Clifton and Tiffany Hancock opened this brick-and-mortar spot in 2018 after years of cooking up their plant-based goodness at farmers’ markets and other various locales. And what a brilliant idea the expansion was. At this spacious Buchanan Street address, herbivores can spread out and enjoy the two-handed pepper-and-onion-topped TSV Philly the way it was intended. Trust us: You’ll want your fellow diners at arm’s length as you devour the popular Hot Chick’n sandwich (fried seitan). You might be tempted to keep your vegan chocolate chip cookie all to yourself, too, but this delightful dessert is too good not to share.
Friends and business partners Clint Gray, Mo Moore, Gemaal Pratt and E.J. Reed have two sides to their burgeoning epicurean empire. There’s Slim & Husky’s, the casual, hip hop–powered pizza joint slinging pies from Atlanta to Sacramento. Then there’s this buttoned-up 21+ lounge. “We provide an authentic craft cocktail experience accompanied by an appreciation for education, design and Southern flavor,” Gray explains. But just because evenings here are fueled by unbelievable soul music and Uncle Nearest whiskey cocktails, it doesn’t mean EG & MC can’t have a stellar culinary side. On the contrary — lamb meatballs, a divine yam-mac concoction and other Southern tapas show a unique kitchen nimbleness.
Annually voted one of the city’s best restaurants, Riddim N Spice is the Caribbean-flavored brainchild of brothers Rashean Conaway and Kamal Kalokoh (whose celebrity fan club includes Drake and Rihanna). Seems like it’s in their blood, seeing as how their mother, Ouida Bradshaw, has run the beloved farmers’ market establishment Jamaicaway for years. It naturally follows that when you visit this North Nashville eatery, you feel like family. While the dining hall is bright and colorful like an eclectic auntie’s living room, the kitchen reminds you more of Granny’s house — full of flavor and love. Favorites include oxtails, honey jerk chicken, and rice bowls topped with everything from curry beef to cabbage. Vegans, rest easy: Like a thoughtful mom, the menu is also considerate of those with dietary restrictions.
What if you had a bake sale every single day? That’s the question Mignon Francois asked before opening the Cupcake Collection in 2008. From the looks of the lines outside her Nashville and New Orleans outposts these days, we have a clear answer. Faithful customers score strawberry, red velvet and sweet lemonade cupcakes straight out of the oven. Like any bake sale worth its weight in flour, Francois’s offerings also include vegan treats, gluten-free sweets and traditional birthday cakes. “We believe that good cake is connected to great memories,” she muses. “Our cupcakes take you back to a nostalgic time or place when you experienced something that was made with love.”