Best Back Road Eats in Nashville
“When you come to a fork in the road,” Yogi Berra once advised, “take it.” We agree.
The restaurants we like the best are the ones without pretense or ego. They’re honest and comfortable. What they serve is good, sure, but the personalities behind the food are even better. Most folks cook as an act of love—to share a piece of themselves. To see folks leave happy and satisfied. We didn’t set out to focus on home-spun food in funky locales, it just seems to be where we like to eat. Here are six places we love. So go meet some new friends, and tell’em Edible sent’cha!
PRINCE’S HOT CHICKEN SHACK
123 EWING DR • NASHVILLE, TN 37207 • (615) 226-9442 • website
Prince’s is to food what The Bluebird is to music. Their reputations precede them. Both are housed in strip centers. Both are welldeserved legends. Open since 1945, Prince’s is no frills. You order from the counter, consulting the plastic menu either on the wall or on the counter. You get your food (not by a swift “runner” at a fast casual joint) sort of accidentally (pay attention). While you pay, snag a piece of cake from Irene, who sells her home-made cakes for $2.25 a slice. We recommend the Caramel Cake. Savor the chicken and watch the families, millennials, professionals, and construction workers wander in and out. The chicken is of course awesome.
3101 SOUTHALL ROAD • FRANKLIN, TN 37064 • (615) 794-1435 • website
If you’re into fishing, then this general store just south of Franklin on the way to Leipers Fork will still sell you live bait. But if you prefer a plate to a pole, especially a plate with one of our area’s most highly acclaimed cheeseburgers on it, then Halfway Market is worth the trip all the way there. Other Halfway favorites include the eggs and gravy and fried bologna sandwich. We went for the fried fish and frog legs, both of which are lovingly cooked in the adjacent kitchen and are only available on the 1st and 3rd Fridays of each month. Don’t expect fancy, but do expect fine food and friendly folks. On your visit, you may want to avoid holidays; lines at Halfway Market often wrap all the way around the building.
1828 4TH AVENUE N • NASHVILLE TN 37208 • (615) 242-8118 • website
Fried catfish and fried pork chops—eating at Big Al’s is like eating at grandma’s if grandma were a six-foot-tall man with a booming baritone. Located in an old house on a residential street in Nashville’s Salemtown neighborhood, you have to look for Big Al’s. There’s no “Nashville cool” going on here, which, paradoxically, makes Big Al’s hyper hip. Al has been in the food business for most of his life (ever heard of Burger King?), but, until 2015 when he took a leap of faith, had never owned his own place.
The greeting from Al when you enter is as hearty as the food itself. We let him do the ordering and wound up snagging the last, unadvertised specials of the day: steak sandwiches with beans and coleslaw. We’ll be back for the meatloaf and whipped potatoes, staples of the menu. When we left, Big Al packed us some biscuits to go and, yes, they were drop-dead good. Big Al can cook. (Closed Sundays)
CARIBBEAN SPLASH CAFE & CAR WASH
2023 CLARKSVILLE PIKE • NASHVILLE 37218 • (615) 730-7534 • website
Full disclosure—we’ve never had our car washed here, but we have eaten the jerk chicken, an authentic island delicacy and reason enough to go. On your visit, you’ll see the smoke rising from the black drum smokers in the parking lot before you hear Devin Robinson with his beautiful Jamaican accent and his enthusiasm for his “world famous jerk chicken.” Swing by to grab a meal to go, or eat in and have your car washed while you enjoy those authentic island flavors.
PAPA BOUDREAUX’S CAJUN
3419 FLY ROAD • SANTE FE, TN 38482 • (931) 682-0040 • website
Do you know the way to Santa Fe—Santa Fe, Tennessee that is? If so, then you pretty much already know the way to Papa Boudreaux’s Cajun Cafe. Oh sure, on the outside, it may look like any other cinder block building, but—on the inside where it counts—it’s all Mardi Gras beads, twinkling lights, and les bons temps rouler-ing around. (Bring your own wine or beer, and les bons temps will rouler even better.)
Papa Boudreaux’s is an intimate space, so be prepared to almost rub elbows with folks from the neighboring table as Papa or his son cook up real deal cajun in the kitchen. Jambalaya and crawfish pie and fillet gumbo ain’t just words to a great Hank William’s song, they’re also great choices at Papa’s. If you get a chance to talk to Papa himself, by all means do. He’s full of stories about music, catering gigs, life, Michael McDonald, and Ashley Judd.
BARBARA’S HOME COOKIN’
1232 OLD HILLSBORO ROAD • FRANKLIN, TN 37069 • (615) 794-9533 • website
Barbara’s Home Cookin’ is off Old Hillsboro Road, and on the way to Leiper’s Fork, hidden behind some trees. Started by Barbara Thomas back in 1997 in a rental house, Barbara’s is now owned by Brenton Wright who started out as a dishwasher when he was 14. Of South African descent, Brenton’s mom, Odette, and grandma Norma also work at Barbara’s and have for many years. Barbara taught Brenton how to cook all the dishes, so the menu hasn’t changed too much.
This old school meat and three is not your place for black sea bass, truffle flatbread, or kale salad, but it can more than handle its own in terms of heaping helpings of Southern comfort food like skillet-fried chicken, fried pork chops, mac and cheese, and fresh-baked yeast rolls. While waiting for your table, take a seat on the front porch or survey the cakes and pies on display in the pastry case in the front room. The yeast rolls are some of the best in town and you can grab a bag on your way out.