Best Ethnic Food on Nolensville Pike
After Joe Nolan's startling and delightful Pikes Project on WPLN, which documents the lost and mostly unnoticed sights along Nashville’s main thoroughfares, we asked Nolan to retrace some of his steps pointing out his favorite eats, lots of which are unnoticed. First up: Nolensville Pike.
I'm a lot more interested in international flavors than I am in fine dining. Of course, they don't have to be exclusive, but in Nashville they mostly are. If you're looking for a mouthful of something that will make you forget you're in Music City chances are you'll find it on Nolensville Pike – the city's most diverse corridor is packed with trucks and restaurants and markets packed with global flavors. This list is neither exhaustive nor definitive, but it's a great place to start if you're looking to do your own food tour of the pike.
2615 Nolensville Pike Nashville, TN 37211
La Hacienda started selling its authentic Mexican fare on Nolensville Pike way back in the 1990's, and it still packs the tables at lunchtime and on weekends. La Hacienda's spacious dining room and expansive kitchen are matched by a wide-ranging menu that none of the nearby taco trucks can hope to compete with. They have tacos here, too, and they're good, but my favorite meals at La Hacienda are breakfast specialties which are available anytime. I like to get their Huevos con Chorizo which comes with rice and beans and a handful of hot tortillas. Another winner is their Chilaquiles a la Hacienda which includes tortilla strips cooked up in a savory red sauce and poured over beef (or chicken). The whole thing is topped with fried eggs (or scrambled) and cheese. Rice and beans included. Order these with a mug of their better-than-you-might-think black coffee and get your day started right.
Tacos Y Mariscos El Amigo
3901 Nolensville Pike Nashville, TN 37211
Located inside of a former gas station, El Amigo is one of the most recognizable – and most popular – Mexican food stops on Nolensville Pike. The place is decorated with colorful flags and painted murals of various menu offerings and it's impossible to miss on a taco run. This place is often busy and they have a small staff so don't plan to stop here for a quick lunch. They have a smallish dining room but a pretty full menu of offerings. You can get tacos and chicken here, but diners in the know will point you to the pork al pastor which offers that crispy-tender-tangy-spicy profile in perfect ratios. You can really taste how perfect this stuff is on a taco with just onions and cilantro or you can just take my word for it and order a fully-loaded burrito or a massive torta jammed with the stuff. Thank me after your nap.
El Tapatio #2
3611 Nolensville Pike Nashville, TN 37211
There are actually two El Tapatio restaurants located miles from one another on Nolensville Pike. You'll recognize both by the smiling, sombreroed mascot on their signage and the black, belching, charcoal smokers that advertise the restaurant's signature offering up and down the pike depending on which way the wind is blowing. El Tapatio #2 is a well-worn, sit down restaurant that offers more menu options and more consistent service than its sister. They make good tacos, but the faithful flock here for the Pollo Al Carbon: this fall-off-the-bone, smoky, well-seasoned bird is usually served with tortillas, pico, vegetables, beans, rice and tortilla. Half a bird makes a hearty lunch, but the full meal is a great pick for a double date back home on the deck or for the next time the guys come over to watch the big game.
Baklava Cafe & Bakery
3403 Nolensville Pike Nashville, TN 37211
The Baklava Cafe & Bakery is many things to many people: they have a hooka smoking lounge in the back and a funky dining space up front. They stay open until the wee hours, offering bar food like chicken tenders and fries to the closing time crowd and have hopes to offer a full menu in the coming months. They also sell a rainbow variety of hookahs, glass pipes and rolling papers in the glass cabinets up front. But, most importantly, they bake a spectrum of styles of baklava here that are as delicious as this place is quirky. If you're craving traditional baklava made up of layers of phylo dough, chopped walnuts and sticky honey, this place has your back. This stuff has super texture and a nice balance of meaty nuttiness and sticky sweetness. The fun here is finding a favorite variety customized to your taste buds: If you're nuts about nuts try the “bird's nest” version which is like a shallow, honey-drizzled phylo basket brimming with nuts. If you have a sweet tooth try one of the Turkish-influenced cream-filled varieties – it's sort of like a tres leches treat, but the phylo stands-up to a soaking, trapping all that milky sweetness in layer after layer.
Taqueria El Dollar #2
3500 Nolensvillle Pike Nashville, TN 37211
If you start talking tacos on Nolensville Pike someone will inevitably point you in the direction of this taco truck permanently parked at the BP gas station. Taqueria El Dollar #2 is definitely a favorite among this neighborhood's taco aficionados and there are number of reasons why the faithful squeeze into this tiny parking lot all day long for these meaty mouthfuls: The tacos here only cost $.99 which makes this the perfect spot for trying a variety of fillings. Their al pastor, and carnitas are great, but these guys are so good on the grill that even their chicken tacos are packed with meaty flavor. Their tortillas are almost a little bit toasted from the grill treatment as well, and the little side salad of grilled onions, pickled carrots and jalapeno is a great treat in itself.
2631 Nolensville Pike, Nashville, TN 37211
Istanbul hasn't been around as long as La Hacienda, but since 2002 this place has been serving up Turkish favorites that have set the tone for many of the Mediterranean eateries that now call the pike home. If you've never been to Istanbul I recommend trying the kabob combinations – it's a fun way to taste a variety of dishes and its one of this place's specialties. I also recommend their soups: lentil and white bean varieties both offer comforting spoonfuls, but the Tarhana soup – a Turkish classic that finds dried, fermented grain re-hydrated in a yogurt broth – will make you forget you're still in Nashville.