The classic Nashville dining experience has four simple elements: one choice of meat and three choices of vegetables—and yes, most Nashvillians do consider pork-stewed pinto beans and macaroni elbows swimming in velvety cheese sauce to be veggies. At the city's famous meat-and-three restaurants, diners choose from a rotating menu of Southern specialties—fried chicken, catfish, turnip greens, squash casserole, creamed corn—rounding out the meal with corn-bread cakes and sweet tea. These low-key joints are scattered throughout the city, usually not in the best parts of town; but since most are open only for breakfast and lunch, safety is not a big consideration—especially when there's banana pudding at stake.
The prevalence of country cookin' doesn't mean that more sophisticated palates suffer in Nashville. An upscale food scene thrives near downtown, at chic Gulch restaurants like Radius 10 and Watermark; East Nashville eateries like Margot Café and Marche; and the Capitol Grille downtown. Prime dinner hours run from 7 to 9 pm; reserve ahead or risk a wait of half an hour or longer.