Clockwise from top left: Josh Habiger and Erik Anderson of The Catbird Seat, biscuits at Loveless Café, Jack’s Bar-B-Que in Nashville’s vibrant nighttime scene, the exterior of Prince’s Hot Chicken.

As an over-privileged and under-deserving graduate of a Nashville university, I spent much of my time exploring the bustling food scene. While I have countless fond memories of my four years in Nashville (annual first-round exits in the NCAA Tournament come to mind), I will always remember the city as the time when food started taking over my life. Here is my list of 21 – yes, I really did find it impossible to narrow it down to an even 20 – can’t-miss food and drink items in Music City.

1. The Pharmacy Burger Parlor & Beer Garden
There’s nothing better than sitting at an outdoor wooden table in East Nashville’s Pharmacy Burger while enjoying one of the several unique beers on tap (the Craggie Dubbelicious is a personal favorite). The Farm Burger is as manly as burgers get, and its free-flowing juices ooze with every bite. 731 McFerrin Avenue, 615-712-9517

2. Bushwacker Drink at Broadway Brewhouse
A sip of a Bushwacker at the downtown bar may singlehandedly validate a trip to Nashville. The alcoholic milkshake is pure gooey godliness – just be wary about the inevitable brain-freeze and about becoming “Bushwacked” (being incapable of making sound moral decisions after downing more than one). 317 Broadway, 615-271-2838,

3. The Catbird Seat
The much-acclaimed hotspot is worth all the praise and the month-long wait for a reservation…and then some. A testament to Nashville’s rapid ascension to national food recognition, the 32-seat, U-shaped restaurant featuring some of the country’s best new chefs promises diners an unforgettable, 3-hour, 9-course food experience, complete with chef interaction and genius beverage pairings. 1711 Division Street, 615-810-8200,

4. Bacon Old Fashioned at The Patterson House
While I proudly admit that I spent the majority of my college life drinking out of red solo cups, I fell in love with Prohibition-era speakeasy The Patterson House after one look at their house rules (don’t even think of calling the waiter, “chief”!). If you are skeptical after waiting over an hour for a table, you won’t be after a sip of a smoky Bacon Old Fashioned. Accompany that with an Elvis Panini (peanut butter, banana and bacon) and all is forgiven. 1711 Division Street, 615-636-7724,

5. Korea House
Korean food in a Nashville strip mall? The only way it should come. The family-owned and operated joint serves sizzling stone bowls of bibimbap and mouthwatering strips of bulgogi. 6410 Charlotte Pike #108, 615-352-2790

6. Sweet Potato Pancakes at Pancake Pantry
If you think you have seen a long line at a restaurant, stroll by Pancake Pantry at noon on a Saturday. A Nashville tradition since 1960, the Pantry’s sweet potato pancakes just might have you returning to that same line on Sunday. 1796 21st Avenue South, 615-383-9333,

7. Brunch at Marché Artisan Foods
Yet another East Nashville representative, this European-style café and marketplace features the city’s most attractive and freshest brunch. The menu changes frequently and includes items such as toast with pear and melt-in-your-mouth Camembert cheese. The proclivity of East Nashville’s most attractive women to dine there on weekends is a nice bonus. 1000 Main Street, 615-262-1111,

8. Bison Burger at Burger Up
Nashville’s most dressed-up burger is located in the up-and-coming 12South district. The Bison Burger explodes with freshness and even allows you to half-heartedly justify to others that it’s “lean meat” (we’ll look past the fried red onions inside). 2901 12th Avenue South, 615-279-3767,

9. Ribs At Jack’s Bar-B-Que
Founded by “The Barbecue King of Nashville,” Jack Cawthon, Jack’s Bar-B-Que serves arguably the best barbecue in a city home to some of the nation’s finest. The restaurant’s location in the dead center of downtown doesn’t hurt and the St. Louis Style Ribs practically slip off the bone, eager to be doused in one of Jack’s various homemade barbecue sauces. 416 Broadway, 615-254-5715,

10. Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams
Even though the shop’s roots are in Ohio, the Jeni’s outpost in Nashville is equally as mind-blowing. The salted caramel and goat cheese with roasted red cherries flavors are one-of-a-kind and the potential to get your buzz on with some of their alcohol-infused flavors might actually be too good to be true. 1892 Eastland Avenue, 615-262-8611,

11. Holland House Bar & Refuge
Located in historic East Nashville, the quaint Holland House serves expertly made and inventive cocktails, such as the Tennessee Cobbler #3, a complex mix served shaken on top of cracked ice that will have you wondering how Jack Daniel’s can taste so good. The upscale menu features a raw bar that allows diners to sample the day’s different oyster selections. 935 W. Eastland Avenue, 615-262-4190,

12. Monell’s
You have never properly experienced communal dining until you have had a seat at one of Nashville’s Monell’s restaurants (hit up the Manor location for shorter lines). Make new friends at your table as you pass around steaming hot plates of country ham and bacon for breakfast or fried chicken and catfish for dinner. Just don’t seem surprised when their all-you-can-eat Southern food makes you realize that their motto, “Help! I’ve eaten and I can’t get up!” should be taken literally. 1235 6th Avenue North, 615-248-4747, and 1400 Murfreesboro Pike, 615-365-1414,

13. Avocado Paleta at Las Paletas Gourmet Popsicles
The Mexican popsicle shop in the 12South neighborhood provides the perfect remedies to Nashville’s steamy summer days. The shop dishes out natural creamy and fruit-only “paletas,” and customers can choose to dunk their popsicles in fresh chocolate. The smooth avocado and Mexican caramel flavors are to die for. 2905 12th Avenue South, 615-386-2101

14. Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack
Hot chicken is a Nashville specialty, and no chicken joint has a longer or more flavorful history than Prince’s. Try to overlook its shack-like interior or call your order in ahead to ensure prompt service, and be sure to pack some serious antacids regardless of your temperature choice. 123 Ewing Drive, 615-226-9442

15. Biscuits at Loveless Café
Nothing says “Nashville” more than waiting for hours to enjoy weekend brunch at country kitchen and local favorite Loveless Café. Its world famous biscuits were featured on Throwdown With Bobby Flay. Feel free to contact me to join my petition protesting Flay’s challenge victory. 8400 Tennessee Highway 100, 615-646-9700,

16. Pizza at City House
If it’s good enough for Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively, it must be good enough for you! The small menu features crackly, char-crusted pizzas that are indisputably the best in Nashville and are made with unorthodox ingredients like potato and spring onion to complement house made mozzarella and belly ham. 1222 4th Avenue North, 615-736-5838,

17. Virago
The ultra-modern and spacious inside of Nashville’s Japanese eatery Virago will have you (and your wallet) thinking you are in New York or Las Vegas. The crispy rice with spicy tuna and watermelon “pop rocks” is a must. While you are in the ultra-trendy Gulch area, be sure to check out other MStreet Nashville institutions Kayne Prime Steakhouse and Whiskey Kitchen. 1126 McGavock Street, 615-254-1902,

18. Sambuca
Nashville is the birthplace of country music, and no venue combines better live music and food than Sambuca. The multi-floored establishment located in The Gulch is dimly lit and perfect for you and a date to nibble at tapas-style modern Southern dishes, like buca beignets and fried shrimp bites, while listening to music that ranges from classic rock to jazz to top 40. 601 12th Avenue South, 615-248-2888,

19. Watermark
Long considered the epitome of Nashville fine dining, Watermark has served upscale cuisine in an elegant atmosphere in the heart of The Gulch for half a decade. The restaurant specializes in seasonally changing seafood dishes and boasts an impressive wine list…for Nashville standards. 507 12th Avenue South, 615-254-2000,

20. The Grilled Cheeserie
Everyone has an opinion on food trucks
. There are not many varying beliefs, however, regarding Nashville’s most prominent meal on wheels. Tracked via Twitter, the truck serves up greasily good and ridiculously inventive grilled cheeses. Think some combination of: bubbling melted gruyère, chili-rubbed smoked turkey, Benton’s bacon, orange & apricot marmalade, avocado aioli and local farm fried egg. Varying locations,

21. Arnold’s Country Kitchen
If you have never heard the term “meat and three” before, make this Nashville staple your starting destination. While both the interior and exterior of Arnold’s may leave much to be desired, it remains the best bang-for-your-buck in the city. Unfortunately, the secret is out. 605 8th Avenue South, 615-256-4455,

Also notable: Margot Café, Local Taco, Sky Blue Café, Silly Goose, Thai Phooket, The Flying Saucer, Savarino’s Cucina

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