In the last month, three distinctly different restaurants have opened in Nashville — an all-day café blending West Coast and European influence, a taco joint bringing Texas-inspired tacos and tortillas to East Nashville, and a casual pizza place from a beloved Nashville couple. All of these were highly anticipated and all have delivered on that excitement! These are the three restaurants we’ve recently tried and loved — we recommend you add them to your must-try list ASAP. Bon appetit!

lou

1304 McGavock Pk, Nashville, TN 37216 • (615) 499-4495
Hours: Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. (brunch); 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. (apero); 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. (dinner)

Inviting and warm while simultaneously cool and nonchalant, lou opened its doors to an eager East Nashville audience earlier this month. The all-day café and all-natural wine bar has Chef Mailea Weger at its helm, who comes from California. During time spent in France, she was, in her words, “intoxicated by their social behaviors,” so she brought them back to the U.S. With that in mind, lou is meant to merge healthy-ish California dining with a laid-back European atmosphere. It delivers.

You’ll notice a familiar little sign atop the cottage on McGavock, stripped of the seven letters that once spelled ‘fort louise’, now leaving a succinct ‘lou’. Inside, you might recognize the space, but it’s immediately clear that lou is a restaurant all its own — not just unaffected by its previous tenant but also by other restaurants in Nashville. The decor has that enviable French-girl feeling — effortless and carefree, yet somehow cohesive and stylish. The bistro tables host no frills, and the black-framed art on the walls is minimal. The back wall is plastered with a moody floral wallpaper that travels down the back hall. It’s flooded with light and certainly beckons all-day dining.

lou nashville

We love the charming exterior façade at lou.

lou nashville

Inside, minimal details allow this bold wallpaper to shine.

Mailea tells us, “lou aims to sit in with an already powerful food scene and remarkable chefs. We try to stand out by offering a more intimate atmosphere where the guests come to really connect with one another. We employ the guests to stay awhile, to be present and to feel an intimate connection — both to food/wine and their counterparts.” Uniquely, the restaurant connects not just to its guests and them to their food, but also their neighboring restaurants. The well-known and widely loved sourdough from Folk makes several appearances on the menu, and it’s near impossible to pass up for brunch.

On the brunch menu, try the soft scrambled egg and broccolini bodega sandwich, with melted fontina, leeks, mustard seeds and fermented chilies. Spicy and soft and served atop crusty and buttery bread from Folk (if you ask nicely), each bite is delightful, albeit a touch messy. If you ask the chef, though, she recommends anything by pastry chef Sasha Piligian. “She is magic!” Mailea exclaims. So you’ll find us back for cake and cookies quite soon.

The potato rosti came highly recommended, described like a hashbrown casserole topped with a runny egg and balanced out with a light mint yogurt. And while they might not jump out at you on the exciting menu, the herbed greens are fantastic, dressed with sweet lemon and dill — a light addition to an indulgent sandwich.

lou nashville

The size of this sammy didn’t deter us from finishing every last bite.

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On the dinner menu, find inventive dishes beneath four sections — “land,” “sea,” “market veg” and “pour la table.” The vegetable-forward menu includes a curated list of proteins, six in total, in addition to charcuterie. Try the street corn topped with seaweed aioli and togarashi, or the royal red shrimp with cumin butter, fermented chili butter and burnt lime. Both have balanced yet punchy flavor profiles, and have emerged as favorites on the menu.

The wine is as important as the food at lou. Its all-natural wine program is small but mighty, pouring glasses from around 20 bottles, each selected by Mailea herself. Even the earlier diners can enjoy a glass, as the cafe serves “breakfast wine” … or glasses poured from the previous night’s opened bottles.

When should you visit lou? Well, Mailea tells us, “Anytime you are hungry for food that makes you feel inspired and rejuvenated, and when you want to be taken on a wine adventure.”

Make your reservations now, Nashville. This all-day cafe will be bustling in no time.

Redheaded Stranger

305 Arrington St, Nashville, TN 37207 • (615) 544-8226
Hours: Monday through Sunday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

One of the most anticipated restaurant openings of the year brings breakfast tacos and fresh flour tortillas to McFerrin Park. East Nashville’s Redheaded Stranger is the brainchild of Chef Bryan Lee Weaver, who is also the executive chef and owner of Butcher & Bee. He tells us, “I’ve been wanting to do this taco shop for a long time. There wasn’t really anywhere in Nashville doing breakfast tacos, so it made sense to do one here. I wasn’t looking for some cookie-cutter type of place. I just wanted something that made sense for Nashville, where I love spending time.”

He’s had the name in mind for quite a while, too. Bryan tells us that it’s his favorite Willie Nelson album, which feels like a fitting choice for Tex-Mex in Music City. And it was actually Willie’s granddaughter who gave him the go-ahead on the name. Now, the album name is seemingly floating above the taco spot, sure to catch a passerby’s eye.

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Redheaded Stranger has seating indoors and out. Image: Redheaded Stranger

Inside, you’ll find what feels a bit like a southwestern diner. Take a seat at the laminate-topped turquoise bar with fixed barstools, or slide into a booth on the wall, noting the mosaic patterns and colors that emulate a Mexican serape. It has a homey feeling that feels quintessentially western — almost like it’s been around for a few decades, not just weeks. That’s all thanks to Katie Vance of Powell Architects, Bryan tells us. “The colorful tile, the stools, the booths … it all came from conversations we had that she turned into a beautiful looking space.”

The menu gets straight to the point – tacos with flavorful fillings, a daily special, a burger and a burrito alongside some delicious yellow queso. And tequila, of course. Bryan mentions that he loves making flour tortillas and he couldn’t wait to show those Texas roots by bringing them here. They wrap eight different tacos and a burrito and also come alongside queso for dipping (SB TIP: Redheaded Stranger is chip-less! You may want extra tortillas). The only part about dining at Redheaded Stranger that you might remember unfavorably … is choosing which tacos to try.

“I think our brisket is pretty special. I get it every time,” Bryan tells us. We can’t (yet) speak to the brisket, but we can say the tater tot taco is worth an order. The crunch of the tots and creaminess of the jalapeño crema paired with the always-satisfying American cheese is an explosion of flavors and textures, rolled up in one of Bryan’s delectable tortillas. If you’re a fan of the whipped feta at Butcher and Bee, try taco #8 with whipped feta, poblano and crispy rice for a deviation from your typical taco.

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It all started with a love for the flour tortilla. Image: Andrew Cebulka

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There are three specialty cocktails as well as a classic margarita on the menu. Image: Andrew Cebulka

redheaded stranger

Queso for breakfast is a trend we can get behind. Image: Andrew Cebulka

One of the items that was teased before the opening was the Green Chile Cheeseburger. Bryan adds, “I love the burger, too. For us to be able to serve Bear Creek Beef at the price we do, I feel like it is very special … not to mention the hatch chiles.” Those hatch chiles make their way onto a few dishes on the menu, including the aforementioned tater tot taco or perhaps topping your queso with the addition of the pork green chile.

It’s spicy and flavor-forward yet comforting and simple. Redheaded Stranger is the place to go for a breakfast taco – any day and, soon, any time. Just announced, the Stranger will start weekend dinner service with a big kickoff collaboration with New Orleans’s Turkey and the Wolf, in October. Rumor has it, fajitas are coming!

Bryan tells us, “When you come in, you can expect a lot of friendly people that work here. You can watch us make fresh tortillas every day and you can get some amazing food.”

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‘za

2005 Belcourt Ave, Nashville, TN 37212 • (615) 622-4457
Hours: Monday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Another restaurant from the already-loved, delicious minds of Nashville is ‘za. The Hillsboro Village pizza joint sits in the same development as its sister restaurant, Biscuit Love. Karl and Sarah Worley were inspired by a trip to Italy. Karl tells us, “We were at a small place in Tuscany that had a restaurant on-site, staffed by a lady in the next village over as the cook. They said ‘the only night we’ll make you come eat here is pizza night when we serve 22 pizzas’ … and we ate a slice from each of the 22 pizzas. Surprisingly the meal had much of the same feel as to how we feel breakfast is; just an event that brings everyone to the table. We fell in love with it.” Thus, ‘za was born.

It’s a casual, order-at-the-counter spot, with communal tables inside and outside that are ready for gathering. Open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., you can get your pizza fix whenever you need it. A giant Bill Murray mural, or #BillMurral, painted by creative director Becca Wildsmith, greets you when you walk up the stairs. And ‘take out or hang out’ is printed on the door. Inside, a modern space with clean lines and long family-style tables has a no-frills feel that is ideal for groups or families.

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Those leopard spots are indicative of a perfectly wood-fired pizza.

za nashville

Kale dressed with lots of cheese and spice may be our new favorite way to eat a salad.

za nashville

That dough right there is one of the most addicting things that will hit the table at ‘za.

The menu lists three appetizers and nine pies, in addition to “dip dips” and a few optional add-ons. Again, good luck making a decision. So far, the most popular pie on the menu has been “That Hipster Place In Brooklyn” topped with red sauce, soppressata, mozzarella and hot honey. The kick and sweetness of the hot honey take this pizza to another level! However, the handmade, wood-fired pizzas at ‘za don’t need any special toppings to make them shine. We were blown away by the texture and flavor of the dough on our “Shroom Pie.” It’s slightly fermented, giving it a depth of flavor that pizza crust often lacks, and it’s just the right amount of chewy and charred. The earthiness of the mushrooms perfectly paired with the smoothness of the cheese, and we’re confident their other flavor combinations do the same. Karl says he’s most excited for visitors to try the the “Yell Talker,” their onion pie. “It was inspired by that night in Italy,” he says. “It just said ‘onion pizza’ on the menu, and I’ll never forget how complex it was yet so simple.”

The kale caesar salad with spice should probably lead with the spice. Its spicy caesar dressing has quite the kick, and if you’re not one for heat, you might want to start with something else. If you do love spice as we do though, you’ll find it addicting and want to savor every last bite. Consider starting your meal with the ricotta dip topped with honey and served with sourdough pizza dough. The sweetness of the dip is balanced by the mouthwatering, warm pizza dough … the latter of which might just steal the show. If you somehow find yourself saving room for dessert after all of the delicious dough and pizza, order “The Vincenzo” for a delightfully light tiramisu topped with a caramel coffee topping.

This is the spot to visit when you’re looking for some undeniably exquisite pizza in an approachable atmosphere. Run in and pick it up or settle in for a while — either way, you are in for a treat.

Photos by Annie Reeves unless otherwise noted.

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