Just as a single dish contains many notes, so does design. The design of a single space creates an aesthetic that in turn results in an atmosphere. In a culinary experience, this atmosphere holds as much importance as the food on the table. When the design and dishes are equally as delicious, it makes for an experience worth bragging about. Today, we plan to brag on eight local eateries for their winning combinations of food and atmosphere. Local designers, architects and restaurant owners have showcased their skills in the individual surroundings. Industrial aesthetics make the perfect backdrop for pizza while bohemian design pairs perfectly with organic eats. Each restaurant has something special to offer — something more than great food. See a few of the restaurant interiors that have caught our eye, and learn more from the masterminds behind the designs.
121a 12th Ave. N., Nashville, TN 37203 • (615) 741-9900
Chauhan Ale & Masala House, Tánsuŏ and The Mockingbird boast interiors that are as interesting and diverse as the food they serve. The Mockingbird was the most recent to join the list of Morph Hospitality Restaurants, owned in part by renowned Chef Maneet Chauhan. The Mockingbird is a modern diner with a menu that starts with tater tot nachos and ends with coq au vin pot pie. While the dishes are far from the classic cheeseburgers and fries you would expect to find at your average diner, they celebrate the comfort foods for which diners are known. Similarly, the interior celebrates diner culture, with a twist. Nashville-based designer London Parfitt designed the space, as well as Tánsuŏ and Chauhan. We asked London what makes the space stand out and he shared, “I’d have to say its non-conformity. It’s not what you expect, but it feels familiar and comfortable. It’s not one period, global pinpoint or definition.”
London’s thoughtful design includes subtle repetitive patterns that incorporate the bodily forms of the bird. There is even a custom, over-sized, three-dimensional mirror in the shape of a bird’s head. The design is playful and whimsical. “Like the Mockingbird, it interprets different sounds and songs of past eras — Art Deco, Mid-Century and Post-Modern — but places something new and beyond into the melody. ‘Future retro,’ if you will,” London says.
No part of The Mockingbird lacks creativity. See it for yourself, and you will agree.
401 Church St., Nashville, TN 37219 • (615) 994-1994
Set inside the city’s oldest skyscraper, Deacon’s celebrates the past and future of Nashville. “I felt honored to be able to design a space in this building simply because of its history,” says DJ Caudle, formerly of H. Michael Hindman Architects. “The main things that will catch your attention in this space are the dark, rustic finishes mixed with the bold brass accents. We took some of our design from the original design of the L&C Tower. Where new railings needed to be added for stairs, I wanted to make sure they matched the original railings in the lobby. We took the basic design of the original brass railings and created our own that look very similar to the original. I wanted to make sure this space didn’t stick out too badly in this historic building. I wanted it to mesh,” she tells us. “In addition to that, when it came time to design the two bar areas, I knew I wanted to use a bright metal finish that would catch your eye. We decided to use brass again as a historical nod to the finishes in the building. The brass creates a great eye-catching design when mixed with the rest of the dark interior.”
DJ’s design is all about exposure — from the dry-aged meats on display, to the open kitchen, to the exposed structural steel columns, to the wood fire grill. “When the owner, Andy Marshall, told me that they wanted to have aged meats and fine wine or cheeses in the restaurant, I knew it was something I wanted to have on display. What better way to get a visual idea of where your food is coming from than by showing the client before they eat it? From there, the rest of the design was birthed from this same basic idea of showing the client what’s behind the curtain. Therefore, I wanted the kitchen to be open and viewable to the public,” DJ explains. “We put large industrial windows right in front of the wood fire grill so that the experience was available for everyone to view. We designed a custom walk-in cooler with large windows so that all of the cuts of meat are on display. It’s the first thing you see if you walk into the restaurant from the elevators. The dry-aged meats are the basis for their entire menu, so we wanted to make sure it was front and center.”
2031 Broadway, Nashville, TN 37203 • (615) 340-9005
With so many edible options to see and enjoy at Caviar & Bananas, you can forget to soak in the interesting interiors that surround you — but you’d be remiss to do so. “At Caviar & Bananas, we were challenged with creating a hospitable yet high-end restaurant atmosphere while providing the convenience and functionality of a market. One of the ways we did this was by interweaving dining areas with retail components,” Katie Vance, Registered Interior Designer of Powell Architecture, explains.
Black, white and gray command most of the space. The floor is a herringbone gray tile pattern with custom “rug” insets of black and white hex tile. To help with wayfinding, Katie created zones within the open space. Tiles carry up the walls of the space, which are decorated with local art. “We focused on incorporating local makers in the space,” she explains. “Caviar & Bananas collaborated with HollerDesign, a local furniture maker, who created the stunning cherry and brass shelving and communal table. New Hat, a local visual material firm, created stunning handmade wallpaper.”
The name itself speaks to a mixture of high and low, which Katie was able to demonstrate in the space. “We emphasized the juxtaposition of Caviar & Bananas by mixing in industrial concrete with sleek marble and quartz,” she shares. The food is highlighted with marquee lighting, and custom neon signs sit behind the counter. The Wine Room is an extra fun space, not just because of what’s inside. The “room” is framed by steel and glass windows, which provide an inviting way to shop and explore the selection.
5026 Centennial Blvd., Nashville, TN 37209 • (615) 678-4289
A pizza kitchen owned by Tony and Caroline Galzin, Nicky’s Coal Fired is one of the hottest eateries in The Nations, and their popularity is due to the atmosphere as much as the food.”The most compelling aspect of Nicky’s Coal Fired is one can have many different experiences just by where you are seated — whether it’s at the Chef’s Table watching the blaze of the oven, in the front dining room at a large table, or even in a banquette opposite a favorite friend. The space lends a diversity of experiences,” says Evan Gibbs of Pfeffer Torode Architecture, the firm that designed the space. “The Galzins wanted it to be a jovial and familial atmosphere reminiscent of a favorite local watering hole. In contrast, the front dining room offers an elegant and calm respite conducive for large parties or private events. My newest favorite spot at the restaurant is the patio, which was designed to mirror the interior dining rooms but amidst a beautiful herb and produce garden. The Galzins are really masters at atmosphere, and I believe they were integral in guiding the design to achieve a theatrical dining experience.”
The design celebrates the bones of the Stocking 51 building, a warehouse that dates back to the 1920s. The building’s original wood floors, beams, exposed brick walls and steel-framed windows dictate the design. “We offset these industrial elements with a pale blue color reminiscent of a Vespa bike or Bianchi uniform. The juxtaposition serves to amplify the beauty of the existing space,” Evan continues.
Of course, the glazed brick coal-fired pizza oven is a design element in and of itself. “We chose the glazed bricks to skin the oven as the light coming from the large front dining room would rake across the surface,” Evan says. “The tiles themselves have an amazing time-worn texture that pays homage to the existing building.”
The friendly, carefree aesthetic paired with the pizza makes for an unbeatable combination!
1400 51st Ave. N. Nashville, TN 37209 • (615) 600-4756
Neighbor to Nicky’s and tenants of the same building, Frothy Monkey also celebrates the industrial bones of Stocking 51. The design was handled in-house by Brittney Harrison, with help from architects Jayme Jacobson and Thom Meeks of Gobbell Hays Partners, Inc. “We believe historic spaces should be salvaged and brought back to life,” Brittney tells us. “The large windows, the beautiful original maple floors and the columns throughout the space tell a story. I wanted to complement all the original lines, with a romantic softness that brings a feeling of comfortability and approachability, because the building already spoke for itself.”
5 String Furniture has been crafting pieces for the Frothy Monkey family for years, and they are to thank for the tables, chairs, stools and interior door in The Nations location. Ellie Caudill is another local who had her hand in the design. She painted the restaurant’s mural, which brings color and personality to the space. These elements come together to create a place for everyone, and that was intentional. “We deliberately planned where to put plugs for our freelancers, cozy areas for our first daters, and we ensure families will feel welcome.” You can stop in for a coffee, or stay for some booze. One side of the bar is dedicated to the coffee and tea program, and the other to the alcohol program.
Find your favorite corner at Frothy Monkey, and never leave — that’s what we do.
5304 Charlotte Ave., Nashville, TN 37209 • (615) 203-0433
Organic sourcing and sustainability direct the dishes at EiO & The Hive. Jennifer Masley has crafted a menu of feel-good food to be enjoyed in a feel-good space. “I hear from my guests that they feel a really good energy, and it’s very comfortable,” Jennifer explains of the restaurant. “They’re not sure which they enjoy more, the food of the environment.” Comfortable seating areas and community tables give diners an option of how they want to enjoy the space. High ceilings warmed with wicker lighting and hangings plants evoke a natural warmth.
Jennifer tapped into the local community to make the space what it is. “I did my absolute best to use local. It is my passion to lift up local talent and support them,” she shares. Massaya & Co. crafted the butcher block community tables, High Plains Drifter handled the woodwork and wood finishes, Sheila B. is a local artist who worked on the details, and Ricky Wallace put his talents into the restaurant’s mural. This outside art feature draws diners in and sets the tone for the space. Inside, local art fills the walls. “Our local art is definitely a hit,” Jennifer says. “I spent a lot of time picking it out and had a lot of fun doing it!”
Take a seat at a community table, sink into the sofa or perch on a stool at the bar. You will be delighted by everything EiO & The Hive has to offer — from the aesthetic to the food.
Related: Jennifer Masley: FACES of Nashville
211 12th Ave. S., Nashville, TN 37203 • (615) 577-6688
Fin & Pearl is TomKats’ sustainable seafood spot in the Gulch, and its interiors reflect their concept. “Overall the space is a bright, clean environment with warm tones and textures,” Joshua A. Hughes of Tuck-Hinton Architects tells us. “The interior and exterior finish selections — custom mosaic tile, ocean-like stained concrete floors, whitewashed wood paneling and natural teak wood sourced from sustainable forests in Nicaragua — were influenced by Southern and coastal environments.”
There is a sense of playfulness in the space thanks to eclectic design elements. A favorite of diners — and Joshua — is the boathouse. “The structure itself was first intended to provide a somewhat separate area for community dining or a space for a larger semi-private dinner party. The design was distilled from the basic idea of a coastal boathouse — a simple shed form constructed of solid oak timbers, rough sawn wood trusses and planks, and raw steel windows. It serves as the immediate focal point as you enter the restaurant, and it frames the main view of the open kitchen, where the daily fresh seafood options are listed,” Joshua explains.
“Added into this environment are a variety of eclectic and whimsical interior architectural elements and décor, which continue to tell the story,” he says. This is a story you will want to see for yourself.
Related: Fin & Pearl Goes Beyond the Sea
410 Fourth Ave. S., Nashville, TN 37201 • (615) 288-0880
Martin’s Bar-B-Que’s fifth location just so happens to be our favorite. With three levels, multiple bars and a beer garden, the dining options are endless. “The upstairs beer garden is what makes the space stand out,” owner Pat Martin tells us. “It is very lush with a heavy amount of landscaping in it. It is open-air, and trees grow through the roof, for example. There are five large trees, not to mention the hundreds of shrubs, vines and flowers that accent the space. The interior landscaping is no doubt my favorite part of the design.”
In addition to greenery, the beer garden and upstairs bar have several nooks in which folks can congregate. Communal tables and high tops are ideal for those dining in, and the bars and game areas, with ping pong, shuffleboard and darts, are ideal for those who want to stick around for another beer after eating. And of course, there is a focus on the barbecue. In the open airspace, you can smell the hogs cooking in the pits, which are situated in the beer garden. “Folks can peek in and see us cooking — it’s like a view backstage. It is a lot of fun with the smell of whole hogs cooking, which is a reminder as to why you are there in the first place.”
Now, we are off to enjoy some good food in some beautiful settings.
See more local restaurants we can’t stop talking about here.