The celebrated chef from Nashville’s star-studded 404 Kitchen offers up his favorite Music City dining spots.

By Nikki Ekstein
June 01, 2015
Credit: Ron Manville

“When I moved to Nashville four years ago,” says Matt Bolus, executive chef at 404 Kitchen, “there were two or three places to go. Now there are dozens—the city is just on steroids right now.” Any other Nashville connoisseur would put Bolus’ restaurant high on their list—just ask One Direction’s Harry Styles or Kings of Leon frontman Caleb Followill, who are among 404’s many rock star fans—so consider this edible guide to Nashville one worth following. Here’s chef Matt Bolus’ take on Music City, in five meals flat.


“We get bread from this bakery called Dozen at the restaurant, and they do a killer egg and cheese. I eat it like I’m starving.”


Arnold’s Meat & 3 is just iconic. It’s right in the Gulch [the city’s hipster hood]. We recently saw Steve ‘the Colonel’ Cropper there—the man is just legendary!—he lives right up the road. My favorite thing about the place is that they can serve 400 covers a day, and there’s a James Beard award in the corner where nobody sees it.”


“I love to sit at the bar or kitchen counter at City House. They have great food. I go crazy and order everything, and then my wife cuts the order in half. I can’t help myself. I’ve never had a bad dish there. The pizzas, the pasta—the chef has a really good touch with vegetables. He actually cooks in a style that’s very similar to my own. Asking me to pick my favorite dish here is like asking me to choose my favorite Beatles song—I can’t do it.”

Late Night:

Hands down, Robert’s Western World. Five bucks gets you a PBR and a bologna sandwich. It’s right across from the Ryman, so back in the day when the Ryman didn’t have dressing rooms, big-name performers that were playing there used to hop across the street and get ready in the bathrooms here before their gigs. There’s so much history there. And you never know who you’re going to see—some nights it’s Steven Tyler, some nights it’s nobody.


This one’s tough. It’s a toss-up between Pinewood Social, Husk, and Josephine. But I’ll go with Pinewood Social—they’ve got it all. It’s got a coffee shop, a bowling alley, great food, you name it. The pork belly sandwich is delicious: not too fatty, with a great mustard sauce, and awesome greens. It’s great.

Nikki Ekstein is an associate editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter at @nikkiekstein.