The Old Guard Goes Contemporary
These Iconic Nashville Restaurants Keep Their Fingers on the Pulse
The Civil Rights Movement officially impacted Nashville when a group of African-American college students staged a sit-down protest at the downtown Woolworth lunch counter. It occurred in early 1960, igniting a movement attracting worldwide attention that eventually ended segregation in the city.
Fast forward to almost 60 years later, and Woolworth has transformed into Woolworth on 5th in what is today called the Fifth Avenue Historic District. Gone are all the retail aspects of the famed five-and-dime store, and in their place are reclaimed tables and booths meant to maintain a vintage vibe to the space. New owners TomKats Hospitality have skillfully merged the restaurant’s historic significance with modern accents, making it one of the hottest destinations in the Music City.
“The Woolworth building needed to be saved, and we are honored to be part of the next chapter of its history,” says Tom Morales, owner/CEO of TomKats Hospitality, in a statement on the restaurant’s website. “Woolworth on 5th brings a unique vibe to the downtown scene—a welcome table of home grown flavors, old school sounds and classic dance moves—and we are excited to share it with the city we love.”
In a city that’s grown as rapidly as Nashville—particularly when it comes to its culinary scene—it’s important for institutions like the Woolworth restaurant to stay on top of their game. In addition to aesthetics, Woolworth on 5th, which re-opened in February 2018, has dramatically updated its menu with modern, Southern-influenced dishes. Highlights range from sweet potato soup filled with kale and black-eyed peas to hibiscus-brined pork chops with spiced-skillet peaches, pecans and fried okra. An impressive craft cocktail program that includes classic drinks and spiked milkshakes has been added as well.
Capitol Grille was established in the historic Hermitage Hotel in 1910. A lower-level eatery serving veal porterhouse, house-made pastas and shrimp and grits, Capitol Grille embraces its interior from a bygone era.
Sweeping, dramatic ceilings, shiny hardwood floors and a formal shoe-shine setup in the men’s bathroom inform guests that this a fine-dining establishment with no-nonsense service. Nevertheless, guests will find a bit of whimsy in dishes as the culinary team takes full advantage of produce grown out of the restaurant’s 250-acre farm and garden.
Southern Oysters Rockefeller are enhanced with creamed collards, crispy Tennessee ham and charred lemon. Fried green tomatoes are topped with pimento cheese and pepper jelly. And the hot chicken and waffles, from the brunch menu, consist of crispy chicken thighs, coleslaw and bourbon-infused maple syrup.
Speaking of hot chicken, the fiery fried fowl was invented at Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack during the height of the Great Depression. It’s been a favorite of Nashvillians since its inception, and for the past several years, it’s finally caught on with the rest of the nation at places like Hattie B’s and KFC. Because it’s the real deal at Prince’s, the heat goes to the extreme, from mild—which is still incredibly hot—to xxxhot.
The sudden mainstream visibility inspired the owners of Prince’s to modernize their concept and literally take it on the road. Their food truck hits up many of the area’s hottest music and food festivals, drawing long lines of eager fans wherever they go. And the original location, at 123 Ewing Drive, stays open until 4:00 a.m. on weekends, encouraging night owls to make a pit stop before they head home.