There’s just somethin’ about southern cooking that fills both the belly and soul, making it the ultimate comfort food.
Finger lickin’ fried chicken, collard greens, warm cornbread and sweet banana pudding are just a few of the staples found around these parts, along with refreshing cocktails like mint juleps and strong Old Fashioned nightcaps.
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The city of Franklin, Tennessee just outside Nashville packs a punch when it comes to feel-good foods. Its historic downtown district has a great mix of brunch spots, cafes, acclaimed restaurants and whiskey bars, serving up their take on time-honoured recipes and down home cooking.
Best of all, there are 30 different venues within 16 square blocks that host live music on any given night, showcasing Tennessee talent alongside their culinary creations. From fried pimento cheese balls to crunchy chicken and waffles, here are some of the best Franklin food spots that are well worth the calories.
The Coffee House: This cute joint just off Franklin’s main street is so darn delish that you just might want to eat here every single morning.
Housed in a historic house with multiple rooms and hangout spots, this cafe serves up millennial faves like avocado toast, breakfast burritos and french toast complete with bacon and a fried egg, as well as salads and sandwiches in the afternoon.
Ruby Sunshine: Ever heard of a food coma? It’s a safe bet you’ll be lulled into one here, with a New Orleans-inspired menu featuring the likes of a creole reuben, gulf shrimp omelet, and bananas foster pain perdu where french toast is covered with rum-flambéed bananas, raisins and butter caramel sauce.
Better wear pants with an elastic waist for this outing.
Biscuit Love: Don’t count the calories here. Just don’t. Instead, focus on trying to pick just one of the sweet or savoury biscuits that’s slathered in sauce, and made entirely from scratch like any self-respecting southern brunch should be.
And as a bonus, you’ll be so full afterwards that you won’t need to eat for the rest of the day which means you won’t have to worry about those calories after all. Erm…that is how it works, right?
The Honeysuckle: The eye-catching, trendy decor in this Franklin restaurant located in the Cool Springs suburb may be a showstopper, but the real star here is the weekend brunch menu. Tuck into faves like a Southern Benedict topped with country ham, and a Breakfast Macaroni & Cheese with scrambled eggs.
Franklin Juice Company: The açaí bowls at Franklin Juice Company are so beautiful that chances are you’ll flood your Instagram feed before daring to dig into it.
This Brazilian breakfast is packed with superfoods like goji berries, bee pollen and hemp seed served over organic granola and a frozen fruit sorbet. FJC took things one step further, offering toppings like pineapple, coconut and Hawaiian spirulina powder to give their bowls an island twist.
Bishop’s Meat & 3: If you’ve got a hankering for the best fried chicken ‘round these parts, then head over to Bishop’s. Dished out cafeteria-style, this joint is best known for its crispy hot chicken, which inspired the family to open the wildly popular chicken chain Hattie B’s in nearby Nashville.
With a rotating menu there’s no telling what you’ll find behind the counter at Bishop’s on a given day, but with classic sides like mac ‘n cheese, green beans and grits you can’t go wrong.
Gray’s On Main: Gray’s is considered one of the best places to eat in Franklin, combining a menu of elevated southern comfort food with inventive cocktails and live music every weekend.
The on-point industrial space was originally a pharmacy, and in a nod to its history there are design touches like walls decorated with old prescription papers and the original neon Rx sign.
Come for the life-changing fried pimento cheeseballs paired with moonshine pepper jelly, and stay for southern staples like shrimp and crab gumbo bits or the peach and bourbon braised brisket.
Culaccino Italian Restaurant & Bar: Come for the classy cool ambiance, stay for the 72-hour fermented wood-fired pizzas. Craft cocktails and an extensive wine list round out the experience at this spot on the outskirts of historic downtown Franklin, which is known for its authentic Italian dishes like housemade pastas, meatballs and paninis.
Puckett’s: This iconic restaurant in downtown Franklin has been around for decades (and has since spread around the state), and is beloved for its nightly jam sessions and southern hospitality. Best known as a dinner spot thanks to its slow-cooked BBQ, Puckett’s also serves up piping hot skillets, sweet potato pancakes and biscuits to the breakfast crowd starting at 7 AM.
If you’re lucky you might even have a celeb spotting, since Reese Witherspoon’s mother has worked here for years as a hostess.
A sugar rush
Triple Crown Bakery: This Instagram-famous spot is like walking into a dollhouse, thanks to its pastel-pink walls, ornate seating and mouth-watering desserts served on pretty china.
No birthday party in this town is complete without one of their beautifully-decorated cakes, and the tea service is the perfect way to spend an afternoon with your girlfriends.
Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams: The heavenly smell of fresh-baked waffle cones from Jeni’s wafts all the way to the front entrance of The Factory at Franklin, making for quite the welcome to this huge shopping market. This chain is all about sustainability, demonstrated by working towards a goal of zero waste, sourcing ingredients directly from small American producers, and making their sweet treats without synthetic flavourings and dyes.
Scoop up (#SeeWhatIDidThere) one of Jeni’s delish creations like Salty Caramel which combines fire-toasted sugar with sea salt, vanilla, and grass-grazed milk, or the dairy-free and vegan Cold Brew with Coconut Cream which just might be the tastiest jolt of coffee you’ve ever had.
Five Daughters Bakery: This sweet spot started in the kitchen of Isaac and Stephanie Meek’s Franklin home, with its moniker being a nod to their five cute kiddos (as if things at home weren’t already busy enough–talk about mom goals!).
They quickly expanded to six more locations across the southern states, thanks in part to the popularity of their famous Hundred Layer Doughnuts which are exactly what they sound like. In fact, the croissant-style pastries have earned such a cult following that there’s even a live Donut Cam in each store.
The Franklin Farmers Market: Take a break from deep-fried food by getting back to the basics at this Franklin market. Found in a parking lot adjacent to the The Factory at Franklin, it’s open from 8 AM to 1 PM on Saturdays year-round and has a wide variety of fruit, vegetables, baked goods, dairy and meat produced by Tennessee farmers.
There are also gorgeous, fresh-picked flowers, and handicrafts made by local artisans.
Savory Spice Shop: There aren’t many places you can walk into, freely sample the products, then discard whatever you don’t finish on the ground–and that’s what makes visiting this spice shop whose slogan is “taste what you want, buy what you need’ so much fun! Chefs will be in heaven in this spot, which has more than 500 different food products ranging from BBQ sauces to dips to baking sweeteners, and has sold more than 12 million spices since launching in Denver in 2004.
Southern favourites include their Nashville Hot Fried Chicken spice, and Black River Creole which goes great on gumbo. Stumped at how to use your haul? The Savory Spice Shop posts two or three recipes for each spice on their website, providing endless dinner inspo.
Grays on Main: This happening Franklin dinner spot makes the list again, this time thanks to its signature cocktail, the Anthym Spirit. Voted the south’s best whiskey drink and similar to an Old Fashioned, this blend of apricot brandy, house-made chai bitters, benedictine, cynar and 1775 James Pepper Rye Whiskey goes down smooth.
O’ Be Joyful: Conveniently located next door to Grays, the extensive whiskey list showcases top notch labels that are hard to find anywhere else, making it one of the best Franklin bars for aficionados. Sample some in a classic Negroni or Manhattan, or kick things up a notch with an Old Fashioned that’s literally a smoke show when the bartenders light it on fire!
RELATED: Sipping spirits along the Tennessee Whiskey Trail
Cork and Cow: This swanky Franklin bar has been a known hangout for celebs, like NHL player P.K. Subban who used to live nearby and often dropped in after a long day at the rink. Sip popular libations like the sweet Stop & Frisk which is a refreshing mix of vodka, pineapple, raspberry, mint, lemon and champagne, or the Carrillo Cartel which is like a grown-up margarita that blends Herradura Blanco tequila, agave nectar, chocolate bitters, herbsaint and elderflower.
Kimbros Pickin’ Parlour: A night here is like a blast from the past from the good ol’ college days. Just a couple blocks off Main Street is an otherwise unassuming home that’s been transformed into a bar, making it the next best thing to a house party. The living room hosts a stage for live music, and there’s even a backyard hangout spot. Best of all, there’s no way your parents are going to show up unannounced and crash the party.
Globe Guide explored Franklin as a guest of Visit Franklin. As always, hosts have no editorial influence on articles.
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We’ve been visiting Franklin twice a year for the past 5 or 6 years and we never miss eating breakfast or lunch at Merridees. You can’t list the best places to eat in Franklin and not list Merridees, especially for breakfast.
Thanks for the tip! What’s your fave thing to eat there?