Three years have passed since the pandemic changed the hospitality industry, with chefs and restaurateurs adapting to lockdowns, cutbacks, supply chain disruptions, and labor shortages.

Amidst it all, Nashville never stopped building. Commercial real estate prices soared. Tourism returned with a fury. We’ve all experienced a seesaw of emotions: feeling jazzed for shiny-new openings and saddened by closures of beloved mainstays. It all begs the question, where are we, as a culinary city, headed? For this year’s restaurant issue, we’re diving into all that and more. What are the culinary trends to come (and go) next? Without question, 2022 was the year of the chef-driven hotel restaurants: Drusie & Darr at the Hermitage Hotel; Mimo at the Four Seasons; Carne Mare at the W Hotel; 1 Kitchen at 1 Hotel; and Blue Aster at the Conrad.

What will 2023 be known for? With new concepts, new restaurants, and the return of beloved favorites, we’re optimistic about what’s on the horizon.


Head outside of Nashville in any direction and you’ll see jaw-dropping development, with residential growth outpacing retail and hospitality. And, as the market has tightened in Nashville, affording fewer options at much higher cost, local entrepreneurs see promise outside the city limits. Folks living in outlying communities would enjoy dining in an independent restaurant over a chain, especially if they didn’t have to drive back into the city to do so.

Austin Ray has been excited to take the lead on this trend. Wanting to bring a neighborhood-style pub to these growing communities, he opened M.L. Rose in Mt. Juliet in 2021, and its reception has exceeded his expectations. Up next, he plans to open the local burger-and-beer favorite in Murfreesboro later this year. “As a Nashville native, I feel driven to maintain the spirit of our local hospitality,” Ray says. “We believe that great beer makes for great neighbors. It’s good to have a local spot to relax and enjoy a brew with the people we most care about.”

For chef Trey Cioccia of The Farm House and Black Rabbit, business turned a corner in 2022, eclipsing, at last, pre-Covid sales. Grateful to his staff and customers, it gave him the fortitude to spread his wings a little further. “I’ve always wanted to have a restaurant in my hometown,” says the Mt. Juliet native.

An opportunity presented itself: A failing restaurant and bar just eight minutes from Cioccia’s home. What started out as a consulting job quickly transformed into his third establishment, a milestone for the chef who will celebrate The Farm House’s tenth anniversary in the fall. Cioccia and his team did much of the renovation on the new space themselves and in mid-January, Barrel House Restaurant and Bar made its soft opening. Offering fresh, approachable chef-driven fare and an upgraded cocktail program, it has garnered accolades from the locals. For the hometown boy, it’s been gratifying to be so positively received by friends and neighbors.

While some local chefs are content with one new concept or location, others are going all out by embracing multiple at once. “If you had told me three years ago that we’d be living in Lebanon and launching three different concepts, I would have said no way,” muses Nick Guidry who, with his wife Audra, owns and operates Slow Hand Bake Shop and Pelican & Pig in East Nashville.

Life will show you otherwise. Nick’s parents have lived in Lebanon for 20 years, which prompted the couple to consider the move. “It became a question of quality of life—where we want to raise our kids,” says Audra. “We were impressed by the city’s commitment to revitalizing the historic town square.” Soon after they bought their Lebanon home, Audra found an ideal, almost turnkey location for a bakery. One thing led to another.

“We met with Mayor Rick Bell and his economic development director, Sarah Haston. Their vision aligned with ours,” Nick says. “Their support and appreciation for what we want to do was a breath of fresh air.”

The Guidrys’ Juniper will offer fine-casual dining, with handmade pastas, wood-oven pizzas, and the live-fire grilled meats that guests savor at Pelican & Pig. On an adjacent corner, the couple will open Olivia, a specialty wine and cocktail bar. Slow Hand Bakehouse will also serve as a baked goods commissary for both places.

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