Chef Maneet Chauhan Says There Is No Place Like Nashville, Tennessee
Maneet Chauhan and her husband, Vivek Deora, initially saw Nashville as a smart place to open their first restaurant. "There was nothing here like what we were planning to do at Chauhan Ale & Masala House," she says. "We thought it would be a successful venture." Plus, local chefs practically rolled out the red carpet for her, something she says is not a given in the industry. "They were like, 'Come on over. We are going to be a much more exciting food city with you joining our ranks.' " The couple decided to open their eatery in Nashville and then head home to New York and commute.
But their second child had other plans. "As luck would have it, the day we opened the restaurant, our son decided to be born," says Chauhan. "He was three months premature… We said that if he was so adamant on being a Nashvillian, who were we to stop it?" The community's support sealed the deal. "We were starting a new business with a baby in the neonatal ICU. It's a very emotional time for a parent," she says. "The way the entire city rallied around us was heartwarming, so I think that's the time we were like, 'Okay, we have arrived home.' "
And it's a home that Chauhan has embraced. Just as fellow chefs predicted when she moved to town, the food scene is undeniably richer because of her presence. In the past four years, the hospitality group she cofounded has launched three more restaurants (Tansuo, The Mockingbird, and Chaatable), delighting locals and tourists alike with contemporary Chinese dishes, modern diner fare, and Indian street-food favorites.
But she's quick to say that Nashville has made a mark on her too. "When you come from big cities like New York and Chicago, you do not see a lot of this—the camaraderie, the feeling of belonging, the sense that the culinary industry is a fraternity and we are here to support each other. I see that every day," Chauhan says. "It's incredible. It actually helps you become so much better as a chef and as a person. That's what I love about Nashville. Not only have I seen myself growing as a chef, but I've also seen myself growing as a human being."
Her must list in and around Music City
"When we are five minutes out, we call them and order two dozen biscuits. We sit in the car and eat them with copious amounts of butter and peach preserves."
lovelesscafe.com, 615-646-9700, 8400 Highway 100, Nashville, TN 37221
Honky Tonk Central
"I am not embarrassed to say I take [out-of-town guests] honky-tonking. We go from one place on Broadway to another. That is just the fun of the city; you hear the most amazing live music."
honkytonkcentral.com, 615-742-9095, 329 Broadway, Nashville, TN 37201
King Market Cafe
This Lao-Thai grocery store and restaurant in Antioch, a neighborhood about 11 miles southeast of downtown Nashville, has "incredible" pho, says Maneet. "I make that trip fairly often."
kingmarkettn.com, 615-333-3103, 1801 Antioch Pike, Nashville, TN 37013
Pot N' Kettle Cottages
"My husband and I have stayed at this bed-and-breakfast a couple of times, and it is such a relaxing retreat. That is what Southern charm is really all about."
pnkcottages.com, 615-864-3392, multiple locations in Leipers Fork, TN
Cheekwood Estate & Gardens
Take your family for the 55 acres of botanical gardens, and stay for the temporary art exhibitions. Last year's colorful Chihuly installation was especially worth the trip, Maneet says.
cheekwood.org, 615-356-8000, 1200 Forrest Park Drive, Nashville, TN 37205
For a sweet breakfast, there's only one way to go, says Maneet—Bonuts, fried biscuit dough served with blueberry compote.
biscuitlove.com, two locations in Nashville, TN and one location in Franklin, TN
Nelson's Green Brier Distillery
The original Tennessee Whiskey by this company took home a Gold Award from the 2020 San Francisco World Spirits Competition. "It's such an amazing distillery!" she says.
greenbrierdistillery.com, 615-913-8800, 1414 Clinton Street, Nashville, TN 37203