10 Great Food Destinations in Tennessee

Tennessee, a state known for its rich musical heritage and breathtaking natural beauty, also boasts an incredibly diverse and delicious culinary scene. From the smoky flavors of barbecue to the sweet notes of Southern desserts, Tennessee’s food landscape is as varied as its geography. As we take you on a culinary tour of Tennessee, you’ll discover the flavors and foods that make each region of this vibrant state a must-visit destination for food lovers. So without further ado, let’s begin!

1. Memphis: The BBQ Capital

Memphis is often hailed as the barbecue capital of the world, and for good reason. The city is known for its own unique take on barbecue, which often involves slow-cooking and tangy sauce that’s tomato-based. From iconic barbecue joints to hidden gems, Memphis offers an array of options for those looking to indulge in authentic Southern barbecue. Don’t forget to try the city’s famous dry-rubbed ribs, which are a local favorite. Additionally, Memphis is known for its soul food, offering hearty dishes like fried catfish, collard greens, and cornbread, which embody the rich culinary traditions of the South.

2. Pigeon Forge: A Culinary Adventure

While Pigeon Forge is often associated with family-friendly activities, there are plenty of Pigeon Forge attractions for adults, especially when it comes to food and drinks. The town has a burgeoning culinary scene that caters to a more mature palate, with upscale dining options and distilleries like Junction 35 Spirits. Whether you’re in the mood for a sophisticated meal or a casual bite, Pigeon Forge has something to offer. The town is also home to several food festivals throughout the year, showcasing local and regional cuisine, making it a great destination for food enthusiasts.

3. Nashville: Hot Chicken and More

Nashville isn’t just the home of country music; it’s also the birthplace of the legendary Nashville hot chicken. This spicy fried chicken has gained fame far beyond Tennessee’s borders. But Nashville’s culinary scene doesn’t stop there. The city offers a diverse array of dining options. From upscale eateries serving Southern-inspired cuisine to international flavors reflecting the city’s growing diversity. The culinary landscape here is constantly evolving, with new restaurants and food trucks offering innovative dishes that cater to all palates.

4. Knoxville: A Blend of Traditional and Contemporary

Knoxville is a city where Southern comfort food meets innovative culinary trends. The city’s chefs are known for taking traditional Southern dishes and giving them a modern twist. Knoxville’s vibrant downtown area is dotted with restaurants that offer everything from down-home cooking to experimental dishes that challenge the taste buds. The city’s food scene is also complemented by a variety of craft breweries and local distilleries, adding to the overall dining experience.

5. Chattanooga: Scenic Dining Experiences

Chattanooga offers a picturesque backdrop for its thriving food scene. Nestled along the Tennessee River, the city boasts restaurants with stunning views. The views are perfect for a romantic dinner or a leisurely brunch. Chattanooga’s culinary offerings are as diverse as its landscapes, with a mix of Southern classics, international cuisine, and everything in between. The city’s commitment to using locally sourced ingredients is evident in many of its restaurants, providing a fresh and authentic dining experience.

6. Gatlinburg: Mountain-Inspired Cuisine

Gatlinburg, located at the doorstep of the Great Smoky Mountains, offers a unique culinary experience influenced by its mountainous surroundings. The city’s restaurants often incorporate locally sourced ingredients, offering dishes that reflect the region’s heritage. Don’t miss the opportunity to try some local trout, a regional specialty.

Gatlinburg also boasts an array of cozy cafes and eateries, perfect for enjoying a warm meal after a day of exploring the natural beauty of the mountains. The town’s commitment to preserving traditional Appalachian cooking methods adds a nostalgic charm to its culinary offerings.

7. Franklin: Small-Town Charm, Big Flavors

Franklin, with its quaint downtown and historic main street, offers a charming backdrop for its culinary scene. Here, you can find a range of dining options, from cozy cafes to upscale restaurants. All serving dishes with a distinctly Southern flair. Franklin’s food scene is a perfect blend of traditional Southern hospitality and contemporary culinary innovation. The town also offers a variety of food tours and cooking classes. It gives visitors an opportunity to dive deeper into the local cuisine and culinary techniques.

8. Johnson City: A Rising Foodie Destination

Johnson City may be lesser-known than some of Tennessee’s larger cities, but its food scene is quickly making a name for itself. The city’s restaurants offer a mix of traditional Southern cooking and new, innovative cuisine. Johnson City is also home to a growing number of craft breweries. Adding to its appeal as a destination for food and drink enthusiasts. The city’s vibrant farmers’ markets are a testament to the region’s rich agricultural heritage, providing fresh, local produce that enhances the dining experience.

9. Kingsport: A Taste of Appalachia

In Kingsport, the culinary scene is deeply influenced by Appalachian traditions. The city’s restaurants often feature dishes that have been passed down through generations, offering a taste of the region’s history and culture. Kingsport’s dining options range from homestyle cooking to more contemporary takes on Appalachian cuisine. The city also hosts various food festivals that celebrate the rich diversity of Appalachian food. This makes an ideal destination for those looking to experience authentic regional cuisine.

10. Murfreesboro: Diverse Culinary Delights

Murfreesboro’s diverse population is reflected in its food offerings. The city is home to a variety of restaurants serving international cuisines alongside Southern eateries offering classic dishes. This blend of global and local flavors makes Murfreesboro a unique destination for food lovers. The city’s burgeoning culinary scene is complemented by an array of cafes, bakeries, and bistros, each offering their unique take on both traditional and modern cuisine.


Tennessee is a state that tantalizes the taste buds. From Memphis’s smoky barbecue to Nashville’s fiery hot chicken. From Pigeon Forge’s upscale dining experiences to Chattanooga’s scenic eateries, each city offers its own unique flavor. This culinary journey through Tennessee is not just about indulging in great food. It’s about experiencing the culture, history, and spirit of this vibrant state. So, pack your appetite and set out on a food adventure that promises to be as diverse and exciting as Tennessee itself.