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Bette Davis’ eyes watch over guests in the stunning dining room at Henley.


Designed to Dine

By Lauren Finney

Henley photo by Emily Dorio | Gray & Dudley photo by GLINT Studios Courtesy of 21c Museum Hotels


Boots, barbecue… and Jamaican curry goat? Say what you will about the new Nashville, Tenn., but one thing’s certain—its dining scene is seriously stepping up its game in both design and delectability.

Henrietta Red Chef and co-owner Julia Sullivan (partner is General Manager Allie Poindexter) knew she wanted a neighborhood hangout that was equally as relaxed as it was delicious and well-designed—and she got it. Henrietta Red in Germantown opened to much well-deserved praise earlier this year. There’s a distinct West Coast beach vibe to the space—designer Kathryn Lager is based there—but it’s the food that keeps locals and weekenders alike coming back. There’s a focus on oysters, but overall the menu is heavy on vegetables and seafood. Make your reservations while you can—Bon Appétit named it one of the best new restaurants in the country recently, and Atlantans know what that can do to the reservations list.

Little Octopus The spot might look like a millennial’s dream thanks to that very specific shade of pink, but the crowd at Little Octopus is sophisticated and on board with the vibrant, fresh and clean theme. Latin and Caribbean flavors (menu items include shrimp, bell pepper and sambal; or paradilla, steak, chorizo, yucca, merguez and tostone) are as refreshing for the city as the space that feels at once a little Miami and a little Los Angeles. The menu, again in tune with discerning diners’ needs, has dishes marked as dairy-free, gluten-free, vegan, ovo-lacto and pescatarian, so there’s no distraction when placing your orders—though you might be distracted by the gorgeous reflective gold walls, blond wood and pink marble tables.

The industrial vibe at Gray & Dudley matches its history

Henley If Southern dim sum sounds up your alley, head to Henley in the new Kimpton Aertson Hotel for brunch. Choose from items like the shareable and hearty picnic chicken (trust us, you want it) to delicate tempura-battered squash blossoms and snap peas. The decor is art deco with working-class tributes—chef RJ Cooper, who is originally from Detroit, even incorporated some of his family’s photos. Word is that the chef (who did time in Atlanta with Günter Seeger) has a very petite tasting table in the kitchen. Dubbed the Rabbit Hole (and decorated aptly), there’s talk that Henley has a secret entrance through the private dining space—and that the 18-course, $250 menu will only be available to those in the know.

Marsh House When word of John Besh’s concept inside the Thompson Nashville got out, the entire Southeast was excited to see what the New Orleans master would do. Marsh House definitely doesn’t disappoint and has been the unofficial low-key hangout of locals, weekend guests and celebrities alike. It’s the new place to have power breakfasts, lunches, dinners and cocktails—there’s a wonderfully fancy area in the bar with drink tables and velvet accent chairs, perfect for a rendezvous where you want to be noticed; there’s a private dining room for when you do not. Designed by Parts & Labor out of New York City, it’s the slickest, sleekest joint in the city, and the food’s terrific too. New Orleans comes on strong with items like crab ravigote and fried gulf oysters.

Gray & Dudley Chef Levon Wallace (previously of the enjoyable New Orleans restaurant Cochon Butcher in Germantown) has moved into the dramatic, industrial-chic space in 21C Nashville. It’s named for the building’s former life as the Gray & Dudley Hardware Company, and the fare is hearty with a refined touch and modern twist. Think a half chicken with grilled bread, lemon, chicories and pan gravy; or smoked catfish dip with house hot sauce and celery crackers as a starter. Gray & Dudley’s dark and moody Deborah Berke Partners-designed space is accessible through the main lobby, but you’ll want to take the entrance down Banker’s Alley to set the tone.