8 Southern Comfort Food Spots Soon to be Your Favorite
I’ve spent many years of my life eating and even studying Southern food. Growing up, I didn’t think much about the food I was eating and the heritage behind it, but I sure did enjoy it! It wasn’t until I began attempting to make my own fried chicken, collard greens, and homemade biscuits that I realized how much work and time goes into these southern staples. It takes years of practice to perfect these dishes, so as you eat your way through some of Franklin’s favorite comfort food eateries, remember that these recipes are tried and true. It may not take too long to gobble up these Southern delicacies, but these dishes have certainly stood the test of time.
Puckett’s Grocery & Restaurant
When you visit any town in the South, indulging in home-style, “country cookin” is basically required. Add live music to the mix, and you’ve got a recipe for success! Well, your comfort food dreams with a side of country music can become a reality at Puckett’s Grocery and Restaurant in downtown Franklin. Puckett’s started as a small grocery store in the 1950s in the Leiper’s Fork community, which is still operating today. Six restaurants later, Puckett’s is a staple for locals and tourists alike. It doesn’t get much more indulgent for breakfast that the Fried Chicken and Apple Jacks, comprised of two apple jack pancakes, smothered in Tennessee Whiskey friend apples and crispy fried chicken tenders, and drizzled with whiskey syrup.
As far as lunch and dinner offerings, folks have been attempting to replicate the famous “Piggymac” for years, which is served in an iron skillet full of cherry-wood smoked pulled pork and topped with white cheddar mac and cheese and biscuit crumbs. Another must-try is the Farm Boy Burger; a classic burger turned southern with country ham, pimento cheese, and pepper jelly fixins’. You really can’t go wrong with dessert here, but if you must narrow it down, try the “Cobbler of the Day,” the peach and blackberry can’t be beaten!
Gray’s on Main
Franklin natives will always suggest Gray’s on Main for a five-star southern dining experience. This was a landmark pharmacy for nearly a century before it was carefully restored in 2013 into a fantastic three-story restaurant, honoring Tennessee’s cultural heritage through fresh spirits, flavors, and sounds. Gray’s boasts an elevated southern menu, where you will surely get the comfort food staples, reimagined! For instance, if pimento cheese is your jam, Grey’s is serving up Fried Pimento Cheeseballs to kick things off. For the main event, try the Shrimp and Grits made with white cheddar popcorn grits, cooked in a smoked tomato broth, Tasso ham, collards, and crispy okra. Is your mouth watering yet? At this point, you might be feeling like you don’t have room for dessert, but trust me, you’ve got room for the signature banana pudding, it’s pure bliss!
With a name like Country Boy, you know this place just “gets it” when it comes to a slap-yo-mama-good, country-style breakfast. Enjoy the picturesque morning drive out to Leiper’s Fork for The Kingsfield breakfast platter. You’ll get two “big as your face” buttermilk pancakes served with bacon or sausage and hashbrown casserole. In my humble opinion, this is truly a perfect breakfast, involving a sweet bread, a savory pork product, and potatoes in some form, preferably with a healthy amount of butter and cheese. If you prefer a more savory start to the day, try the Backwoods Bennie, made with two homemade fried green tomatoes, topped with country ham and a poached egg, and then drizzled with Hollandaise sauce. I can guarantee that you’ve never had an eggs Benedict quite like this one!
Barbara’s Home Cooking
Classic home cooking, done right, and served with a smile. If you’re from the South, this place and this food will feel like home. If you’re not from around here, you might wish this was your home after a hearty, home-cooked meal from Barbara’s Home Cooking! Where do I even begin? Literally, everything on the menu is happiness on the plate. Poppyseed Chicken is a classic casserole that I grew up eating and loving, but it is not always easy to find on restaurant menus these days. It’s a creamy chicken casserole, topped with buttery Ritz crackers, simple and perfect. On Fridays, Fried Catfish is the special, and it would actually hurt my feelings if you pass this up. Pick a side, any side, because they are all mouthwateringly delicious, but mashed potatoes and gravy, creamed corn, and fried okra are my-go to sides here. For dessert, its got to be the fudge pie. You might need more than one slice; just trust me on this.
Bishop’s Meat & 3
If you try nothing else in this article, you must, at the very least, get you some Bishop’s Mac and Cheese. I’ve attempted to recreate it, and I’ve come close, but nothing compares to this decadent liquid gold. It’s rich, cheesy, and creamy with a golden cheese crust on top. Quite simply, its the best Mac and Cheese I have ever tasted, and that’s saying something. Bishop’s is a meat and three here in Franklin serving up the classics with a few unique menu items, such as the braised beef tips over rice, hot chicken tenders, and the carrot soufflé. Come early, because this is a crowd favorite around lunchtime, for a good reason!
The story behind Big Shakes is almost as good as the Hot Chicken itself. Big Shakes owner and Chef Shawn Davis began working in a professional kitchen at just 21 years old. In only seven years, he worked his way up from dishwasher to head chef. Now Big Shakes has been featured on Shark Take, Man vs. Food, and Sunday Morning on CBS. His charismatic personality is the perfect reflection of the big, bold flavors in his hot chicken and signature Shrimp Burger topped with barbecue sauce and crispy onion rings. The Hot Mess Chicken Sandwich is made with your choice of heat level and topped with onions, lettuce, and pickles. Don’t forget to add a little sweet to your heat with a deep-fried Oreo for dessert! Also, try making some hot chicken of your own with a bit of help from Big Shakes Fried Chicken Flour and Seasoning Salt available from the Big Shakes website.
Cool Cafe is located just a couple miles from downtown Franklin, and the banana pudding with a five-inch meringue is worth the stop alone. Owner and Chef Tim Ness opened Cool Cafe about 15 years ago, and he’s been selling well over 1,500 pounds of fried chicken per week ever since! The moist fried chicken is never overcooked, and he even splurges on high-quality oil to create deep-fried perfection. Cool Cafe features all of the tasty meat and three sides you would expect, however, they also offer a variety of southern-style salads, including a tangy and sweet broccoli salad as well as a sweet cranberry salad that is the perfect addition to the rich and savory main dishes.
Biscuit Love has become another Nashville area staple in recent years, started by a local couple in 2012. The restaurant has grown from a food truck and a dream, to three brick and mortar establishments around the Nashville area, one of those is located in the historic Corn House in downtown Franklin. The line out the door on a Saturday morning for a table is well worth the wait! My suggestions for an out of this world brunch are the “East Nasty” biscuit sandwich, voted the best sandwich in America by Bon Appetit magazine alongside an order of Bonuts to share. This cross between biscuits and donuts is made up of fried biscuit dough, topped with lemon mascarpone, and served over a blueberry compote. Biscuit Love is a heavenly start to the day in downtown Franklin.