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Nashville offers options for foodies on a budget

Nashville is a city of growth and change.

And that constant change has brought a new culinary scene to the city.

Recent years have brought Nashville recognition a Southern culinary mecca with chefs such as Sean Brock and Arnold Myint working to spread unique twists on standard dishes. Now, that mix of food has flowed down to a price college students are more likely to afford.

Soulshine Pizza

In addition to low prices, another attractive quality to college students when looking for good local dining is a cool atmosphere.

Soulshine Pizza in Midtown gives students the best of both worlds. It’ s less than 10 minutes to Soulshine from Belmont’s campus, and the restaurant has a large menu with dishes that are available in a variety of sizes and prices.

Soulshine has weekday lunch specials, which feature variety of authentic pizzas, appetizers, and oven baked po-boys.

But if savory pizza, sandwiches, and “soul food” aren’t enough to entice you, then the cool, laid-back atmosphere with the promise of live music several nights a week might just sway the vote.

— Audrey S.

Athens Family Restaurant

For college students, it can be hard to find great food on a budget, but big flavored food for a small price might be closer than you think.

Athens Family Restaurant, located just minutes from Belmont on 8th Avenue, is known for having good food and good prices. The best part? They’re open 24 hours, so I you need an omelet at 2 a.m., you can have it without cracking an egg.

Athens was featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins, & Dives with Guy Fieri in 2011.

“When you say great American and Greek cuisine together, that’s exactly what that is – it’s a great burger,” Fieri said.

Fieri raved about Chef Adel Elostta’s ability to combine American and Greek comfort food to create dishes that are uniquely tasty, like the juicy lamb burger seasoned with secret “love spices.”

Another popular dish is the kotopita, a Greek twist on American chicken potpie, but made with Greek cheeses and stuffed in phyllo dough.

“My philosophy in this restaurant is to make sure this food is the best quality for the money,” said Osada, who is not only head chef, but also the owner.

Athens Family Restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner all day.

— Audrey S.

Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack

Some like it hot. Actually, a lot like it extremely hot.

André Prince, owner of Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack, has customers line up along the wall for pieces of his infamous hot chicken.

Prince’s, which claims to be the birthplace of Tennessee Hot Chicken, Prince’s makes sure to live up to the name. “Hot chicken” gets its heat from marinating overnight in extra-hot spices, then its seasoned and glazed again in the morning.

For once, students will be breaking a sweat for something other than final exams. But heed the warnings from hundreds who’ve been there: Start with mild or medium — this chicken is hot. The spices are all the way to the bone, not just on the crust. And don’t drink a soda with it. Stick with water; carbonation intensifies the fire.

— Audrey S.

The Pharmacy

If there’s one place an aspiring culinary capital needs, it’s something which can attract both a foodie clientele and an average crowd – an burger joint better than your average drive-thru.

And of all the burger joints in Nashville, The Pharmacy on McFerrin Street may be the one which has strikes the best balance between both niches.

Since opening in late 2011, the restaurant and bar have been recognized in the New York Times and Southern Living for their high-quality burgers made from local beef and gourmet beverages, milk shakes or otherwise. With dishes like the Farm Burger, with its ham, bacon and fried egg, or the Mission City Burger with guacamole, pico de gallo and slow-cooked black beans, foodies can find a meal choice found in few other places.

At the same time, the cash-strapped college student can find relief in that no entree on their menu costs more than $8. And don’t worry, that includes the restaurant’s standard Pharmacy Burger, a favorite with many regulars, complete with lettuce, tomato, cheese, onions and pickles.

While neighbors can simply walk in to the restaurant from the largely residential streets around it, the restaurant is also in walking distance of the nationally recognized Mas Tacos Por Favor and Holland House. It’s that combination which makes the restaurant in an anonymous building in East Nashville stand out as a new jewel in the Music City food scene.

–- Brian Wilson

Baja Burrito

Speed is the name of the game at Baja Burrito, a California style Mexican restaurant in Berry Hill.

Patrons of this eclectic space are greeted by brightly colored walls covered in flyers, posters and whatever else deemed appropriate for décor on their way to the counter. A rapid-fire series of questions keeps the assembly line system of food preparation moving efficiently.

“We try to do a few things … really well … and really fast,” the restaurant’s site boasts.

Customers may not have a plethora of options but those listed on the chalkboard menu include fish tacos, taco salads and a peasant plate (beans, rice, guacamole salad and corn tortillas). And of course, their famously large burritos and an order of chips alone have been known to fill even the hungriest of customers.

Another customer favorite includes the specialty fruit tea that pairs nicely with the verde salsa.

But be sure to proceed with caution when ordering. Portion control is a laughable phrase at this establishment. Along with quicker service than most fast food restaurants and an abundance of food, Baja’s low prices (No entrees listed over $8) keep regulars coming back for more.

So next time you get the hankering for a burrito the size of your head, scrounge up a few dollars and look for the old Volkswagen Beetles sitting roadside on Thompson Lane.

— Autumn Allison

Taqueria del Sol

With a friendly, knowledgeable staff and a menu as equally friendly to your wallet, Taqueria del Sol is a perfect mix of the expediency of service at SATCO with the food quality of Taco Mamacita in a clean, open environment.

During peak hours, your biggest obstacle between you and delicious cheap tacos is wait-time at the counter. While this may seem similar to other fast food joints, Taqueria del Sol’s website is adamant that the similarities end there. Each customer is delivered their freshly prepared dish in a timely matter.

The from scratch choices offered include a mix of Southern, Mexican and Southwestern cuisine, like the regularly offered fried chicken tacos or the special BLT tacos.

Located just a block away from Hillside in the 12th South neighborhood, Belmont students can either walk or park in an adjoining lot.

Be sure to check your watch before heading that way because the restaurant closes between lunch and dinner during the week.

— Katie Greene

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