The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Top 10 spots to spend your Meal Money

The Taste of Nashville program boasts 46 restaurants. Read on to see our top 10 picks.
Lexie Perez
Graphic depicting a table with various plates of food. (Hustler Multimedia/Lexie Perez)

There are a lot of factors that go into making a restaurant part of our list of go-to eateries. Location, price, vibe and food quality are all interwoven components that separate a subpar restaurant from a great one. Sprinkle in the fact that as college students we must be frugal with our time and money, the choice for the mid-week munchies or the celebratory weekend dinner spot becomes just another decision to add to our plate. 

Luckily for you, we have compiled a list of the top 10 restaurants available to Vanderbilt students on the Commodore Card, which allows students to purchase food at nearby restaurants and munchie marts through the Taste of Nashville program. Check out this list if you are looking for our recommendations on the best off-campus dining options.

1. Taco Mama 

In your first week as a fresh face on the Vanderbilt campus, you’ll hear of the restaurant Taco Mama from older students at least a time or two. Deservingly so. This taco-bar checks off most, if not all, of a college student’s boxes. The line will almost always be out the door, but the quick and friendly service makes up for it. I haven’t ever dined here without seeing a couple of familiar faces, which adds to its social appeal. Also, for the 21+ crowd, Taco Tuesdays are a must with half-off margarita pitchers. A large portion of my meal money was spent at Taco Mama last semester, and I think after trying it, your Commodore Card is going to hurt as well. 

Our recommendation: Ahi Tuna Tacos with a side of street corn. 

2. Hopdoddy

Comparable in popularity to Taco Mama, Hopdoddy is another Hillsboro Village staple. The line is just as long as its taco counterpart, but the service isn’t as speedy. Hopdoddy is the go-to sports bar-meets-burger joint, with a wide array of milkshakes and burger options. That being said, the show stopper has got to be their truffle fries. If truffle isn’t your thing, the sweet potato or classic fries are a valid option as well. This spot is a first-year must, as it’s a seven-minute walk from the Commons Center. I guarantee you’ll be getting a much more superior meal than if you stayed on campus for Commons dining. 

Our recommendation: Parmesan Truffle Fries

3. Jeni’s    

To bring back some nice memories, I want to transport you back to the fall 2021 semester, when Vanderbilt gave us $50 in meal money daily for one week to spend as we pleased. Excited with the combined $100 my roommate and I had accumulated, we raided Jeni’s refrigerators as we bought 10 pints of ice cream. After our tasting contest, my roommate settled on Brambleberry Crisp and I chose Salted Peanut Butter and Chocolate Flecks to be my new favorite ice cream flavor. What is impressive about Jeni’s is that they have an ice cream flavor for all occasions. You forgot your friend’s birthday? Don’t worry, Jeni’s can offer a solution to your forgetfulness with their Birthday Cake ice cream. Besides, every friend group has a person that doesn’t like cake. Lastly, another flavor that has caught my attention is Middle West Whiskey & Pecans. Considering that Tennessee is world famous for its whiskey, you can’t leave Nashville without trying this ice cream.

Our recommendation:  Salted Peanut Butter and Chocolate Flecks.      

4. Satay

This is arguably the best weekend staying-in meal on Taste of Nashville. This Thai joint and cornerstone in the Vanderbilt community offers a large menu of Thai cuisine, bubble tea and yummy egg rolls. While it’s quite a walk from Commons, it is a very convenient location for main campus dwellers. Again, I might be biased, but what sets it apart from the other local Thai restaurants is its offering of spice level for any dish. Their 1-5 level scale isn’t one to mess around with. I’ve only met a couple of classmates who share my tolerance for the level 5 Green Curry. The one downside of this restaurant is the limited seating. Getting it for pickup might be the way to go since securing a table in the compact restaurant is a difficult task on the weekend. 

Our recommendation: Chicken Pad See-Ew with Spice Level 5

5. Oscar’s 

I considered gatekeeping this one, but everyone deserves to experience a face-sized quesadilla and frozen mango margarita from Oscar’s. Located right behind Papa John’s, this authentic taco shop is my go-to half-time dinner choice because of its proximity to the football field and exciting atmosphere. They even have various versions of breakfast burritos and tacos, if you are wanting a way to elevate your weekday morning routine.

Our recommendation:  The kids menu chicken quesadilla will save you some money and allow room to purchase your choice of drink or side. 

6. Nada

Unlike the rest of the restaurants on the list of Taste of Nashville, Nada is not very student-friendly as it is somewhat pricey. However, the tapa-style nature of the restaurant makes it more affordable if you go enjoy a meal with a few friends. The crispy Brussels sprouts and the grilled street corn are a must-try. Their signature cocktail, Blueberry Limonada, is a delicious meal enhancer I strongly recommend ordering as well. 

Our recommendation: Crispy Brussels sprouts and the grilled street corn

7. Biscuit Love

Living in Nashville — especially for those who are not from the South — can be a cultural shock, so to make your adjustment easier, try immersing yourself in the Southern cuisine. Biscuit Love will give you a well-rounded experience, as the restaurant has a farm-to-table policy and is a perfect example of Southern hospitality. The signature dessert on their menu is the Bonuts, fried biscuit dough shaped like a donut and coated with cinnamon sugar. If you are new to Nashville or you have friends and parents visiting for the first time, Bonuts are considered a must-try for visitors. As a chai addict, I also have to mention that Biscuit Love has the best chai latte I have had in Nashville. So, if you as well have a soft spot for it, make sure to check this place out and order my personal favorite: the B-roll.  

Our recommendation: The Lily (Drop Biscuit French Toast baked in Apple Cobble Custard, topped with Oat Streusel Crumble and housemade Butter Toffee Syrup)

8. Grain and Berry

If you are vegan, vegetarian or gluten-intolerant and are tired of waiting in the long lines at 2301 for a subpar smoothie, let me put you on Grain and Berry. This eatery boasts a long menu of both sweet and savory plant-based dishes, some of which are fruit bowls and smoothies, along with avocado toast and quesadillas. This wide selection of foods might be hard to navigate, so my first suggestion would be tasting their acai bowl. The interior gives off clean, simple and aesthetic vibes, which successfully reflects the food options crafted in their kitchen. I also love studying here, because the buzz of small talk and the energy from a tasty fresh-pressed juice gets me far on my weekend workload. Grain and Berry is a nice change of pace from the other top restaurants on this list because it is one of the few that’s going to leave you feeling refreshed, healthy and ready to take on the rest of your day. 

Our recommendation: The Olga bowl: acai, granola, blueberries, strawberries, pineapple, banana, Nutella, peanut butter and coconut flakes. 

9. Helen’s Hot Chicken

I might be biased because I am a fiend for anything spicy, specifically hot chicken, but this restaurant is it. Located across from CVS, this hole-in-the-wall joint has transformed from a small shack on the side of the road to one of the most popular hot chicken restaurant chains in Nashville. Their spice level ranges from “plain” to “hella,” and the title “hella” should not be taken lightly. My friend and I decided to challenge ourselves and both ordered and finished a platter of the “hella” tenders. After seeing we had successfully gotten through these firey tenders, the owner was impressed. So he brought out something only a “hella” platter finisher would recognize: The Atomic Bomb. I took one bite of this heavily seasoned, heat-radiating chicken strip, and it was game over. I was chugging water for the next few hours. Please don’t let this story scare you, because if you stay in your heat level comfort zone, you’ll be getting the most flavorful chicken strips of your life, trust me. 

Our recommendation: The 4-piece Hot platter (heat warning)

10. Bombay Palace

Last but not least, we are bringing it home with this underrated gem. Located 15 minutes away from the main campus, Bombay Palace is home to authentic Indian food. Reasonable prices, friendly service and quality food is a combination all Commodores are desperately looking for. Whether you want to enhance your taste by exposing yourself to eclectic lamb and goat dishes or keep it safe with chicken, Bombay Palace can satisfy your appetite. Vegetarians are also welcome as the restaurant offers a wide selection of 25 vegetable-based dishes. In case you want to avoid the torturous Rand lines during lunchtime, consider dining at Bombay Palace, which offers a buffet-style meal with an assortment of options for $13.99. You can fill up your plate as many times as you want, which checks off the dining-on-a-budget factor. 

Our recommendation: Bombay’s Special Chicken and naan. 

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About the Contributors
Ella Wupperman
Ella Wupperman, Former Staff Writer
Ella Wupperman (‘26) is majoring in medicine, health and society in the College of Arts and Science. She can be reached at [email protected].
Olga Konstantara
Olga Konstantara, Staff Writer
Olga Konstantara (‘25) is from Posidi, Greece, and studies medicine, health and society and communication studies in the College of Arts and Science. When not writing for The Hustler, she enjoys going on hikes, buying jewelry and listening to Belinda Carlisle. She can be reached at [email protected].
Lexie Perez
Lexie Perez, Graphics Editor
Lexie Perez (‘26) is from Northern Virginia and is majoring in climate studies and human and organizational development and minoring in business in the College of Arts and Science. She enjoys listening to 70s and 80s pop music, doing the daily Wordle and rooting for the Nashville Predators and Cincinnati Bengals. She can be reached at [email protected].
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