Culinary Tourism in the Music City: The Place of Culinary Icons and Local Flavors in Nashville Tourism

Heather L Benzmiller


Food and culinary traditions are among the most important cultural markers that define community and regional identity. They often reflect locally grown plants and locally raised animals, as well as traditional recipes and cooking techniques of the specific region. While traditional sightseeing allows tourist to view the cultural Other, culinary tourism provides a more integrated way to explore the diverse cultural offerings of unfamiliar communities through taste, smell, and touch as well as sight. The development of a distinctive culinary style is common to all cultures, so culinary tourism provides a way for travelers to explore another culture while remaining grounded in a familiar context. The present content analysis examines culinary tourism in Nashville, Tennessee through in-depth study of restaurants along two indices: locality and iconicity. Four restaurants were selected as representative of the quadrants that correspond to the intersection of these indices. These restaurants are examined on two criteria directly controlled by the restaurant (self-description and menu) and two criteria not directly under the restaurant’s control (location and reviews). Local restaurants are more creative in their menu offerings and more favorable reviewed than non-local restaurants. Iconic restaurants are more likely to capitalize on their visibility by promoting their name, whereas non-iconic restaurants must market themselves through other means. This study examines the many dimensions along which restaurants offer culinary products to tourists and locals alike.



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