Perhaps no eatery in Nashville is more deserving of the title of “Nashville Original” than Swett’s Restaurant. They’ve been “serving fine food since 1954” and have remained a top meat-n-three destination for 62 years.
As soon as the clock strikes eleven and doors open, a crowd begins lining up for some authentic Southern cookin’. Construction workers, businessmen and women, and Nashvillians of all walks of life come to Swett’s to enjoy a fantastic meal.
Served cafeteria-style, the food is the main attraction at Swett’s. Home-style favorites are piled high down the line, including fried chicken, country fried steak, cornbread, cobbler, creamed potatoes and more.
At the center of the action is David Swett himself. In constant movement around his restaurant, he’s behind the counter serving up good eats one moment and sharing a laugh with guests the next.
“My favorite part of the job is meeting new people and talking with them, because you can learn a lot from people,” says Swett. “I’ve met a lot of interesting folks and made great friends over the years.”
What started off as a beer tavern run by his mother and father, Walter and Susie Swett, transitioned to the restaurant it is today when Susie began serving a menu of Southern staples like fried chicken, greens and mac n’ cheese. These items became so popular that Swett’s transitioned into a meat-n-three .
As the youngest of nine children, David would assist with chores around the restaurant growing up, and he worked there while attending Tennessee State University. He officially started working full-time at the restaurant in 1969 so that his parents could go on their first-ever vacation — a trip to Jerusalem with their church.
“After that trip, I discovered that I actually enjoyed working in the restaurant business, and my parents liked having me there to help out,” he says. “I was better working for myself rather than someone else. I was ambitious.”
That ambition is apparent today, as Swett’s remains a Nashville mainstay in a time of constant transition and competition in the restaurant industry.
“We been doing this a long, long time. We’ve got good and loyal customers,” says Swett. “We just do it the best we can. We don’t get everything right, but we do the best we can every day.”
Swett’s, located at 2725 Clifton Ave., is open daily from 11am to 8pm. Learn more at swettsrestaurant.com.