When I moved into the dorms at Vanderbilt two years ago, my dad rode along to help me pack my stuff up the stairs and into my room. Were we in for a surprise. Vanderbilt has a great move in day tradition. You arrive on campus, and upper classmen surround your car and take all of your stuff to your dorm room for you. We were thrilled! A days worth of lugging boxes and unpacking turned into a couple of hours of unpacking. Of course, I can’t mention this tradition without also mentioning ‘Founders Walk’, another awesome, welcoming ritual.

This is a great tradition, but this article isn’t about that. It’s about what I was able to discover thanks to the spare time Dad and I had. Now Dad isn’t a Vanderbilt alumni, but he did spend the first 18 years of his life living in Nashville. Since we had a couple of spare hours, he took me to a place that has now become my favorite thing about attending school at Vanderbilt, The Elliston Place Soda Shop.

Great Deals For Broke Vandy Students

When I first looked at the Elliston Place menu I was more interested in the food than the prices. Of course, I didn’t have much experience at paying to feed myself. I was more than happy to accept Dad’s offer to treat. This changed when I charged nearly 700 dollars dining out my first month at school. My parents informed me that I was going to pay for any food expenses over and above my food plan...Ouch. Too bad I didn’t luck my way into Kissam.

My need to keep costs down is one of the reasons that EPSS is a hit for me. Only a handful of items on the menu are more than ten dollars. Even better, there is something to chow down on during breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert for less than five dollars. I’m looking at you Jelly biscuits!

Think you’re too broke to eat before heading out to the Corner Bar (it’s close by)? Sidle up to an order of onion rings. Six bucks will cover the cost of your food and a tip. In fact, there are more cheap dining options here than there are squirrels and tents on campus. Here are a few of my favorite super cheap tips for eating at Elliston’s:

Breakfast Eats on the Cheap:

● Two Biscuits And Gravy or Two Biscuits With Ham Bacon or Sausage Are Less Than $5
● A Basic Breakfast Sandwich is Also Less than $5
● Build a Breakfast From The Sides Menu With Grits Oatmeal and Ala Carte Eggs

Lunch And Dinner Savings so You Can Buy That New Pair of Sperrys

● Every Appetizer is Big Enough to Split With a Friend
● Collard Greens Are Soup And They Are Cheap And Delicious
● Most of The Sandwiches Are Big Enough For Two Meals
● Once Again The Sides Menu is The Best Place For The Truly Broke: Less Than $3 For Mac And Cheese That Will Help You Survive The Night

Milkshakes Are Food Too!

You got me. No bullet points here. I just wanted to get it off my chest that hot fudge banana sundae might have been my dinner on a few nights.

An Awesomely Unhip Place in an Awesomely Hip Neighborhood

Elliston place cans a strip of neighborhood bars, sushi joints, trendy clothing stores, music shops, coffee houses, and more. Some people sneeringly refer to it as being too hip. I think it’s great. It seems like the new hip thing to do is bash things that are hip.

At the same time, I do appreciate the genuineness of the Elliston Place Soda Shop. The food, service, and decoration are almost exactly the same as they were back in 1939 when the place opened. There are malts, cheeseburgers, milk shakes, thin cut french fries, breakfast platters with the expected bacon eggs biscuits and grits, patty melts, fried chicken, and catfish plates. It’s also home to an amazing Nashville dining tradition. I’ll get to that in a moment. It deserves its own section.

This isn’t fusion food. This isn’t health food. Although, I will say that many of my vegetarian eat here all the time with no problem. It’s a great, indulgent alternative to Grins!

A Great Place to Study

On weeknights, the soda shop can be a great place to grab a table, order some coffee, and hit the books. It isn’t open all night, and is family friendly. As a result, it doesn’t draw in a large number of loud, drunken partiers. This makes it a great, low disturbance place to study. In fact, a friend of mine who is a graduate student spent a lot of time there this year using Supreme Dissertations to help her through her thesis.

The wait staff is totally understanding when people want to hang out and study, or chat with friends. I try to make it a policy not to loiter around for too long when it’s busy though. Hanging around a busy restaurant when people are waiting for tables will earn you about as many friends as asking for cracked eggs when the lines at the commons are long.

Ladies and Gentlemen: The Meat and Three

A large portion of the Elliston Place Soda Shop menu revolves around a gut filling, rib sticking, Nashville tradition, the meat and three. Now Elliston’s isn’t the only place to feature the meat and three. In fact, I will give an honorable mention to Arnold’s country kitchen and Allison’s meat and three.

The meat and three concept is just what it sounds like. You select a meat item from a daily selection of two or three offerings. Next, you select three side items. At EPSS, the meat offerings include pot roast, fried chicken, roast turkey and dressing, and meatloaf. The side items include healthy options like fresh fruit, coleslaw, and cucumber and onions. Of course, there are also more indulgent items like mashed potatoes, fried okra, mac and cheese, and green beans. Anyone who’s eaten green beans south of the Mason Dixon line knows that southern green beans aren’t health food. There will be leftovers.

If you aren’t hungry enough for the meat and three, don’t worry, there are options. You can pare things down to a meat and two, or mix and match some of the side items to make a vegetable plate. If you do overeat, you can head over to the Estrogym to burn off a few calories. All I know is that I dream of the day that Vandy kicks some of the crappy fast food options off of Taste of Nashville and puts Nashville landmarks like EPSS on the list. Wendy’s is a taste of Nashville? Wendy’s?


I love food. I spend plenty of time eating tailgate burgers at Vandyville. I also love eating healthy. Thankfully Nashville has plenty of options. As far as I’m concerned, the best options are at EPSS. This is no tourist trap. Instead, it is traditional Nashville fare at its finest. Take the time to pay this landmark a visit!

Author's Bio: 

Preston Felix
– freelance writer, sociologist and passionate traveler. You can find more on his Twitter.