Burgers, biscuits, shakes: Sean Brock reimagines fast food at Joyland

Nancy Vienneau
Special to Nashville Tennessean, USA TODAY NETWORK newsrooms in Tennessee

Heritage, curiosity, nostalgia: These are chef Sean Brock’s drivers, the sources of inspiration for his restaurants. While no longer associated with Husk, he did conceive it as a celebration of Southern ingredients. In consulting for The Continental in the soon-to-open Grand Hyatt, he taps into the classic fine dining spirit of another era. At Audrey/Red Bird, he will explore the Appalachian cuisine of his upbringing. Joyland, which he opened in March in east Nashville, is a paean to his fast food favorites —biscuits, cheeseburgers and fried chicken.

Joyland took over the space formerly home to Stay Golden and transformed it into a clean, streamlined fast-casual eatery in cheerful (joyful !) primary colors. While we've not yet  gotten to experience its interior, we meals were easily ordered online and picked up curbside. There’s also a nice covered patio outside the restaurant where you can safe-distance dine.

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Start with a biscuit

As with all of Brock’s endeavors, the food is not a re-creation, but a re-imagining.  Brock enjoys tinkering with recipes and ingredients to produce the most satisfying outcome.  Start with his biscuits, made with Cruze Farm’s legendary buttermilk. The squares are flaky and flavorful, yet substantial enough to hold any stack of fillings. We’re partial to the one piled with Gifford’s bacon, egg and American cheese, and a drizzle of hot honey — a terrific harmony of textures and savory-sweet tastes. Get it with a cup of locally roasted OSA coffee and you are good to go.

The fried chicken biscuit features a boneless thigh encased in toothsome crust, dusted in Brock’s custom blend of secret spices, also finished with hot honey. For simplicity’s sake, get a Joystick: fried chicken morsels on a skewer. We look forward to trying the fried chicken sandwich on potato roll, married with pickle slaw and Joy sauce.

Impossible Cheeseburger with curly fries and a malt shake from Joyland.

Get a shake with that burger and fries

Every element of the burger is spot on — soft roll with the right heft and squish, the burger itself a proprietary blend of beef sourced locally from Bear Creek Farm, onion, house pickles and Brock’s special Joy sauce. Even more impressive is the Impossible burger, following the same formula of ingredients (minus the meat of course). It is the best of the plant-based variety we’ve had to date.

We’re fans of the Joyland curly fries (we’ve known them as Susie-Qs) and Joyland’s golden spirals fall into the dangerously good category. Note: Like all the fried foods, these traveled very well, maintaining crunchy integrity. Complete your meal with one of the shakes: We were happy see malt in the line-up, available in vanilla or chocolate.

Often there’s a specialty hand pie. Save room for one. Or get one and save it for later. We missed out on the peach-filled crescent, but got lucky on our second pass: The blackberry hand pie is oh, so delicious. The crisp, multi-layered pastry holds a smooth, seedless filling, almost custardlike. 


901 Woodland St., Suite 101, Nashville


Hours: 8 a.m.-9 p.m. daily. Order online for curbside no-contact pickup or delivery. 

Payment: major credit cards

Cost: Biscuits: $3-$10. Burgers and chicken: $4-$12. Sides: $3-$6. Shakes: $5.50. Boozy shakes: $14.