City Guide - Nashville
This was my first trip to Nashville and I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Unlike most cities I visit, I didn't have a full itinerary of things to see and places to go.
I’m not a country music fan, so the lure of Saloons, Honky Tonk bars, and museums dedicated to Elvis and Johnny Cash were not on my list of must-see attractions. I decided this would be a chill exploration through a city that seems to be in a period of gentrification at every turn.
We stayed in East Nasvhille, where some may say the Hipsters have taken over, but I ain't mad at them! We used AirBNB for the first time and had a seamless experience.
East Nashville sits east (duh) of downtown, and from where we stayed we could easily see the skyline and lights from the Nissan Stadium. It’s a cozy area complete with it’s own set of restaurants, bars, coffee shops, and street art.
I'm not a huge southern breakfast type of person, but breakfast is still my favorite vacation indulgence, so it was pretty important to me. Using Instagram and then referencing reviews on Yelp I found a myriad of breakfast spots to try out, one of them being Biscuit Love Brunch in the up and coming Gulch neighborhood of Nashville. The line was out the door in the hot Tennessee sun, so I thought this might be a tourist trap destination. Inside it's a spacious and bright spot where you place your order (mostly all different dishes accompanying the hero - the biscuit) take your number and wait for your meal. A Friday morning on a holiday weekend meant waiting in a very long line, with very few open seats in sight. Thankfully as we got close to the cashier two spots opened up at the bar and we quickly snagged our stools.
I opted for a traditional plate of a biscuit, eggs, bacon, and cheese grits. My biscuit was amazing. Flaky, buttery goodness, almost flaky to a fault as it easily fell apart as I smeared my strawberry jam on it.
Our lattes from the bar were great, and allowed for a photo op that made the people sitting under the sparkling Nashville sign roll their eyes at me. Always a bonus.
You may not think it's worth the line forming out the door, but it was a satisfying breakfast that didn't break the bank or leave me feeling overstuffed.
Located right down the street from our Bungalow was a cute little cafe with big windows and the potential for some great local charm with breakfast.
Another line out the door with what appears to be locals from the neighborhood as opposed to tourists.
Granted I was feeling a little nausea that morning so I wasn't ready to feast, I kept my order pretty simple; eggs, bacon and grits and a side of vanilla yogurt. My friends blew my mind by getting soup and salad, but they had woken up pretty early to make the drive from Knoxville to Nashville so I forgave their non-breakfast food order.
Overall I was pretty underwhelmed by my dishes, although the array of plates made for a pretty picture, but pretty pictures should be a bonus only after an amazing breakfast, which this was not. Also, I thought it was very odd that Ian's latte came in what basically looked like a bowl minus any latte art! Come on now!
Marche didn't leave me feeling full of breakfast bliss, and every time we drove by I shook my fist in it's direction.
Just like my girl Leslie Knope, I love all things Waffles, so when I found a coffee shop with a breakfast menu almost entirely dedicated to different types of waffles I had to check it out.
Beyond my waffle dreams, they seemed to take coffee pretty seriously as well, serving Nitro cold brew along with having beans of their own to buy and brew, so I had high hopes.
I'm not sure if we hit them on a bad day, perhaps they were short staffed, but the service was atrocious! Millennial apathy at it's worst.
Our food took forever with huge gaps of time between our plates. Three of us ordered waffles, and while they were on hipster time, once they arrived they were good. Sadly one of us opted for a non-waffle item and it arrived looking barely edible.
The coffee was strong, and I continued to enjoy a local Chai Tea blend called Firepot, but this place has some serious service issues to work out. Sad, since it's an adorable place with a lot of delicious waffle potential.
LUNCH OR DINNER
Five Points Pizza kept popping up in all my Nashville food feeds, and was another East Nashville spot close by. Since our eating had been ongoing most of the day, it sounded like the perfect place to end the night with a single slice.
Most of us ordered a slice of Basil and Prosciutto which was really good, but honestly the real winner was their garlic knots. In an attempt to not seem like a carb-crazed beast, I ordered 4, one for each of us. As soon as I took a bite of my knot my nostrils flared, my lips became swollen, and I wanted more. I tried to play it cool when the waitress came by to check on us and instead of screaming "MORE KNOTS MORE KNOTS", I casually asked for another order like it was no big deal if all the bread had miraculously grown mold and could no longer be made into knots. Every time a guest says "when you get a chance" the server knows they mean THIS IS YOUR FIRST PRIORITY.
This is a great, cozy place to talk and nosh and it may have been my favorite hang of all the restaurants. I'm all about a laid back vibe with good service that involves lots of bread. My foodie friend and partner in all my Nashville shenanigans Callie (@CallieIvy) captured this sweet shot of our slices up close.
Pinewood Social is worth checking out even if you aren't hungry. We went for a few drinks in-between feedings and I was in love with everything Pinewood had going on. Lazy lounging areas, more structured and clean spaces for dining, a patio complete with pool, a large square bar in the center, private small dining nooks in the corner with cool wallpaper, and a bowling alley in the back. Why every city doesn't have a concept like this is beyond me.
We sat at the bar and had a few cocktails and gushed over the details, well the girls did, the guys had their own conversations about old cars and comic books going on.
I can't speak to the food since we only had drinks, but I'd love to go back and check out the cuisine. As for my cocktails, they were innovative and tasty, and made by some friendly bar keeps.
If you are a foodie, and you do your due diligence on where to indulge while in Nashville, Husk undoubtedly will come up in most of your searches. With the only other location being in Charleston, this is supposed to be a spot for amazing food with classic southern ingredients.
I snagged a dinner spot early enough to catch the natural light streaming in from the huge windows before the sun started setting in what is a beautiful house on the National Register of Historic Homes. Servers wore what seems to be the cool uniform of the moment, an array of colorful plaid shirts and jeans.
Our server was charming and attentive and we started our meal with griddle cakes with some amazing Pimento cheese spread. The type you’d be happy to take a luxurious bath in and eat yourself into a coma.
Along with that our entrees were pork and beef options on the menu, both good, but the overwhelming issue here was salt.
I’m often critical of people not using any or enough salt, but that issue was reversed at Husk. Every dish had far too much. The griddle cakes were dusted in salt as though someone thought it was powder.
Besides our blood pressure sky rocketing from an inordinate amount of sodium intake, our meal was still good.
To add insult to the salt in our wounds, the dessert was disappointing. Good isn't enough for the prices at Husk and I'm not sure why it gets the hype it does. Your money might be better spent somewhere else for your foodie indulgence.
There is a strip off 12th Avenue near Belmont University that was one of my favorite areas. Lots of shops, restaurants, music stores, and local treats. Our first official Nashville meal was here, at Burger Up. Rustic hipster charm was in full force here, and I was slightly annoyed that while most of the restaurant was empty the hostess kept sitting people in one tiny cramped corner.
I tried to get over my personal space issues by focusing on some of the best fried pickles I've had in recent memory. They were a great distraction from our waiter who had no personalty and the cool kids wearing hats inside behind the bar.
My turkey burger was good, but the pickles stole the show.
They pride themselves on knowing where their beef comes from, and they spit all the rhetoric with words like "sustainable" and "community" which is fine and well, but I'd really love the people that work there to be able to utter more than a barely audible grunt when I speak to them. Oh the lifeless youth...you'd think they were all listening to Zombie by the Cranberries back in dry storage, but I doubt any of them know who the Cranberries are.
Butchertown Hall was undoubtedly one of the most aesthetically pleasing places we dined. It had a stark white backdrop mixed with warm wooden tones in its earthy décor. I only wish I had gotten there a little earlier in the evening to capture some natural light and do the interior more justice in my photos. Alas, vacation eating can't be based on lighting...or can it?
A beautiful restaurant is well and good, but what we were really there for was a hearty meal.
Butchertown's food did not disappoint. I got one lamb taco that was generous in its size, along with two small plates of Mexican street corn and coal charred artichoke. Everything I had was beyond satisfying down to the stout brownie with coffee ice cream. Ian got a simple platter of pulled pork, another generous amount leaving him stuffed.
It’s clear to see their inspiration of a modern beer hall, with a beautifully lit courtyard for outside eating and drinking. Beers were plentiful, although their flights were $35 and came with 6 pre-determined beers, so you were stuck with whatever the menu was that night. That didn’t sit well with my beer snob of a husband, and sadly he only like three out of the six he got.
I would definitely go back here if I find myself in Nashville again.
Frothy Monkey Coffee has a few locations in Nashville, but I stopped at the location on 12th Avenue for a cool down from the hot Nashville sun. Filled with youths, no doubt from the nearby University, I got my standard Iced Chai latte and watched the baristas work.
They had a small crew behind the counter working quickly but what impressed me the most was these kids had personality. They were quoting scenes from The Office, which I thought was hilarious and charming. Chai and a show while I waited - it doesn't get better than that at your local coffee house.
There are two locations for the Well Coffeehouse, a not for profit coffee hang with some community roots of doing good and helping out their neighbor - all beginning with sharing a beverage with your friends.
Another warm inviting interior greeted me, and thankfully this spot was one of the few places open on Labor Day for me to kill time at before my flight home., I got a really great Vanilla Iced Chai, I would love to know how they got it so creamy. This would be a spot I spent some quality time with a book or my laptop if I lived here.
The location on Granny White Pike had some great shops next to it, but alas they were all closed for the holiday. I would definitely go back and check this area out again.
I was told by a local that if you wanted strong coffee that puts hair on your chest, go to Barista Parlor. This both intrigued and scared me, as my stomach can barely process regular coffee. It just so happened this was another spot close to our vacation home (seriously everything is in East Nashville) so we ventured over before our reservation at Husk.
Barista Parlor appears to be housed in what may have been an old mechanic bay. Large red garage doors and cute bulb lettering welcome you to this set back spot easily missed from the street view unless you know what you are looking for.
Inside was a warm, wooden, and retro feel with plentiful seating and a serious coffee lab set up.
Still sticking with ol’ faithful I asked if they had Iced Chai available and they were the first place to turn me down. They had chai but could only serve it hot. I always laugh at stuff like that. Yes we have it, but we can’t serve it cold. Perhaps serving it cold comprised the integrity of the chai.
The girl was nice enough about it, so I let it go and told her it was simply too late in the day to try their strong coffee, so I asked what tea if any could I get iced.
She showed me a very small selection that could be served iced, and I chose a plumb flavor with some other ingredients I quickly forgot.
One sip of this tea and my heart literally hurt. It packed a painful potent punch. It was thicker than I’m used to and wasn’t refreshing but left me feeling like I had just received an electric shock. I tried another sip and the feeling came rushing back.
I was scared at that point what finishing it might mean for my body, so I sadly discarded it after snapping a quick picture. If you want your coffee or tea to smack you in the face and then punch you in the heart, definitely check out Barista Parlor. I was not worthy.
West of the city near Tennessee State University off Charlotte Avenue, we stumbled upon a few antique shops, book stores, and restaurants. It was there that we found a very small and charming coffee shop called Headquarter.
By small, I mean it’s basically a long hallway. Very few seats, and a small coffee bar manned by one earthy barista. Spin once and you’ve seen it all. It was the perfect spot to sit for a moment and cool down from the heat of pavement pounding.
Another Iced Firepot Chai was ordered by me, along with one of the best Vegan treats I’ve ever had.
Small, mighty, and unassuming. Just how I like my independent shops. Don’t miss this area. It’s not overly quaffed like areas like The Gulch, but there are some gems on this somewhat grungy strip, Headquarter being one of them.
LOCAL RANDOMNESS AND COLOR
I randomly decided to get my hair cut while in Nashville, because back here in Orlando I am forever struggling to find someone who can throw down Edward Scissor-hands style on my head. I did a little research and found Elan Hair Salon in Germantown.
Adam, who handles their social media activity like a pro, guided me via Instagram chats to the woman who I blindly trusted with my tresses, Dena.
Dena, was a hair blessing from up above. We got each other instantly. She thought it was hilarious that I picked up on her being a vegetarian before I bothered asking her where to get good BBQ in the city, and I told her I knew she was a “woman of the earth”. Besides the fact that she was a delight to talk with about a myriad of topics, she knows how to cut hair and we talked in detail on how to best get rid of some of my damaged over-processed pieces. I fell in love with Dena, and she made this Florida girl wish she was a baller so I could fly to Nashville every time I get my hair done.
If you live in Nashville and aren’t getting your hair cut by her, you might want to rethink your beauty strategy. Dena is my soul sister from another mister, and if you want to treat yourself to a great cut while you are in the city, the scissors stop with her.
If you’ve always wanted to travel to Europe just to see the Parthenon, Nashville has got all 12 of you covered. There is a full-scale replica of the original Parthenon in Athens that was built in 1897 as part of the Tennessee Centennial Exposition.
It’s size is impressive and worthy of a photo op. Inside is a museum that costs $6 to enter. Some different pieces of art are on the bottom floor and upstairs is a huge statute of Athena.
It might not be a must see for you, but it was certainly a cheap detour.
While 12th Avenue is lined with some more upscale shops that may not fit your budget, it also houses some charming independent mobile food companies. I got to refresh myself with a Watermelon Chia Seed cold pressed juice from the Franklin Juice Companyvan which was being manned by a ex-Floridian. It was the perfect treat on a hot Labor Day.
Also on 12th street was the adorable trailer housing S'more Love Bakery. While I was too full at the time to indulge everything on the menu looked delicious. Oh food regrets, how you haunt me.
What I loved most about seeing these roaming businesses around town was that it's clear that Nashville businesses accommodate each other and allow these treats on wheels to park themselves around the city, often in front of other store fronts. Perhaps this reciprocal hospitality hasn't always been the norm, but Orlando could take some cues in getting behind their independent food trucks and making their lives easier, not stifling them due to scared brick and mortar competitors. Let the market decide their fate, not the city! OK, rant over.
Charm like that is found all over the city, like I Dream of Weenie, a Hot Dog cart outfitted with the exterior of a VW bus in East Nashville.
If you are looking for a great view of the city take a stroll on the pedestrian bridge which can be accessed by stairs or elevator down below on the street near Joe’s Crab Shack.
Local antique shops are everywhere, just map them out before you set out for your explorations, and a small strip of local shops can be found near Fatherland Street and 11th in East Nashville, along with some photo-op worthy colorful mailboxes.
Most of the street art I found was located in East Nashville, but it colors all parts of the city.
"I Believe in Nashville" murals can be found on 12th street on the side of Edley's Bar-B-Que and the other over in East Nashville near the corner of Woodland Street and 9th Avenue. You will see it on the side of the building as you drive by on your left hand side.
This East Nashville mural can be found off of Main Street and 6th Avenue.
This gorgeous flower mural can be also be found off 12th Avenue by the Green Pea Salon.
This colorful block of primary and secondary color goodness can be found on Main Street between 6th and 7th on the side of Center 615's building.
Nashville has a lot of charm, and plenty to keep you busy for a weekend if the Honky Tonk trail isn't on your radar.