Y’all, go to Nashville. Seriously.
I’m from the Midwest and probably have no right to use the term y’all, but I’m going to because y’all need to go there. Even if you don’t like bbq. Even if you think Jason Aldean is a hack. Even if you have never seen one episode of the extremely popular hit series by the same name.
There is truly something for everyone in this city. Want a laid back lounge? Hit Skull’s Rainbow Room. Want a rockin’ honkey tonk? Check out every corner of Broadway. Just want to eat some great food? Go anywhere in the Gulch, especially for brunch. Want a history lesson? Take a plantation tour, or go through any of the various music museums.
Where to stay and where to go:
We stayed at the Fairfield Inn & Suites in the Gulch, which is about a mile off of Broadway (Nashville’s version of “the strip”). As our Lyft driver put it, “Five years ago, no one went to the Gulch without a gun.” Today, it’s a revitalized hipster haven with tons of restaurants/bars/venues within walking distance. The streets are not nearly as crowded as Broadway, and there are no souvenir shops (I looked). I would highly recommend staying in the Gulch. That way, you can take on the chaos of Broadway only after you’ve had your coffee, a nice brunch, and about 10 mimosas.
Broadway has all the action. There is a party every 10 feet, so if you don’t like one vibe, you can move on to the next. For instance, Acme Feed & Seed has 4 levels, each with its own theme. The main floor has more of a diner feel with a full band every night of the weekend. The second floor is a dance club/lounge. The third is a mystery to me, as it was closed for a private party, but on the 4th level, the rooftop view is breathtaking and worth the climb. We also loved Benchmark Nashville because of the quality of live music and the relatively laid back atmosphere. It’s basically like anyone’s hometown bar, but there’s a man/woman duo who plays there, and their talent is captivating.
Printer’s Alley is an easy walk just a few blocks off Broadway with a completely different vibe. I was taken by the concept of this area because it started as a place for newspaper printers, then turned into a series of speakeasies during Prohibition. When you enter Skull’s Rainbow Room, you jump right back in time. The peephole on the door, the low ceilings, the cozy booths. Next time I go to Nashville, I will make a reservation at this place. As it was, we could only stand around like morons while the people smart enough to think ahead sat and enjoyed what looked to be amazing food.
I went to Nashville with one food goal in mind – hot chicken. And I never had it! I have no regrets. The restaurants were all top notch. Our first night, we indulged and spent more on one meal at The Chef & I than we normally spend on a month’s worth of groceries. Was it good? Yep. Would I do that again? Nope. I’m glad I did it once though. We ordered the chef’s tasting menu, which was 7 courses of Heaven including pork belly, Lobster Wellington, octopus, and seared Ahi tuna. Our greatest takeaway from that was the concept of avocado rice. I think that was worth the entire bill since we’ve started to make it at home now. (Look for a recipe soon!)
The food at The Southern Steak & Oyster (just off Broadway) was just as good. The espresso martini was the perfect start, and the fried green tomatoes and cheese grits were the best appetizer I’ve ever had, hands down.
Sambuca was another sweet spot in the Gulch. We went there too late (closes at 11), but I would go early and spend a whole night there next time. The Chris Weaver Band played fun dance covers with more energy than my daughter’s preschool class. Check him out when you get a chance. I would have never guessed that voice came out of that cowboy.
The two hottest brunch spots in Nashville are both in the Gulch. Milk & Honey has a total Joanna Gaines vibe and is just around the corner from the famed Nashville graffiti wings. The two hour wait gave us plenty of time to walk over to Music Row and drink a bucket (yes, a BUCKET) of mimosas at Frisky Frog’s. Happy Anniversary to us!
I don’t know if this is nostalgia talking since it was our last meal in Nashville, but I think my favorite dish of the whole trip was at Biscuit Love…Bonuts. These magical creatures are some sort of mix between a biscuit and a donut, laid upon a bed of blueberry compote and topped with a lemon mascarpone. I literally licked the plate.
Other Stuff To Do:
The Opry – Go to the Grand Ole Opry. It’s so cool. There’s so much history, the building is gorgeous, the seats are comfy, and you get to see 12 different artists perform. Our lineup was amazing, but even if you don’t know a single soul on the stage, I don’t think you will be disappointed.
The Johnny Cash Museum – I love Johnny Cash, and now that I’ve been to his museum, I love him even more. There’s no tour guide or anything, so you can just walk through at your own pace. If you have some time, there are a lot of fun listening stations. I was especially impressed with Snoop Dogg’s cover of I Walk the Line.
Belle Meade Plantation – The only sunny day we had was our last day, so we didn’t get to spend nearly enough time at Belle Meade. The 8 miles between Nashville and the plantation are so different from the city with sprawling lawns, colonial houses, and hundreds of towering Magnolia trees. The plantation itself is several acres, but the family used to own the entire area where the town is now. The family’s mansion still stands, along with several outbuildings, including slave quarters and a distillery. I would have loved to take the “African American Experience” tour, but that was full, so we toured the mansion instead. The tour guides dress in costume, and they’re extremely knowledgeable about the time period and the family. It truly makes history come to life.
Scooters – I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the scooters in Nashville. Although our traveling was done by foot or by Lyft, we saw these scooters everywhere! Various kinds from various companies, as well as various levels of sobriety in the riders. (P.S. I’ve heard the locals hate them.)
I’ll say it again – y’all, go to Nashville! The music, the food, the atmosphere, the history. There is something for everyone! Well… except the kids. Leave the kids at home for this one.