Nashville is quite possibly the most buzzworthy town in America right now, with a new primetime drama named after it and a spate of famous residents like Taylor Swift and Nicole Kidman singing its praises. At the beginning of this month, my boyfriend Nick and I took a long-awaited trip to this awesome city with three goals: eat good barbecue, hear some live bluegrass music, and hang out with Jack White. We accomplished two out of three. Read on to find out which ones…
Southern Hospitality, Y’All
Nick and I are from Portland, which is known as a very friendly city, but damn, we’ve got nothing on Nashville. We met the sweetest, most genuinely kind and helpful people everywhere we went, from cab drivers to coffee shop patrons to the guy who worked at a museum gift shop who told us his secret recipe for hot chocolate while slapping himself in the face because “it’s just so good, I have to slap myself.” At one point our bus driver stopped at an intersection and gave some money to a couple homeless people so they could get a slice of pizza. Seriously.
I got to experience that southern hospitality for myself while shopping at a boutique on 21st called Posh. They stocked a great variety of trendy pieces like cropped blazers and leather-coated jeans. Prices were on the spendy side but there’s a sprawling sale room in the back where I scored a rad pair of pirate boots for 60 bucks. What really made Posh my favorite Nashville shopping experience, though, was a salesperson named Jeremiah. Not only did he have fantastic hair, when he found out we were visiting from out of town, he made sure to give us a ton of amazing recommendations for restaurants and things to do (we also bonded over the fact that a girl in his 7th grade class was also named Winona). Thanks to him, we took the bus over to Green Hills for brunch at Table 3, where I had brioche french toast with caramelized bananas and pecans that was just as delicious as it sounds.
A Few Other Meals That Changed Our Lives
We came to Nashville in search of barbecue and we found a food scene that was much more vibrant and diverse than we expected. We did have great BBQ, of course, our favorite being the brisket at B&C Market BBQ, but we also had unforgettable desserts, coffee, and vegetarian food. It’s not really an exaggeration to say we never stopped eating: while watching a bluegrass band at Puckett’s we ate juicy fried chicken and spicy shrimp and grits and thought we’d died and gone to heaven; we fell in love with the veggie burger and sweet potato fries at a cafe called Fido in Hillsboro; we stood on Broadway letting fresh-made pralines melt on our tongues and whispering, “Is this real life?”
One evening we’d been wandering around the city in the rain when we suddenly realized that we were very, very hungry. I desperately typed “restaurants” into Google maps and pointed at the blue dot closest to us. “We’re going here,” I said. “Sounds … good,” whimpered Nick (we’re a very dramatic couple). Turns out that blue dot was a lovely restaurant called Germantown Cafe. When we got there I peered through the windows at the white tablecloths and fresh flowers on the tables, then looked down at my soggy sweater and cutoffs. “Maybe we should go somewhere a bit more…casual?” I asked, but by the time I looked up Nick was already inside, saying, “Table for two.” Thank God for Google maps and hungry boyfriends, because the meal we had there was amazing: Nick had pork loin with cherry sauce and mashed potatoes, while I attempted to recover from the past few days of BBQ binges with a delicious plate of quinoa and marinated veggies. We ended the night with a slice of apple pie topped with walnut butter and cinnamon ice cream. All with a view of the Nashville skyline at sunset. Perfect.
On our last day in the city we stopped for coffee at an adorable little cafe called Coffee, Lunch and decided that yes, maybe we did want some lunch too. We shared a baked tofu pesto sandwich which was possibly the best sandwich I’ve ever had in my life, and I’m very serious about sandwiches. Nick sipped a cardamom iced coffee made with freshly crushed cardamom–so good–and we finished things off with a mini chocolate pecan pie. Let me tell you: biting into that pie may have been the moment I decided I wanted to move to Nashville.
One important history lesson I learned on this trip? Back in the day, Andrew Jackson was basically the Jay-Z of Nashville. He owned that town, won every duel he ever entered, had a hot wife (Rachel Jackson, yup!), a badass nickname (Old Hickory), and swagger to spare. Our downtown hotel (the beautiful Hotel Indigo – highly recommended) was right next door to Andrew Jackson’s law offices, and he died at The Hermitage Hotel, which is still alive and well. Nick and I spent an afternoon nerding out on history at the Tennessee State Museum, where we got in a fight about whether or not Nick would have dueled for my honor, Jackson-style, but luckily we were able to reconcile our differences by the time we got to the frontier furniture exhibit.
Also did you know there’s a life-size replica of The Parthenon in the middle of a Nashville park? I didn’t either, but damn is it awesome. And confusing. But mostly awesome.
Listen To The Music City
Music really is everywhere in Nashville. In addition to the speakers piping country classics directly out of the sidewalk (which can be a bit disconcerting after you’ve had a couple of Cowgirl Cosmos), you can hear banjo picking and soaring harmonies coming out the door of virtually every restaurant, bar, and honky tonk on Broadway and beyond. In our four days in Nashville, we saw at least 20 bands perform, slow-danced to blues song in a dive bar, heard an unforgettable country cover of Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here,” and stumbled upon a random outdoor bluegrass concert on a sunny Saturday afternoon. As someone whose obsession with banjos borders on a sexual fetish, I was pretty much blissed out the entire time.
And on our last day in the city, we finally made the pilgrimage to Third Man Records, Jack White’s studio and record store. About halfway there, it started pouring rain, which tends to happen during pilgrimages. Then the sidewalk just ended, forcing us to stomp through puddles on the side of the road. Whatever. When we finally got there–muddy, soaking wet, and laughing hysterically–we took a deep breath and walked in to find a tiny retail space playing White Stripes songs on a crackling record player, with shelves of limited edition vinyls and a glass case full of impressive concert souvenirs and memorabilia. We hung around for awhile, but alas, no Jack White sightings.
I guess that just means we’ll have to go back to Nashville and try again. And you know what? I can’t wait.