If you haven’t been to Nashville, what are you waiting for? This is one of the bright spots in the American south. Friendly people, cheap drinks, fabulous food and a haven for all types of music – you can’t go wrong.
I recently took my fifth trip to Nashville (or Nashvegas, as it’s also lovingly referred to) with 7 friends (yes I have 7 friends!) to see a Mumford & Sons concert. It started with food and booze and ended with food and booze, with a lot of laughs, music and sunshine in between.
Let’s get to it:
Usually I try to stay in a hotel, but lately Nashville is so overwhelmed with conferences, events and tourists it’s nearly impossible to find a room for under $300 a night. Enter VRBO. We found a great four bedroom townhome in Germantown for about $200 a person. Not bad right? And if you don’t know Germantown you will by the time I’m done with you. Great spot to lay your head and strap on the ole feed bag, as they say. Germantown is made up of 18 square blocks of real estate just north of downtown. We stayed on 5th Ave so we were smack dab in the middle of it all.
We checked in to our place and got right to it. First stop? Food of course. We walked (yes, walked!) to Cochon Butcher on 1120 4th Avenue North. And yes, this is the same Cochon that is in New Orleans (I asked) – the OG butcher shop, sandwich counter and a wine bar that was inspired by old-world meat markets. Now I’ve been to both. Here we sucked down some craft beer, a meat platter, a cheese platter and a couple different gooey, cheesy, bacon-filled sandwiches. I’m pretty sure there’s nothing better than cheese and bacon.
OK so the purpose of our trip was to catch Mumford & Sons at Bridgestone Arena. I’m a huge fan so this was a treat (check out my favorite M&S tunes here). Guest singers included Blake Mills, John Oates, T Bone Burnett and Big Kenny of Big & Rich. Quite the cast of characters. To be honest I can’t say anything about the quality of food we ate this night because it consisted of sucking down a pretzel and chicken finger at a sports bar while double fisting vodka sodas. Not exactly gourmet fare. But when you gotta get to a show, you gotta get to a show.
Let’s move on to the next day. Nothing memorable happened after this. And by nothing memorable, I mean “nothing I can remember.”
Ah, brunch. My favorite meal. Once again we walked to get our grub. This time to a place called Butchertown Hall on 1416 Fourth Avenue North in Germantown, a self-described “neighborhood joint” and “beer garden.” Gorgeous space with awesome back and side patios. We sat outside and ordered guac, queso and chips which were gone in about 2.4 minutes. Then most of us got coal-fired eggs – two eggs baked in a wood-fired oven with chorizo, cheese and avocado. Seriously. It tasted as great as it sounds.
And I can't forget to mention the Bloody Mary. This thing was described as having oak-roasted mary mix made in house with cucumber essence. Sound weird? It wasn’t – it might have been the best mary I’ve had. Get it ASAP.
After some hemming and hawing we decided to forego shops and strolling to take in what Nashville is known for: the honky tonk bars on Broadway. Our attempt to bar hop Friday night was thwarted by throngs of concert goers, so this was our chance to soak in some of the culture…that culture being day drinking brewskies and live country music.
I’d like to bring up a touchy subject here if I may. Let’s call this a “sidebar.”
I don’t like country music. Never have. But things have happened to me as I’ve moved on in age: I’ve become more open-minded to those things I've always hated; things like tomatoes, kids, speaking up for myself and....yes, country music. And since we were coming to Nashville it seemed like the perfect time to dive in and learn a little so I could make a festive playlist for our trip. Big waste of time. Not ONE person would let me play it. I was traveling with a group of ardent country haters who didn’t have the expanded consciousness that I myself was experiencing. But - they’re loss is your gain! You can check it out that playlist here.
Anyway, back to it...
We spent some time at Honky Tonk Central – a three level extravaganza of live music, rednecks and cheap beer. Honky tonk bars are a dime a dozen on Broadway – I end up in a different place every time I visit. Other favorites: The Stage, Legends Corner, Layla’s (I think I carved my name into the bathroom wall there last time), Bootleggers, and of course – the grandmammy of them all – Tootsie’s.
After a dozen or so songs (and beers) at HTC we headed out for some more civilized socializing at Acme Feed & Seed – a newish 3 level bar and restaurant with an amaaaaazing roof deck. Just as packed as anywhere else, but an awesome view and great people watching nonetheless. I think I was back on my all vodka soda diet at this point.
Back to Germantown to freshen up, drink another round (or two) of drinks and then we were off to dinner. Turns out there were two fantastic options for restaurants that were on our “must try” list and again within walking distance: 5th and Taylor and Rolf and Daughters.
Rolf and Daughters was named one of the Best New Restaurant in America in 2013 by Bon Appetit Magazine. The other, 5th and Taylor, was recently opened by five-time James Beard nominee Chef Daniel Lindley. Can't go wrong with either right? Turns out, both had over an hour wait for a table (not surprising with a gang of 8 people) so just based on size of the bar, we went to 5th and Taylor to wait out a table…which ended up being a great choice. It was a huge warehouse space, with a 6,200 square foot interior plus an outdoor patio and bar that adds an additional 2,500 square feet to the total space. (I totally measured it.)
After 3 bottles of wine plus a belly full of food, this was not surprisingly the end of our booze-soaked day/night.
No grass grows under our team when it comes to feeding time. Before we hit the road to travel back to real life, we decided to scope out Historic East Nashville for some food and sights. We didn’t find much in the way of sights, and our first stop into Marche Artisan Foods was frustrating (another hour wait), but fortunately we landed right at the doorstep of Margot Café & Bar – a quaint French cafe that was open for brunch with just a short wait. (ION - Margot is actually the parent restaurant to Marche.)
After fighting through a pocket of slow service (#firstworldproblems), we finally got to enjoy another delicious meal. Between all of us we had: steak and eggs, salted caramel French toast, asparagus and ham quiche and smoked salmon crepes. Are you drooling? It was a fantastic end to our gluttonous trip.
Get your butt to Nashville. If you've been once, go again. The honky tonk bars on Broadway (that's the "Nashvegas" part) are just the tip of the iceburg. Nashville is right up there with the likes of Charleston, Savannah, Austin and Atlanta for being known for its food, and based on what we experienced this weekend – that’s definitely getting stronger. There's also a fabulous botanical garden (Cheekwood), an historic plantation (Belle Meade), plenty of sports (the Titans and Predators to name a couple), shopping (The Gulch) and of course, music.