Nashville is one of the best places I’ve ever lived, and I’m lucky that I still have friends that live in town to visit. Literally, I will visit at the drop of a cowboy hat. Nashville is a lot like LA, except smaller, more easily navigable, and of course, musically inclined. I know it’s known for its music, but can we just talk about the food in Nashville? It’s spectacular.
This city is growing at an unbelievable pace, it seems like every time you turn around, there’s a new high rise or apartment complex. My old neighborhood in the West End (don’t think this was a coincidence, I love the Pet Shop Boys)/Charlotte is now the gateway to up and coming Nations and Sylvan Park.
I love you, Nashville.
My top ten restaurant list of my life has a lot of restaurants from Nashville on it. A must visit every time I come back is Chauhan Masala Ale House. You know Maneet Chauhan from the addictive show, Chopped on Food Network. Unless you live or have visited Nashville, you’ve probably not had her food. Props to her for having the vision to open up her eponymous restaurant here. It is so good.
Like. SO. Good.
I’ve not had anything I haven’t enjoyed. My top dish is the chicken tikka poutine, and even though it was brunch, they obliged my off menu request. That’s service, people! I also had the breakfast parantha taco, which was similar to that of Dishoom in the UK (another top ten restaurant).
She recently opened a more casual, authentic Desi street food eatery called Chaatable, and my friends rave about it. Next time, for sure. I would take a bath in her food.
My favorite neighborhood in Nashville in 12 South. 12th Avenue South is a long street flanked by delicious restaurant after restaurant, boutiques, bakeries, coffee shops, salons, music shops and ends at Sevier Park. It’s an insanely walkable area and you will see every type of Nashvillian cross your path. Draper James is Nashville native Reese Witherspoon’s store, White’s Mercantile is owned by Holly Williams, granddaughter of Hank, and Imogene + Willie is the resident denim purveyor for all the Nashville hipsters and Harry Styles.
Fun story, I caught the eye of Harry Styles at One Direction’s concert at Nissan Stadium a few years ago (LP field at the time) with my sign that said, Are you from Nashville because you’re the only Ten-I-See. I have almost a decade on him, it’s not creepy at all.
5 Daughters Bakery is a newer kid on the block, and boy am I happy this wasn’t a thing when I was living here. They have cronuts of all types, including a bourbon peach pecan. That’s right. The most southern cronut one could invent, unless you could invent one that said, “Bless your heart.”
The best thing about Nashville is its sheer amount of murals. My favorite is in East Nashville, but they are constantly changing in 12 South. The most popular is the I Believe in Nashville next to Draper James, but I like this new one I spotted on the side of Epice.
Even though I didn’t make it there this trip, Epice is one of the best lebanese restaurants around. I dream of their sayadeya. This is like home cooking, straight from the hearth and I love it.
Nights in Nashville are so fun, and that’s due to the vibrant Lower Broad, which contains a whole host of Honky Tonks and bars. I am proud to say that I’ve been to most of them, I like taking out of town visitors to Acme Feed & Seed because of the fantastic rooftop view and Tootsie’s and Robert’s Western World because they are classic.
I’ve also had a ton of sweaty dance parties at Honky Tonk Central, but that’s all I will say about that.
My favorite venue downtown is the mother church, the Ryman auditorium. I cannot stress how important it is to see a show here if you can. It doesn’t even matter if you don’t know the artist, take a chance, you won’t regret it.
Nashville has a phenomenal coffee culture and I am so glad one of my spots in Melrose is now on the west side (westside!). I spent a lot of time studying at the original 8th & Roast, which has a small dark vibe compared to its counterpart which is open, modern and bright. And again, I cannot stress how jealous I am that 5 Points Pizza is open next door.
I do like heading over to Melrose area because that’s where the original Grimey’s is, and this is the record store of all record stores. I’ve seen Bela Fleck and Mickey Ekko play shows there (not together but that would’ve been awesome). There’s always events and especially around Record Store Day, there’s lots of bands and festivities.
And you can get Baked on 8th too. Seriously, this bakery is a couple doors down from Grimey’s and is Instagram worthy, with their unicorn colors and galaxy brownies. They even have decor inspired by Mr. Holmes’ bakeries on the West Coast.
Stroll along 21st Avenue (it’s really easy to get around in Nashville because of the numbered streets) into Hillsboro Village, past the sprawling Vanderbilt campus. There’s a lot of great boutiques and cafes here, too. I have a special place in my heart for Kay Bob’s because we ordered lunch from there at least once a week when I worked at Vandy, and their cajun fries and fruit tea are to die for.
Skip Pancake Pantry, it’s not that good. Go to Biscuit Love and get bonuts instead. I know, these are fighting words, but I’m sticking to it.
The other neighborhood that sometimes gets overlooked by tourists is Berry Hill. A little bit off the path, there’s some really good restaurants here: Yellow Porch, Vui’s Kitchen, Pfunky Griddle, every Nashvillian’s favorite, Baja Burrito, and my breakfast and fruit tea go to: Sam & Zoe’s. I love the breakfast burritos here and the workers are super friendly.
Berry Hill is the best place to brunch on the last weekend of the month, because it’s pretty close to the fairgrounds where the Nashville flea market is held. You can find whatever floats your boat here: let’s just say on one trip I bought a Detlef Schrempf card, a heart shaped metal farm basket, and a Jim Croce record.
Speaking of records, if you only have time for one museum in town, the Country Music Hall of Fame is a good choice (although I am partial to the Johnny Cash museum, too). You can see Elvis’ cool AF gold cadillac, outfits worn by Loretta and Dolly, and more records that you can imagine. The Hatch Show Print shop is the perfect place to pick up a souvenir as well. I cherish all my hatch show prints.
My favorite restaurant ever, Rolf & Daughters. Do make a reservation in advance, it’s a popular place. There are so many good restaurants in Nashville and I truly enjoy them all, but to me, this place is on another level.
Squid ink pasta is one of my favorite dishes in life. The standard that I go by is that of Frank on the Lower East Side in NY. It is not on the menu anymore there, which is a shame because it was an umami dish to end all umami dishes. The squid ink pasta at R.A.D. is beyond anything you could ever fathom. The iteration this past outing was an asian inspired broth with thai basil, and I basically licked my plate.
I’ve been here a half dozen times, and I’ve loved every time. It’s peasant Italian but with panache. I’ve also only been here with people I love, so that has something to do with it, too, but the ambience and food is spectacular.
Please never change, I love you, Nashville, you are R.A.D.