The hits keep coming, don’t they? While the world was reeling from the COVID-19 effects, my beloved former home of Nashville suffered one of the most devastating tornadoes in recent past. Fortunately for me, my friends and colleagues are okay, but there are so many people who were not as lucky. The scenes of the utter destruction, splintered buildings, razed businesses that were once so lively and vital to this town are heartbreaking.
If there’s something I know about the city of Nashville, it’s that it is resilient. When I moved there in 2014, they had near completely recouped from the horrible floods in 2010. I know the community will come together and rebuild and be back better than ever. If you can, consider donating to cmft.org.
Until then, I believe in you Nashville, and here’s my little love letter to you
Some of the most vivid memories I have of Nashville are not from the honky tonks on Lower Broad (don’t remember much from those outings ;), but rather studying or meeting with friends in the myriad of coffee shops and restaurants around town. Real nerd alert here, but I was studying for my board exam, so that took up A LOT of time. Lucky for me, Nashville is an incredible food town, reference here, here and here.
Crema is my all time favorite coffee place. Just off the beaten path of downtown, the real ones know. I have dreams about their delightful cuban. It is always my first stop.
And just across the Cumberland is East Nashville was one of the hardest hit spots in town, which is gutwrenching, as it is probably the area that has undergone the most revitalization over the years (ever seen a home reno show set in Nashville? You’re looking at East Nashville).
From the time I lived there, this neighborhood was being turned around by the community and was thriving with businesses, the coolest eateries: my favorite Five Points Pizza, The Pharmacy (first place I ever ate in Nashville), Lockeland Table (best date restaurant, featuring a pizookie using Olive + Sinclair chocolate!), Ugly Mugs (where I have had countless honey bear lattes), Two Ten Jack (their brussels are to die for), Jeni’s ice cream (ubiquitous now, but was only there at the time!), the first Barista Parlor location (co-owned by Dan Auerbach), and Marche (the best brunch spot/French market).
And yeah, while donuts are good with coffee, bonuts might be even better. Invented here, Biscuit Love is your too popular brunch place that probably attracts more tourists now, but damn if those little biscuit donut hybrids aren’t the most sumptuous little morsels. Especially when bathed in mascarpone and blueberry compote.
This is a brunch town, they don’t make breakfast like they do here: Loveless Cafe, Sam & Zoe’s, Monell’s, Pinewood Social, Josephine, Chauhan, Suzy Wong’s (drag brunch), and Henrietta Red are just a few of my favs (I know, an abundance of riches). And Nashville has hot chicken, so it automatically wins.
Somewhat overlooked is the culture in this town. I’m not talking about music culture, because that is certainly celebrated, but there is a lot of history and natural beauty around these parts.
Stephon voice: Nashville has everything: built in the 1700s, it’s the state capital, Andrew Jackson was from here, there’s murals EVERYWHERE, Cheekwood botanical gardens and Percy Warner Park are nature’s playground in the middle of the city, and there’s a replica of the Parthenon in Midtown. It is the “Athens of the South,” after all (not to be confused with the literal Athens of the South in Georgia).
There’s tons of museums, music related and not, and just admiring the different styles of architecture throughout the area reflect the changes the city has gone through. From the air, the top of the Country Music HOF resembles as guitar, which is SO well thought out.
And this city has the best “scene” of any city. The nightlife is tops because it’s not your usual. Yeah, you can go to a club, hear a DJ and sit in a booth in Miami or Vegas, but you can party in Nashville. Lower Broad has something for everyone, if you want club/dancing,? They have that. If you want to line dance? They have that, too. And if you’re like me, and you like to chill on a rooftop and hang, they’ve definitely got that. More importantly, there’s live bands everywhere, and that is not something you get anywhere else. The sheer talent in this town in unbelievable.
The classics are Layla’s and Robert’s, my best spots are Acme Feed & Seed (that view is incredible) and the purple paradise that is Tootsie’s. I am more frequently down there to see a show at the Ryman, the all time Mother Church of all music venues, and if you are a true music geek, you have got to make it your goal to see a show here. I’ve seen Alt-J, Dave Chappelle, Willie Nelson, Death Cab for Cutie, and the Grand Old Opry. I also once saw Jeff Tweedy walking around there and that also counts.
Germantown also sustained a lot of damage in the tornadoes. This industrial area was the epicenter of the food renaissance in the post-flood era. Starting with Tandy Wilson’s City House, the amount of incredible plates that were being served in this neighborhood over the years is absurd. Silo, 5th and Taylor, Butchertown Hall, Steadfast Coffee, Saint Stephen, Henrietta Red, Geist, and my all time favorite restaurant. The literally number one in all the places I’ve eaten: Rolf & Daughters.
I have sung the praises of this place to every person I know. I’ve eaten here a half dozen times and I’ve loved every visit because I’ve made every visit with friends that I love. It was one of my first meals when I visited in 2013 for the first time, I made it my last meal in town before I moved away. I will always hold their squid ink pasta in my heart.
And that is the heart of this city, it is a place where people come to make memories with people they love. It’s a place where you find the best people who become some of your best friends, even if you no longer live there anymore. It’s a place where you feel the love through its hospitality and vibrancy. It’s a place whose global outreach with music is all love. I love you Nashville, stay strong and you’ll be back on your feet in no time.