I am really enjoying going to Nashville – it is a fun city! The WSJ brings us their:
Pitch-Perfect Long Weekend in Nashville
From honky-tonks to haute Southern fare, craft cocktails to celebrity hangouts, the ultimate getaway guide to Nashville, Tenn.
By SARA CLEMENCE Updated June 6, 2014 12:33 p.m. ET
Denim store Imogene + Willie Jason Myers for The Wall Street Journal
IT’S A SMALL CITY with a big reputation—almost all of it deserved. Over the past decade or so, Nashville has evolved beyond a music mecca to become a celebrity magnet and a culinary powerhouse, too. Under-the-radar restaurants no longer exist—new establishments seem to get national attention faster than you can say “Catbird Seat.” You might spot anyone from Tom Hanks to Justin Timberlake on the streets. A certain prime-time, eponymous television show hasn’t exactly dimmed the spotlight on the town. It can be hard, with all the hype—and given Music City’s spread—to know which nouveau-Southern eateries, juke joints, indie boutiques or classic meat-and-threes are really worth a stop. Here’s our mad-dash itinerary for a perfect escape, just in time for the city’s bounty of summer festivals.
DAY ONE // FRIDAY
7 p.m. Land at Nashville International Airport and pick up your rental car. It’s about a 15-minute drive to the Hutton Hotel, in a former office tower in West End (from $249 a night, 1808 West End Ave., huttonhotel.com). The hotel may look generic from the outside, but its interior is stylish and warm. A quirky mix of furniture in the lobby invites lounging, there are green features throughout the building—bamboo flooring, LED lighting—and the service is tops.
8 p.m. A few miles away, Rolf and Daughters occupies a century-old industrial building in the Germantown neighborhood (700 Taylor St., rolfanddaughters.com). This high-ceilinged, brick-walled spot opened in 2012 and quickly became one of the most highly regarded eateries in the city—in part because the Belgian-raised chef/owner, Philip Krajeck, is a master of fresh pasta. Other highlights of the tight menu include chicken-liver paté served with green-tomato jam and a dash of cacao, and dry-aged meatballs pepped up with dandelion greens.
9:45 p.m. Plunge into Music City’s rowdiest precinct. The three-block stretch of honky-tonks on Lower Broadway can feel like New Orleans’ Bourbon Street, complete with neon signs and bachelor and bachelorette hordes, but the juke joints offer up truly excellent live music. Leave your car in a public lot, then wander into any spot that looks or sounds promising—cover charges are a rarity. If you don’t want to leave things to chance, reliable venues include Robert’s Western World, Layla’s Bluegrass Inn and Legends Corner, paved with country album covers. Bring small bills for the tip jars.
Historic performance hall (and former church) Ryman Auditorium Jason Myers for the Wall Street Journal
DAY TWO // SATURDAY
8 a.m. The gluten-sensitive can sleep in this morning. Everyone else: rise, shine and drive several minutes to the Pancake Pantry, a city institution since 1961 (1796 21st Ave., thepancakepantry.com). Or, walk there through Vanderbilt University’s campus to earn the hot cakes you’re about to devour. Pancake Pantry offers up more than 20 varieties, including Caribbean (buttermilk pancakes piled with pecans, shredded coconut, powdered sugar and banana slices), savory Santa Fe (cornmeal cakes studded with bacon, cheddar and roasted green chilies) and the signature sweet-potato pancakes. Those last ones don’t need syrup, but you might not be able to resist the warm carafe that will be plunked onto your Formica tabletop. Arrive early unless you like long lines, and glance around between bites— Vince Gill is said to be a regular.
9:30 a.m. Wander the surrounding Hillsboro Village neighborhood. The commercial strip is just a few blocks long, but includes some perky clothing boutiques, A Village of Flowers (a florist shop that stocks winsome local blooms), indie bookstore BookManBookWoman and Provence Breads & Café. You’ll likely be too stuffed to sample their baked goods, but a salted-caramel chocolate croissant might make a welcome pick-me-up later.
10:15 a.m. Even non-country fans should pass through the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, about a 10-minute drive away (222 Fifth Ave. S., countrymusichalloffame.org). The museum traces the evolution of the genre, from its folk roots to contemporary crossover. Displays showcase Bill Monroe’s mandolin, Elvis Presley’s glittering Cadillac—shellacked with ground-up pearls, diamonds and fish scales—and lots and lots of guitars. Afterward, browse Hatch Show Print downstairs; it’s one of the country’s oldest letterpress operations, and you’ve likely seen its colorful, blocky designs—or their influence—before. The classic concert posters make nice souvenirs. Speaking of, nearby Circa stocks locally made goods, from jewelry to sweets.
11:30 a.m. Take a stroll around downtown. Notable spots include the imposing Customs House; the Johnny Cash Museum, which contains a remnant of a stone wall from Cash’s burned-down house; and Ryman Auditorium. Once the Union Gospel Tabernacle, it became a performance space in the early 20th century, and went on to host everyone from Teddy Roosevelt to Dolly Parton, Katharine Hepburn to the Grand Ole Opry, which called it home for three decades.
12:30 p.m. Hang with the hipsters at Mas Tacos Por Favor in East Nashville (732 Mcferrin Ave.). This glorified food stand looks like it was furnished with Salvation Army rejects, but the food is designer-quality. The taco filled with deep-fried avocado chunks has a spicy bite; you’ll want seconds of the version with skillet-cooked chicken.
12:45 p.m. Explore the “retail startups” at the Shoppes on Fatherland, a cluster of tiny independent stores in East Nashville’s 5 Points area (1006 Fatherland St., shoppesonfatherland.com). Among the highlights: High Garden Herbs, Tea & Tradition, which specializes in loose-leaf teas and bulk herbs; and the funky wares at Moxie Fearless Furnishings.
1:45 p.m. Drive or walk the half-mile to Olive & Sinclair Chocolate (1628 Fatherland St., oliveandsinclair.com). The micro-treatery moved its operations here in January; on Saturday it lets visitors tour every step of the chocolate-making process, from grinding to roasting to wrapping up the final product.
3 p.m. Nashville has no lack of guitar shops, but the most revered is Gruhn Guitars (2120 Eighth Ave S., gruhn.com). Even if you’re not a picker or a strummer, you’ll appreciate all the vintage and new stringed instruments on display over two floors. Whether shopping or just gawking, you’ll likely learn something from the highly knowledgeable staff. Besides, who knows whom you might see browsing?
4 p.m. Stop at Marathon Village, a former automobile-manufacturing complex that now houses artist studios, stores, galleries and music venues. Antique Archaeology, which is packed with eclectic finds from “American Pickers” star Mike Wolfe, anchors the complex (1300 Clinton St., antiquearchaeology.com). If that’s too reality-show-groupie for you, visit Otis James, who hand-crafts contemporary bow ties. Bang Candy is best known for its colored marshmallows dressed in Belgian chocolate, but it also has a cafe where you can grab some soup or panini.
4:30 p.m. Return to the hotel for a quick nap.
6 p.m. Start the evening on foot, walking to the Patterson House, a 30-seat speakeasy decked out with bookshelves and vintage chandeliers (1711 Division St., thepattersonnashville.com). The bitters are made in-house. The Bacon Old Fashioned contains maple syrup, Four Roses bourbon and (really) bacon drippings.
7 p.m. Drive or take a taxi back to Ryman Auditorium. No matter who is performing, the show is sure to be outstanding—not just because of the top-notch acoustics, but because musicians tend to give their best in the hallowed hall. If Ryman’s headliner doesn’t appeal to you, skip the cocktail at Patterson House and drive to the Bluebird Café, in a strip mall about 20 minutes south of the hotel (4104 Hillsboro Pike, bluebirdcafe.com). Up-and-coming singer-songwriters as well as music stars perform at this listening room, usually sitting in the center of the audience and taking turns with tunes. (It also has a recurring role in “Nashville.”) Saturday shows start at 6:30 and 9:30, and reservations are recommended.
9 p.m. From the Ryman, it’s a 20-minute walk or a quick drive to 404 Kitchen, a new eatery stuffed into an old shipping container (404 12th Ave. S., the404nashville.com). The menu changes daily and includes simple, European-inflected dishes made from local ingredients. It recently featured fiery cioppino and house-made buratta embellished with breakfast radishes, arugula and celery.
Hatch Show Print Sara Clemence/The Wall Street Journal
DAY THREE // SUNDAY
8:30 a.m. Arrive at Loveless Café, a 30-minute drive southwest of the city through low, lovely hills, in time to beat the crowds that come for the country breakfasts—specifically, the tender little biscuits served with homemade preserves (8400 Tennessee 100, lovelesscafe.com). For the full-on comfort-food experience, go for the pit-cooked pork barbecue flanked by two eggs. Off one of the cheery, yellow-walled dining rooms, there’s a window into the kitchen, where diners can see biscuits being rolled out. After stuffing yourself silly, stop at the store for a few take-home jams.
10 a.m. Head a half-hour southeast to Franklin, which has an upscale, small-town feel. The offerings in the stores that line Main Street can get repetitive—French-inspired housewares, place mats printed with vintage silver patterns—but several shops are worth browsing. Haven sells sharp designer clothing for women (Yoyo Yeung, Elizabeth and James, By Malene Birger); Savory Spice Shop stocks unusual additives, including honey powder, vanilla paste and dozens of curries; Walton’s Antique and Estate Jewelry carries cameo pins, Art Deco diamond rings and other carefully selected adornments. Around the corner is a clutch of antiques shops and galleries, notably the beautifully arranged Scarlett Scales Antiques (246 Second Ave S., scarlettscales.com).
12 p.m. Lunch at the casual Meridee’s Breadbasket, a carb-lovers delight with its homemade breads, cookies, pies and sticky buns (110 Fourth Ave. S., merridees.com). The savories are good too, especially the soups and the trio of tuna, chicken and egg salad.
12:45 p.m. Drive back to Nashville, stopping at the Cheekwood Botanical Gardens and Museum of Art (1200 Forrest Park Dr., cheekwood.org). Serious garden-lovers may be disappointed that this 55-acre property isn’t more polished, but visit the intimate art museum, housed in a 30,000-square-foot mansion that a Maxwell House coffee fortune built. From June 14 through Sept. 7 it will show a collection of floral works by Andy Warhol.
2:15 p.m. Nashville is short on walking neighborhoods. An exception is 12 South, located southeast of Vanderbilt University. Here, you’ll find coffee shops in wood-sided bungalows, and boutiques in former gas stations. Start at the north end of the several-block strip, stopping to check out the contemporary clothing at Emerson Grace, the vintage duds crammed into Katy K Designs, the connoisseurs’ denim at Imogene + Willie and the curated housewares at White’s Mercantile. Frothy Monkey serves up Kaldi’s coffee and High Garden tea. Cold treats can be had at either end of your walk—at Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, an Ohio import that makes creative flavors from scratch, and the simple Las Paletas, where the line for ice pops in flavors like hibiscus and watermelon can spill down the street. Sevier Park, right across the way, is a nice spot for a people-watching break.
4:30 p.m. Back to the hotel for a rest.
6 p.m. If you didn’t last night, visit one of the more serious music venues in town, like Bluebird Café or Station Inn (402 12th Avenue S., stationinn.com). From the outside, the concrete-bunker Inn looks like a moshing mecca, yet it’s one of Nashville’s top bluegrass and roots spaces. The late show starts at 7 p.m., but seats are first-come, so arrive early.
8 p.m. Though the chow at City House is exceptional any night, it is most exciting during the weekly Sunday Supper, when chef Tandy Wilson plays around with the menu (1222 Fourth Ave. N., cityhousenashville.com). The restaurant is situated in an airy brick building that was once a sculptor’s studio. On a recent Sunday, offerings included wood-fired pizza topped with Swiss chard, cottage cheese and garlic; trout in a cornmeal crust; and lardo served on a dense, cakelike bread known as cornlight.
10 p.m. This is a town that takes karaoke seriously—hence the tiered seating at Lonnie’s Western Room (208 Printers Alley, lonnieswesternroom.com). This might be your only chance to sing on a Nashville stage, and Sunday is a quieter (read: less embarrassing) night to do it. The shameless can let friends at home know that the bar has a live feed of performances on its website.
James Gulliver Hancock
DAY FOUR // MONDAY
9 a.m. Recover at Pinewood Social, a stylish new bar/bowling alley/restaurant near the Cumberland River (33 Peabody St., pinewoodsocial.com). Pinewood serves a favorite local brew, Crema, and pastries by small-time, big-flavor bakery Dozen (try the chocolate and honey galette). It also has a mouthwatering breakfast menu. The Reuben benedict, with corned-beef tongue, sauerkraut, poached egg and thousand-island dressing on rye, is a highlight. This summer, a pool, pool bar and bocce court are supposed to open out back.
10:30 a.m. Give your ears a break at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts (919 Broadway, fristcenter.org). The Art Deco setting (once the city’s main post office) makes it seem old, but the museum only dates back to 2001. Exhibitions manage to be sophisticated yet accessible—a show of Goya’s war etchings just closed, and one of paintings by illustrator Maira Kalman just opened. The Frist is a don’t-miss for children; the Martin ArtQuest Gallery has 30 interactive stations where kids can paint, draw, construct elaborate block towers, experiment with stop-motion animation and more.
11:30 a.m. Pop across the street to the storefront of Manuel American Designs, the storefront of the “Rhinestone Rembrandt ” (800 Broadway, manuelcouture.com). Manuel has outfitted Elvis, Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones and many other stars in fabulousness. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to see the set of 50 jackets he embellished with icons of each of the U.S. states. Like many of Manuel’s clients, the collection is usually on tour.
12 p.m. Take a detour to Germantown to visit Peter Nappi, purveyor of handmade boots and other leather goods (1308 Adams St., peternappi.com). If you think you have the wrong place—a derelict industrial complex—you’re probably approaching the front door. The inside would make Ralph Lauren green-eyed; it’s perfectly outfitted with old portraits, wooden shoe lasts, leather-clad chairs and, this being Nashville, a stage.
12:30 p.m. Drive to the low-slung Arnold’s Country Kitchen for a “meat and three” (605 Eighth Ave. S., 615-256-4455). Pick an old-school Southern combo of protein (liver and onions, country-fried steak, chicken and dumplings) and sides (think okra, candied yams and turnip greens). Or head to the Nashville Farmers’ Market, a covered affair where vendors sell local produce and products, including jams and flavored popcorns (900 Rosa L. Parks Blvd., nashvillefarmersmarket.org ). In the Market House, you can assemble an international lunch buffet—tamales from the Tamale Pot, channa masala from Swagruha Indian Restaurant, maybe some jerk chicken from Jamaicaway Restaurant.
1:30 p.m. Walk off a couple of calories in the 19-acre Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park, just across the street. An outdoor museum of state history, the park boasts a 200-foot-wide map of Tennessee, a “Rivers of Tennessee” fountain and a long granite wall inscribed with important events from history. Gaze up at the state capitol, which overlooks the park, and say a sad goodbye to Nashville before heading to the airport.
Corrections & Amplifications
Arnold’s Country Kitchen in Nashville is open for lunch Monday through Friday. An earlier version of this article suggested eating there on Saturday.