48 Hours of Gluttony in Music City.
31.07.2015 - 02.08.2015
It all started when Matt asked me what I wanted for my birthday.
I puzzled. I planned. I pondered.
I came up with…..nothing.
There was absolutely nothing I wanted that I didn’t already have.
Is that not AWESOME?
That alone should have been a remarkable birthday gift, and right then I should have taken any money that might be used on my birthday to buy a goat for a village in Africa, but I am far too selfish for that, so I thought, “Why not DO something instead of GET something?”
And what do I like to do more than anything?
Birthdays are the one day a year that you can throw all your inhibitions away and eat yourself into a happy (birthday) food coma. Everyone knows that calories don’t count on your birthday (or holidays, vacations, Saturdays, after midnight, and following any emotional trauma).
I should also point out that eating is also a fantastic distraction from the aging process.
So Matt agreed to load up and head to my eating destination of choice.
I chose Nashville.
We tend to forget about Nashville. It’s so close, but we never really think of it as a “destination.” To us, it’s just that big city in the middle of the state.
However, it has recently experienced a surge in popularity thanks to the new show Nashville, the inexplicable popularity of country music, and a brief stint as Taylor Swift’s home a choice before she decided NYC was infinitely cooler.
I’m pretty sure its popularity is not attributable to the fact that Billy Ray Cyrus lives there.
While we weren’t paying attention, Nashville became Nowville.
Or, in my case, Noshville.
Nashville’s restaurant scene has exploded in the past few years. A slew of new restaurants have popped up and I wanted to try as many of them as possible.
It seemed like a good time to head down the road for a visit to our mid-state cousin. Home of the Grand Ole Opry. Birthplace of Country Music. Honky Tonk Capital of the World. And baker of more biscuits than you can shake a stick at.
Day 1: Pass the biscuits.
We arrived in time for breakfast at my insistence (and despite Matt’s futile efforts to sleep late). There is no sleeping late when there are biscuits to be eaten.
We drove straight through what I think of as Nashville’s neon corridor of misery, that stretch of Broadway that is littered with neon boot signs and places promising line dancing and country karaoke. It’s like Las Vegas and Dollywood rolled up into one hot, flashy country-fried mess.
If you are looking for a blog post filled with Robert’s Western World, The Bluebird Café, Printers Alley, and the Ryman….you should probably move on.
I was looking for an experience that was a bit less common. I wanted to take the road less traveled.
Unfortunately, the road less traveled appeared to have been taken over by hipsters.
Forget Nowville or Noshville. When we weren’t looking, Nashville had turned into Hipsterville.
For those of you that aren’t sure you know what a hipster is: 1) you’re lucky, and 2) I’ll give you a hint. You know that new coffee shop that just opened up in your town? The one with the glass contraptions that look like something from a chemist lab and that have the menus hand printed on the back of a recycled brown lunch bag? That 19-year-old faux junkie with the handlebar mustache and the mustard yellow fedora who is choreographing your coffee experience for 8 minutes with his pour-over method using sustainable, fair trade aged Sumatran roast….that’s a hipster.
And if you take a picture of your double upside down cacao cortado with soy, you might be one too.
I have no shame in admitting it. We are moderately uncool middle aged people. The entire hipster movement is simply baffling to us. I don’t understand the sudden popularity of Victorian-era facial hair, unicycles, and men wearing skinny jeans, rolled up, with boots that look like something my great-grandfather likely wore to milk his cow.
However, hipsters take their food seriously. So, there is something to be gained by a moderately uncool middle aged person if he/she is brave enough to enter the hipster domain.
I had planned our eating carefully, and it included a vast number of hipster joints. Make no mistake, hipster joints make GOOD FOOD. You just have to get past the …..hipsterness of it all.
The first thing you have to do is look past the dim and ineffective vintage light bulbs and rough-hewn unfinished wood that is likely covering every surface to appreciate the wonder that is the menu. Don’t let yourself be immediately discouraged by the barrage of hipster-speak that assaults you from the menu. Dig past all of the locally foraged, ethically sourced, artisanal, salvaged, sustainable, stone-pounded, bicycle delivered weirdness and what you’ll find is really good food.
Move past the bone marrow, sweetbreads, and scrapple. Focus on key words: beef. potatoes. jam.
Biscuit Love Brunch was a great place for Matt and I to start.
Like any good hipster restaurant, Biscuit Love started as a simple food truck. They recently moved from serving up hot handfuls of butter and flour on Nashville’s city streets to a bona fide brick and mortar restaurant. They only serve brunch, are only open until 3:00, and you can pretty much get anything on a biscuit.
When we walked in, there was a line. Apparently this was an “order at the counter, get a number, have a seat,” kind of place. We waited about 15 minutes.
I am BAFFLED by the number of people that can wait in line for 15 minutes, STARING AT A MENU, and are not prepared to order when they reach the counter.
I did not have that problem when it was my turn at all. It was 9:00 a.m. and I was ravenous.
“Bronuts and an East Nasty,”I blurted out so forcefully it made Matt jump.
Hey man, I was hungry.
I was then presented with a credit card slip to sign and leave a tip. REALLY?
I waited in line 15 minutes to order my own food and get my own beverage and you now want me to tip someone to bring my plate to me? Before they bring it to me?
Apparently, I do not understand the new counter service trend. If you’re making me serve myself, what are you asking for a tip for?
I prefer to wait and see if the person bringing my plate comes out dressed as a clown and makes me a balloon giraffe to go with my biscuit. THEN they will get a tip.
After a very short wait, my plate of bronuts arrived.
These biscuit-doughnut hybrids were made of fried biscuit dough, coated in crunchy sugar, filled with lemon marscapone, and sitting on top of fresh blueberry compote.
That should have been enough, but then the East Nasty showed up: a crispy fried chicken thigh with smoked cheddar sitting on a flaky biscuit smothered in sausage gravy.
After breakfast, I wanted a really good cup of coffee. If there is one thing hipsters know how to do well, it’s make coffee.
Unfortunately, Biscuit Love had only moderately prepared us for the full-on hipster establishment experience.
Barista Parlour was the whole enchilada (an organic, locally sourced spaghetti squash, cotija, and lime infused yam enchilada, of course).
We found what we believed to be the Barista Parlour, a non-descript building with a cement block exterior. The doors were all locked, so we walked until we found a concrete courtyard surrounded by high concrete walls. I was starting to wonder if this was a coffee shop or an elementary school in Mexico City. We eventually found the right door and stepped inside.
Residing in an old car stereo shop complete with roll up garage doors, this place was so hipster that it made me instantly want to put on one of my granny’s old dresses and a vintage cardigan. I suddenly wished I hadn't washed my hair and had grabbed a slouchie beanie on the way out. It was like walking into an Instagram photo. I saw a barista in a toboggan and a leather apron, despite the fact that it was 95 degrees outside. There were small children wearing unnecessary scarves and the all of the chocolate bars had at least 65% cacao.
In lieu of the customary hipster chalkboard menu, the only menu I could see was a small elaborately custom-made affair attached to a wooden board affixed permanently to the area just below the register. As I waited in line, I realized this would give me about .86 seconds to consider my order, while the uber cool barista stood in silent judgment. I had to order before the crowd behind me started angrily waving their beanies and vintage copies of The Catcher in the Rye at me.
Apparently, I was supposed to know what was on the menu before I arrived. I was already failing my hipster exam.
My level of discomfort on a scale of 1 to 10 was about a 4.
Matt’s was a 27. He immediately decided he didn’t want anything and ran to the safety of the bathroom.
I distracted myself by perusing the colorful shelves filled with fanciful appurtenances (I feel like this overelaborate description is necessary to reflect the true atmosphere of the Barista Parlour). There were colorful French macarons, artisan chocolates, gluten-free cookies, and hand-made pop-tarts. There were vintage motorbikes and a wall shelf filled with vinyl record albums.
When it was time to place my order, I was blessedly quick, simply choosing the first thing I could read without my glasses.
I took my number to my table (apparently a phenomenon here in Nashville….there did not appear to be any restaurant at which one did not receive a whimsical number on a stick to affix in some manner to one’s table). As I tried to decide which industrial upcycled table to sit at, I passed the condiment table. No doubt in a place like this, where coffee making was considered art, adding sugar to your cappuccino would be like putting ketchup on your langoustine at Le Bernardin.
My coffee could come out tasting like cardboard and turpentine and I wouldn’t dare risk the disapproving stares of the other patrons to get a scoop of Splenda. I wasn’t going to be making that walk of shame. Besides, they probably only had Sugar in the Raw or honey anyway.
After about 15 minutes of careful brewery magic, the barista in the toboggan brought me my Caramel Whiskey Latte.
No wonder the condiment table looked dusty. Who needs it? The coffee was AMAZING.
Apparently, all you need is a leather apron to make an astonishing cup of coffee.
It was time to leave the hipster-cool of the City. We’d had all we could take for a while. We needed to go somewhere that didn’t require tattoos or facial hair to fit in.
We easily found our conspicuous oversized Land Rover parked in a sea of tiny electric cars and bicycles and made our escape.
Our first stop was at Love Circle, a grassy hill with a panoramic view of the city skyline. Technically the hill belongs to Metro Water Services and technically it’s considered trespassing on the water reservoir that exists up there and technically it’s illegal to park …..but we had been emboldened by our middle aged foray into the youthful hipster world, so we went for it.
Next up was a drive through Nashville’s prestigious Belle Meade neighborhood. We were planning to make a stop at the Belle Meade Plantation, but after driving past mansion after mansion, we felt poor and dejected and decided the only thing that would make us feel better was pie.
We stopped at the famed Loveless Motel and Café to see what they had to offer. They have been serving the best biscuits in Nashville since 1951, and it is said that the recipe remains unchanged today.
Unfortunately, I was full up on biscuits. Not just full up, EAST NASTY full up.
We couldn’t decide on one pie, so we got a pie sampler, because when you are too full to eat one piece of pie, you should just go ahead and get three. The sampler included banana pudding (okay, not technically a pie, but who cares), chess pie, and coconut pie.
Pie is always good, but next time, I want the biscuits.
We then took a beautiful drive on a section of the Natchez Trace Parkway, which extends 444 miles from Nashville to Natchez, Mississippi. I could only imagine what it must look like in the fall.
Note to self: Come back in the fall. Drive parkway. Eat biscuits.
We hopped off the parkway at quaint Leiper’s Fork, a scenic village surrounded by farmland just southwest of Nashville. It’s a place filled with farmers, artists, and musicians. Home to the famous Puckett’s Grocery Store, where live bluegrass mingles with meatloaf and collard greens, the village was filled with quaint shops and galleries.
And this old Jeep Willys which I must have or die.
Shopping made us hungry, so we headed back to the City for a late lunch.
Having had enough hipster fun that morning, we decided to go as un-hipster as possible: Arnold’s.
If Arnold’s writes something on a paper bag, it’s because that’s what was nearby. Arnold’s is not cool. Arnold’s is not hip. And Arnold’s doesn’t care.
Arnold’s has been serving up “meat and 3” lunches out of a colorful cinder block building for over 30 years. Nothing is fancy, food is served cafeteria style, and tables are communal – you simply squeeze in where you can find space.
We arrived late, at 2:20. They stop serving at 2:45, so imagine our surprise when the line still stretched out the door. No matter, we had nothing but time.
When we got inside, we had plenty of time to review the menu on the wall. Everything looked like it was cooked in pork fat or fried in lard. It was like heaven.
The good thing about the line at Arnold’s is that it gives neurotic orderers ample time to consider every possible combination of the meat + three before actually having to settle on just one.
Should I get meatloaf with creamed corn, fried okra, and green beans? What about catfish with mashed potatoes, tomato pie, and collard greens? Oh wait, maybe roast beef with white beans, fried apples, and candied yams????? What about the cole slaw??? DEAR GOD, WHERE WOULD I FIT IN THE COLE SLAW?????? Is there a meat + 4?
While I was suffering a mild panic attack at being limited to only 3 side items, we came to the food line.
Desserts came first. These people have their priorities in order. I immediately forgot all about side items.
We did not plan to get dessert since we had eaten bronuts, biscuits, and 3 pieces of pie that morning….but they had the pies right at eye level. They were staring at us. “Pick me, pick me,” each one chanted, like a homeless puppy at the kill shelter. We just had to take one home.
With a choice between roast beef, meatloaf, chicken n’dumplings, fried catfish, or fried shrimp…it was a tough call. I almost ordered the chicken n’ dumplings, but then I spotted the whole roast beef, rare and juicy, as they were hand carving it to order.
“Roast beef, fried green tomatoes, macaroni & cheese, and greens, please,” I said with no hesitation.
Matt went for the meatloaf, corn pudding, green beans, and mashed potatoes swimming in rich gravy.
We. Ate. Every. Bite.
It was late in the afternoon and we really needed a post-binge nap, so we made our way to 12 South, an eclectic (and yes, hipster) neighborhood just outside of downtown. Not that long ago, this was just considered a rough part of town. Now, it’s one of the hottest neighborhoods in Nashville where you can buy a vintage guitar, drink a craft cocktail, eat a gourmet popsicle, and try on a pair of hand-stitched jeans all in one 10 block stretch only 2 miles from downtown.
It’s no secret that I am not a fan of hotels. Beyond that, I make every effort to seek out the most unique accommodations I can find. I’m not satisfied with the ordinary. I want extraordinary.
The 12th Avenue South Urban Oasis was my idea of perfect. It was Matt’s idea of a fancied up garage, but that was because he didn’t get it.
Nestled quietly and privately behind the dazzling Savant vintage store on 12 South, this place was literally an “oasis.” Once we entered the gate, it was quiet and peaceful. It was hard to image the hustle and bustle of 12 South was so close.
The garage had been lovingly restored and decorated by the owner of Savant with her own fabulous antiques and unique finds. It was bright and airy. I felt like I had stepped into a magazine shoot.
And no, it was not entirely lost on me that I was sleeping in the Barista's Parlour's less evil twin.
I loved everything about it.
Well. Almost Everything.
We enjoyed the cool retreat of the Urban Oasis during the 95+ degree afternoon. Line dried white linens covered the windows to block the sun and the big, blue vintage Westinghouse floor fan created a perfect naptime breeze that went nicely with the ice cold a/c.
When the temps started to drop and we felt like we could eat again, we headed to East Nashville to explore some off the beaten path places for dinner.
“Off the beaten path” is not Matt’s favorite. It’s really his least favorite. He likes safe, conventional, right-in-the-middle-of-the-damn-path types of places, but it was my birthday, so he chose to be a good sport.
East Nashville is a mixed bag. Not too long ago, it was considered a down-on-its-luck undesirable part of town. However, thanks to urban sprawl and a mix of creative and artistic types, it enjoys a trendy, progressive vibe and continues its upward movement.
Thrillist recently named it one of the coolest neighborhoods in America.
Sounded like a good place to eat.
As we crossed the river and entered East Nashville, I saw a fixed gear bicycle shop, a sign for handmade paletas, and an artisanal chocolate shop with several guys outside with scraggly beards.
There had to be good food nearby.
The hardest thing to decide was WHERE to eat. East Nashville is literally riddled with awesome new places to eat and drink. The place is silly with them.
I had a mental list. We’d see how many we could get to.
We started at Mas Tacos. Another place that started as a food truck, Mas Tacos was supposed to have killer Mexican food.
We found it easily enough, housed in an old deli building with a faded Winnebago parked beside it. Between the sketchy looking exterior and the freakish line, Matt was already giving me the death stare.
“It’s my birthday,” I said.
I wasn’t sure how many more times that line was going to work.
The line moved fast and in minutes we were inside. The décor in the cinderblock and linoleum building was eclectic and cool. We found ourselves in a dimly lit, rustic room with mismatched chairs huddled around small tables, cacti scattered about, quirky artwork, old-school oscillating fans (no air conditioning), and an old jukebox playing free songs.
The menu overwhelmed us. There were simply too many amazing choices. The taco choices ranged from fried avocado to cast iron chicken to quinoa sweet potato. There were Cuban beans and grilled corn, sweet plantains and pozole verde.
We ended up with pork tacos, sweet plantains, tortilla soup, and elote (grilled corn with crumbly cotija cheese and lime juice).
It was all good, but the show stopper was the tortilla soup. Laced with lime, chili, and cilantro, it was chunk full of white meat chicken, fresh tomatoes, grilled corn, peppers, tender avocado slices, and puffy delicious strips of deep fried tortilla.
Okay, apparently I really liked the corn too.
As I was eating it, I heard someone singing “I’ll make love to you” by Boyz II Men. Thinking it was the free jukebox, I realized it was me.
Mas Tacos is BYOB, but why would you want to when you can get one of their house made agua frescas? We couldn’t choose between watermelon-lime and pineapple-cilantro, so we got one of each.
Pretty sure we could eat a second meal if we gave it a little time, we walked over to the Holland House Bar and Refuge for some drinks.
Facial hair and full sleeve tattoos were obviously a bartender requirement, we noticed as we were seated at the enormous 4-posted bar. The mixologist wore suspenders and held a bottle with an eye dropper. The crowd was chic and vintage. We were definitely in the right place for a craft cocktail.
I ordered the Shennong’s Delight, a light and refreshing (but powerfully strong) blend of Tito’s vodka, lemongrass, orange curacao, ginger, lemon, and champagne. Matt had the Sailing to Byzantium made of El Dorado 5 year rum, crème de cassis, vanilla, lime, and black walnut bitters.
We only planned to have one drink, but they were so good, we decided to have another. We had spotted a bottle of Leblon cachaça behind the bar. The only good thing that had come out of our trip to Brazil (besides the fact that we made it home with all internal organs intact and found that Matt only had the flu and had not contracted some terminal disease) was our love of a real caipirinha. I say “real” because almost NO ONE in the U.S. can make one properly. Something about the simple ingredients “limes, sugar, cachaça” perplexes them and they insist on adding all manner of other things. We decided to give the suspendered, tattooed, mustached bartender a shot.
He nailed it.
I felt confident that we could eat again before throwing in the greasy white napkin, so we headed out to find the holy grail of hot chicken, Prince’s Hot Chicken in East Nashville.
If you have heard about the hot chicken phenomenon, it started in Nashville. If you haven't, then you are missing out. There’s a lot of hot chicken in Nashville these days, but it all started with Thornton Prince.
Legend has it that Mr. Prince was quite a philanderer. He came home one morning after a night of womanizing demanding his breakfast and his lady decided she’d had enough. She made him breakfast all right. She made him a breakfast he would never forget, putting every manner of hot spice she could find in the kitchen cupboards into his fried chicken. She wanted him to HURT.
When he took the first bite, she smiled in smug satisfaction, waiting for the cry of pain. Instead, he LIKED IT.
He liked it so well, he made her make it for all of his friends. And so, Prince’s Hot Chicken was born.
Today, Thornton’s great niece owns and operates Prince’s Hot Chicken where you can indulge your craving for skillet-fried, cayenne-swabbed birds piled on white bread with pickles.
Prince’s was not exactly located in the “up and coming” part of East Nashville. It was in the “down and out” part.
We found Prince’s in a defunct strip mall, sandwiched between a wig store and a nail salon. The interior was a sea of green linoleum and vinyl table cloths.
It was clear that no one in the throng of people hanging around outside or waiting inside was a “visitor.” You could tell these people were here every day, waiting for their deliciously greasy bag of to-go chicken on their way home from work.
We stood out like a pair of hot pink suits at an Amish funeral.
Matt gave me his best “Please, don’t make me” look, but I made him go inside anyway.
Matt’s internal comfort meter was starting to tip to the “I’m about to run” point. I pushed him up to the counter.
As we ordered, two 20-something guys in matching J Crew outfits came in. They looked like they had just hopped off their yacht. I looked at Matt. “You can relax,” I said. “You are no longer the most conspicuous person in here.”
The chicken comes on top of white bread and is served with a pile of pickles. You can get mild (hot), medium (really hot), hot (scorching), xhot (blistering), xxxhot (you will die). Prince’s Hot Chicken is not to be confused with buffalo style chicken. The pepper is violent. It’s nuclear.
The chicken is fried in a cast iron skillet and is then doused with an unholy combination of cayenne and lard. The liquefied fat and pepper oozes into all of the nooks and crannies in the crunchy chicken, dripping onto slices of gooey white bread underneath. I am sure the bread is to keep the nuclear mess from seeping off the plate and into the eyes of any small children that may be standing nearby, lest they be blinded for life.
Legend has it that ordering the XXX will require medical intervention.
We ordered ½ a chicken in the medium. It came with instructions for CPR.
The fire started slowly, at my lips. Then it spread down my throat and eventually consumed my entire digestive tract. I had read that I should be careful not to touch my eyes, should have plenty of napkins (for the sweat), and that I should use the slice of white bread that comes tucked under the chicken to counteract the heat. I quickly shoved a slice of white bread into my mouth, followed by a gulp of sweet tea.
Dear sweet Lord, but it was GOOD.
When we were finished, that ½ chicken looked like roadkill that had been picked clean by every buzzard in a 20 mile radius.
The verdict: Hot chicken rocks.
Too full for any more food, we decided to wrap up the night at a new bar in 12 South. This way, we could walk home if we had too many drinks, or if we started convulsing from the hot chicken.
I forgot to wash my hands and spent the entire drive back to 12 South concentrating on not scratching my eye so that I didn't blind myself.
Embers Ski Lodge was modeled after every apres-ski bar I had ever been to back in my skiing days. There was a faux fireplace, a wall sized mural of a snowy mountain, snowflake lights, and rough-hewn logs decorating the walls. The menu had all of the kitsch of an old ski movie, with vintage ski photos, “black diamond appetizers,” and “bunny hill desserts.”
Even the drinks were themed.
I ordered the Ski School, which was described on the menu as “vodka, vanilla, passion fruit, butterscotch, sparkling.” Imagine my delight when what came out was a foamy delicious, butterscotch tasting cocktail in an old school champagne glass with an adorable little sidecar of Prosecco.
“You sip the sweet cocktail, and then follow it with the dry bubbles.”
It was genius.
We had packed a lot into one day and were we were TIRED.
It was time to head to bed. I went to sleep trying not to think about this…..
Day 2: Help! I’ve Eaten….and I Can’t Get Up!
As soon as my eyes opened, I checked the squirrel. He hadn’t moved. Good.
I was still full from the day before, but that didn’t stop me from dragging Matt out of bed to go in search of breakfast. We had eating to do.
There were so many great places to grab breakfast, but we decided to stick close so that we could see a little bit of 12 South.
I didn’t realize there were so many cool shops. Like Imogene & Willie. Set up in a refurbished filling station named after the owner’s grandparents, this place is apparently famous for their hand-made, high end jeans.
Or White’s Mercantile. Modeled after an old general store, this upscale shop had everything from baby soft bath robes to vintage cocktail stirrers.
This neighborhood was a feast for the eyes, but I needed a feast for my belly.
We stopped at Edley’s BBQ. A BBQ joint that serves breakfast? Why, yes. Yes indeed.
With a never ending need for biscuits to be filled, I ordered the Tuck’s biscuit: a fluffy, homemade buttermilk biscuit topped with savory brisket, and over easy egg, pimento cheese, and red and white sauce.
Matt had been so envious of my East Nasty the day before that he ordered his own nasty biscuit, Edley’s Nashville Nasty, topped with fried chicken breast and drowning in sausage gravy.
BBQ and eggs might be my new favorite dish.
We strolled the neighborhood before I decided it was time for COFFEE.
To its credit, 12 South has its own excellent coffee shop, so we had no need to return to the uber hipster Barista Parlour which was one part Instagram portrait studio and one part disheveled beard and ironic mustache gallery.
The Frothy Monkey was just a really good coffee shop.
These lines were getting ridiculous. So far, we had waited in line for EVERY MEAL. It was time to start going to some places that took reservations!
The coffee was worth the wait. My cappuccino was excellent and Matt was able to order a hot chocolate without fear that the barista would judge his non-coffee choice. No need to flee to the bathroom this time.
We spent the rest of the morning shopping our way through the 12 South neighborhood.
They even had a quaint little farmer’s market set up. I bypassed the South Carolina peaches and went straight for the Georgia peach truck. You can’t tell a Georgia girl that they don’t grow the best peaches.
We grabbed a post-breakfast, pre-lunch ice cream at Jeni’s. Simply amazing ice-cream, this is literally the one thing we have to eat every time we are in Nashville.
It's more likely that the 16-year old workers simply placed the containers wherever was closest so that they could return to discussing whether or not to go to the Minions movie, but I liked to think the ice-cream gods put the brown butter almond brittle right next to the darkest chocolate just for me.
Next up, I had a surprise for Matt.
When we were in Las Vegas once upon a time, Matt went to have an old fashioned shave. He loved it.
I had read about a place downtown where you could get a straight razor shave, so I had made him an appointment.
I knew by the time I saw the door sign, I had made him an appointment at an ultra-hipster salon.
By the time I saw the inordinate volume of taxidermy, string lights, antlers, and mason jars – I knew.
When they offered me free wine in a jelly glass while I waited, I didn’t care.
Matt truly enjoyed his shave, even if he did have a stuffed fox staring at him while he got it.
I was all jazzed up on cheap hipster wine, so it was time to eat something. We headed to Germantown to try the new Butchertown Hall, a new place claiming to specialize in smoked meats and sausages using primitive wood-fired cooking techniques.
The name conjured up images of meat and fire. Imagine my surprise when a sleek, tall white building rose in front of me. The interior was clean and artsy, full of caged rocks and barren branches in vases. It felt more like an Anthropolgie store than a meat house.
The smell, however, was all meat. I was immediately struck by the smoky delicious aroma.
We arrived at an off time, almost 2:00. Thankfully, there weren’t many patrons, because Butchertown Hall does not take reservations and if I had walked Matt up to one more food line, I believe I would have had a mutiny on my hands.
We were seated immediately and set about the task of ordering cocktails. I couldn’t resist the winter-spiced grapefruit mimosa. Matt went with the oak roasted bloody mary.
The smell of the place had woken our inner caveman, so we ordered accordingly.
MEAT. CORN. POTATOES. BREAD.
Was a more manly meal ever conceived? I literally felt my testosterone level rise as we ordered.
We ordered the oak smoked pork carnitas and the house made chorizo sausage. Both were served with house pickles, thin sliced onions, thick flour tortillas. We also ordered the potato salad and grilled street corn.
It gave me the meat sweats.
I needed another beverage to slow the heart palpitations, so I got tried the Paloma, a tangy combination of tequila blanco, Pimms, lime, grapefruit, and black cardamom.
Obviously, that lunch required another nap.
We woke up refreshed and ready to hit the streets in search of more food.
I felt like Matt deserved one meal that didn’t involve lines, table numbers, mason jars, lack of air conditioning, or general fear for one’s safety, so I had made reservations at Josephine.
Josephine was less than a block from where we were staying on 12 South, so we were able to leave the car at home and enjoy a walk on a beautiful summer night.
When we walked in, Josephine greeted us with soft lights, white linens, and gleaming glassware. There wasn’t a chalkboard, piece of butcher paper, or recycled, hand-cut, distressed piece of salvaged furniture in the place.
It was elegant without being pretentious. It was filled with middle aged adults in normal adult clothing. There was no unnecessary facial hair. It was just what we needed.
We started off with the pretzel bread and housemade mustard. That was followed by the tomato gazpacho with lump crab and lime for Matt and the arugula salad with fresh peaches and goat cheese topped with mint, honey, and lavender for me.
For dinner, I opted for the housemade fettucine with tomato, lobster and basil. Matt had the scallops with grilled romaine.
We received a wonderful little surprise with our check – a delightful little box of ginger cookies with the recipe attached.
We were tempted by dessert, but this trip was about variety, so we felt compelled to indulge our dessert whim elsewhere.
We made the short walk down to Urban Grub where Matt found a chocolate peanut butter bar and I fell in love with the vanilla bean doughnuts with bacon toffee cream cheese ice cream (say that 3 times really fast), caramel, and chocolate covered bacon.
Those doughnuts were like warm, soft little pillows of sugar.
They almost made me forget about sleeping in the same room as that squirrel.
Day 3: It's Not Over When I'm Full...It's Over When I Hate Myself.
It wasn't over yet. I didn't want to go home thinking, "I should have eaten that."
We kissed the Urban Oasis goodbye and headed out for our last meals.
Yes, I said "meals," do you have a problem with double breakfast? Because if you do, you should just stop reading now and go get your smug self some carrot sticks.
To complete the Nashville trifecta of perfect coffee, I followed the Barista Parlour and Frothy Monkey with coffee from Crema, not from the original location, but from the mind-blowing awesomeness that is Pinewood Social.
Pinewood Social was like nothing I have ever experienced. From the outside, it was a simple brick warehouse. Inside, it was a virtual playground of food and drinks, presented in every bizarre venue possible. First, there was the "Living Room." Plush sofas and overside chairs, vintage tables and throw rugs, as well as a tech table suitable for even the most particular Mac user filled the space, offering up endless nooks and crannies to cozy up in.
Then there was the bar and restaurant, vintage bowling alley, and a pool deck complete with lounge chairs, cabanas, and an old air stream serving up pool drinks and tacos. When I was there, I didn't think about how absurd it was, I only thought about how incredible the food was.
My Crema Cubano was perfect, complete with the requisite coffee art. We also snacked on an avocado omelet with crispy fried fingerling potatoes. I say "snacked on" because this wasn't actually breakfast.
For our grand finale, we headed to Sunday Brunch at Husk. Pulling up to the elegant historic Italianate home, I felt like it was 1880 and we were arriving for Sunday supper. White gloves and a parasol would not have been entirely inappropriate.
Husk didn't disappoint. We went out in grand style with White Lily biscuits with black pepper and sausage gravy; french toast with peaches, peanut butter, maple and chantilly cream; and chicken fried steak with gravy and a farm egg served with sausage and potato hash.
As with all good things, it had to come to an end eventually.
I'm not sorry I went and ate half of Nashville. Sometimes, a gluttonous weekend is good for the soul. It's a reminder in our gluten-free, non-dairy, low fat lives that life is rich and is meant to be enjoyed.
Unfortunately, at my age, that enjoyment comes with a price. I am spending the entire month of August on the Whole30 no dairy, no soy, no grains, no sugars, no legumes, no alcohol diet to undue all the damage I have done with this summers sinful vacation eating.
Don't feel too sorry for me. I'll be back off the wagon for a 2 week jaunt to Abaco next month.
Until then, eat well, my friends. Eat well.