A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about nashville

Dancing with Myself in Twang Town

It's hot in the city tonight!

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There’s a vibe about Nashville….a city of lights and music and hot chicken. It thrums with a heartfelt southern beat and rhythm and music seep out of its very pores. Sure, it’s the epicenter of country music, but music is at its very core…every type of music. It has something for every music fan.

Including Billy Idol fans.

Imagine my delight when I saw that Billy Idol, (we saw him in Vegas and SWORE we had to see again with better seats), was doing a show in Nashvegas, so close to home? I immediately got VIP tickets that would not only put us front and center for the show, but get us an up close and personal with the legend himself.

It was Nashville or bust, baby!

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We arrived in Nashville on a hot September afternoon and headed straight for the 2 for 1 brunch at Whiskey Kitchen where we seriously overordered (and over imbibed!).

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From there we were off to the Inn at Fontanel. The show wasn’t being held downtown, but was instead at the outdoor amphitheater at Fontanel, a gorgeous southern inn with only 6 luxurious suites. I had been able to score 2 of them. With no other hotels nearby, this was not only a way to enjoy a posh stay, but also ensured we could walk to and from the show.

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We checked into our suites and they were TO DIE FOR GORGEOUS. Matt and I chose the lower guest suite. It was huge, beautiful, and filled with snacks. The bathroom was bigger than my first apartment.

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With time to kill, we loaded up on Barbara, one of their complimentary golf carts (all named after country music stars, thankyouverymuch), to peruse the grounds.

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Our first stop was Pritchard’s Distillery, because apparently, 2 for 1 bubbles had not been enough. Pritchard’s makes fine rums and premium whiskeys. They only make small batch products which are distilled in copper pots and stored in charred white oak barrels to allow for the best possible flavor. Made in Tennessee, you can sample their artisan spirits in their tasting room at Fontanel. We were particularly fans of the peach mango rum and the Sweet Lucy.

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We also did a quick tasting at the Natchez Hills Winery, also on the Fontanel grounds. With some new purchases, we headed to our rooms to clean up for the show.

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We were ready to meet Billy Idol!

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VIP passes in hand, they put us near his tour bus on some raggedy old dirt track to wait. And wait. And wait.

And then we were given a lecture about not touching him, grabbing him, kissing him, or jumping on his back like a spider monkey.

Apparently, someone told them I was coming.

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What was it like meeting Billy Idol? Well…..it was a lot like meeting a guy wearing a Billy Idol mask. Sorry….but true! He was a little…um….plastic. Maybe some work done. Just maybe.

Steve Stevens was very animated, however, and did not appear to be wearing a mask of his own face. He even pulled his finger gun for us. I love how Matt pulled his in solidarity, but decided to keep it at his side….you know…just to make sure no one got hurt.

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So, maybe Billy has had a little “work done,” but he can still rock a show. It was everything we hoped it would be right from second row center.
We fell into our plush beds at Fontanel that night still hearing Rebel Yell in our dreams.

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Okay, maybe while everyone else slept, I snuck out in the car and found a total dive of a pizza place in the sketchiest of neighborhoods that was still open. I might have ordered a large pepperoni pizza and braved the hordes of undesirables standing in the parking lot to go inside and claim said pizza and proceed to devour it in the car, like a rat with a cheeseburger.

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Fontanel has an enormous great room and kitchen where breakfast is made by their chef and served as part of your stay.

When we were finally able to rouse ourselves, we ambled over to the dining area, found some seats, and drank massive amounts of strong coffee with Rebel Yell still pounding in our heads.

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We took a stroll through the Halloween market that Fontanel had set up and it immediately put us in the mood for fall.

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And then it was time to fly home!

Short and sweet, but sometimes that's all you need.

Posted by vicki_h 07:08 Archived in USA Tagged nashville nashvegas billy_idol fontanel Comments (1)

Sip, sip, hooray! Girls' Weekend in Nashville.

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It happens. I get soooo busy. So do all of my girlfriends. It's so easy to get caught up in jobs and kids and the stress that life brings and forget to make time for our friends.

That's why we make it a point to stop every once in a while to remind ourselves of the “work hard, play hard” motto and head out for a much needed girls’ weekend. Girls’ weekends are necessary for the mind, body, and soul.

It had been a while since the girls had been together. It was time to plan an epic weekend.

After tossing around several location ideas, we settled on the obvious….NASHVILLE!

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Why hadn’t we thought of this before?

Once best known as the capital of country music, Nashville’s shopping, nightlife, and culinary offerings have blown up in recent years. Nashville is a perfect blend of culture and Southern charm. There is so much to see and do that a simple weekend couldn’t even scratch the surface.

And it’s right in our back yard.

I told the girls to grab their cowboy hats. It was time for a boot scootin’, biscuit eatin’, sweet tea drinkin’ good time.

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We left Knoxville on a warm, sunny spring day and found ourselves cruising into Nashville just 2 ½ hours later.

What should we do first? Visit the Grand Ole Opry? Eat some hot chicken? Buy a cowboy hat?

We made our way to Germantown, a recently revived neighborhood just north of downtown. This 18-square block area is filled with cobblestone streets, charming homes that date back to the 1800s, architectural treasures, unique shops, and some of Nashville’s hottest restaurants. It’s urban, it’s chic, it’s walkable, it’s filled with coffee shops and eateries and wine…..in other words….it was the perfect place for a girls’ trip.

We scored these AMAZING accommodations on AirBNB:

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This duplex was simply perfection.

Only 3 of us had made it so far. Our 4th was not joining us until later that night, so we spent some time unpacking the 35 outfits we had brought for 2 days, quickly spruced up, and made the short walk to Butchertown Hall for one of the city’s best Happy Hours.

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Immediately greeted by the warm interior and the ridiculously wonderful smell of smoked meat, we were quickly seated and handed the Happy Hour menu. We proceeded to order ALL THE THINGS.

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OH MY GOSH! The $5 margaritas were perfect. And all of the food was so stinkin' good, specifically the brisket taco, and the queso with their house made chorizo, and the loin back rib nachos. Oh, and the sweet tea marinated smoked wings!

Oh, and the wood grilled oysters with chili sauce and chimichurri!

I’m getting hungry all over again.

After eating ALL THE THINGS, we grabbed an Uber and headed to Sinema, in Nashville’s Melrose neighborhood.

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Housed inside the refurbished 1940’s Melrose Theater, Sinema’s atmosphere and décor gave a nod to old Hollywood glamour. Downstairs had a supper-club atmosphere with elegant tables and a huge movie screen showing classic films. Upstairs we found a classy lounge with cozy spaces and a creative cocktail menu.

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I pride myself on my research abilities and, typically, there are not many surprises waiting for me when I travel.

Sinema’s ladies' room caught me by surprise, however.

How had I missed the fact that Sinema has one of the most selfie friendly bathrooms in Nashville? It’s actually KNOWN for it’s selfie-worthy loo?

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Sigh. There was a time when the bathroom was the ultimate private space – but that all ended when it became better known as a place where women stand in front of the mirror, phones held aloft, and capture images of their duckfaces.

We were guilty. We spent 45 minutes in the ladies room.

It took that long to perfect our 1973 Album Cover Look.

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After bathroom art and cocktail hour was over, we walked next door to The Sutler to wait for our 4th to arrive.

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Housed in the same location that the original Sutler Saloon operated in for over 30 years, The Sutler is the re-imagination of the original and houses an upstairs food and music venue and a dark, cozy downstairs lounge.

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As old people, we of course opted for the quiet of the downstairs lounge, planning to wait in the peace and quiet with cocktails in hand while listening to some chill music.

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What we didn’t know was that it was 90’s dance night.

No problem. We are adaptable.

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With all four of us finally together, we decided it was time to hang up our dancing shoes and call it a night.

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Friday morning was bright and beautiful. It was time to put on our walking shoes and our eating pants.

But first, coffee.

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We walked over to Germantown’s Barista Parlor. While the place is riddled with ironic facial hair, oversized eye glasses, and permanent looks of hipster-esque disdain, it also serves up amazing coffee and baked goods. Everyone knows that hipsters make the best coffee.

I would call the décor of the Germantown location “vintage nautical industrial,” not to be confused with the original East location which I would characterize as more “nautical industrial lumberjack.”

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There were plenty of laptops, skinny jeans, and unseasonable toboggans. As we puzzled over the hand carved wooden menu (no, I am not kidding), I settled on a Whiskey Caramel Latte, “The Judge” biscuit, and one of their homemade cinnamon sugar pop-tarts.

The coffee was velvety…creamy….delicious.

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The biscuit was perfectly moist (I hate a crumbly biscuit) and loaded with fluffy scrambled eggs, tangy pepper-jack cheese, and ….wait for it….chili glazed candied bacon. Served on a hand made wooden plate with a bandana (no, I am not kidding).

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The pop-tart was INSANE. It was nothing like a pop-tart. It was a rectangle of moist, doughy, flaky, gooey cinnamon filled heaven. I dropped a piece of that luscious icing on the floor and actually considered picking it up and eating it.

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What was supposed to be a “light bite to tide us over” turned out to be a gluttonfest.

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No worries. We had shopping to do and nothing fuels shopping better than sugar and caffeine (unless you count vodka, but that usually results in coming home with odd things like a pink ceramic elephant and size 24 sequined pants).

We rallied and headed out to see how much damage we could do.

9,456 steps and 14 shopping bags later, we were exhausted. I’m pretty sure one of my credit cards self combusted in my purse on the way back to the house.

There was only one thing that could get us moving again….FOOD!

It was 2:30. We just made it to Arnold’s in time to make the line before they shut the doors.

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This hole-in-the-wall meat and three only serves breakfast and lunch, and only Monday through Friday, and only until 2:45.

Arnold’s is no-frills. It’s typically filled with hard-working, humble, good natured folks. Except the day we visited. The guy in front of us was wearing white skinny jeans, had a man bun, and was driving a Bentley.

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They opened their doors in 1983. Almost 35 years and a James Beard Award later, they are still serving up the best fried catfish, mac n’cheese, and hoecakes in town.

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A meat + 3 plate at Arnold’s should cost you a modest $9.74. My lunch, however was $18.59.

Why?

Because I couldn’t stop at meat + 3.

Sure, I started off innocently enough with a simple hickory smoked chicken breast smothered in house-made BBQ sauce, spicy-sweet corn pudding, baked mac n’cheese, and collard greens.

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But then there were those crispy fried green tomatoes.

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And that lonely hoecake.

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Did someone say “hot pepper chocolate pie?” Yes, please.

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So, my meat + 3 quickly turned into a meat + 4 + hoecake + pie.

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We ate so much we shut the restaurant down. Literally.

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We decided to walk some of our lunch off by trying to find the WhatLiftsYou wings mural nearby.

Loved.

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After lunch, we literally crashed back at the house.

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That evening, we decided to stick close to “home” and find drinks and dinner in Germantown.

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We started at the best happy hour of all time at the Germantown Café. Every day from 3:00 – 7:00, this happy little restaurant serves up a menu of creative cocktails and amazing small plates for $5 each. And we’re not talking well drinks and peanuts.

Try offerings like veal meatballs and steamed mussels, paired with a French 75 or a house made mojito.

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After getting our happy hour drink fix, we walked to City House, still one of my favorite restaurants in Nashville.

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The restaurant is inside an old house, and we were seated in the cozy upstairs instead of the large and open (and loud!) downstairs.

We started off with a bottle of bubbly Prosecco and a bowl of warm, marinated olives while we perused the menu and tried to decide what else our stomachs could possibly hold.

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We found the answer in the form of their famous house-made belly ham pizza and the anchovy pizza with a bottle of red.

The first pizza was covered with mellow tomato sauce, anchovies, capers and house-made mozzarella while the second wowed us with belly ham, mozzarella, Grana Padano, oregano, and chiles atop the soft yet crispy crust.

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We had ambitious plans to visit The Green Hour for after dinner drinks and chocolate and the Back Corner for music, but we had to be honest…..we were TIRED.

Instead, we found ourselves back at the house with Pretty Woman on the projector screen, a plate filled with cookies on the table, a few bottles of open wine, and our pjs.

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Do-it-yourself collagen masks or the Walking Dead?

You decide.

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We had been blessed with GORGEOUS weather and Saturday was no exception. We roused ourselves and headed to brunch in Nashville’s quaint 12 South neighborhood.

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During the week, the Flipside is a casual burger joint with a retro diner vibe, but on Saturdays it transforms into Brunch Central, with colossal Bloody Marys, two-for-one mimosas, and tater tots loaded with eggs and cheese.

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Did I mention that you can get an entire plate of crispy bacon? A plate. Of bacon.

With maple syrup for dipping.

Bacon. Syrup. Heaven.

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After stuffing ourselves silly, we walked through the cute shops and streets of 12 South.

You have to love a shopping neighborhood that gives away adorable little glasses of sweet tea and has a cupcake ATM.

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We did obligatory photos with the I Believe in Nashville mural and the Draper James blue and white wall.

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We also shopped until we dropped.

We bought ALL THE THINGS.

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After much needed naps, we roused ourselves for the afternoon’s festivities – a ride on the Sprocket Rocket pedal bar through Nashville’s Honky Tonk Row.

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Pedal Bar is really just an excuse to drink on the street and yell at people while listening to loud music.

And where better to do that than Honky Tonk Row, Nashville’s famed strip filled with neon signs, fried bologna sandwiches, all day drinking, and youthful debauchery. Is it touristy and tacky? Of course it is. But where else in Nashville can you spend the night dodging no fewer than 956 bachelorette parties, see 20-somethings in new suits and even newer cowboy boots throwing up on the sidewalk at 7:00 p.m., and hear Kenny Rogers coming out of one door and ZZ Top coming out of the next while 75-year old ladies line dance in the street?

It’s like the Vegas strip ….just replace the sequins, limos, and Fat Tuesday yard drinks with Wranglers, John Deere tractors, and Bud Light in a can.

We had enjoyed the Pedal Pub on our previous girls’ trip to Asheville so much, that we wanted to see if it was as much fun as we remembered.

It was.

It was us old ladies and a group of early 20's bachelorettes and, I must say, we showed those young girls how it's done.

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We followed our pedal party with dinner at Germantown’s sophisticated 5th and Taylor.

I said the restaurant was sophisticated. I never said we were.

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We started off with their curried crab dip and crispy potato skins.

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I followed that with the filet. This came with a family-style order of creamy mashed potatoes, but that didn’t stop me from also ordering a giant plate of fries because 3 potato dishes in one meal is never too many.

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My filet was perfect, but I have to admit I was a little envious of my friend’s burger.

Dang.

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And, just because we could, we ordered one of every dessert on the menu: the fried apple pie with bourbon vanilla ice cream and hot caramel, the banana pudding, and the chocolate torte.

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Now you see them.

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Now you don’t.

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Much like my willpower.

And my slim waist.

Before we knew it, we were waking up to our last morning.

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We capped our trip off with a fully indulgent, all-you-can-eat breakfast at Monell’s, just a block from the house.

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We arrived early, so there was no wait, and we proceeded to stuff ourselves with fried chicken, bacon, sausage, ham, cinnamon rolls, fluffy biscuits with hot gravy, fresh peach preserves, home fried potatoes, cheese grits, scrambled eggs, pancakes, fried apples, and corn pudding until we had to undo our pants for fear of putting someone’s eye out in the event that we popped button.

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The weekend had been amazing. It was definitely a “laugh until you pee a little” kind of weekend filled with the best kind of girl time. We had a chance to relax, have fun, reconnect, and charge our batteries. We were reminded that we may be getting older, but we’re not slowing down.

Nashville had delivered.

Nashville is a city I can picture myself living in. I’d buy a beautifully restored cottage in Germantown, and spend my days as a barista in a warehouse-turned-coffee-shop while eating my way through every biscuit joint in town. I would un-ironically wear cowboy boots and drink craft bourbon in a hand-blown glass tumbler with a single oversized square cube of ice. My days would be filled with endless hot chicken, country music, and sweet tea.

And good friends.

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Posted by vicki_h 10:48 Archived in USA Tagged nashville germantown girls'_trip Comments (3)

It’s My Birthday. I'll Eat if I Want To.

48 Hours of Gluttony in Music City.

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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?

Eat.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Nasty indeed.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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And this old Jeep Willys which I must have or die.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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We. Ate. Every. Bite.

Shameful.

Delicious.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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…..

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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.

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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.

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Or White’s Mercantile. Modeled after an old general store, this upscale shop had everything from baby soft bath robes to vintage cocktail stirrers.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Obviously.

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.

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We spent the rest of the morning shopping our way through the 12 South neighborhood.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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By the time I saw the inordinate volume of taxidermy, string lights, antlers, and mason jars – I knew.

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When they offered me free wine in a jelly glass while I waited, I didn’t care.

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Matt truly enjoyed his shave, even if he did have a stuffed fox staring at him while he got it.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Obviously, that lunch required another nap.

We woke up refreshed and ready to hit the streets in search of more food.

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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.

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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.

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For dinner, I opted for the housemade fettucine with tomato, lobster and basil. Matt had the scallops with grilled romaine.

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We received a wonderful little surprise with our check – a delightful little box of ginger cookies with the recipe attached.

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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.

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Those doughnuts were like warm, soft little pillows of sugar.

They almost made me forget about sleeping in the same room as that squirrel.

Almost.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Posted by vicki_h 19:04 Archived in USA Tagged food south tennessee eating nashville josephine husk 12_south mas_tacos hot_chicken leiper's_fork Comments (4)

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