Y’all. I just found a new favorite town to visit. I just spent four days in Nashville for a conference and despite spending much of that time in hotel meeting rooms avoiding stale pastries and drinking bad coffee, I loved Nashville. Perhaps it was the live music pouring out of every.single.bar and store (and in the airport and in the hotels), perhaps it was the number of cowboy boot stores, perhaps it was the Southern hospitality, or perhaps it was the surprisingly relaxed, anything-goes atmosphere. Most likely it was the prevalence of the use of the term y’all, a word I wish I could pull off, but I’m just too Yankee to use. Oh, and the BBQ, and the hot chicken. For all these reasons, I can’t wait to go back to Nashville.
Our trip was admittedly pretty touristy. Due to our conference responsibilities, we only had a few hours each night to explore and were tethered to the Downtown-Broadway area, but since that area included live country music every 5 feet, I was a happy girl. We spent our free time eating BBQ and hot chicken hopping from bar to bar listening to music. I’m in desperate need of veggies, but had my fill of amazing live music.
The food in this town was good, but there was no sticking to paleo here. The pimento cheese was calling my name from every direction and most things were fried or covered in a sugary BBQ sauce. But, I love a sugary BBQ sauce, just as much as I love country music, so really, if we’re honest, I was in my happy place and happy to indulge for a few days.
When making plans to meet up with a friend the first night we were in town, she asked if we liked spicy food. I confirmed with my coworker who I was traveling with that she liked spicy, and her response was, “Yes, as long as it’s not hot chicken.” Apparently she had burned her face off eating hot chicken the last time she was in town. So, of course, my friend said we had to go to Hattie B’s and eat hot chicken. Hattie B’s is not the original purveyor of hot chicken (fried chicken slathered with a cayenne paste), but it’s up there in the rankings and it was delicious. We apparently got lucky because the line was not around the corner. I ordered the medium heat chicken leg because I actually wanted to be able to eat the chicken and it was still pretty dang spicy. They had three hotter heats about that and then I heard that Hattie B’s isn’t even the hottest. Holy crow! I can’t imagine. The chicken was super most, perfectly fried, with a delicious heat. Hattie B’s was a great intro our first night to Nashville!
Don’t always assume you should walk to your destination in Nashville
just because Google says you can. It gets pretty sketchy pretty quickly
when you get out of downtown. That’s all I’ll say.#imfinemom
All of the rest of my meals consisted of hot chicken, pulled pork, or ribs. The most notable meal was at The Southern. We’d foolishly tried to go out for dinner on a Friday night, downtown, without a reservation, and were running into 90+ minute waits everywhere where went. After trying four other places, by the time we got to The Southern we were starving and losing hope and they had a two hour wait. I put the skills I’d honed over years of stalking soon-to-be-freed lunch tables in ski lodges and after a few minutes, we had a seat at the bar. Without even trying, we ended up having the best meal of the trip. My coworker had their My Way pasta which was amazing. And I had their ribs, which were hands down, the best ribs of my life. They were perfectly fall-of-the-bone cooked and had a sweet and spicy sauce with a delicious crust. Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t make it through the full rack and as I was walking home with my to-go box, a man on the street said he was hungry and asked for them. After years of being asked for money in NYC, in some weird and sad way, it was better to be asked for food and I was happy I had a least a little to give him.
We wrapped up our dining experience by trying to find a place to eat near our hotel before we caught our plane home. We’d planned on going Puckett’s, which we’d stopped in to listen to music the night before and had smelled amazing, but they had an hour-plus wait (for lunch!?). Ugh! So we Yelped and found the Back Alley Diner, which told us not be afraid of a restaurant down a dark alley. Seems like the start to a horror film, right? We were able to walk right in and get a table. It was a little divey, diner that smelled of the booze that had been spilled the night before, but the food was decent and our waitress was on her game. We had (more) tasty pulled pork and then it turned out the kitchen made a mistake so our waitress kept trying to right our order and we ended up with enough food to feed an army. Ha! By the time we left, there was a wait out the door…what’s with Nashville and waits?!
Plan your dining and make reservations. Downtown Nashville has
become a hot destination and you will wait if you don’t plan ahead.
The live music was absolutely everywhere. We didn’t have enough time to get out to the Bluebird Cafe, so we stuck to Lower Broadway. We mostly just walked in and out of honkey tonks, but did make sure to hit up Robert’s Western World, which I’d read about on a few must-do lists AND the security guy at the Country Music Hall of Fame recommended it. They did, in fact, have great bands playing and their infamous fried bologna sandwiches were flying off the griddle. After expressing my weird love of beer koozies and at first not realizing you had to pay for them, I somehow ended up have two different people semi-accidentally steal the same one twice for me (it was taken back by the owner the first time) – it was a very odd experience, but, I got a cool koozie :).
Musicians earn at most $50 per four hour gig and
rely on tips, so always have cash with you.
We also stopped in at Bootleggers Inn, a place on 4th Ave just before Broadway that I can’t find on google maps, but that had a great outdoor space on the 2nd floor and live music on both floors, and Acme Feed and Seed, which I’d just seen the week before on American Pickers. We made the long hike to the 4th floor and had a great view of the Cumberland River.
Bands play shifts from 2-6pm, 6-10pm, and 10pm-2am. They usually take
30 minutes to set up after each shift ends. We kept walking into bars
right as shifts were ending – plan your arrival at bars accordingly!
Our conference hosted a party at the Country Music Hall of Fame, which was closed down for the event #wefeltfancy. We had every intention of just grabbing a quick bite, walking through the museum, and then heading out on the town, but we totally got sucked in by the band and the line dancing. I am seriously a sucker for line dancing #alwayshavebeen
We finally made it up to the museum with 20 minutes to look around and didn’t even make it to the third floor. Admittedly, my “old country” knowledge isn’t as good as my 80s-today knowledge, so the 2nd floor was actually most of the people I’m familiar with. We power-walked the Hall of Fame and said “Hi!” to the greats.
You should know this about me: I am a HUGE Dixie Chicks fan. I wasn’t sure if they’d be included in the museum and I was so glad to see they were. As I stood there reading their exhibit, the amount of smack-talking I heard about them from passers-by buh-leww my mind! The best (read: most ignorant) was when someone said, “Oh yeah, they were great before they made themselves irrelevant for being anti-American.” Seriously?? It took all my willpower to keep my mouth shut. They’ll probably vote for Trump, though, who has said far worse things than the Dixie Chicks ever did, so I guess it shouldn’t surprise me. Anyway, sorry about that. I got all fired up there. We had a great time at the Country Music Hall of Fame AND I line danced to Copperhead Row AND I didn’t start anything with Dixie Chicks haters #winning
You all know my love of Fixer Upper by this point, but I also love American Pickers, so I had to be a total tourist and go to their Antique Archaeology store. #nerdalert #iknow We took a cab out to their store and were met with quite a line. That seems to be a theme in this town (or perhaps I need to get off the beaten path). In addition to seeing some cool antiques it was neat to see that they’d picked a run down part of town that is now starting to see some revitalization because their store is a tourist destination. Lots of little shops are popping up in the warehouses near by. There isn’t much food there yet, so don’t plan on eating while you’re out there. And, guess what?! There was live music there too 🙂
Most towns I visit for work are fine. I work Yelp to find some good food and might visit a historical site. Nashville, however, was awesome. It was so easy to find something to do and as lifelong lover country, I finally felt in like I was amongst my people, rather than the nerd who likes Trisha Yearwood and Brooks & Dunne. I also have never seen so many people walking around with guitars and other musical instruments and I loved that about this town. I can’t wait to go back and get off the beaten path a bit more!