DC has politics. LA has movies. And Nashville has music. That alone would make it worth a visit in our books. But these days, Music City has been singing a new tune. Indie rock idols—Jack White, Kings of Leon—play alongside country legends. Chefs are making national waves for imaginative takes on downhome fare. And a new generation of designers has created a sophisticated take on a southern aesthetic, all artisan denim and hand-tooled leather. Our pals at Jetsetter plan the perfect Nashville weekend.
For the best window into modern Nashville, check into The Hutton. Music City execs seal deals here over bourbon scallops and crispy quail in the farm-to-table 1808 Grille, edgy local art mixes with handhewn furniture in the lobby and most of the major sites are within a ten minute free hybrid car ride (first-come, first-served).
Ditch your bags and fuel up for an old-school day with lunch at Arnold’s Country Kitchen. The cafeteria-style joint is Nashville’s most famous meat-and-three (pick a meat, pick three veggies…and yes, mac and cheese counts). Everyone feels like family here and the food—country fried steak, chess pie, fried green tomatoes—is made from scratch daily.
Even the twang-averse will appreciate the legendary Studio B. See the wall that Dolly Parton crashed into when she arrived nervous for a recording session. Play the piano where Elvis recorded Are You Lonesome Tonight? Then pay your respects at The Ryman, the original home of the Grand Ole’ Opry.
Saunter down Lower Broadway, stopping to pick up a souvenir at iconic concert poster shop Hatch Show Prints, one of the oldest working letterpress studios in the country. Then check out the spangled duds at the atelier of Manuel Cuevas, the famous designer who made Johnny Cash the Man in Black and created The King’s signature gold jumpsuit.
For dinner, grab a seat on the patio at Husk, from James Beard award-winning chef Sean Brock. His motto? “If it doesn’t come from the South, it’s not coming through the door.” In-the-know locals stick to seasonal small plates like Carolina rice griddle cakes with housemade pimento cheese or crispy pig ears in a soy pepper glaze. The local focus even extends to the slick staff uniforms courtesy of nearby denim company Imogene + Willie (more on that later). Afterwards choose between old school bluegrass at the beloved Station Inn or Nashville’s new guard at the hip Stone Fox (big names have been known to drop in for surprise sets).
There’s no better way to fuel up for Saturday than over the all-you-can-eat brunch at Monnell’s in Germantown. Pile into communal tables in the sunny Victorian house and prepare for an onslaught of family-style dishes—biscuits and gravy, fried apples, cheese grits, scrambled eggs, corn pudding and, of course, their famous skillet-fried chicken.
Work it off by strolling down 12South, a strip of art galleries, boutiques, vintage stores and cafes. Check out the collection of vintage guitars on sale at Corner Music, try to peek over the wall of Dolly Parton’s recording studio and get fitted for custom jeans at Imogene + Willie, housed in a former gas station. We doubt you’re hungry after that gut-busting brunch, but you should try to make room for a Mexican style popsicle at Las Paletas or one of the quirky ice cream flavors at Jeni’s (try the sweet potato with torched marshmallows or creamy peach jam studded with buttermilk biscuits from nearby Loveless Café). Afterwards, hop in the car to do a little music shopping at legendary record shop Grimey’s, which often has in-store performances, and at Jack White’s Third Man Records, where you can cut your own track on vinyl in an old-school analog booth.
You just might see the man himself chilling at tonight’s dinner stop, Rolf and Daughters. Set in a 100 year-old factory building in Germantown, the utterly charming, understated spot serves hand-cut pastas and northern Italian fare made from Southern ingredients (think garganelli verde with heritage pork ragout or nutty farro with kale and hen of the woods). It’s the perfect carb-heavy base for your night of honky-tonking on Lower Broadway. Many of the raucous music venues have become touristy frat parties, but Robert’s Western World has retained every bit of its country cred. You’re here to see house band Brazilbilly, throw back some bourbon and try-out the two-step with the ragtag cast of rowdy locals. Its location across the alley from The Ryman means legendary musicians often pop over to sit in with the band.
Want to keep the party going? Head to Printer’s Alley and have your pick of the karaoke bars. There’s Lonnie’s Western Room for the CMT stars of tomorrow, Ms. Kelli’s for let-it-all-hang-out, jello-shot sing-alongs and Naked Karaoke for, well, use your imagination.
Misery loves company. So join the bleary eyed, skinny jeans crowd nursing their hangovers with peach cornbread waffles and sausage biscuits at Barista Parlor. Then spend a leisurely day exploring hipster haven East Nashville. Check out small batch food and home design picks at Hey Rooster General Store, the well-edited vintage at Good Buy Girls/Hello Boys and the locally made goods at The Shoppes on Fatherland. Then head over to Marathon Village, a complex of shops housed in a former car factory. Take a tour of Corsair Artisan Distillery before shopping the vintage goods at Antique Archaelogy, the handcrafted leather bags at Emil Erwin and the custom bow ties at Otis James.
You’ve got one iconic stop to make your Nashville weekend complete: hot chicken. Marinated in buttermilk, breaded and doused in a paste flaming red with cayenne pepper, it’s pan fried and served on slices of white bread with pickles. Do not get cocky—ordering up the spiciest version will make you weep, cough and sweat. The bold should order the medium hot, the nervous the mild. We love the version at Hattie B’s served in a friendly dining room with gallons of cayenne-cooling sweet tea.
Ready to make the trip? Check out our current fare finds to Nashville (BNA).
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