It's hard to explain what's happening in Nashville...
One view of the local skyline will tell any visitor that this place is booming…I mean really booming.
Construction sites and cranes outnumber cowboy hats, and what once was a dusty old country music town is morphing into a cosmopolitan "it" city boasting over thirteen new microbreweries, a progressive restaurant culture, and a music scene that calls heavy hitters like the Kings of Leon, The Black Keys, and Jack White home.
More than anything, Nashville is FUN, and there has never been a better time to visit Music City than right now.
As my Grandma Carol once said, "If you're not having fun in Nashville, there's something wrong with you."
I could not agree more.
Robert's Western World
Located on Lower Broadway in the heart of Nashville's downtown, Robert's is the preeminent honky tonk to visit for locals and tourists alike. What was once a boot store by day, and music venue by night, this bar is the best place to get your feet wet in Music City.
Old school photographs of country music greats line the walls, and classic covers of Johnny Cash and Loretta Lynn reverberate through the venue like ancient echoes. Try the fried bologna sandwich with a side of crinkle fries for a snack, and wash down the whole experience with a Lagunitas IPA. Robert’s has a pretty standard domestic and import list, but I promise that’s the only “standard” thing about it. Dancing is optional, but of course strongly encouraged.
Martin’s features a rotating selection including Good People, Czann’s, and Jackalope for refreshment during or after your barbecue bonanza.”
Third Man Records
Founded by Jack White in Detroit in 2001, and opening their current location in Nashville in 2009, Third Man Records is a throwback to the glory days of vinyl production in the United States. Featuring “a record store, novelties lounge, label office, distribution center, photo studio, and the world’s only live venue with direct-to-acetate recording capabilities,” Third Man is a one stop shop for a new artist looking to record and press a single all in the space of an afternoon.
The shop is a must see for any music fan, and something of a hall of curiosities for all things Jack White. Make sure to check out the local independent newspaper, The Nashville Scene, for any live shows occurring during the space of a visit.
Specializing in West Tennessee’s whole hog barbecue tradition, Martin’s is the absolute best spot to grab slow cooked pork in Nashville. The good folks at Martin’s arrive every morning at 5 AM to ensure that each day’s sides and sauces are made from “scratch”. It’s this attention to detail that makes Martin’s absolutely not to be missed.
The brand new downtown location features a beautiful well lit atrium with darts, shuffle board, and televisions galore. Make sure to try the Big Momma Sampler (Feeds 2-3): 4 Bones, 6oz Pork, 6oz Brisket, your choice of 3 sides and a Red Neck Taco – BBQ on top of their signature hoe cake topped with slaw and sauce. Martin’s features a rotating selection of Southern microbrews including Good People, Czann’s, and Jackalope for refreshment during or after your barbecue bonanza.
Don’t forget the moist towelettes.
Yazoo Brewing Company
Opened in 2003, Yazoo is arguably the most well known of Nashville’s microbrews. Yazoo offers tours most days of the week, and their new facility in Nashville’s Gulch neighborhood is a must see. My personal favorites are their Yazoo Pale at 5.8% ABV, and their Mexican style Dos Perros at 4.9% ABV.
The World Famous Skull's Rainbow Room
For a night cap take a short walk down the drag to Nashville's historic Printer's Alley where you’ll find a nondescript door housing Skull’s Rainbow Room. It’s a speakeasy and restaurant that once hosted the likes of Elvis and Bob Dylan as performers.
Recently renovated and boasting an impressive tap beer and cocktail list, Skull's is not to be missed for it's rock and roll glamour and its late night burlesque performances. It’s a Nashville institution, a joint as mysterious and alluring as one could hope for as the music fades into the wee hours of the night.
Country breakfast with a modern take. What started as a very simple food truck has now evolved into two brick and mortar locations pushing the freshest biscuits in Nashville. Recently named one of the best new restaurants in America by Bon Appetit, Biscuit Love is a much loved and often talked about spot to grab a quick Southern inspired breakfast with a unique Nashville flair.
They open at 7 AM, and I would suggest getting there early as the line often curls around the block at their Gulch location. Try the East Nasty sandwich (Biscuit, fried boneless chicken thigh, and aged cheddar). I promise it won’t disappoint.
The Ryman Auditorium
Affectionately dubbed the Mother Church of Country Music, The Ryman Auditorium was the historic seat of the Grand Ole Opry from 1943-1974. Initially constructed by Thomas Ryman as the Union Gospel Tabernacle, a place where all types of folks could come and worship, the space was taken over in the 20’s by a show promoter and quickly emerged as the “Carnegie of the South.”
Houdini, Charlie Chaplin, and later Elvis, Hank Williams, and Patsy Cline would take the stage to packed houses and the acoustics of a sanctuary. Shedding its country roots in its modern form, the Ryman is perennially voted “Theater of the Year” and attracts a diverse set of performers including The Flaming Lips, Sturgill Simpson, and B. B. King.
Shortly stated, the Ryman is iconic, and its legendary atmosphere and serene sound has attracted hordes of artists for decades. Tours of the venue are offered in either guided or self-guided fashion, but a backstage guided tour prior to a show is not to be missed. They also serve Yazoo Beer… Hooray. Tickets start at $15.
12 South Taproom
A Nashville mecca for all things beer. The Taproom has been highlighting microbrews from across the country since 2006. It’s a Nashville 12 South neighborhood staple, and they remain committed to providing a friendly beer environment for the most adventurous of beer aficionados.
12 South is a local spot with a local feel, and a beer forward trip to Nashville would be sorely lacking without a stop here. The taproom was the first bar in town to offer San Diego based brewery, Green Flash, products on tap, and consistently showcases the best and most diverse selection of beer in town.
Hattie B’s Hot Chicken
Although not the oldest or most traditional of Nashville’s hot chicken restaurants, Hattie’s B’s has become the local favorite for it’s modern approach to the local delicacy. Tread lightly here if you are a spicy food lover, as you have three options: hot, medium, or mild. The medium is fire enough, and I have watched several grown men cry after ordering the “hot” version. Consider yourself warned. Try the Charlotte Avenue location for a more relaxed environment as their midtown outpost often has insane lines on the weekends stretching around the block.
The 5 Spot
Located in the quickly gentrifying East Nashville neighborhood, The 5 Spot is the best venue to catch local musicians doing their thing every night of the week. It’s an intimate space and their bill reflects an eclectic sampling of the local music scene ranging from funk, Americana, to straight forward rock and roll. They have a great beer list including local selections from Southern Grist, Little Harpeth, and Fat Bottom breweries so don’t forget to activate your beer curiosity here. The Little Harpeth Brewery’s American Pilsner style Chicken Scratch is a personal favorite.
One of the first bars in Nashville to reintroduce the perfect cocktail, 308 has become a local hub and watering hole for Nashville cool kids of all legal ages. It usually doesn’t get going till later in the evening, but their DJ sets are legendary, and if you like throwback 90’s dance parties like myself, you’ll be in seventh heaven. 308 is a great bar with a great crowd, and was opened by a team of seasoned NYC and Miami bartenders. It’s the best spot to drink late into the evening, and make sure to stop by Dino’s next door for Nashville’s best burger if you get hungry while doing the doo wop to Dr. Dre.
If you are a music fan, a food fan, a beer fan, or any combination of the three, do yourself a favor and get to Nashville as soon as possible and let the good times roll.
Remember, if you’re not having fun in Nashville, there has to be something wrong with you.