Earlier this summer, Albert and I took a quick trip to Nashville to visit my brother, Rob and his girlfriend, Desiree.   Nashville has been on my list of places to visit for quite some time and his recent relocation there was the perfect chance to explore Music City.


Nashville and Tourism

In 2014 Nashville had 13.1 million visitors, generating $17.7 billion in revenue.  Tourism to Nashville directly and indirectly supports more than 57,000 jobs, making it one of the largest industries.  Nashville is not only a popular, top 10 domestic destination, but in recent years has seen a marked increase in international tourist arrivals.

Downtown Nashville

Downtown Nashville

Where to Eat and Drink in Nashville

Crema Coffee Roasters

Rob is somewhat of a coffee aficionado and always brings us to the best coffee spots whenever and wherever we visit him.  Crema Coffee Roasters in downtown Nashville was no exception.  Owners Rachel and Ben opened Crema in 2007, with the intention of creating both a coffee and human experience. Their coffee is sourced from farmers from all of the world with whom they have established direct relationships. They had by far one of the widest ranges of coffee that I have seen in the U.S. to date. Albert and I both had hand poured coffee with beans from Yemen that had notes of Turkish apricot, port wine, and toasted pine nuts, while Rob had a coffee soda.  The interior of Crema is industrial chic and the outside deck has splendid views of downtown.

Hand poured coffee from Yemen at  Crema

Hand poured coffee from Yemen at  Crema

Edley’s Bar-B-Que

Albert and I aren’t big meat eaters, but when in Nashville one must eat barbeque, and so we did.  Edley’s Bar-B-Que, located in the 12 South neighborhood is considered a Nashville institution, one that, according to Edley’s website “unites the Nashville tradition of meat and three with the best barbeque this side of the Mississippi.”  When we arrived the line was just outside the door.  When we got inside Albert and Rob grabbed some drinks from the bar to help with the long wait ahead of us.  Nearly an hour later, we arrived at the counter and ordered our freshly smoked pulled pork platters and sandwiches with homemade cornbread, coleslaw, and macaroni and cheese on the side.  Boy was it worth the wait.

Pulled pork platter at Edley's

Pulled pork platter at Edley's

The Filling Station

By far our favorite spot in Nashville. The Filling Station is a craft beer store that not only sells an amazing selection of national craft beers to go, they also serve them!  Their location in 12 South offers 24 craft beers on tap and the East Nashville store has 40.  Of course we visited both.  The 12 South location has a nice outdoor spot with a few tables where we sat while waiting for the line at Edley’s to dwindle, which it really didn’t.  True to form, we stuck with the local brewers (noted by three stars).  I had The Rose from Black Abbey and Albert had the May Day Velvet Hustle.   Rob, even though he earlier declared that he was “off beer” rose to the occasion and had Yazoo’s Embrace the Funk.  I’m so glad he did because I got to take a sip of this delicious sour beer from one of Nashville’s most recognized breweries.

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The East Nashville location doesn’t have an outdoor space but has plenty of tables inside with a range of board games and a host of different beers.  Unfortunately, Embrace the Funk wasn’t an option-I had been fantasizing about Rob’s beer since the night before, so I had Yazoo’s Summer Gose instead, also very good.  Albert had Garr’s Red Jam, which we had tasted previously when Garr’s was featured as a guest brewer at Hellbender in DC.

The beer menu at the Filling Station

The beer menu at the Filling Station

Bolton’s Spicy Chicken & Fish

Who would’ve known that one of Nashville’s specialties is hot chicken?  Not us.  Nashville hot chicken is a marinated breast, thigh, or wing that is caked in a cayenne pepper paste before frying and served on white bread with pickle chips.  Hot chicken is widely purported to have originated as an act of revenge within the Prince family, owner of Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack in the city, when a girlfriend of Thorton Prince III, the original owner of the Shack, was angry about his womanizing and exacted her revenge by making him fried chicken with extra pepper.  Her plan, however, backfired.  Thorton ended up loving the chicken so much, he and his brothers developed their own recipe and went into business, or so the story goes.

Bolton's in East Nashville

Bolton's in East Nashville

Unfortunately, Prince’s isn’t open on Sunday (when we learned of hot chicken) so we weren’t able to go to the source, but we visited another local favorite, Bolton’s Spicy Chicken and Fish in East Nashville.  Albert and I split a plate of wings.  Confident in our abilities to handle spice and in spite of our server’s warnings, we ordered medium spiced wings, with a side of corn on the cob, and mac n' cheese.  We survived but barely.  Hot chicken was, without a doubt, the spiciest food I have ever had.  To make matters worse, the restaurant had completely run out of beverages so, we devoured our wings and drove quickly, mouths burning to the nearest brewery, Smith and Lentz.

Our medium spiced wings, corn on the cob, and mac n' cheese

Our medium spiced wings, corn on the cob, and mac n' cheese

Smith & Lentz Brewing Company

In 2014, two men, Smith and Lentz, with a passion for beer launched one of our favorite breweries, see our recent craft brewery blog post.  Not only do they brew amazing beer, but they are founded on the recognition that craft breweries play an instrumental role in creating and sustaining community and contributing to the growth of dynamic cities.  No wonder Backpacking with the Bonds liked them so much.

The beer selection at Smith & Lentz

The beer selection at Smith & Lentz

The tasting room is big and open with an industrial aesthetic.  When we were there they had 9 beers on offer.  I started with the Saison, which was crisp and refreshing, exactly what I needed after the hot chicken experience, and then moved on to the El Quarto, described as tropical, rounding off with the Belgian Golden-also a good beer, though with all the chicken, beer, and another order of Edley’s corn bread (a second location happens to be across from Smith and Lentz) my palette was probably not trustworthy.  With the great selection of beer, ping pong tables, and massive selection of board games, Smith and Lentz is a place you can spend a few hours.  And, we did.

My beers at Smith & Lentz

My beers at Smith & Lentz

Czann’s

Czann’s is a small brewery located downtown, within walking distance from some of the city’s main tourist attractions.  Their website says that they have a “passion for well-crafted beer” and you can tell.  The five beers they had on tap (Belgian Wit, Dunkelweizen, Pale Ale, Blonde, and IPA) were brewed to perfection and the server was extremely knowledge about the beer as well as the local craft beer scene.  Much to my surprise, my favorite was the Dunkelweizen, a dark wheat beer from Southern Germany.  I’ve had Dunkelweizen before but not like this.  It was light with only hints of banana and clove, making it the perfect beer after a walk in the hot summer sun of Nashville.

Beers at Czann's

Beers at Czann's

Sky Blue Cafe

Located in East Nashville, the Sky Blue Cafe is a quaint little joint with a lot to offer.  Even on a Monday morning the wait was about 30 minutes for a table of four.  Like Edley’s it was worth the wait.  Fueling up for our long drive to Virginia, Albert had the stuffed French toast, topped with pancakes, bacon, eggs, and cheese, while I had a parfait with their house recipe granola and fresh fruit.  Desiree also had the stuffed French toast pancakes, but chose the nutella and banana option while Rob had Em’s bowl-a biscuit topped with home fries, two eggs scrambled, sausage gravy, and topped with cheese.

Stuffed French Toast at Blue Sky Cafe!

Stuffed French Toast at Blue Sky Cafe!

Things to See and Do in Nashville

Country Music Hall of Fame

There is no shortage of things to do and see in Nashville.  As the home to country music, the city has a number of sites dedicated to this heritage including the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Johnny Cash Museum.  Due to our tight timetable and the high entrance fees ($24 and $18 respectively) relative to our general lack of interest in country music, we did not visit either of these.

The Johnny Cash Museum

The Johnny Cash Museum

Honky Tonk

We did, however, do some bar hopping on Honky Tonk Highway-a stretch of bars renowned for the atmosphere and of course, the music.  Truth be told this was my idea, inspired by an episode of Master of None where Dev and Rachel stroll quietly down Broadway and “hit it hard” in a relatively empty honky tonk with what appear to be middle aged adults enjoying some good country music.  That was not our experience.  The entire area was overflowing with young party-goers and the bars were packed.  Rob and Desiree took us to one of their favorite spots, Big Shots where we had a big shot and listened to some live music.  Big Shots signature drinks are cocktail sized shots.  We did the obligatory boot shopping along with hundreds of other people.  A visit to Honky Tonk Highway is a must but I recommend doing it on a weeknight or with a camera crew who will shut down the whole area for you.

Broadway, downtown Nashville

Broadway, downtown Nashville

Parthenon

Nashville also boasts a full scale replica of the original Parthenon in Athens.  The replica, built in 1897, sits in Centennial Park in West Nashville and serves as an art museum.  The museum was closed when we visited but it was nice just to walk around the park, which was a hotspot for Pokémon go players.  We may have been the only ones there not chasing Pokémon.

Nashville's very own Parthenon

Nashville's very own Parthenon

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12 South

We spent quite a bit of time in the 12 South neighborhood-dining at Edley’s and beer tasting at the Filling Station.  We also did some shopping at White’s Mercantile, a cool boutique shop owned by singer/songwriter Holly Williams and daughter of Hank Williams Jr.  And, we got to see the massive wall surrounding Dolly Parton’s house.

A huge thank you to Rob and Desiree for showing us around Nashville.

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All Photography by Albert Bond