Updated October 22, 2018
Since my (Carrie) brother moved to Nashville in 2016, Albert and I have taken two trips to visit him, one in 2016- just Albert and me, and one in 2018 with my whole family.
Where to Eat and Drink in Nashville
Crema Coffee Roasters
Rob is 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, intending to create both a coffee and human experience. They source their coffee from farmers from all over the world with whom they have established direct relationships. They had by far one of the widest ranges of coffee 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.
Another great spot for coffee in Nashville is Barista Parlor. Established in 2011, Barista Parlor works with local Nashville artists, farms, and businesses to serve delicious coffee in creative spaces. They have several locations throughout Nashville. We’ve only ever been to the Gulch location, called Barista Parlor Golden Sound. The space was big and open, with the coffee bar in the middle, and a creative play on Music City.
The Post, located in East Nashville, is hands down one of my top recommendations for Nashville. They specialize in gluten-free, vegan and organic food and are a Real Food certified business. We stopped in on a Sunday morning for breakfast, primarily so I could have options. I was a little worried about my mom, who is particular about what she eats (i.e. no-frills meat and potatoes) but the Post had something for everyone! They offered breakfast staples- eggs, biscuits, breakfast meats, and granola and yogurt, most of which had vegan options. I opted for the homemade granola with coconut vegan yogurt. Plus, they had a live Bluegrass band when we went. The Post is a Nashville must.
The Pharmacy Burger Parlor & Beer Garden
When traveling with large groups you have to find restaurants that can cater to everyone, and the Pharmacy is one of those places. Located in East Nashville, the Pharmacy serves a range of good burgers, including vegetarian options that can easily be made vegan (no bun, no cheese, or tzatziki) and, they have a carefully curated beer selection-a definite plus when traveling with your family. It was here that we first discovered Southern Grist, when I tried the Soda Parlor, a Strawberry Ginger beer brewed in collaboration with the Pharmacy. It was the perfect combination between sweet and sour and was what prompted us to visit the Southern Grist brewery the very next day.
Located in the 12 South neighborhood, Five Daughters is THE place to go for doughnuts. Albert sneaked away and grab a doughnut (or two) while I did family stuff. Five Daughters was started by Isaac and Stephanie Meek who, in 2015 quit the corporate world and focus on what’s important to them, baking and family, and so they started this bakery named for, you guessed it, their five daughters! Their popularity has grown so much they recently expanded to Atlanta’s Ponce City Market. Five Daughters’ doughnuts are deliciously sweet and delectable and all handmade in the Five Daughters kitchen. Some of the most popular options are the Chocolate Sea Salt (which Albert had), King Kong (topped with bacon), and Maple Glaze. Oh and they have options for everyone, including gluten-free, paleo, and vegan.
Albert and I have never been big meat eaters and just this year I switched to a plant-based diet, but because barbeque is such a big part of Nashville cuisine, we’d be remiss if we didn’t include at least one recommendation. On both trips, we stopped in at one of the best barbeque spots in the city, Edley’s Bar-B-Que, in the 12 South neighborhood and East Nashville. The line is usually pretty long at peak hours but you can get drinks once you’re inside to help pass the time. On our first trip, both Albert and I had the pulled pork with homemade cornbread so I can say from experience it was worth the wait. On our second trip though, my options were limited to a bean salad and french fries and the bean salad was served in a plastic container. Bottom line this is the go-to barbeque spot for meat eaters who don’t mind using disposable plastic. And, if you don’t want to wait in line, you can order a few options for delivery.
Bolton’s Spicy Chicken & Fish
Who would’ve known 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.
Unfortunately, Prince’s wasn’t open when we were there (they’re closed on Sundays) 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 despite our server’s warnings, we ordered medium spiced wings. We barely survived. The hot chicken was, without a doubt, the spiciest food I have ever had.
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.
Things to See and Do in Nashville
On both occasions, we did the requisite bar hopping on Honky Tonk Highway-a stretch of bars renowned for the atmosphere, music, and a lot of drinking. The entire area is always overflowing with young party-goers whether it be on the sidewalks, party buses driving up and down the strip, or boozy bike tours. This is definitely not our scene and had it not been my aunts’ first time in Nashville we likely wouldn’t have done this on our second trip.
If you must go and are not into this kind of scene (like us) we recommend Big Shots and Crazy Town. Big Shots is off the main strip and less crowded than some more popular places with equally good music and more affordable prices (we paid $7 for a Yuengling at Tequila Cowboy). Crazy Town also had good music and was so big that it seemed less crowded, especially on the rooftop where we happened to meet Tom Paine (Jesus) from the Walking Dead. We also recommend at least a drink on Acme Feed and Seeds’ rooftop but only if you go early in the evening. When we went around 6:30-7:00, there wasn’t a line to get in and there was plenty of space on the rooftop to take in the spectacular view.
Nashville boasts a full-scale replica of the 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.
On our first trip, we spent more time in the 12 South neighborhood-eating at Edley’s and drinking beer and playing games at one of my favorite spots in Nashville, the Filling Station. So, on our second trip, when we needed a place to stay we were naturally drawn to this neighborhood. We found a terrific Airbnb just off of 12th Street South and only a ten-minute walk to the center of the neighborhood. If you’re looking for a place for a large group (max 6 persons) then I highly recommend this condo. The layout is perfect-a bedroom/den and bathroom on the ground floor, a kitchen on the second, a second bedroom on the third with living room, bathroom and deck, and a third bedroom up a few stairs from the third floor. And, the location can’t be beaten. The photos on Airbnb do not do this place justice.
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All Photography by Albert Bond