This face says it all. My mom took my sister and me on a spontaneous trip to Nashville and we, obviously, had so much fun. It truly is the music city, where during off-time you eat and drink! And shop, if you so choose. I really missed the South (where I attended college, Wake Forest University in NC, go Deacs!), but mostly its food. There is a real community vibe, and a slower pace.
We are used to a walking city, like Boston or even NYC, so we ubered much more than expected. The hotel was close to Downtown, and we ubered to the other “hubs,” as we called them, the Gulch and 12 South. We learned each place people recommend or you read about is likely in one of those hubs.
Scroll for my tips on where to eat, what to do, and what to wear- already used by one of my friends!
Where to Eat: Listening Room, Bar Taco, S’more Love Bakery, Little Octopus, Martin’s BBQ, Biscuit Love
Biscuit Love – #1 on my list, located in the Gulch. As you can tell by the name, they are known for their biscuits. And as someone who lived in the South for 4 years, I can stipulate that they know their stuff. Oh my sweet lord. My best friend John happened to be in Nashville at the same time, so we met up for brunch. Born and raised in the South, he agreed the biscuits were stellar. Biscuit Love understands the variety in biscuit type, with savory and sweet options using the appropriate biscuit, be that flour-ier and sturdier or flakier and sweeter. We wish we could’ve ordered it all, but we chose eggs, a side of biscuits and jam (highly recommend), the Southern Benny- classic but with sausage gravy on biscuits, and the Lindstrom- delicious brussel sprouts with hazelnuts and two poached eggs. Now, listen, you MUST GET their Bonuts, their claim to fame. They make 1,000 of these little bursts of heaven a day: fried biscuit dough on a blueberry compote, topped and filled with lemon mascarpone. Oh. My. God. I may or may not have basically eaten all of them, fighting through the sick feeling of going past the point of being full. The line is usually around the block, but we went on a Monday morning so it was short and quick.
Bar Taco – Per my friend’s recommendation, we had linner at Bar Taco in 12 South before Carrie Underwood, which apparently has other locations across the U.S. too. It had a very fun, beachy interior that reminded us of Cape Cod. The friendly waiter helped with the menu, and we ordered margaritas and the Port Chester Reviver made of gin, cucumber, mint, mango nectar, lime juice- delicious. Sucked it right down. They had to stop me at one point from ordering more chips & salsa- it was straight-up addictive. The plates were small, so we ordered a variety from the grilled fish tacos, mahi mahi ceviche, chicken soup and chicken rice bowl to the grilled corn. All so good, it seems you really can’t miss!
S’more Love Bakery – In the 12 South area, you must stop by the S’more Love Bakery food truck for an unbelievable s’more. Across from Bar Taco, this sweet surprise gave me the face of absolute joy you can see above. I ordered the Cookie Monster, with two delicious mini chocolate chip cookies. When I went back for s’more (had to) Cookie Monster after linner at Bar Taco (obviously), they were all out, so I had the classic Happy Camper. While yummy still with the homemade toasted marshmallow and chocolate ganache, I recommend getting one of their specialties.
Little Octopus – some may call it bougie, but dang it was beautiful. Little Octopus in the Gulch had gorgeous design, from the reflective gold wall on the exterior to the pink couches and artistic decorations on the interior. Bright and happy, correlating with the Caribbean flair of the food.
We ordered the special mimosas, a yummy warm pear dish with nuts and cheese, shakshuka that had toasted bread but doesn’t compare to Tatte, and a pancake of sorts with an egg on top. All interesting, but not our favorite place we ate.
Martin’s BBQ – I’m sorry, but you cannot come to the South without eating BBQ and Martin’s is the ultimate place to go in Nashville. Just outside Downtown, the two-floor hot spot was cool, authentic, and playful. The appeal was clear from the line out the door to order, with a plethora of merchandise including spices, gear & clothes on the way to the register. You have to venture upstairs, though, where there is a sliding door for fresh air from the outside, darts, ping pong, and more, with an eclectic vibe. Airplane chairs were one option for seating. I slayed at darts, obviously. We all ordered the Kid Brother Sampler, which I highly recommend because it comes with a huge tray of pork, brisket, and two sides of your choice. The cornbread was actually a pancake, pretty disappointing, but the mac & cheese and green beans were delicious. Incredibly, the real star may have been the desserts: Fudge Pie and Coconut Cake. I wish I could have that cake for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It was quite heroic of me to even share.
Other Recos: Five Daughters Bakery (all donuts, but everyone recommended), Husk (supposed to have the best burger of your life, but we had to miss it for an earlier flight to avoid a storm), Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams (yummy, innovative ice cream)
What to Do: Downtown, the Gulch, 12 South (Hubs), Grand Ole Opry, Bluebird Cafe, the Listening Room (Music)
You have to hit Downtown and wander down Broadway Street. Ignore the tourist-y vibes (just very extra), and do it to do it. There are endless honky-tonk bars and souvenir shops. Ride a cart and drink if you please, and just wander around. It’s fun, colorful, and wacky, and you’ll see cool walls as you walk just past the edge of Downtown to reach the Listening Room and just past that for Martin’s BBQ and Husk. The Listening Room is a very cool place where you eat, drink, and listen to rising hopefuls sing original songs. Kind of a secret gem.
12 South is another cool hub of Nashville that’s basically a long street of food and shopping. We popped in to any store that struck our fancy, including Reese Witherspoon’s Southern preppy store Draper James and White’s Mercantile which is pricey, but very cool inspiration and more affordable pieces like cool “Turnt” and “Sauced” glasses I sneakily bought my sister for her birthday. The food options looked endless, but we were thrilled with Bar Taco and S’more Love Bakery, mentioned above.
The Gulch is clearly an up-and-coming new, young hub, small with an industrial feel. It is also the home of Little Octopus and the heavenly Biscuit Love, mentioned above, and some shopping. LA Jackson rooftop at Thompson Hotel is a fun place to chill in the Gulch, drinking rose and admiring the view of the city. Those fries looked amazing too, but we somehow refrained while happily remembering our already excessive indulging that weekend.
Obviously when I saw train cars as we drove into the Gulch, I had to come back and explore. Sadly, the cars were not out of commission like I thought, so they were gone when I got there, but there is still something about train tracks… Explore, babes, explore.
Our driver from the airport mentioned Carrie Underwood would be at the Grand Ole Opry the next night, so we said let’s do it! I guess we were not that familiar, because we had no idea the Opry is a radio station, and has been since 1925! There were seemingly endless singers and groups performing a few songs each, with live commercial breaks in between! The Opry has a family feel they proudly project, and is such a fun experience with a crowd of all ages, cowboys to dressed in Sunday best. At one point, Lee Greenwood sang “God Bless the U.S.A.” and everyone stood, swaying their lit up phones and singing along. When Carrie arrived, we learned they let you go right up to the stage and take photos! Dang she is an impressive lady. Also note that it is right next to a huge mall capitalizing on the Opry being Nashville’s number one attraction, and getting out after the show can be a nightmare (we ubered, maybe less so if you don’t have to also wait for a car to get to you in the traffic).Bluebird Cafe is a stop we had to make (*cough* Nashville the TV show *cough*), so that’s where we rounded out our day of music after being delayed about 10 million hours leaving the Opry (began at the Listening Room). It was cute to be in a tiny cafe, hearing seasoned songwriters acoustically play, adding commentary and bringing up guests. Sometimes stars and legends also make an appearance.
What to Wear
The first outfit that came to mind for Nashville was this rust orange, silky Zara top (similar here and here) that I accessorized with my Brandy Melville body chain (similar here) and paired with these pleather, cream Free People moto pants, a Marshalls find (other colors here, fun latex ones here), and my vintage Levi’s jacket, a treasure found at the SoWa Vintage Market in Boston. Its rotating pins are from Flock, Brandy Melville, and Urban Outfitters. Clearly the outfit on this couch at Little Octopus, holding their mimosa, had me feeling some type of way. Honey, honey. For the day exploring 12 South, I wore this soft Madewell plaid top (summer one on sale!), my custom leather Converse, the UO boyfriend jeans, my gold circle Ray Bans, a black felt hat (similar here), and my custom Frasier Sterling honey choker. 😉
I hope you enjoyed my Nashville guide, and please let me know if you have any questions or recommendations!