If you are looking for a city enjoying a renaissance, where there is music everywhere and the bar and dining scene rising, look no further than Nashville, Tennessee.
Over 100 people are moving to Nashville every day, average age of 29 years old, according to the locals I met in many bars while sipping Tennessee whiskey.
And you can feel the youthful, millennial energy in the air. Pedi-taverns parading up and down Broadway, honky tonks like Tootsies, Robert’s and Layla, Acme feed and seed, and legions of bachelorette parties snaking in like a party train into every bar with a musical pulse.
You can experience and sense the pride in the cocktail parlors like Old Glory, a converted laundry factory, or Patterson House, and old standby.
Coffee culture is a good indicator of how far the food culture is coming along. I was rewarded with trips to Crema and Barista Parlor. The coffee was correct and set me up for the rest of the day. Frothy Monkey, ever popular, was forgettable.
The surprise of the trip was a result of a tip from a friendly Uber driver. Way up on a hill in Brick Church Pike stands the Loft Seafood. Located in a building that looks straight outta Compton. But have no fear and order up the seafood deluxe platter. Large snow crab legs and lobster tails swimming in a pool of house mixed herb butter. Mid way through, the counterman asked if we needed even more butter. This is a roll down your sleeves and talk to no one whilst making a real mess of yourself, just finger licking, unless you wanna karaoke along down memory lane with all the great R & B that’s being played. Easily the most satisfying meal on the trip.
At Bar 308 in Five Points, a heavy slate of Nineties R & B was also on hand, swaying to memories and good house cocktails made me almost abandon my idea of bar hoping that night. But then we would have missed so many good bars in the Five Points. Dukes, a local spot, complete with great shot and a beer specials and a deli in the back, where you can drink and eat, and drink and eat to your heart’s content. The deli sandwiches are for real. Try the Italian. There was a local DJ spinning country tunes, and I was hard-pressed to leave once again. There is a sign that states no dancing, and another that reads if you leave your credit card etc… What kind of a dope leaves his credit card at a bar? Needless to say I called the next morning, and the lady bartender replied, of course your card is here, and yes, come on by and grab another shot to pick it up. The sign should read “When you leave your credit card…”It’s as if the sign sends a subliminal message to leave your card overnight, some kinda Southern Tennessee jedi mind trick. The 5 spot is good for local bands, and the Crying Wolf works for all things full moony, We tried the chili cheese tater tots and couldn’t hold it down. The drinks were also good and let me just say there is nothing like surveying the crowd with the specter of a wolf demolishing its prey stuffed in taxidermic glory.
There were a few miscues along the culinary journey. One was choosing Biscuit Love over Arnold’s. Must have been a brain fart from the night before at Duke’s. After long lines, needless to say there just ain’t enough love in Biscuit love, plus the eggs and sausage were standard issue. A good bloody mary for consolation, but the whole time I couldn’t help but feeling I had been duped, and wishing I were at Arnold’s instead.
We paid a nice visit at Jack White’s Third Man record shop, a must see, and a good follow up at the Country Music Hall of Fame, where Smokey and the Bandit’s car stole the show for me. There was a tribute to Alabama, which to my surprise I learned are not famous for the song Sweet Home Alabama, but that just demonstrates the degree to my country music ignorance. Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan abound, guitars and performance paraphernalia aplenty.
We dined at Henrietta Reds in German town, a lovely seafood driven resto by an ex NYC chef. The wine list was definitely on the come up and oysters and food was very good. I really enjoyed……Had a nice convo with lady locals seated besides us. They were enjoying a nice red from the Canaries (Fronton de Oro) that I know and sell as well. Wine scene is on the come up in Nashville.
We saved the best for last at Rolf and Daughters. This restaurant was on par with many places we have dined in Savannah, Charleston and NOLA, southern sensibility, good food and fine libations. I was blown away by a pasta made from the mother they use to make sourdough bread. It was a revelation.
On Sunday we had a choice between Biscuit House and Marche. We opted for the French pastry shop. The croissant was fine and the brunch standard. Again I was kinda wishing I would have been slopping it up at a greasy spoon like the Biscuit House, but delicate stomachs at this point prevailed. A second trip to Barista Parlor in 5 Points, this time a garage with motorcycles and a mustang in front, same vaulted ceilings and enormous space. Even better milieu, same quality coffee and relaxing breeze. Tribe Called Quest on LP. What a great coffee spot.
Before our evening flight, we filled up at Martine’s BBQ.
For BBQ, surprising to me that Nashville is not Memphis in this instance. I had some passable fare at Martine, and didn’t really enjoy the menu at Edley’s so took a pass.
The BBQ seemed mass produced, devoid of necessary juiciness and smoky care.
Maybe the sad BBQ situation is because of the idolization of hot chicken, basically fried chicken with spicy edge to it. The line at Prince’s seemed formidable. We settled for Hattie’s D’s, named after former owner of Tootsie’s, which was very, very addicting. I will have to return to sample some of the upstarts like Pepperfire and Bolton’s.
All in all, I noticed a change in my speech patterns and drawl by the time I was boarding the plane. Maybe it was the cowboy boots I purchased on Broadway. Note to self. Cowboy boots have metal in it, and even with my newly minted TSA Pre-Check Certification, the officer made me take off my boots. “What’s the point if I gotta take off my boots?” I barked, in a return to an entitled NYC accent. He gave me that sharp look I am accustomed to, and in that instant I snapped back into character, complaining about it all and returning to my comfortable, normal NYC persona.
Good bye sweet southern charm and delights.