Nashville Like a Local


Nashville Bridges

 I live in Nashville and love it. Sure you can hit the main attractions, like the Grand Old Opry, Lower Broadway and Music Row, but this journal isn't going to cover that. So for you visitors who like to explore off the beaten path, listen up. I am going to let you know where the locals hang out and relax...

How to Get Around - Nashville is not known for its public transportation, so as much as I hate to say it, you are going to need to rent a car to get around town. Be warned, Nashville is very well marked with signs but there are three main interstates that meet in town causing confusion even for the most seasoned locals. Make sure you know what lanes you need to be in as there are some very short merging lanes as you move from interstate to interstate in the city. Oh, and one ...maybe two more things. Nashville roads tend to change names several times (i.e. Briley Parkway is a loop around town and is known as White Bridge, Woodmont, and Briley) so make sure you get all the names and Old Hickory Boulevard is NOT a circle, not matter what someone tells you. There are four and none of them least not yet, so make sure that the side of town matches whichever Old Hickory Blvd. you are looking for.


Where to Stay - There is only one way to experience real Southern hospitality and that is the bed and breakfast route, so here are a few of my pics all situated within the neighborhoods below.

Mulberry House, Clifton Lane (Belmont Blvd.) is located on Clifton Lane, right off of Belmont Blvd. You are sandwiched between two streets that are being revitalized as we speak and are some of the hippest young hang-outs in town. 

Daisy Hill Bed and Breakfast (Hillsboro Village) is right off of Hillsboro Village and the Vanderbilt campus. There are plenty of art galleries, restaurants and shops to keep you entertained. You could even leave your car and take the buses in and out of town, since you are on a main bus route. 

The Big Bungalow (Edgefield) is a quaint little house in part of the historic East Nashville district. There are parks, local shops and eateries and nightly entertainment close by.If you like to walk you are also within 2 miles of downtown. For you gym rats that can't escape the gym even on vacation, the community center is just a couple of blocks away.

Top O' Woodland (East Nashville) is located in the quiet Lockland Spring neighborhood of East Nashville but don't let that scare you. It is only three blocks from the night scene at 5 Points. Best of all, you are two blocks from the best bakery in town!

Custom's HouseWhere the Locals Hide -

12th South/Belmont Blvd. has been going through a revitalization within the past few years bringing some new and quirky restaurants to fill in with the old staples. Belmont Boulevard is a great place to wander. There are shops along the way and some of Nashville's oldest residences. If your looking for a caffiene jolt, join the rest of the Belmont University crowd at Bongo Java. This area also loves local and nothing says that better than the Myint family. Patty opened up International Market (authentic Thai) a few years back and her son Arnold followed in her footsteps. He and his business partner opened up two new restaurants across the street, PM and ChaChah. ChaChah is a tapas bar with a great vibe. Many of Nashville young professionals hang out here. Pm is an Asian fusion that has Nashville's best burger. For the vegetarians among us, Tabouli's has been serving up great Greek food and is a staple of the Boulevard. 

  One block over is the 12th South area. I have to say this is one of my favorite areas. There is a large park, Seiver Park, at one end of the district that has soccer firlds, basketball courts, a community center and a playground. Make sure to read all the music posters as there are summer concerts in the park sometimes (see picnic fare below). As you head towards the downtown area you have to make sure you hit up Paletas, the gourmet popsicle shop. Trust me you don't want to miss this folks! Where else can you get and avocado and cream popsicle (yes, there is chocolate too). 12th and Paris is coming along and will have some great restaurants and shops on the ground floor by January of 2010. If your headed out to a concert in the park, or just want to enjoy the sunshine with a picnic, make sure you stop at Vinea and Corerri's for some wine and cheese. Maffioza's is your place for happy hour cocktails and 12 South Taproom has gourmet everything. Make sure to check the specials board for their grilled pimento and bacon sandwich, yum! And of course, our all important caffeine fixes - Frothy Monkey and Portland Brew. You can't go wrong with either, both are great. Of the coffee fiends in my office, Brad would go with Frothy every time and Laura goes with Portland so I say try em' both. As far as shopping, you have to stop by Katy's Western World, seriously you can't tell me you didn't bring your cowboy hat to the music city. Two Elle is also another local boutique that has some hot fashion. 

East Nashville/Edgefield/ 5 Points area tends to be the quarky, arsty side of town. Here we pride ourselves on being different. There are tons of local bars to hit up in 5 Points that are crowded any day of the week. If you are a trivia buff, your in luck. Try Beyond the Edges (BTE) two for one Yazoo (Nashville local brewery) and trivia on Tuesdays  or 3 Crow on Thursday's for your weekly fix. If smoke gets to you, try BTE's sister restaurant, Battered and Fried for some Boston-inspired seafood and laid-back atmosphere. Make sure you try their fried scallops. If your looking for a quieter place to imbibe or an older crowd head down the street to Red Door East. 

 If your looking for breakfast, head over to tenth and Main for some amazing brunch. Marche has some amazing food, but make sure you check out the Omelet du Jour. But, the one place you MUST go if you are in the area is Sweet 16th bakery. It is consistently voted the best bakery in town by the people of this great city. They open at 8 and if you aren't there by 9 kiss your options good-bye. It is first come first serve and it makes getting up early worth it. Dan and Ellen are the local sugar-dealers so go check em' out.

 When that omelet from Marche finally burns off, check out I Dream of Weenie, East Nashville's first weenery. Don't worry you didn't miss it. It is the old beetle van up on stilts. Because of health code and the fact that they are considered a 'mobile' eatery there aren't any permanent tables so grab a blanket out of the bucket, find a good piece of grass and enjoy. Beware, the rebel yelp chili really will make you yelp. After lunch, meander through the Art and Invention gallery next door and say hello to Meg. If your lucky, maybe you can take part in one of the art workshops going on. If your coming with your family, make sure to check their website to see if they are doing a fort-building class. You know you want to, so grab a refrigerator box and get going. If you are looking for lighter fare, head up the street to Turnip Truck Grocery, East Nashville's organic market. IF your there during the week, check out the Farmer's Market of all local produce in the field next door. 

Pied-Piper Creamery is also a not to miss staple of the neighborhood. The ice cream is homemade on-site and comes in all kinds of flavors. I mean all kinds, like Red Velvet Cake, Minty Python, Love is a Butterfield and It's Nutellin'. Why would you ever skip a place with names like that?!? A little pocket park, the East End UMC park is just down the street on Holly and offers a shaded place to enjoy.

For more of that upscale taste, or a romantic night out, make reservations at Margot's. The cozy restaurant uses local products to produce gourmet food. If that is a little too classy, head down the hill to her sister restaurant Marche's both delivering a lot of bang for the buck. Holland House just opened at the corner of McFerrin and W Eastland and has become a favorite or mine quick! It is cozy, it is romantic and has a ton of character AND awesome food! Of course, this is the music city, and if you are looking for some music with your dinner of some evening entertainment check out the Nashville Scene to see who is playing at Family Wash. For a hole-in-the-wall that only the locals hit up, check out Italia on Woodland. These are my go to pizza guys. 

For us active folks, there are some great free options. The East Nashville Community Center is situated in East park. It includes a pool, indoor track, basketball court, yoga classes and a weight room ($2 fee). Or for the outdoorsman in all of us hit the Greenway. There is a parking lot in Shelby Park where you can park and walk from. The immediate section has a 6 mile loop but you can add on and cross the river for a total of 26 miles. You should check and see if the bike shop located in 5 points or the skate shop, Asphalt Beach, rents equipment to use on the trail.

Festivals of Note:

Tomato Art Festival - the first or second weekend in August. There is a children's villages with water slides and face-painting along with local artwork and live music in 5 Points.

Hot Chicken Festival - located in East Park this is the newest Fourth of July tradition - beer, blot's chicken wings and good old fun.

Hillsboro Village is an urban area next to Vanderbilt's campus. Fido's is a great place to wake up and a great option for vegetarians. Check out their radio bombs (sesame bagel, tomato slices, swiss cheese and dijon mustard). Next walk it off by checking out Dragon Park, okay so technically it is Fannie Mae Dees Park, but no one knows it by that name. We always play soccer at Centennial and then head to Jackson's for an after workout beer. It is a great place to grab some beer,an appetizer and people watch. For a more contemporary twist on southern food, try Cabana's. it is also a hot night spot for drinks in the younger crowds. 

For some culture, try checking out Zeitgeist Art Gallery. If your lucky, maybe you will even catch an art opening. Next door, is also a great place for a fun date at Fired Up, a pottery making and painting store. For a quieter option, check out what is playing at Belcourt Theater. It shows independent films and documentaries. Make sure to check it out and get tickets in advance if you can. it tends to have lines wrapping the block. 

The Gulch/Demonbreun (de-mun-brie-un) If you call it demon-brewin we will probably look at you like you are speaking a different language. There are several bars here, but none to write home about unless you are looking for a bar to watch soccer in. That place would be Dan McGuiness. Sushiyobi is about 5 spaces down and is one of the better sushi restaurants in town. Ru Sans in the Gulch is always recommended to me, but after waiting 30 minutes to get our drink orders taken before we walked out, I wouldn't recommend it. Sambuca is another place for live jazz and dinner. It is also a great place for girls night out for cocktails. 

For those of us who have to shop head next door to Urban Outfitters. Even though I am still in mourning for City Hall who once occupied the space, I have to say it is one cool space.

Midtown is kind the college hangout at night, so I recommend eating at Samurai for lunch or during the summer when classes are out. It is a little hole-in-the-wall tucked next to Obie's pizza. Pay attention because I even walk by it sometimes and i know where it is. This is hands down the best and most affordable sushi in town. With options of over 40 varieties of rolls and nigiri, everyone can find something they will like here. If you like to live on the wild side, try their Happy Roll. 

For a late night haunt or just the fourth meal hit up Cafe Coco, the all-night coffee bar. With a laid-back vibe and the ecclectic mix of people it is a fun place to chill, especially after getting out of a show at the End or Exit/In. Believe it or not, Nashville has a great indie music scene and many of our local boys might surprise you (i.e. Kings of Leon, Mat Kearney, etc.)

Note: for a free night of entertainment, head to Centennial Park's bandshell every Wednesday in June for a movie in the park. Check out the Nashville Scene for the movie that is playing.

Germantown is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Nashville and sits just down the hill from the Capital. The area has really come into its own in the last few years. The Farmer's Market is always a good bet, rain or shine. There are some great ethnic restaurants and shops. The New Orleans kitchen with the authentic muffletta sandwiches is my food of choice when I head that way.

Zackie's sits in the Summer Street Loft complex on 5th Avenue South. Mike is a a native Jersey boy and his hot dogs show it. He even has authentic peirogies and Tasty Kakes, you can't get more Yankee than that. Now vegetarians, don't let the hot dog place scare you. Mike has the best veggies hot dogs I've ever put in my mouth. I've even seen people come back in and swear that Mike gave them a real hot dog. Now that is good folks!

Drinkhaus is just around the corner and is a great place to grab coffee before or after dinner. The small restaurant is great and Kat did a great job maximizing the space and creating a cozy atmosphere. 

And of course, if you are one of the unlucky ones that visits us in the heat of summer, the fountains in Bicentennial Mall or the Public Square are great for cooling off. Young or young at heart this is one of the Nashvillians favorite urban ways to cool off!

For those of s over 21 and that enjoy some good home brewing, head over to Yazoo for the Brewery tour,...or just skip the tour and head to the tasting room. The brewery is housed in the Gulch area (12th Ave. South). After you get done imbibing, grab a seat on Sambucca's patio for some great food. 

Nashville grafittiDowntown is kind of tourist central so we native try to avoid it if we can, but there are a few things worth mentioning that fall off the beaten path. There is a free monthly art crawl in the Arcade the first Saturday evening of every month. Mike's Choppers and Beignets is a delightful mix of bar and New Orleans and a perfect place for Sunday morning brunch. Hint: there is free parking on the Gateway Boulevard off of 4th Avenue S. It is a quick walk down the hill to the restaurant. Mercifully there is also a piano bar located on the second floor above the honky-tonks and congestion of Lower Broadway called Big Bang. The cover can be steep, so if your going to go you will probably want to stay for a while. As you head away from the river, things start to thin out and you have to hunt for the places a little harder. Flying Saucer is tucked in the old Baggage building behind Union Station and next to the Frist Art Museum. Two blocks over off of 10th Ave. S is another old warehouse that has been turned into Mercy Lounge and Cannery Ballroom. If your in town on a Monday, go check out the free music at Mercy Lounge's 8 of 8th. It features eight local rock bands every Monday and is my weekly pilgrimage. If your in town in September and you like indie rock, check out the Next Big Nashville Festival. 

Last tip for you music lovers: next time your headed for Bonaroo stay in Nashville the night before the fun starts and head to Grimey's. I am not saying this is a given but seeing how Metallica played on their way to Bonaroo and then the Beastie Boys played this year on their way (are you seeing a pattern here...) It is a pretty good bet that you will see a headliner band in an amazingly initmate setting. Don't say I didn't warn you :)


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