Please note, I travelled with two of my kids, Jessie and Sam, as well as my sister Esther and her son Michael. This post is not endorsed by the Monday Morning Cooking Club, they have just kindly allowed me to post my travels through this platform. Lisa x
‘Fried Chicken – The Holiday’ (as we called it)
As this was the second part of our Tennessee travels, and the aim of our trip was to get a handle on the food of Memphis and Nashville, we of course (once again as we did in Memphis – see my post here) made eating a priority. Someone’s gotta do it. Since we only had three days and so much to do, we sometimes had three lunch stops so we could try many different things. You (and my mother) will be pleased to know we shared most things, and often just had a few mouthfuls of each dish to try. Occasionally we did go overboard…we just didn’t know if we would ever have a chance to visit again.
Nashville things you might want to know:
It’s around a 3.5 hour drive from Memphis to Nashville. If you are planning a trip to Nashville, throw in Memphis as well. It’s fantastic.
The city has a really nice Keith Urban sort of vibe.
Good to stay in the touristy part of town which is very touristy if you will be doing all the touristy things (which you should).
We stayed at the Omni Hotel. It’s in the same building as the very worthwhile Country Music hall of Fame and Museum.
There is a great (and seemingly quite famous) pedestrian bridge which makes for a nice walk across the river with lovely views along the way.
We felt very safe everywhere we went. Even in the parts of town that the hotel told us were not so safe.
The food is really great.
We walked a lot (that’s what happens when you travel with my sister Esther, she doesn’t believe in using transport other than her own legs), caught uber from time to time and used the excellent Joyride Nashville buggies (complete with great drivers like Broadway Bob.)
48 Hours in Nashville
Lunch at Hattie B’s Hot Chicken.
Country Music Hall of Fame and Studio B Tour
Dinner at Husk Nashville.
Barista Parlour Germantown for breakfaast.
Martin’s Bar-B-Que joint in downtown Nashville for the best brisket sandwich you may ever have. Ever.
Afternoon ten pin bowling and cocktails at Pinewood Social.
A concert at Grand Ole Opry, the home of American Country Music.
Drinks and snacks at The Patterson House
The Omni Hotel is a conference hotel and it is quite nice, although pricey for what it is. The best thing about it is that it is walking distance from everything. Service was great.
If you are driving into town from Memphis (as we did), it’s worth stopping at the Loveless Cafe. Not for the biscuits (which it is apparently famous for) which we actually found quite ordinary, but for the pit cooked BBQ pork sandwich that Michael ordered and said was the best one he’d had on the trip. And we’d just come from Memphis where he ate a great deal of BBQ pork! We also loved the pie sampler plate – pecan, coconut cream, chocolate fudge. It’s a cute place to stop, and a nice intro to the touristy side of Nashville.
TO EAT, DRINK AND BE MERRY
Husk – I have been a huge Husk (and Sean Brock) fan since I went to Husk Charleston in 2012. We loved it in Charleston and that was when we had the pleasure of first meeting Sydney Chef Morgan McGlone (more about Morgan further down under Hattie B’s). Sean Brock’s restaurants really give you a taste of Southern dining at its most interesting. The restaurant is located a short walk from the Omni and is set in a lovely old heritage house. We were seated in the front room, a beautiful intimate dining room of only a few tables. Felt very special. The menu is so innovative, although if you don’t eat pig you might find it a little less exciting. Some highlights of our dinner were the hominy griddle cakes with pimento cheese and a very busy and exciting charcuterie platter with the most delicious and amazing biscuits. Man do I love biscuits! The spare ribs with scallions (spring onions) and peanuts were succulent, flavour-packed and memorable. And always dessert. A ‘PB & j’ was burnt brioche, peanut butter powder and concord sorbet (incredible!) and the ‘chocolate love cake’, both worth going back for. Can’t wait to return.
Rolf and Daughters – Our second fave dinner in Nashville (after Husk). Would definitely go back. Feels like your favourite neighbourhood restaurant, packed with locals. The food was fabulous, from the really good sourdough with seaweed butter, to the crostini with chicken liver, radish and green tomato and then the wonderful heirloom tomatoes with house ricotta, olio verde. We were all happy with our mains – an excellent chicken with preserved lemon, garlic confit, a rigatoni with lamb pancetta, eggplant, pistachio, mint and (voted #1 dish) the garganelli verde with pork ragu and sarvecchio (a local parmesan). Nice!
City House – Lovely restaurant in what looks and feels like an old school house. A Southern-inspired Italian seasonal menu with grits, charred peppers and chow chow sitting beautifully with thin crust pizza, fabulous pasta dishes and an apple crostata to write home about. We ordered a lot (unsurprisingly): Belly ham pizza with mozzarella, grana padano, chilli; Cavatelli with charred peppers, garlic, lemon, chills and pecan; Conchiglie with octopus, tomato, garlic, parsley, breadcrumbs; Yellow corn grits with lamb sumo and mustard greens; Half chicken with buttermilk and chow chow. Yum.
Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint – The BEST brisket sandwich you might ever eat, served on Texas toast (i.e. thick sliced Wonder White, go figure). Definitely do NOT miss this place for the brisket alone. And don’t forget to stuff some slaw in that sandwich. And while you’re there, you also need to try the ‘pork taco’ on a cornbread pancake with slaw, the BBQ baked potato (yes, a big fat baked potato fully loaded with BBQ pork and shredded cheese, spring onions), and the little round golden deep fried cornmeal hushpuppies. Just to see what all the fuss is about. We ate all of that and then ordered a brisket plate. Just to see. And we saw. It came with mac n cheese, slaw, a cornmeal pancake and Texas toast. And we just couldn’t leave without trying the Pecan Pie, served in a pie-shaped takeout container; it was one of the best pies of the trip.
Burger Up – Supposedly the best burger joint in Nashville. It was good. Really good! Best thing was the fried pickles – we all found them impossible to resist, as well as the Mac n Cheese balls. We tried a number of burgers including the Woodstock burger – bacon, white cheddar, JD maple ketchup, the Black and Blue Burger – blue cheese, blackening seasoning, red onion arugula and the Triple Chilli – with fried jalapenos, chilli, sambal sour cream, yellow cheddar. Don’t forget the truffle fries, sweet potato fries and plain ol’ fries.
The Pharmacy – we went there for the burgers which we had read were some of Nashville’s best. We were unfortunately getting too full by this stage – we did this straight after Martin’s! If you go, the milk shakes and sodas are great. I think (although I honestly think we were not in a position to judge) we enjoyed the Pharmacy Burger and the Farm Burger, on lovely floured bap rolls. Nice sweet potato fries and tator tots (potato gems!) on the side.
Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream Shops – down the road from Burger Up and also in the Farmer’s Market precinct – go there for their fabulous ice cream sandwiches. Our fave was the salty caramel with smoked almonds. Yep, really good.
The Goo Goo shop. A must-do while you’re in town. So, in 1912, the Goo Goo Cluster shook up the world of candy by combining more than one element in a candy bar – milk chocolate, caramel, peanuts and marshmallow nougat. Apparently it was one of the first to do such a radical thing. Imagine that! The best thing to buy in the shop are the ‘premium’ clusters made on the premises. Googoo teams up with local chefs to create the most delicious and interesting clusters. They are available for tasting and – just to compare – you should also try an original. We may have visited the store more than once.
Barista Parlour – Google led us here when we were looking for the best coffee in town. Very cool, bikie vibe warehouse, could-be-in-Brooklyn. Coffee was OK, oatmeal with apple and cinnamon was brilliant, and the egg brekkie roll was a winner. Worth a visit. Even if we had to walk there (thanks Esther) in the pouring pouring rain.
Biscuit Love – As a person totally obsessed with (American Southern) biscuits, I had to find this place which started as a food truck and grew up into a restaurant. It’s a bit fast foody and touristy but there were some really good bits. We enjoyed (just a little of) the ‘East Nasty’ (fried chicken in a biscuit with cheddar and gravy) although it was a tad dry. But we LOVED the ‘bonuts” (biscuit donuts) – served with lemon mascarpone and blueberry compote. A yeh baby moment.
The Patterson House – Don’t miss this vibey lounge bar with excellent cocktails and even more excellent bar snacks. I couldn’t go past the ‘All Dolled Up’ (prairie vodka, lemon, raspberry syrup and Dolin Blanc) and got well and truly stuck into their amazing olives and the beef tartare. Second visit we demolished the grilled cheese sandwich, Cuban sandwich and the deeeeelicious S’mores in a jar. Recommend it highly!
In search of more cocktail bars, we tried out drinks at Sinema. Nice vibe, good snacks. Would only go if you’re going to be in the area. Not that I am able to tell you what area that is, you’ll have to google it.
Hattie B’s Hot Chicken – We are fans of Sydney Chef Morgan McGlone and first met him in 2012 when he was in the kitchen at Husk Charleston. A few years ago he opened what has become the Aussie mecca for fried chicken – the really fabulous Belles Hot Chicken – in Melbourne and now Sydney. And since we are Belles’ fans, we thought we should check out Hattie B’s. We got there just before its doors opened, lined up for just 15 minutes and enjoyed fried chicken worth its crust. It is an iconic part of the food landscape of Nashville and I think you can’t go to Nashville without going. And then when you get home (if you are Australian) you can make Belles your fried chicken of choice. Lunch at Hattie B’s can be followed by Gigi’s cupcakes right next door. We did enjoy the wedding cupcake (vanilla with vanilla buttercream), the chocolate with white chocolate and choc chip buttercream and the pumpkin spice with cream cheese frosting.
A nice coffee stop is Crema for a coffee like home, and a quick muesli/yoghurt for breakfast.
Acme Feed and Seed for drinks on the rooftop bar was a nice thing to do and gives a great view over the city. It is right in the centre of the most touristy part of town. We also tried out their sushi bar for a quick early dinner before the Grand Ole Opry and it was quite nice. It is recommended by a lot of travellers but it wouldn’t be top of my list.
TO WALK AND TOUR
Grand Ole Opry. Make sure you book way ahead, the shows are only on certain nights of the week, and it changes with the season. Whether at the Ryman auditorium, or the original Opry, it is SO worthwhile; I’m not a country music fan and I LOVED it. One of the highlights was Australian guitarist Tommy Emmanuel (see video at the end of the post) who was outstanding.
Pinewood Social – a very cool and modern sort-of-country-club-vibe restaurant, bar, bowling alley and pool. We were there in autumn so there was no swimming to be had. We spent a couple of hours bowling and drinking cocktails. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon, notwithstanding the fact that Esther thrashed us all on the bowling lane.
The Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park is worth a visit. You can see the history of Nashville along a granite wall as you walk along its long pathway. It’s also right next to the Nashville Farmer’s Market which had a million varieties of pumpkins when we were there (Halloween was approaching). The Grilled Cheeserie food truck that we had heard so much about was also there on the day we were in town so naturally we had to go. We ordered a sandwich off the menu which was far better than any of the combos we tried to create ourselves.
Johnny Cash Museum – I think it is something you need to do when you’re in Nashville. I’m not really a JC fan at all, but it is an interesting museum. Johnny Cash fans will be very excited indeed.
Country Music Hall of Fame and Studio B Tour – MUST do this. An essential part of any visit to Nashville, whether you like country music or not. Wonderful!