Updated: Nov 9, 2020
While sitting in our apartment on a hot Baltimore day, Yelena and I had a pressing conversation: what were we going to do for the Fourth of July? She wanted to go north to escape the humidity, but I suggested we go to a much hotter and more humid location - Nashville. I have never been, and Yelena was excited to re-explore it with me.
We flew into Nashville early on July 3rd and dropped our bags off at a Radical Storage location. These companies are a lifesaver if you need a place to store luggage while you wait for your hotel or Airbnb. We then headed off to Belmont Manor, a historic mansion built by Adelicia and Joseph Acklen. The building was impressive, and the surrounding gardens were incredibly elaborate.
After burning a few calories exploring the Manor, we decided that brunch at Ruby Sunshine was in order. This was an excellent idea because: 1) brunch is always an excellent idea, and 2) Ruby Sunshine serves New Orleans-inspired brunch cuisine, which never fails to satisfy. Yelena ordered the Florentine omelet which was light and flavorful. I went with the fried chicken biscuits topped with sausage gravy and fries - obviously a much denser meal, but delicious. I recommend eating outside during the Spring and Fall.
Since it was such a nice day, we decided to hit the Sylvan Park neighborhood where we walked around McCabe Park and took in the nice weather. After we walked off some of the food, we took an Uber to the 12th South neighborhood, which has an eclectic mix of boutiques, vintage shops, restaurants, and jewelry stores, among many other small businesses. It’s fun to visit even if you’re just browsing. By then it was 4 pm, and we could check into our Airbnb in downtown Nashville.
After a power nap and a quick shower, we were rejuvenated. We had made a Resy reservation for 5th & Taylor earlier in the week and we were starving. 5th & Taylor did not disappoint. We had cornbread (obviously), chicken liver mousse, and dumplings to start. Since I am a glutton for punishment (and a glutton in general), I decided on the beef cheek pot roast for dinner, and Yelena went with the grouper with collard greens, hen of the wood, and turnip puree. Once we ostensibly sated our insatiable hunger, the next move was to visit Broadway to check out some live music.
We stumbled upon Johnny Cash’s Kitchen and Saloon right off Broadway, which is partly modeled on Johnny Cash’s home, including the stained-glass windows and wood fireplace. We arrived just in time to watch a fun cover band with no bassist. We were serenaded with compelling renditions of classics, such Livin’ on a Prayer by Bon Jovi and Girls, Girls, Girls by Mötley Crüe. It was fun to end the night in a small club with a relaxed atmosphere.
The next day, which was the Fourth of July, we woke up early(ish) and made our way to Belle Meade Mansion, which is one of the plantation homes that ring Nashville. We bought tickets to the tour and went through the entire mansion with our tour guide, who told us about the long and sordid history of the house. The property itself was very well maintained and kept in the condition it would have been over 100 years ago. The tour served as reminder of the historical tragedy that was American slavery.
After the tour we, once again, needed brunch, but had no concrete plan. We stumbled across a bottomless brunch spot called Sinema. You read that correctly, this was not just bottomless drinks, but bottomless plates of food as well. This was a dangerous situation as I do not have the iron will of Yelena and consistently fall prey to my lack of self-control. We started off with sides of crispy bacon, chimichurri potatoes, scrambled eggs & sausage; roasted poblano, crab, chorizo with goat cheese; and a smoked salmon platter. After one (or three) plates of each, we moved onto the main courses because ... why not? We decided on the fried chicken and the chilaquiles, both of which were outstanding. No meal is complete without dessert, so the next order was the sweets plate, which includes: their signature Fruity Pebbles French toast served with blueberry compote and whipped cream, a croissant, a blueberry muffin, and brownies.
Yelena suggested a walk around Broadway to explore some of the shops and check out the Honky Tonks. They were only slightly less loud than the night before, which was great for us as it provided a needed distraction from our satiety. After a half-day of tours, food, and walking, we decided to head back to our Airbnb and relax by the pool. After a few hours of relaxation and sun, we were revived and ready to venture back out into the Nashville area for dinner.
We made reservations at Husk, owned by chef Sean Brock, which is known for their Southern inspired and locally sourced cuisine. They have two other locations: in Savannah, GA and Charleston, SC. We had been to the other two earlier in the year, so Husk Nashville completed the 2020 Husk World Tour. We started off with a peach and goat cheese salad, pickled vegetables, and a crawfish salad. Our main dishes were served shortly after - I ordered the brisket and Yelena decided on the catfish. Both were savory and delicious! To cap off our meal, I goaded us into ordering a gigantic chocolate chip cookie with sea salt and a cake with a blueberry compote. All in all, a great dining experience, and end to the night.
On our last day in Nashville, we wanted to make it count. It was a sunny morning with a high of 93 degrees, so Yelena reminded me to apply sunscreen (thank you for caring about wrinkles). I had read great reviews about the brunch menu at Liberty Common, so we ordered an Uber and made our way over there. We started off with the buffalo cauliflower bites. These were seriously the best buffalo cauliflower we ever had! I was also finally able to try my first Nashville hot chicken sandwich. I was an instant fan and slightly annoyed at myself for not ordering it sooner on the trip. Yelena decided on fried chicken, egg, cheese, and bacon biscuit sandwich, which is always solid.
After brunch we heard live music being played and wandered over to its source - Hampton Social. It was a whole vibe. The place is very relaxed, decorated well, and has great drinks - we’ll definitely come back the next time we’re in Nashville. We grabbed a couple of refreshments and took in the scene for a bit before heading over to the Gulch neighborhood.
As you probably know from Instagram, the Gulch neighborhood has the famous What Lifts You Mural - a pair of tall, white, painted wings over a black brick surface. What many people do not know is that there is a smaller mural right next to it for children. Of course, I needed a photo of myself sitting on the ground at the toddler mural because I am, in fact, a child. After walking around the neighborhood, we booked a golf cart tour through Nashville.
I highly recommend Joy Ride Nashville, an excellent tour company that has friendly and knowledgeable drivers. We started the tour off in the Gulch neighborhood and drove down to Music Row, a little bit southwest of downtown around 16th and 17th Avenues South. The area is full of historic recording studios, including RCA Studio B and Columbia’s Historic Quonset Hut, which was the first recording studio in the area. Our tour guide gave us the full background of these historic recording studios. Many contemporary country artists and music producers operate their own recording studios out of this area as well. We topped off the Music Row tour by checking out the Musica statue, a large bronze statue of nine figures, completed by artist Alan LeQuire in 2003.
After leaving Music Row, our tour guide showed us the amazing murals in Nashville. Some of the most legendary country stars are memorialized: Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings, Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, and Leon Russell. After Yelena and I took an ungodly number of photos, the tour guide drove us to Jack Daniel’s moonshine distillery. While they don’t actually distill any whiskey at the location, you can purchase some pretty interesting whiskeys and have your own personal tasting. After the distillery, the tour guide took us back to where we began the tour in the Gulch and we plotted our next move. Yelena wanted to go to Uncommon James, which is owned by Kristin Cavallari, to buy some jewelry and just check out the store in general. She decided on a pair of earrings and a very cool mask.
Once we were all shopped out, we decided to relax on the rooftop at L.A. Jackson, which overlooks the Gulch neighborhood. The vibe is great, the drinks are delicious, and their small plates really hit the spot. Yelena decided on a frosé for a refreshment, and I ordered cheese fries (which is equally refreshing). We sat on the roof, recapped our trip, and took in the Nashville skyline.
Nashville was a great city to visit and we would recommend it for a weekend getaway.
But more importantly, don’t forget to see the world, and eat the food.