Nashville, Tennessee - a charming town full of live music, bachelorette parties, and delicious food. Read on to learn what I ate, drank and did during my weekend in Nashville!
PSA: This is more like 72 hours in Nashville tbh but that means you get 3x as many food recommendations so please don't insist on pointing this out in the comments, thank you!
Howdy friends! This is about to be the world's longest blog post, so do me a favor: take off your pants, pour a glass of wine, and get cozy. Nashville is coming for ya!
A couple weekends ago, my friend Candice and I road tripped to good ol' Nash, just for fun. That's right - road tripped. 12 hours door to door (including mandatory stops at Bojangles and Knoxville). Through our *sparkling* personalities (lol) and LOTS of country music, we made it through - and here I am to share the foodie (and boozy) (and totally random) highlights of our trip! So let's go ahead and get started with...
The Tomato Head
Candice and I arrived in Knoxville around lunch time, just as my work laptop was about to die. After locating street parking, we made our way to the main square. We were surprised to see how cute it was - a beautiful outdoor courtyard lined with restaurants, bars, and shops, and full of people bathing in the sun, playing live music, and walking their dogs.
After walking around and snapping some pictures, we settled into a table on the patio at The Tomato Head.* I found an outlet outside, which is almost unheard of, but that we were very grateful for. Our waiter came right over and took our margarita orders - we both went with a classic margarita - and then let us peruse the menu.
*I had coincidentally matched with a DC-based Nashville native shortly before this trip, and he told us it was his favorite first-date spot in Knoxville. When I asked what his go-to was in DC, he said he had only lived there for 9 months and didn't have one yet. Um, sir, if you have been somewhere long enough to have a child, you can have a favorite first date bar. /rant
From Yelp, I knew that the restaurant was super vegetarian and vegan friendly, so I was excited to see their offerings. We were not disappointed - alongside their meat dishes they had sandwiches, salads, pizzas and all other kinds of vegetarian offerings. They also offered a side of either chips or fresh fruit, and let you choose whether you wanted the small or large version of any sandwich.
I ordered the Kepner Melt (spinach, tofu, monterey jack, herbed tomato, pineapple, roasted onion, walnut, pesto, mustard on a heated wheat roll) with fruit and Candice ordered the Tomato Head (ham, pepperoni, monterey jack, pesto, mustard, mayo, tomato, sprouts on a wheat roll) with chips. Both were amazing, as were our margaritas - the perfect thing to get us through the last three hour stretch of our road trip. We headed back to Candice's car, queued up some country music and got back on the road.
Once we arrived in Nashville, we met our AirBnB owner, dropped our stuff off in the apartment we would be staying in, moved the creepy AF stuffed animals and dolls into the hall closet (but seriously, what Med student has those on prominent display in their apartment?! Please advise) and headed out to the liquor store and Piggly Wiggly down the street to pick up some necessities (champagne, tequila and limes). Once we had downed a bottle of champagne, we headed out to dinner at Acme Feed and Seed.
Acme Feed and Seed
Okay y'all, here's "Nashville is absolutely ridiculous" part one. After getting a recommendation from our Lyft driver to try out Acme Feed and Seed on Broadway, we had him drop us off there for dinner. We assumed this was a sit-down restaurant, but upon walking in it appeared to be a place where you place an order, take a number and they bring your food to you. This wasn't exactly what we wanted for our first meal in Nashville, so we headed upstairs to see if there was a spot at the bar.
Walking through the door to the bar upstairs, we were surprised when a man suddenly grabbed Candice by both shoulders and looked her straight in the eyes.
Random Man - "Hello!!!"
Candice - "...hi?"
At this point, I assumed this was Candice's coworker that she was supposed to meet up with later in the weekend, Candice assumed the man knew her, and both of us were highly confused - but also never ones to say no to adventure. It turned out our two strange new male friends did not know Candice, but were also from out of town (Candice's suitor Jake from Seattle; mine, Pat - who we are 99% sure is married and has a family - from New York). It also turned out they wanted to buy us drinks. Well, twist my arm!
Fast forward 10 minutes and Candice and I were both nursing Stellas, telling these men all about the ukulele band we're in ("The Jess and Candi Experience"), and helping them order appetizers for us. We ended up getting a whole spread: Chicken Wings, Ribs, Barbecue Nachos, and "The Garden" aka a cheese and fruit plate that cost $60 and could have easily fed an entire potluck. Yep, all this just for us four. Thanks daddies!
After about 45 minutes of chatting, Jake made his move.
Jake - So, I need to go back to our hotel room before we go out to change out of these shorts and into pants. You ladies want to come with us and have a quick drink?
J - Absolutely not.
C - Yeah, we just got here so we're super excited to do karaoke!
Jake - It will only be a few minutes!
C - Okay, then, so why don't we get your numbers and then you can text us when you're ready and we'll meet up?
We fought over this topic for several more minutes before the men finally conceded, settled up the tab, and left the bar. Immediately afterwards, Candice and I turned to each other.
J - We're not meeting up with them.
C - Oh yeah, absolutely not. Let's go upstairs and get other guys to buy us drinks.
With that, we headed up to the roof (also highly recommended by my Hinge match), which was fun - but we wanted to explore. We headed downstairs and walked over to…
As soon as I saw the name, I knew we needed to go to Tequila Cowboy. Never mind that they didn't have karaoke! They had a live country band and that was more than enough for us DC folk. We each grabbed a Corona before heading to the front of the dance floor to get our groove on*. It was at this point that we adopted our new identities. I became Jacqui Gibson from Charleston, South Carolina, who was in town for a job interview. Claire Cooper (aka Candice) was my best friend from elementary school who had moved to the small town of Flat Lick, Kentucky** after 7th grade for her dad's new job. She and I had decided to meet up when I was in Nashville for a girls' weekend.
*My absolute favorite part of traveling is knowing that I will probably never see any of these people again, so I can be absolutely ridiculous without fear that I will run into them at the Dupont Circle Starbucks every Sunday morning for the rest of my life. DC is WAY too small, guys.
**A real town, I promise.
THAT'S RIGHT. We told men that "Claire" was from a town called FLAT LICK and they ate this shit up, despite the fact that I had to chug my beer every time she introduced herself to someone to keep from laughing. What a world we live in. Some highlights:
- Man with one hand - Hey ladies! Will you dance on my brother and make out with him a little? It's his bachelor party.
C - What's in it for us?
Man with one hand - Ahh, a businesswoman! You're smarter than a lot of the girls around here.
- Man wearing zip off cargo pants - Where did you go to college?
C - Oh, I didn't go to college.
M - That must be why you're so beautiful!
- Man Wearing Leisure Suit - I live in New York.
J - *thick southern accent* THE BIG CITY!!!
With Coronas purchased by our benefactors in hand, we danced a while more before heading next door for some much-needed karaoke.
If you haven't heard, Nashville is now the #1 destination in the US for bachelorette parties, and the #2 destination for bachelor parties (Vegas being #1). As such, every bar we went to was overwhelmingly full of screaming girls. Not ideal, but bearable.
Karaoke at WannaB's was this on steroids.
Now, I have sat through a lot of off-tune karaoke in my life. However, give an entire bachelorette party a stage, a microphone, and a karaoke version of "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" and you are in for trouble. Thus, after one song each (Man! I Feel Like a Woman for me, I Will Survive for Candice) we departed and headed down to street to find another bar that my friend Taylor was at - this one also with karaoke.
I don't want to spend much time here because I've already written them nasty Yelp and Facebook reviews AND slid into Alan Jackson's Instagram DMs (still waiting for a response), but karaoke at AJ's was absolutely terrible. I saw a bachelorette and her friend give the BEST karaoke performance of "Total Eclipse of the Heart" only to get kicked out because they cursed on the microphone (still unsure why this mattered at a 21+ bar). A woman made a political statement about kneeling for the National Anthem on stage (WELCOME to the South). On top of this, I waited 1.5 hours and still did not get to sing because I only tipped the karaoke man $10 and everyone else was tipping $20+. Um, sorry, I'd rather spend my money elsewhere. We left after I got into a fight with the emcee and headed home, where we enjoyed the frozen food spoils of our AirBnB before passing out cold.
Three Brothers Coffee
We woke up bright and early the next morning, having signed up for a workout class with CityStrong in Country Music Hall of Fame Park. I knew Shawn and Erin's workouts are tough from religiously stalking Kaitlyn Bristowe on Snapchat (no shame), so we headed to Three Brothers Coffee down the street to fuel up before the class.
I had an egg sandwich on an English muffin while Candice had a fruit cup, and we each had an iced coffee. The coffee and food was good, but the best part was definitely the open, artsy atmosphere and the friendly baristas that gave us free laptop stickers. Once we finished our food, we filled our water bottles and headed over to CityStrong.
I was scrolling through Instagram about a week after Candice and I had decided to embark on our Nashville expedition when I came across an ad for the CityStrong anniversary class… in Nashville… the weekend we were going to be there? For only $20??? I was STOKED. Those who know me know that I'm a huge fan of the Bachelor franchise and have no greater ambition* than to be on the show, so I was thrilled at the prospect of meeting Kaitlyn and Shawn in person.
*Embarrassing but true. Please hire me.
The workout was definitely tough and well worth the money (especially considering a SoulCycle class in DC will run you $39?!). It was all bodyweight-based, so we were doing squat jumps, pushups, tricep dips, switch lunges, and more. It was fun and fast-paced, and staring at Shawn Booth's ass is a great way to stay motivated for 60 minutes. JUST SAYING. Kellie Pickler also showed up to work out with us, which was cool. Freaking Nashville, man.
Post-workout, Candice and I showered and got ready for our brunch reservations at Listening Room Café, which was highly recommended by my coworker Rachel. We called a Lyft, and he took us to Listening Room… only to find that it was closed?? We thought maybe we were just at the wrong location, so we had our (saintly) driver (who I'm in love with and tours DC with his band sometimes) (I gave him my number) (IF YOU'RE READING THIS PLEASE TEXT ME) take us to the second location… only to find that it was also closed.
We were bummed. We were starving. We needed food STAT. So, we walked down Broadway until we found the first restaurant that looked legit and wasn't packed with bachelorettes on this Saturday afternoon. Merchants was the answer.
We walked in and were immediately seated at the best spot in the house, a window booth that gave us the perfect vantage point for people watching. When the waitress told us that the soup of the day was a vegetarian curry, we were both sold. We ordered the Fried Green Tomatoes (house made pimento cheese, sweet pepper jam) as an appetizer alongside our rosé (Candice) and Broadway Bramble (prairie vodka, lemon, st. george raspberry liqueur). The fried green tomatoes were DELICIOUS, and exactly what we needed after the workout class and a good amount of walking. Our soup arrived shortly thereafter, along with our salads - Caesar with Cornbread Croutons for me, Wedge for Candice. My salad was delicious, though the croutons were nothing special; Candice's salad, on the other hand, was sloppily plated and tasted a bit funky. Alongside the sub-par soup, this wasn't the best meal we had in Nashville by any means, but the drinks were good and our service was fantastic - we especially enjoyed hearing about the ghost who lives in the upstairs of the restaurant.
After lunch, we headed down the street to the (relatively) new Florida Georgia Line bar to grab drinks, see live music and meet up with Candice's coworker Gavin. The two-man band playing was incredible, covering some of our favorite country songs, and we quickly befriended a bachelorette party at the bar. We just had vodka sodas and margaritas, which were standard - but nothing could possibly compare to our next stop.
Hattie B's Hot Chicken
I knew when I came to Nashville that I would not be vegetarian when I had the chance to eat Nashville Hot Chicken. Life is simply too short! So, after we were sufficiently tipsy from our drinks at Merchants and FGL, we took a Lyft down to Hattie B's.
How long did we wait in line? A full hour.
Was it worth it? ABSOLUTELY.
We both got Hot Chicken Tender plates that came with two sides - Candice opted for the Pimiento Macaroni and Cheese and Beans, while I went for the Grits and Cole Slaw. Everything was AMAZING except then I touched my eye to put in my contacts and got hot chicken powder in there and everything hurt. Buyer beware. Also, probably not the best thing to eat right before going out, but we were in Nashville! We were determined.
Having gotten our fill of Broadway bars on Friday night, we decided Saturday night would be reserved for Midtown bars. Specifically, we had heard that Losers, Kung Fu and Rebar were the spots to go (all are next to each other, very convenient for adventurous bar hoppers like ourselves). We got ready, drank our second bottle of champagne (RIP us) and grabbed a Lyft to Losers.
Now, until this point in the trip I had been dead set on finding a way to move to Nashville. I love country music, live music, southern hospitality, and the more congenial vibe that stands in stark contrast to DC. After going out in Midtown, however, I realized that Nashville and DC are exactly the same. Save for the live music (which is amazing) and the abundance of bachelorette parties (which is not), the vibe was exactly the same. Not to say this is a bad thing - after all, I've lived in DC for 24 years, so it must be doing something right - but I was slightly less enamored. Also, Candice got probably the worst margarita of her life and was stalked by a creepy short guy at Kung Fu (he was from DC, classic) which may have added negative influence. Regardless, she ended up meeting back up with Gavin at Kung Fu while I made my way back to Broadway to meet up with my friend Casey. The rest of the night was fun - we went to Tootsie's, Crazytown and FGL - but it was nothing to write home about.
Tavern and Chuy's
The next morning, after sleeping in until noon (we both were feeling ROUGH), we headed out to Tavern for brunch per my friend Max's recommendation. There was a 45-minute wait, so we headed across the street to Chuy's in the meantime to grab a margarita.
This Chuy's was AMAZING. The bartender was the sweetest (and hottest) California transplant, and we had a great time talking to him over margaritas. Then, the unthinkable happened - when we finished our first margarita, he set a second down in front of each of us.
We were astounded, and he cracked up at the shock on our faces. "Drinks are buy one get one free pretty much everywhere in Nashville on Sundays!"
…on second thought, maybe I am moving.
Post-second margarita, our table was ready, so we headed across the street to Tavern's disco-themed brunch. This was also buy one get one free drinks. Our waiter was also a gorgeous man dressed in an Elvis costume. Is Nashville heaven?
I started with their Red Sangria, and Candice went for a Blood Orange Mimosa. Both were amazing, and we ended up swapping drink orders for round two.
As for food, I ordered the Roasted Peppers and Squashes Omelette served alongside a "White Trash Hash" - riced potatoes that were INCREDIBLE. I wasn't hungry, so I really only ended up eating the squash and the white trash hash, but I was more than satisfied.
Candice ordered the cheddar cheese biscuits with chorizo gravy, and she also loved them - however, similarly not hungry, she could only get through one out of three. No matter - we took a long, leisurely brunch, leaving around 3 PM to head home and nap.
Red Door Saloon
Honestly, I think both of us could have napped straight through to the next morning - but we were in Nashville! When 6:30 rolled around, we dragged ourselves out of bed, put on real clothes, and tried to head to East Nashville… only to find that a Lyft was $35. Um, what? No thank you! Instead, we decided to give Midtown one more shot, opting for Red Door Saloon, a dive that we heard had a fun atmosphere.
We shouldn't have been as surprised as we were when we ordered one beer and were presented with two, but hey - Nashville Sundays. A man sitting next to us struck up a conversation, and we chatted with him and the bartenders for the next several hours over our beers and personal pizzas. We also peeked through the famous hole in the bar floor, where you can see a whole "skeleton." Once we finished our beers, we headed home to sleep before our return trip the next day.
As we packed our suitcases and loaded the car the next morning, we were full of mixed emotions. Happy for the amazing weekend we'd had, sad for leaving such a great city. Happy to be leaving our terrifying, haunted AirBnB (literally couldn't sleep all weekend thanks to those creepy dolls), sad for our livers and our wallets. Alas, we hit the road for about 3 hours before stopping in Knoxville for lunch once again.
The Plaid Apron
Our return trip took us to a different, more residential area of Knoxville to grab lunch at The Plaid Apron, where we each ordered the Peach and Goat Cheese Grilled Cheese on Rosemary Foccacia with Tomato Soup. UM, HELLO?? Have you ever seen/heard of something so wonderful? Because I sure hadn't - and it only exceeded our expectations. Mm, mm, mm.
Billy Jack's Wing & Draft Shack
Our final stop of the trip was in Harrisonburg, VA around dinner time. My brother goes to JMU, so I had asked him where we should go, but he was absolutely no help at all #under21problems. Luckily, my friend Hannah saved the day and recommended we go to Billy Jack's Wing & Draft Shack - and we're so glad we did! We each got two sliders (pulled pork and fried chicken - a fond farewell to my carnivorous weekend), fries, and a beer before getting back on the road for the last 2.5 hour stretch.
And that's a wrap! If you made it through this entire post, congratulations - you're obviously either extremely bored, very infatuated with Nashville, or a guy from a dating app trying to figure out more about me by analyzing my writing style. If so, sorry for making you lose interest by showing that I'm an alcoholic who often adopts fake identities at bars.
Overall, Nashville was such an amazing experience, and Candice and I had an incredible time! (I'm also still amazed that I made this great of a friend and travel buddy in Ecuador, and that we'll be in Italy together in just over a month!) I can't wait to come back - mostly to meet the famous Wells Adams (please love me) and to try more of the amazing restaurants we didn't have time for, but also because I'm still hoping to be discovered as a country star.
Next up - Austin, Texas!