Although it’s been a month since I returned from Nashville, I feel compelled to write up the rest of my trip and share some recommendations for what to do in Nashville if you’re not at a B2B Marketing conference.
Anyway, when we last left off, I was feeling sad about a homeless dog – something I could do in pretty much any town. I needed to start having a unique Nashville experience ASAP, or at the very least, eat something covered in cheese. Fortunately, my friend V was prepared to drive me around on a very laid-back whirlwind tour of the city that would solve both needs.
We started at Old Glory, a really hip place in a hard-to-find back alley in East Nashville. They had gourmet twists on traditional southern food (aka, they served pimento cheese on a nice plate) and lots of elaborate cocktails. The walls were exposed brick, and the lofty layout would have been considered a massive waste of space in any other town.
Sarcasm aside, this place had good food, drink and charmingly lo-fi aesthetic that provided a good environment for V and I catch each other up on the last year of our lives. We talked about wanting to be less attached to “checking boxes” and figuring out how to get what we wanted in unconventional ways. It may sound pretentious, but I assure you, we fit right in with the artisan cocktails and exposed brick.
After that, V wanted to show me a place where he volunteers, Turnip Green Creative Reuse, a place that “diverts usable material from our landfill for creative endeavors.” As an out-of-towner, I wasn’t tempted to pick up too many weird scraps or tiles, but they have some cool artwork and jewelry at the front. It’s also made from recycled materials and benefits the non-profit.
From there, we went to a completely different kind of place – 3 Crow Bar. This place seemed legit Southern, except for the sign out front that said I couldn’t bring my gun inside.
V was insistent that I drink something called a Bushwacker, which the bartender disgustedly described as, “two kinds of rum and half a cow.” What she meant was “it’s a mudslide with a different name.” We sat outside and watched numerous bachelor and bachelorette parties stumble through. I can’t remember a word of our conversation, which is either because I black out when forced to discuss my love life or because I black out after drinking two kinds of rum before 3pm. Either way, it was time to take a break.
High Garden Tea was the most serious tea store I’ve ever encountered (which coming from San Francisco by way of Brooklyn is saying a lot.) Part of the store was dedicated to herbal remedies for all kind of situations. The rest of the shop, where we shared a delicious pot of tea, included a deck of spirit animal tarot cards and lots of empty notebooks. We found our spirit animals (shark and unicorn) and made a collaborative doodle.
Although I probably could have taken a nap there, we eventually left and began wandering in the just-gentrified hipster haven of East Nashville.
We went into Rusty Rat’s Antique and Vintage, where not only were they selling cool old vintage stuff, they were actually playing The Wonder Years on TV. I walked in and gasped, “Oh my god, it’s Kevin!! Wait, is that is his name?” Without looking up or even glancing at me, the woman at the cash register replied, “Yes, it’s him.”
We checked out a few more stores with elegant laundry baskets and expensive soap before landing at a restaurant called Amot for a spontaneous dessert.
This place was cute and dessert was good, but amusingly, they ran out of cake, so they served the berries and frosting in a parfait cup and didn’t explain why until we asked. Amot also serves food that looked pretty good and had a wall covered in inspirational quotes (one of which might have been “when life gives you lemons, just eat the parfait.”)
From there, we went to check out Nashville’s gay bar scene by way of a bar called Canvas. There, I saw a lot of preppy, fratty men who were allegedly gay. Okay, Okay, they were gay. But given that most of the straight guys in SF and Brooklyn present as gay, it was briefly incomprehensible to me that a gay man would choose to dress in khaki shorts and one of those egg-shell pink polo shirts. But V explained that in Nashville, even the gay guys want a wife, a mini-van, 2.5 kids and a white picket fence as soon as possible, “it’s just they want their wife to be a man.”
At Canvas, we sat out front, slugged down vodka sodas and used the polo-shirted men as a jumping off point for a conversation about gender, sexuality, whether masculinity is a form of homophobia and if it’s fair to speculate about other people’s preferences. We didn’t talk to anyone there, except when someone zoomed by doing wheelies on a Harley Davidson. One of the preppy gay guys gave me a conspiratorial head nod and said, “he has a small penis.”
At that point, a day’s worth of drinking was starting to hit me and I knew I was going to need more fried things to soak up the alcohol. We swung by to pick up my friend D from work and headed to a bar/restaurant music venue called the Family Wash.
We sat in the back to avoid paying $10 to see the Neil Young cover band. (Although they seemed pretty good from a distance.) We ordered crispy potato skins that came with aioli and beer cheese. After drinking water and fairly rationing out the beer cheese like civilized adults, we were ready for a real dinner.
We went to a restaurant called Treehouse. Protip 1: If you want to eat in an actual treehouse, you need a reservation and a party of 6. Protip 2: If you don’t get a seat in the treehouse, you might be better off heading somewhere else (which is what we did.)
We moved on to seats at the bar of Tenn Sixteen, where D tried to order a glass of wine and the bartender very seriously lectured us on how much cheaper it would be if we got a whole bottle. (We went for it.) At this point, D and I thought it was time for a salad but V wanted a plate of deviled eggs (which are apparently a huge deal in Nashville.) I’ve never seen so many different kinds of them served at one time. A few had bacon and some of them even contained (you guessed it!): pimento cheese.
We also got pretzels, because apparently those are a thing that can also be dipped in cheese.
Miraculously, given that I had started my day at a B2B Marketing conference in the suburbs, I was awake enough to go one more bar – The Crying Wolf. They have a gorgeous deck there, but the view was completely ruined by the faces of many 20-somethings. We spent time debating whether the guy who talked to D was hitting on her, or just a pretentious asshole who mistook her for an Ivy-league grad. We also discussed what happens to your face in between your 20s and 30s that makes you look old even if you don’t have wrinkles.
(Sadness? Disappointment? Awareness? The cloud of mortality? Or maybe just loss of baby fat.)
Thankfully, there was a couple having a really mediocre first date right next us, and making fun of them really cheered us up. Plus, when we went home, D’s cat was really happy to see us.