In honor of Convention beginning in Nashville in less than two weeks (REGISTRATION CLOSES MONDAY!), we asked the Central Office former resident foodie Brad Beskin to share his Nashville highlights to help you plan your upcoming trip.
Welcome back to Nashville, TN: Your Convention destination for 2014 and one of the coolest cities in the United States. I hope you’ve booked some free time around your Convention schedule.
Now, there are plenty of essential touristy things to do: the Country Music Hall of Fame, for instance, is a great place to spend a few hours. And the Opryland Hotel is a massive structure with a beautiful interior (it has a river inside it, ya’ll). And, season depending, you can see the Titans, Sounds, or Predators play. Is there an epic concert at Bridgestone Arena? Or you could see any number of concerts at any number of venues. Go for it! But someone on your flight is going to tell you that you MUST stand in line for the Pancake Pantry. DON’T. That’s were we [former] locals send you so you won’t clog up our favorite destinations. IT’S A TRICK! So in this I’m going to break protocol, incur a demerit, and share with you the gems that I consider to be the “don’t dare miss” spots in Music City.
There’s one rule to follow in Nashville: Go Local. This means no chains. Eat at local restaurants, drink local beer, and celebrate local accomplishments. While there’s nothing wrong with it, you didn’t come all this way for lettuce wraps at PF Chang’s. Your Convention hotel, the Vandy Marriott, is conveniently situated on West End Boulevard with great access to most of Nashville. However, you’ll find mostly chains within walking distance. Luckily, the rule of thumb is that everything is 15 minutes away or less. So, don’t be afraid to use a cab (or Lyft or Uber if you’re not opposed) to venture out to some rewarding spots!
Now, if I had three unencumbered days in Nashville, I imagine they’d look something like this:
I’ve landed. I’m famished and it’s getting to be chowtime. I grab the rental Kia Rio, and head to the hotel. Check-in, take a sprint shower to wash off the smell of a crowded airplane, and head toward Belmont University and one of my favorite hot spots.
Chef, owner, and all around cool guy Mahar Fawaz is well known for his Mediterranean staple, Kalamatas. He provides consistently good and accessible falafel, gyro, kebob, and balaclava. Tonight, I’m trying his new Lebanese bistro in the 12 South neighborhood called Epice, and it’s a grand slam. Extremely tasty food, fun atmosphere, and very reasonable price point. It’s new and popular, so prepare yourself to wait without a reservation. Go grab a drink at Urban Grub and come back when it’s time.
If (and this would never actually happen) Lebanese food didn’t suit my palate, I’d enjoy that drink at Urban Grub and stay for dinner. You read about it in the fall 2012 issue of the Purple and Gold. It’s a celebration of inspired southern cuisine that never disappoints. Again, a reservation would be a good idea!
Now, I’m parched. It’s time to pay homage to the place that taught me about classic cocktails. When in Nashville, one doesn’t miss the opportunity for a hand-crafted beverage at Patterson House. Here’s a twist for you: I’m not drinking tonight; big week ahead and I need to chillax. So it’s one of their delicious “mocktails” and an order of beignets from the kitchen. Maybe a book. The atmosphere is so worth it. Keep your eyes peeled for celebrities! A few minutes of reading at the bar sets me right, and I’m headed home. Big day tomorrow.
Big day underway, and I need to start it off right. I meet my former boss/current friend Sam for coffee at Pinewood Social. This crew, who has brought you everything from last night’s cocktail bar to the trailer-park themed honky tonk, Paradise Park, can’t miss. Coffee is provided by Crema, so I get to knock out two of my favorites in one stop. Be sure to throw some stones down the vintage bowling lanes when you go!
OMG, all this food! My waistline is suffering and I need to fix it. Time for a proper rear-end kicking at Barry’s Bootcamp Nashville. My friend Megan Connor is teaching Hard Core today. So for an hour, I get the best workout in the world. Often imitated, never replicated: BBC is the best workout you can get. “LET GO OF THAT TREADMILL, BRAD BESKIN!” This is truly one of the things I miss the most in Austin. No membership required to go, so call and sign up. The gym has nice shower facilities and lockers, and classes are appropriate for all fitness levels. Call to reserve your spot and give it a whirl! If you want to come with me during Convention, let me know.
Showered, recovered, and ready to eat again! I can’t go to Nashville without having lunch at International Market and Restaurant. Patty Myint and her family kept me well-fed and healthy for years in Nashville. She taught me about Thai food, scolded me for my misbehaviors, and nursed me through head colds with spicy soup and delicious tea. I miss these ladies so much!! You will not find a more authentic approach to Thai home cooking in the US. Skip the hot line, order at the register, and don’t hesitate to ask for recommendations. Oh, and order something with a little more flavor than pad thai, please.
Let’s relax. The sun is shining, and there has got to be some kind of cool festival taking place in Centennial Park. I tour the Parthenon left over from the Tennessee Centennial Exposition, duck the Frisbees flying in every direction, and soak up some vitamin d. It’s right across from the hotel, so I “borrowed” a towel and grabbed some sunscreen at the drug store.
Snack time, I so head back toward Rutledge Hill, dock the Kia in my old Central Office parking spot, and walk next door for a refreshment at Husk. The bar is the place to be, with an impressive list of custom cocktails and sipping spirits. When the kitchen opens, we order an assortment of snacks from the starter menu. Bone marrow, pig ear lettuce wraps, a light salad, warm bread and pork butter. Mmmmhmm. Come to think of it, I may want two cocktails. Better leave the Kia at the Marriott and take a cab. Is that Sean Brock? Yeah, that’s Sean Brock RIGHT THERE. Now I’m nerding out. “Chef! CHEF! I LOVE YOU, MAN!!”
For a late dinner, I’m headed to the Gulch. What used to be a derelict convolution of railways and storage lots is now one of the hottest places in town. And the latest addition to its list of great restaurants is Adele. Chef Jonathan Waxman has created a true American bistro in a former tire store with a large open kitchen, wood burning oven, and garage-style doors. The late-night menu kicks in after 10:30 PM and is just awesome. Nom nom nom!
Let’s see…what to do? I don’t watch Nashville, so I have no desire to track down all the shooting locations. Better get my day started with a little calorie burn. The Nashville Greenway winds its way around the city and makes for a beautiful scenic run of any duration.
Showered and ready to eat, I know that brunch at the Southern Steak and Oyster downtown is always good decision. Live bluegrass, fresh oysters, and good ole’ southern cookin’…with a modern elegance. Try the chicken and waffles! They’ll valet your car, which is well worth it to avoid downtown parking.
Now, some culture! Does the Frist have a cool exhibit (Watch Me Move: Animation Show and Real/Surreal will be the main exhibits during Convention)? What about a few hours at the beautiful gardens of Cheekwood (Don’t miss the David Rogers’ Big Bugs or Andy Warhol’s Flowers exhibits)? Maybe a stop at the Bellemeade Plantation. I just can’t decide! They’re all worth the trip and very much the antithesis of what you get at the intersection of Broadway and 2nd Avenue.
More time to kill? Great! I head to the Corsair Distillery, or visit the Jackalope Brewery. Nashville has a great craft culture and the products coming out of its breweries and distilleries are just top notch. Most offer tours, tastings, and a healthy dose of America’s oldest art form.
I need a quick shopping fix, which I’ll take out within two stops. First, I head to Imogene + Willie in 12 South. This is iconic Nashville attire: slightly hipster, homegrown, super chic. Really nice denim. Definitely worth the stop. Next, I head to the Otis James studio in Marathon Village and pick out a new bowtie. The studio space alone, which occupies part of the old Marathon Motorworks factory, is very cool. And the ties are just awesome!
Late flight out means time for one last meal. City House sits in an unassuming building in Nashville’s oldest neighborhood, Germantown. It’s one of the best meals you can have in the city and never disappoints. The flavor combinations Chef Tandy Wilson creates may seem a little odd, but trust them. You’ll definitely need a reservation for this one. Sit at the chef’s counter if you can.
And with that, I’m spent. Kia to the airport, and I’m headed back to Austin. Frankly, there are dozens of wonderful places in Music City in which to eat and enjoy your friends’ company. They don’t make this list because…well, it’s MY list and THESE are MY favorites. But you can find the others very easily using the following resources. If you need additional recommendations, check them out!
Culture: Nashville Scene
Safe travels to Nashville! You’ll love it! See you at Convention!