Wrapping It Up: Venturing Further Afield

If you have time to venture a little further afield from Middle Tennessee, here are some ideas.

Memphis: We’ve covered Nashville pretty thoroughly, and I discussed Chattanooga here. But I think Memphis is an interesting place. This is a very brief list of my Memphis tourism must-sees.

There’s lots more, of course—not least of which is the barbeque. We’re partial to the Germantown Commissary. Central’s midtown (original) location is near enough the highway to stop for lunch if you’re headed west.

Small towns: Tennessee’s full of ’em, of course. But here are four that might delight you—perhaps paired with a night in a B&B …

Mississippi Blues Trail: I have never done this, but, man, I think it would be a fun vacation. This article mentions the “list of markers and locations was developed by a panel of blues scholars and historians”—one of whom was a graduate student at MTSU that I interviewed nearly a decade ago for the alumni magazine. Fascinating stuff.

Tennessee Whiskey Trail: Another interesting drive, I think, if you’re into whiskey. 🙂

Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky: Here’s the thing—it’s the longest cave system known in the world. And it’s just a two-hour drive from Murfreesboro.

Finally, A Personal Itinerary

We had some family coming in from Ireland who wanted to “sample” the South. They thought about driving to New Orleans, but that’s eight hours in a car (one way, before breaks) and I don’t find it a particularly interesting eight hours. This is the alternate itinerary I suggested for them.

  1. Drive from here to Chattanooga (“Bluff City”).

It’s an hour and a half. They have a beautiful arts district (galleries, arts&crafts, called Bluff View Art District) near downtown, historic buildings; and a gorgeous pedestrian bridge that takes you over the Tennessee River from the bluff, and a fabulous world-famous aquarium. There’s also Lookout Mountain, which played an important role in the Civil War, and you can take an incline railway up (rather than drive) to “see seven states” (or at least four). Seriously spectacular scenery. Spend all day, have dinner, then drive on to Atlanta, which would be another 3 hours. Arrive late.

  1. Atlanta, Georgia.

This is a gorgeous city with great nightlife, lots of history, shopping … There’s the whole Atlanta History Center complex, the High Museum of Art, the Margaret Mitchell House (Gone With the Wind!), Coca-Cola museum, botanical garden and park, Fernbank Museum of Natural History, Stone Mountain Park, and so much more. You could spend days. But maybe spend two nights.

  1. Asheville, North Carolina.

Drive up through the Blue Ridge Mountains to Asheville; it’s about four hours. It is a little hippie-ish town (let’s say it has a vibe like Cork) in the mountains. It is a foodie paradise—so many wonderful places to eat! But beautiful scenery, the North Carolina Arboretum (gardens), the Biltmore Estate (go for afternoon tea), great nightlife. Spend a night or two here, then head back to Nashville (four hours) after lunch.

  1. Nashville.

I know you’ll want to experience some Nashville nightlife. So check in to your hotel, have a little rest, then hit the honky-tonks on lower Broad.

• • •

This concludes (for now, anyway) my series for Tennessee visitors.

 

Nashville Nightlife

As you might imagine, “nightlife”—with everything that word conjures up—is not high on my to-do list. My idea of nightlife these days is a soak in the hot tub before bed. 🙂

But! I have several friends coming in from out of town for a specific event, and they’re going to spend a few days here too. One of them likes to dance—and she specifically mentioned rock music, as opposed to country. She said, “Any boomer hangouts with cover bands? Or even soul music? Or even 80’s new wave/alternative?”

Well, I’m sure there are … I’m just not cool enough to know about them. So I ran this request past my friends. As one does.

• “The 5 Spot in East Nashville has a legendary soul dance party on Monday nights.” Jamie notes: East Nashville is one of the hippest neighborhoods in Nashville.

• “The 5 Spot has a great rock-n-roll happy hour set from 6-8 on Fridays.”

• “The Flipside! I have my sources.” Jamie notes: 12 South is another very cool Nashville neighborhood.

• “12th & Porter: No-cover dance parties on Saturday nights, starts around 11:30, don’t get there any earlier.” Jamie notes: Gosh, it’s been years since I was at 12th & Porter!

• “Acme Feed and Seed on Thursday night is ‘funkytonk’ and it’s amazing!”

• “We follow Rubiks Groove wherever they go for a great ’80s party sound!”

I’ll add, of course, that you should bookmark the Nashville Scene’s calendar, and keep your eye on the events.

 

Nashville Noshing

The thing about restaurants, of course, is they come and go. They start hot and then fade away. The places I loved when I worked in Nashville live in my memory, but many of them are, sadly, gone gone gone. (You’ll see one recommendation from me below, however.) So I don’t rely on the Internet so much.

No, I ask my food-appreciating* friends. 🙂 Here are some comments I solicited earlier today, unedited:

• “Husk is the best brunch and lunch spot in Nashville. Parking is also easy.” Jamie’s note: Husk is THE hot restaurant in Nashville right now, from what I understand.

• “Monell’s is really fun if you want to try down-home family style. Jamie’s note: Monell’s is a Nashville tradition. You should go.

• “Woodlands for lunch. Stellar vegetarian Indian buffet … regular menu for dinner/evenings is also excellent but I love being able to try a little bit of everything!”

• “Thai Phooket is delicious too! It’s located right next to the football stadium.”

• “Tin Angel is solid and under-appreciated and not as crowded as some of the newer, hipper stuff.” Jamie’s note: When I worked on West End Ave in the ’90s, I ate at the Tin Angel probably once a month. I’m delighted to see it still exists.

• “Lockeland Table, Margot, Kalamata’s.” Jamie’s note: Love Kalamata’s!

• “My family loves the Pharmacy.”

• “Rolf & Daughters is my favorite of the new, hipper stuff I’ve tried.”

• “If they’re downtown and are into Mexican food, tell them to try Bakersfield (in the bottom of the Encore condo building) … their guacamole is, like, ridiculous.” Jamie’s note: Interesting name for this one, eh, California friends?

Mas Tacos is quite delicious, but definitely expect a line. Their pozole … OMG.”

• “Miel Restaurant.”

• “I always liked to take people from out of town to Family Wash. It has a distinctly Nashville feel, good food, and interesting music booking, so you can eat dinner and then see a show (usually no cover charge, they just pass a hat, which is also kind of charming). They moved recently to a bigger building in a less crime-prone part of East Nashville. The shepherd’s pie is out of this world.” Jamie’s note: Right she is about the shepherd’s pie. Great ambience here too.

• “Rolf and Daughters, Butcher and Bee, Adele’s.” Jamie’s note: These 3 are farm-to-fork concept, as is Husk.

• “Tavern, Butchertown Hall, and Tin Angel.” Jamie’s note: I ate at Butchertown Hall recently, and it is spectacular.

One Last Thought From Jamie

One of the best meals I’ve ever had anywhere was at the Mad Platter in Germantown (a Nashville neighborhood) in the mid ’90s. I’d been tasked with locating “something nice” for a year-end celebration for my very small department. I knew nothing about fine dining, so I quietly canvassed some friends who did, came up with the Mad Platter, and made the reservations. Once I made this announcement, my boss (whom I loved and respected and still do) began to second-guess me. He’d never heard of it. And yada yada ad nauseam. I was stressed to the max over this silly holiday dinner. As soon as I arrived, though—before I’d tasted the first bite of anything—I knew I’d made the right choice. It’s charming, in an old grocery store building. I think we sat at that table, unrushed, drinking and eating, for four hours. Maybe five. If you have an opportunity to go, I highly recommend it.

Germantown-May-2015-45

OK, A Couple Links Too

      • I like this one because they update it. Trip Advisor, Yelp, and the like can get woefully out of date. And they have a map.
      • I love Southern Living, and I trust them to get it right. Also, I’ve been to most of these places.
      • I’m digging Nashville Guru; they definitely seem up to date.

I think you’re fixed for Nashville dining now. 🙂

* I don’t want to call them foodies, because they’re not snobs, and that word has such a crappy connotation since it was taken over by hipsters.

Links & Last Thoughts (About Nashville)

I’ve lived in Middle Tennessee a long time. Never in Nashville, I hasten to add, but I commuted in for work for some decades. Still, I tried to distill down my Nashville Heart List; I know your time is limited. Very quickly, then, here are some things that didn’t make the list but might be right up your alley …

  • Tennessee Performing Arts Center: Tee-Pack (TPAC), we call it around here. Catch a show!
  • Printer’s Alley: When I moved here in the ’70s, Printer’s Alley was where all the strip joints were. 🙂 They’ve cleaned it up some.
  • Hotel Indigo: A good friend of mine, singer-songwriter Thom Ellis, plays regularly at the Hotel Indigo, just outside Printer’s Alley. He’s great. Watch for him.
  • General Jackson riverboat: A good friend of mine has worked on the General Jackson for years, and she says there’s no better way to see downtown at night than from the river.
  • John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge: I’ve never been on that boat, but I have been on this bridge, which offers a spectacular view of downtown, day or night. I park over at the football stadium.
  • John Seigenthaler: I’m also proud that Nashville produced this guy, and that I have heard him speak on more than one occasion. (Sorry about the soapbox!)
  • Exit/In: The very first Nashville club I went to in 1972 was the Exit/In, and we’re both still standing. The best show I ever saw there (and possibly the best show I ever saw, full stop) was a private, invitation-only performance by Radney Foster and Bill Lloyd, who’d disbanded as Foster & Lloyd 5 or 6 years earlier. OMG.
  • Nashville supports two professional sporting franchises—the Predators (hockey) and the Tennessee Titans (football)—and one semi-pro—the Nashville Sounds (baseball). But you’re probably not here for that. 🙂
  • Christ Church Cathedral: Big downtown church with a beautiful building. Tour the sanctuary. Nashville has a lot of beautiful churches.
  • Union Station Hotel: This gorgeous building was Nashville’s train terminal in the early twentieth century. I’ve been to wedding receptions here and … wow.
  • Radnor Lake: A beautiful wildlife park inside Nashville.
  • Shopping: I like the Green Hills area (just set your GPS to Green Hills Mall, then drive around a little), not least because Ann Patchett’s bookstore, Parnassus, is in Green Hills. Traffic’s atrocious, though. There is a sweet funkyness to Hillsboro Village, too, near Vanderbilt.

Links

I could go on and one with the links, but you can google too. 🙂

 

Music City: I Heart Nashville

Nashville is a wonderful city. No, really. Still feels very small town but has all the things you want in a city: a deep and interesting history, music, a fabulous skyline, great food, music, plenty of culture, music, major sporting events, a delightful nightlife. Did I mention the music?

They call it Music City for a reason.

They also call it the Third Coast. Nashville is home to a thriving music industry. Take a drive down Music Row to check out the recording studios and you’ll see what I mean. (You can also drive around the roundabout on Demonbreun and groan at that ugly statue.) Sure, Nashville is the home of country music, but please—don’t assume that’s the only music you’ll hear in Music City! You can certainly hear plenty of country music if you’d like, but in point of fact, every musician wants to play Nashville, because the audiences here are pretty sophisticated, musically speaking. (And that’s just for starters.) Here are the suggestions I make to music fans:

  1. Station Inn: a bluegrass music venue that I take anyone and everyone to. Check the website for specific events but the house band is superior. Because Nashville.
  2. RCA Studio B: it’s historic, and everybody from Elvis Presley to Gillian Welch has recorded here. It’s also the only studio that offers a tour, which you start at the Country Music Hall of Fame.
  3. The Bluebird Café: You can’t go wrong at a songwriters-in-the-round club like the Bluebird. (Here are some other options.)
  4. Grand Ole Opry: It’s a rip-roaring good time (honest). You must buy tix inn advance; and on show night, start early: the traffic is terrible.
  5. The Ryman Auditorium: This is THE place to see music in Nashville. If you can’t see a show, take the tour.
  6. The Nashville Scene: Back in the day, an important part of every Thursday was my picking up a copy of the Scene, our “alternative” newspaper. Now you have the Internet. Excellent local journalism but will also help you find a show in a smaller venue if you can’t get tix to the Ryman. 🙂
  7. Honky-tonkin’: And you can always just cruise Broadway. Everybody should go honky-tonkin’ at least once! Robert’s Western World is an excellent choice. Here’s a link for some other suggestions; here’s another.)
  8. The Nashville Symphony and the Schermerhorn Symphony Center: Gorgeous building, love the symphony. Great community outreach. ’Nuff said.
  9. Hatch Show Print: After you’ve bought your tix for the Ryman, stop by Hatch Show Print and pick up a poster of the show as a souvenir.
  10. Pancake Pantry: Not too far from Music Row, the Pancake Pantry is the second office to a lot of music industry folks. You never know who you might see. 🙂 Just go early to avoid the crowd.

There’s inspiring history here too.

Nashville has a rich history dating back more than 200 years to Fort Nashborough, built on the banks of the Cumberland River in 1779. It was the sixteenth state admitted to the union, gained the “Volunteer State” nickname when it sent hundreds more men than asked for to the War of 1812, and is the site of the home of a US president. (Tennessee has sent three presidents to Washington: Andrew Jackson, James K. Polk, and Andrew Johnson.)

  1. The Hermitage: It’s a president’s home, y’all, and it’s right here in Nashville. (Andrew Jackson.) If you like house museums, and I do, it’s a must-see. Because US president.
  2. Tennessee State Capitol and archives: it’s a gorgeous building on a beautiful piece of land. Be sure you walk around behind and stroll the Bicentennial Capitol Mall. It’s spectacular.
  3. Nashville Public Library: While you’re downtown, drop in to the Nashville Public Library to visit the Civil Rights Room for another look at history.
  4. Belle Meade Plantation: The tagline here is “Time made still; history made real.” The land for this plantation was purchased in 1806.

Art and culture abound.

As if the music weren’t enough, there are galleries, craft fairs and festivals, and more than a dozen colleges and universities in Nashville, all of them historic, including Vanderbilt University; Belmont University; TSU; Fisk University; Meharry Medical College; Lipscomb University; Trevecca Nazarene University; and Watkins College of Art, Design, & Film. Here are my must-sees:

  1. Belmont Mansion: I can’t say it any better than the website—“The largest house museum in the state, the second largest antebellum home in the South, and one of the few nineteenth century homes whose history revolves around the life of a woman.” It’s brilliant.
  2. The Parthenon: Built in 1897 for the Tennessee Centennial (it’s located in Centennial Park on West End Avenue), the Parthenon is a full-scale model of the original in Athens—and it’s my number-one favorite thing in Nashville, hands down. You should at least drive by.
  3. Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum of Art: A beautiful house and grounds. I have yet to actually make it inside Cheekwood because the sculpture trail and botanical gardens are so lovely.
  4. Frist Center for the Visual Arts: Located in the old post office in a gorgeous 1930s Art Deco building (and right next door to the Union Station Hotel, a visual treat itself), I find myself in the Frist several times a year. Love it.

Bottom line? It’s just cool.

Nashville’s a great place to spend a vacation if you’re open to new experiences and new people. And oh—I didn’t forget about food and nightlife. Read on for more!

Eating in Murfreesboro

I’m not a picky eater. I just like good food, and I don’t care if it’s a chain. (I know that it’s all about who’s managing the place.) There’s lots of choice in Murfreesboro these days—you can just drive down the street and see lots of places I haven’t mentioned—so bear in mind this is just one gal’s recommendation.

Links provide addresses for mapping, although I’ve tried to give a general location.

Lists are in no particular order. I’ve indicated whether a restaurant is local only, or a regional or national chain.

Breakfast

  • Peter D’s (local): We love this place; had our wedding day dinner there. Near the party hotel.
  • Mimi’s Café (national): Always good, always satisfying. Near the party hotel.
  • Sylvan Park (local): Meat-and-three Southern cooking.
  • Cracker Barrel (regional): Choice can be overwhelming but it’s solid and fast.
  • City Café (local): It’ll do. Diner-style breakfast. On the Square.
  • IHOP or Waffle House: You know about these. Not far from the party hotel area.
  • Panera Bread (national): Dependable and good. Not far from the party hotel area.
  • Dunkin’ Donuts (national): Out by our house. (Starbucks too.)
  • Fast food: Sonic, McDonald’s, Hardee’s, Bojangles, Chick-fil-A

Lunch & Dinner
Note that there is a lot of dining around the college area that I’m completely unfamiliar with.

  • Parthenon Grille (local): One of my faves. Out near our house.
  • Chop House (regional): Always, always good. Not far from the party hotel area.
  • Lemongrass Sushi & Thai (local): One of my favies. Close to our house.
  • Marina’s (local): Italian, been here for at least 20 years. On the Square.
  • Maple St. Grill (local): Chef owned and operated. On the Square.
  • The Alley on Main (local): Chef owned and operated. Just off the Square.
  • O’Possum’s Pub (local): Chef owned and operated. I have friends who love it.
  • Five Guys (regional): There is no big ol’ greasy burger better! Not far from the party hotel area.
  • Five Senses (local): Chef owned and operated. Go to linger over your meal.
  • Toot’s (local): Wings. Much loved. Noisy. Go to Broad Street location.
  • Peter D’s
  • Mimi’s Café
  • Sylvan Park
  • City Café (lunch)
  • Don’t forget the BBQ list. 🙂

Pubs

Treats

Enjoy!

A Word About Barbecue

Whole books have been written about what Southerners call barbecue, so it’s not a topic I’m going to tackle with any depth. But here’s a woman who did—as a graduate thesis at the University of Virginia, for heaven’s sake—so dig in. Quick mention: What you all do with a grill (“I’m going to barbeque some hamburgers”) would be confusing to a Southerner. We grill hamburgers and eat barbeque. 🙂

We Southerners do take our food seriously. Check out the Southern Foodways Alliance—an Institute of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi. They’ve got a whole lot to say about barbecue. (So does Southern Living.)

Suffice it to say, sampling the local purveyors of barbecue is a MUST on my list of things to do in the South, and every neighborhood has its own favorite. I ran the preferred barbecue question up the Facebook flagpole, and came up with a recommended list for my out-of-town friends. (Top choice is on top.)

Available in Murfreesboro:

  • Slick Pig BBQ: Local to Murfreesboro.
  • Jim ’N Nick’s: A regional chain, but we like it, not least because everything is cooked fresh. There are no freezers at Jim ’N Nick’s.
  • Whitt’s: A Nashville chain. Whitt’s taught me about the deliciousness of coleslaw on a barbecue sandwich.
  • Famous Dave’s: A national chain and not always well run, but it’ll do and we generally like it. Located in Smyrna (10 miles from Murfreesboro).

Available in Nashville:

But wait—let’s talk about Nashville Hot Chicken too! It’s a thing, y’all. And if you like a little heat, you should check it out. OMG. Locals have been loving it for years.