In the spirit of the NYT’s 36 Hours In…series as well as any number of fashion-lifestyle blogs that are trying to monetize Instagram followers, the Nashville issue of this periodical needed a travel article and I’m the man for the job. We have too much respect for the Fuzz customer base to whitewash your upcoming weekend trip to Nashville with soft color palates and made-up recommendations for places the author didn’t actually visit, so here’s a more realistic look. Pack some Pepto and get ready to eat.
12:00 PM Friday
You must ensure that your flight arrives at BNA around noon CST on Friday in order to take advantage of your first meal in town. Arnold’s Country Kitchen on 8th Avenue closes on Friday at 2:45 and doesn’t reopen until Monday at Lunch, so go straight there from the airport. Take an Uber–don’t mess with a rental car. Ubers are cheap and plentiful. At Arnold’s you will stand in line for the first time of the trip. You’ll quickly discover that the popularity of Nashville in recent years has outpaced the capacity of its restaurants, both old and new. The meal you have at Arnold’s will be one of the best of your life. Walk it off by heading next door to Carter Vintage guitars to look at a $70,000 mandolin or two.
2:30 PM Friday Head to your weekend’s Airbnb. There are lots of hotels in Nashville, and more are built seemingly every month, but the demand still outpaces the supply. Rent an Airbnb somewhere in the City (East Nashville, Germantown, Hillsboro Village, 12South and Sylvan Park are all good bets), and you can be anywhere via Uber in less than 20 minutes.
4:30 PM Friday Go get some cocktails. Nashville is a drinker’s town and there are a variety of places to have a few. If it’s breweries you are after, trust that a google search and your sense of direction will get you in any of the tasting rooms with local brews in the city. The majority of these are in the Gulch, so you could just ask your driver to take you there, then just ask somebody where a (wo)man could find a beer. Or consult with your device. Whatever. If it’s whiskey you are after, head for a tour from the folks at Greenbrier Distillery near downtown. Tell them I sent you, and your tour guide will have no idea who I am or what you are talking about. “Guide to Nashville? Who? Let’s get started with the tour…”
8:00 PM Friday Head to Germantown for supper. There are lots of great options in this burgeoning area near downtown, which is great because you, like a chump, forgot to make reservations. Way to ruin Christmas. Your best bets are: 1) the communal table that is seated on a first-come/first-served basis at Rolf & Daughters OR 2) the bar at City House. If at City House be sure to order the belly ham pizza.
10:30 PM Friday Ask your server if they have any coffee, then head toward Robert’s downtown. While there are probably 40 bars on or near Broadway, Robert’s Western World is the singular spot you need to visit on your trip. All the bars have live music, but Robert’s has the best. All the bars have beers, but Robert’s has the cheapest on Broadway. Pro tip: If you go to the front door you will wait in line for a long time. Go around back to the alley that divides all those bars on Broadway from the Ryman Auditorium. Robert’s has a back door where there is almost never a wait. This is probably the best place to take a series of photographs you will find tomorrow morning on your phone.
1:00 AM Saturday
You’ve been moved by either the spirit, or the Western swing you’ve been dancing to for two hours, to sing karaoke. You’ve got a myriad of choices, but here are two: 1) You could stay downtown near Robert’s and head to Troubadours. (They actually spell the name of the business as the plural of troubadour, not the possessive. I don’t know what to make of that, but it’s worth noting.) Tips are accepted and encouraged in order to get your drunk friend to the front of the line of people waiting to sing that Adele song from a few years ago, OR 2) You could head toward the fairgrounds (about a ten minute drive) and go to Santa’s Pub. If you’ve ever wanted to sing karaoke in a double-wide trailer covered in Christmas decorations, this is your spot. Things to know: 1) It’s cash and beer only. 2) Beers are super cheap. 3) No cussing on the mic. 4) No drinks up there with you while you sing.
8:00 AM Saturday You wake. If you are traveling to Nashville in the fall or winter, it’s cloudy. Ask yourself, “did I pantomime the fiddle solo from “Callin’ Baton Rouge” in front of 75 people last night in a trailer?” Yes you did, Garth. You also tripped and fell down the stairs of your Airbnb and have a gnarly bruise on your side. Your phone has a broken screen, but is operable. If you were at home, you would probably draw the blinds and give up on the weekend. But you can’t do that, cause your flight doesn’t leave for 24 more hours. Get in the shower.
10:00 AM Saturday There are many things you are grateful for, but principal among those are sunglasses. Get yourself to either the Barista Parlor in East Nashville or the Gulch in order to stand in line for Coffee. They have excellent food as well, but you’ve got other plans.
10:45 AM Saturday You’ve gone off-script. You are standing in line at the Pancake Pantry in Hillsboro Village. I don’t know why you are doing this, because I can’t imagine a world in which I would voluntarily stand in line (on line?) for pancakes of all things. After 30 minutes standing outside in the cold, you abandon ship and head toward 12th Avenue South.
11:15 AM Saturday Well, it’s happened. The hangover plus the frustration with standing in more lines has caused you and your spouse/traveling-companion/friend to get in the “trip argument.” This argument is perfectly normal given your circumstances, just try not to cause a scene. 12South is the perfect place for this to happen. It’s a long street with several different coffee shops/food options for you two to cool off. If one or both of you are into shopping, singer-songwriter Holly Williams has a store called White’s Mercantile you should check out. If stores owned by actresses are more your thing, Reese Witherspoon just opened a store up the street.
I dictated this portion of the guide into my iPhone while driving in 12South recently, and Siri recognized “argument with your spouse” as “argument with your bowels.” I suppose if you are going to fight with your bowels during your trip to Nashville, 12South is probably an okay place for that to happen. Bathrooms are a’plenty.
2:30 PM Saturday Thinking better of those personal attacks you levied outside of the Pancake Pantry, you text your +1 and ask for forgiveness. What are the odds?! You are both in line at the Frothy Monkey coffee house. Whomever between the two of you is farther back in line gets to move up to the other. The argument is never spoken of again and all is well. Spend your time in line trying to count how many people have the hair cut the front dude from Arcade Fire had 5 years ago. Some trends take a while to get to Middle Tennessee and that’s one of them.
6:30 PM Saturday
Supper time! Head to Husk or Pinewood Social if you didn’t blow the trip budget on a bicycle or pair of blue jeans earlier in the day. If you did, head to Prince’s for authentic Nashville hot chicken (take the pepto with you) or head to any of the other hot chicken places for less authentic, but nonetheless good, hot chicken. Pro Tip: charge that busted iPhone cause you’ll probably be standing in line for this as well.
8:30 PM Saturday
Head out for some live music at either the 5 Spot in East Nashville or the Basement (original or East Nashville locations).
10:00 AM Sunday
Rise and shine, Dingus, cause you just missed your flight! Good thing that Airbnb has a friendly checkout time policy. Take advantage and head to Monell’s for a COUNTRY BREAKFAST. You’ll definitely have to stand in line and wait for this, but it is totally worth it. Family style breakfast/lunch/brunch (I don’t think the term Country Brunch exists, but if it does, Monell’s applies). They serve fried chicken with every meal in the event you didn’t get enough last night at Princes. Wait times can be an hour or so, just try not to fall in those decorative ponds they have in the courtyard where everybody waits. It’s pretty good people-watching as well, as I once overheard a perturbed woman yell into a cell phone, “Welp, they called me. Mama left her phone at the Belk in Selma.”
12:00 PM Sunday
Don’t go to airport just yet. Try and work off a few of those pieces of fried chicken by taking a walk at Centennial Park. There’s a giant gold Athena statue that Mick Jagger recently admired in a replica of the Parthenon.
You could also pack your fake battle axe and go about a mile farther down West End to Elmington Park where the LARPers congregate on Sunday afternoon and make-believe fight.
3:00 PM Sunday Head to the airport. When you get to the terminal for your rescheduled flight you will realize you left your cell-phone charger and dopp kit sitting on the Airbnb bathroom counter. Tough luck on that one. Also unfortunate is the news that there are some thunderstorms in the upper Midwest. Your plane is still in Chicago and it looks like you’ll be spending a few more hours in Music City. If you haven’t gotten enough live music, check out the airport Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge. There’s also an outpost with pretty legit Mexican food in one of the terminals if your stomach can take it after that showdown on 12South yesterday. Safe travels!
Mark is a former lawyer who lives in Nashville. If you see a guy who looks like this caricature walking a golden retriever in Germantown, feel free to say hi. You should know, however, that there is another guy who looks a lot like Mark who also walks a golden retriever in Germantown so you might be saying hi to the wrong dude. It has caused confusion in the past—including one particular incident where the other dude’s wife hollered down the street at Mark several times before getting a closer look and realizing her mistake. Anyway, say hi. You can also find him on the internet at basketofchips.com and instagram.com/cmharrod.