What to do in Nashville: 2015 Edition

About once every few weeks, I get an e-mail from a friend asking the age-old question about the place we call home. I've answered the question before, but it seems like is Nashville changing constantly. There's always new restaurants to explore and  things to see—and some are better than others. Nothing is worse than traveling to a fun city, and ending up in a restaurant that all the locals secretly loathe. Nashville What to do in NashvilleSo if you're headed to Nashville anytime soon, here's the skinny on where to eat, drink and be merry. I've separated all my favorites into categories, narrowed (gulp!) them down, and included the neighborhood. I also went ahead and put these gems on a Google Map, so you can take these suggestions with you on the go!

HINT: If I'm listing the restaurant or venue, that means I've been more than three times, and have had a good experience (ie., great meal, great service, great value) every. single. time. There are plenty of places in Nashville that are worth a visit if you're a local and able to risk it. But not you, dear traveler. Not you. 

BREAKFAST/COFFEE:What to do in Nashville: Crema Coffee

  • Marche Artisan Foods (East Nashville) — This is the best place in Nashville, in my opinion. Arrive early (doors open at 8:30) and order, order and order some more. The daily tartine is always perfect, and I'm a huge fan of the croissant french toast, too (just get a half-order so you have room for the rest)!
  • Crema (Downtown) — If you live in Nashville, you'll know why this goes at the top of my list. Perfect, smooth coffee every time (the latte is my go-to). On Fridays/Saturdays, Utterly brings by delicious macarons to sell. And don't miss out on the avocado toast.
  • Barista Parlor (East Nashville or the Gulch)—not my personal favorite (plan to pay $5 for a slow-drip coffee), but it's a great atmosphere and good hipster-gawking, and the sausage biscuit is pretty awesome, too.


  • Percy Warner (Beyond Sylvan Park/West Nashville)— Drive to Bellemeade Blvd and park by the steps. Walk to the top of the stone steps and you'll see a little trailhead for a 2.5-mile round trip hike! It's gorgeous, and full of friendly hikers.
  • Radnor Park (South of Nashville)
  • Shelby Bottoms Park (East Nashville)
  • Centennial Park (Midtown)


  • Shops on Fatherland/Idea Hatchery (East Nashville)—these cute shops are the best of local, all in two little shopping areas. LITTLE is the point. These small "incubator" shops have helped launch some of the best local retailers.
  • Peter Nappi — if you have $300+ to blow, do it on a pair of these boots.
  • Imogene + Willie — Imogene (eye-moh-jean) + Willie makes custom jeans that will make you want to throw out all your other jeans. (Check out White's Mercantile) down the road as well.
  • Gas Lamp Antiques I + II (100 Oaks) — antiques for miles. And miles. Love it every time. Arrive fed and caffeinated.

LUNCH:What to do in Nashville Hattie B's Chicken

  • Hattie B's Hot Chicken (Sylvan Park)—Choose Mild, Medium, Hot, Damn Hot, or Shut the Cluck Up!-- no matter what, your taste buds will be jumping. This is the best hot fried chicken joint in Nashville. We love our hot chicken so much that every summer, we even have a hot chicken festival! So if you ask me, skip the barbecue and go straight for Hattie B's.
  • Silly Goose (East Nashville) — cous cous and delicious sandwiches. Try the T-bird and the King Kong cous cous. Closed on Mondays.
  • Germantown Cafe (Germantown)—love the miso salmon salad!
  • Local Taco (East Nashville) — right across from the Idea Hatchery, love the fried avocado taco! Also, the interior was designed by my good friends, Regiven.

What to do in Nashville: Pinewood SocialLOCAL BREWS + COCKTAILS

  • Bar 308 (East Nashville) — arrive after 9 p.m. or you'll be the only one in there (which I don't hate.) The Monkey's Paw is a great grapefruit + champagne cocktail. Everything they make is homemade and delicious. 
  • Tennessee Brew Works (8th/Downtown) — these guys did a tasting at my house once! Now, the brewery is up and running and everything is super delicious. Take a tour, enjoy live music... have a blast!
  • The Taproom (12 South) — awesome porch and beers on draft. This is where all the locals are.
  • Pinewood Social (Downtown) — great drinks and mocktails, just prepare to spend $12+ on each. Great location and beautiful porch if it's a nice day!

DINNER:What to do in Nashville: Rolf and Daughters

  • Rolf and Daughters (Germantown)—if you don't have a reservation, plan to arrive immediately when doors open at 5:30 p.m., eat at the bar, or wait until 8 - 9p.m. for second service. We love to eat at the bar and order as much as we can stomach. We've never tasted a single bad thing.
  • Burger Up (12 South)—our favorite place to be regulars. Two Lamb Burgers, Two House Red Wines. Done and Done.
  • Lockeland Table (East Nashville)—wood fired pizzas, great cocktails, awesome value. Just a good ol' neighborhood spot.
  • Two Ten Jack (East Nashville)— Asian flavor invasion. This place does Ramen like a pro.
  • Josephine (12 South)

DESSERT:What to do in Nashville: Bobbie's Dairy Dip

  • Bobbie's Dairy Dip (Sylvan Park) — it may look suspect from the outside, but Bobbie's Dairy Dip is a Nashville establishment, famous for its specialty shakes and soft-serve treats. Cheap, awesome. Perfect after a hike at Percy Warner.
  • Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams (12 South or East Nashville)—Jeni's has more locations around the nation now than it used to, but the flavors are always changing so it's always fun to go see what they have in the freezer. HINT: Ask for a taste of an ice cream sandwich. They'll cut you a piece!
  • Tempur Chocolate (Germantown) – this new spot has great truffles and an insane cup of hot chocolate.


  • Ryman Auditorium (Downtown)— original home of the Grand Ol' Opry. This is a place you must see a concert before you die, but unfortunately, most concerts sell out months in advance. Plan a trip around a concert you want to see, or simply pop in for a tour. (Tours leave ever 20 minutes or so.)
  • Roberts Western World (Downtown) — the honky tonk to beat all honky tonks. Show up at 10 am, prepare to drink cheap beer, listen to some great bluegrass, and dance with the regulars.
  • Country Music Hall of Fame (Downtown) — to be fair, I've never been to the hall of fame. But I hear it's a must-see, so I would feel remiss if I didn't include it. SOMEDAY...

Alright folks... so what did I miss? What did I forget? Those of you who have been here recently, what did you enjoy the most?

Europe was great until we showed up.

Lake Como _ Us _ Patrick and ClaireSix months ago, Patrick and I decided to plan a trip to Europe. We got excited. We saved money diligently. We searched Airbnb for the perfect place to stay in Paris and the most central location in Rome. Weeks in advance, Patrick woke up at three in the morning to buy tickets to a Tottenham Hotspurs Futbol match and he booked a wine tour in Tuscany, too. We researched restaurants and sights, museums and transit. We sent out pleas for recommendations and read Rick Steve's latest travel guide as if it were the Bible. Because we'd decided to go on a trip. And we'd decided to make it great.

But expectations are joy-killers. So we tempered our excitement and realized there would be bumps and disappointments and frustrations along the way. We looked forward to the disasters—because we knew that great stories aren't made from perfect moments strung together like pearls on a string. But what we didn't expect was that what would go wrong wasn't Europe. It was us.

Let me explain. 

IMG_4674Like any naive couple of humans, Patrick and I hoped that this trip would be magical, rejuvenating and life-giving. And don't get me wrong. There were plenty of moments of awe and wonder both at God's creation and each other. There were romantic dinners and bottles of wine and sunsets. There were history lessons and moments of quiet reflection and a break from the pressures of life and work at home. And we are, and always will be thankful for the time and the ability to see the world.

But Patrick and I are the same in Europe as we are in Nashville. And so when we had our first disagreement in Europe on our very first night in Europe, it shocked us. Wasn't this supposed to be a dizzyingly romantic trip with fun and crazy stories and joy and hilarity? Wasn't this EUROPE? 

It was. And Europe was great until we showed up. 

Amsterdam by morningAs it turns out, I still have a short temper, a bad sense of direction and impatience when it comes to making decisions whether I'm standing in front of the AT&T building in downtown Nashville or the Eiffel Tower. I wasn't going to magically become more patient, loving and generous just because we we'd traversed the Atlantic Ocean. And if that seems like a simple realization—it wasn't. It was painful.

As it turns out, you don't need to plan a trip to find adventure. And  you don't need a trip to be rejuvenated. Because if you can't find joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and self control at home—you won't find it anywhere else. Because you are you wherever you go. 

It's so easy to take a picture and smile. It's even easier to hide behind your camera, angry and frustrated, and snap a photo of a sunset to share on the internet. "So blessed to be in Europe!" you could write for a caption. "#CinqueTerre," you could add, just to rub it in. But photos on the internet don't do justice to the truth that is revealed through travel.


I messed up our trip to Europe. Maybe not all of it. But enough to notice. And enough to need forgiveness.

Travel isn't an escape. It's a mirror. And what it exposes isn't always pretty. It exposes the places within us that need changing. And it exposes our inability to change ourselves. But it also points to beauty so beyond our comprehension that you can realize that you are small AND you are loved.

Across the continent and the countries we chose to see, there were beautiful landscapes, breathtaking architectural feats, and history so deep and wide that I couldn't swallow it all in one bite or two or three thousand.

It was all too much to take in. 

And that is what the love of God is like.

It's like Europe.

You show up, screw it up, and it still blesses you beyond your wildest dreams. 

Patrick and Big Ben


Luxembourg Gardens


  1. Lake Como, Italy, Day 13
  2. Amsterdam, Netherlands, Day 5
  3. Sunset at Manarola, Italy, Day 17
  4. Patrick and Big Ben, Day 1
  5. Chamonix, France Day 12
  6. Luxembourg Gardens, Paris, Day 7


My favorite photos from Europe

I've been racking my brain on what brilliant topic I could use as my comeback to the whacky, weird, and uncomfortable world of blogging. How about we just start with some pictures?

Here are my eight favorite photos from Europe—the ones without our goofy faces. And don't worry. I'll share the goofy faces, too.

Big Ben by Night

Big Ben London 2013

Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Rijksmuseum Amsterdam 2013

The Louvre, Paris

Louvre Paris France

The View from La Basilique du Sacre Coeur de Montmartre

The View from Sacre Coeur

The Hike to Le Chapeau, Chamonix, France

View Chamonix France

The Ferry passing Verenna, Lake Como, Italy

Lake Como Italy View

Sunset in Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy

Manarola Cinque Terre Italy

Piazzale Michelangelo, Florence, Italy

Florence Italy Nightscape

So, which photo is your favorite?