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?

Music City Ate. A lot.

This weekend, Nashville hosted a food and wine event called Music City Eats. And boy, did I.


I wrote a preview piece about the festival for Forbes. And thanks to the beauty of the "press pass," I actually got to attend!

(SIDE NOTE: There's no way I would have been able to afford the $500 all-access pass on my own. I'm sure we'll never know about actual ticket sales, but if the festival happens again next year, I hope it will be at a slightly lower price point, so that more people can partake.)

Under white tents armed with red wine, I had the privilege of tasting Roderick Bailey's tender pork shoulder; Sarah Gavigan's savory Japanese pancake; Josh Habiger and Erik Anderson's rendition of "eggs" and bacon, and Hattie B's throat-singeing hot chicken. The entire weekend was one delicious indulgence.

And I can't forget to mention Arnold Myint's Banh Mi. Good gracious.

IMG_1539While most people milled between the interior tents tasting and drinking, there were "demos" and panels happening in larger tents around the perimeter.

In the demo tent, an angled mirror and jumbo-tron displayed the chef's hands at work. In one demonstration, acclaimed chef Jonathan Waxman (pictured in purple below) butchered a duck, turkey, and a chicken with ease.

During the panels, the talent explored various topics, like Bourbon or Moonshine? or How do you Q? During the Southern Food Lore panel, Tandy Wilson scolded our generation for culinary laziness. And in What Would You Serve?, Jonathan Waxman discussed musician's favorite late-night snacks. Someone mentioned Velveeta. IMG_1552I'll be honest. There were parts I didn't love. Anytime you charge $500 for tickets and tout a long list of celebrities, some people (read: me) are going to feel awkward and out of place. At times, it wasn't just indulgent—it was grandiose. But maybe that was the point.

I also felt the event was missing a few of Nashville's most talented chefs. Sarah Souther at Bang! Candy, Scott Witherow with Olive & Sinclair, Evie Coates with Twelve at the Table, just to name a few.

But don't get me wrong. There were parts I loved, too.

High on the list? Meeting Dana Cowin—the editor-in-chief of Food and Wine Magazine—and realizing she is just as kind and thoughtful in person as she seems on television. Catching up with Jeni Britton Bauer, and learning that she offers a sabbatical to every employee who has been with her ice cream company for at least three years. Stopping by Roderick Bailey's tent, and marveling at how he's remained so humble amidst a spectacular year of hard-earned success.

But my favorite part was seeing local chefs that I admire have a place to display their incredible talent. They work so hard, and so often behind the scenes—and they deserved every bit of attention that Music City Eats provided.

And to have an event of that caliber right in Nashville's backyard felt surreal! Wasn't it just a few years ago that if you wanted a good burger and didn't want McDonalds, your only option was a sushi restaurant? (Disclaimer: PM's burger is still one of the best in town.) But I digress.

Food and Wine Magazine sponsored it; a large event company called C3 Events produced it; and Caleb and Nathan Followill devised it—and if you ask me... Music City Eats was a huge success.

Here's hoping for another taste in 2014!

Field Photos, Edition No. 6: Nashville, TN

The last few weeks have been filled to the brim with writing, writing, and more writing.  It's also been filled with a whole lot of excitement about our upcoming trip! We three more weeks til we leave! But in the meantime, the in-between time, I've been jumping around here and there for some assignments, and have snapped a few photos worth sharing. Check 'em out:


Guitar at the Mansion at Fontanel, Courtesy of Buck Owens


Fun times in the Fontanel Mansion Bathroom


Barbara Mandrell's Dining Room


Limes in a garden, courtesy of Peter Anderson


Butterfly beauty


Summer Produce


A quick stop at my alma mater


Cummins Falls on Labor Day... humanity overload.


Groundbreaking at the Climb Nashville Charlotte Avenue Location


Scouting a hot new place to stay in Nashville (more on this soon!)

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I haven't owned a bike since I was 10 years old.

True story: When I asked my mom if we had a bike she could bring up to Furman so I could ride to class, she showed up in Greenville with the bike I had as a 10 year old.

Another true story: She made me go to a bicycle shop and listen to them tell her what I'd already told her — there's no way to make a bike made for a 10 year old work for a 20 year old. I haven't stepped in a bike shop since. (Though I've wanted to, bad.)

Thankfully, Nashville, like lots of other cities, has invested in a new bicycle share program called B-cycle. Over the last few months, we've watched bike hubs spring up across the city—stations where 10 bikes are locked up and ready for the renting. But as we passed by in our four-wheeled vehicle, I kept wondering... how does this really work?

Nashville B cycle

So... over Memorial Day weekend, when the weather was perfect, Patrick and I decided to take some b-cycles for a spin. We made some mistakes and learned some lessons that I felt I needed to share. So whether you're visiting the city, or (like us) just don't want to shell out the cold hard cash for your own cruiser—here are five tips to b-cycling Nashville.


STEP ONE: Sign up online. This takes an extra few minutes, and just a little bit of forethought. When you sign up, you'll be mailed a b-cycle card that can work at any of the b-cycle cities (16 total).  We did not do this. We walked up to the station and clicked the screen, and put in our debit card, and took out a bike. (WARNING: You only have 30 seconds to take out said bike.)


STEP TWO: Understand the Cost. B-cylce bikes cost $5 per bike per day PLUS a usage fee of $1.50 every HALF hour after your first free hour. We did not understand this.

STEP THREE: Understand the Loophole to the Cost. Bike sharing is all about sharing. So the idea behind the "free hour" is for you to be able to grab a bike, ride to work, and drop off the bike at a different station. Little did Patrick and I know... that the "free" hour resets every time you check your bike in to a new station. Therefore, the next time we take a bike ride across Nashville, we will click in and out of a few stations along the way, so it really will only cost $5.


STEP FOUR: Ride across the Pedestrian Bridge. You just HAVE to. It's so gorgeous. (And there's a station to click in and out of on both sides.)


STEP FIVE: Return the bike.

It's that easy.

**Note: a former version of this blog post was titled "How to B-Cylce." My apologies. 

TN Brew Works + Beer School Blog

A few months ago my friend, Scott Greenwood sent me an e-mail with one single line of text. "Claire," he wrote, "You need to write something about this new brewery, TN Brew Works." So after meeting the founders of TN Brew Works, Christian Spears and Garr Schwartz, it didn't take long for me to realize that Scott was right. This weekend, Garr and Christian stopped by our porch with a few growlers of their newest brews. And while I'm no beer buff, Brian Thiele and Josh Lauritch of the Beer School Blog offered to help navigate the way through the tasting.


To fill you in on the back story, Garr grew up in Nashville, but lived in New York City for ten years working for Lehman Brothers with his friend and co-worker, Christian. For years, Garr moonlighted as a home brewer, and Christian was his favorite test taster. After years of the daily grind, Garr and Christian made a huge leap—they left the world of finance and devoted themselves to the art of beer, aiming to open a craft brewery in Garr's home town (a much more affordable alternative to NYC) as soon as possible.


When they stopped by the porch, it became deliciously clear that Garr treats beer the way Evie Coates treats food. He knows it's special. He knows it's more than just hops, yeast and sugar. In fact, he makes sure of it. He explained that beer is really a lot more like wine than it's usually treated in the United States. It's meant to be enjoyed with food; it's meant to be sipped around a table—not sloshed on a fraternity floor. They brought perfectly curved glasses, encouraged us to swirl, sniff, and taste carefully.

My absolute favorite was the "Basil Ryeman," a smooth brew with hints of basil—it was so delicious, you could hear "wow's" all around the table. I immediately imagined sipping it with Italian food, or my favorite herb-crusted pork. But don't just take it from me. Make sure to check out Beer School Blog over the next week or so, for their favorites too! Even though I love a good beer, Brian and Josh know a whole lot more than I ever will.

Check out a few more photos of the tasting...

IMG_2337Christian and Josh



IMG_2372Brian Thiele knows beer.  Here he is, trying to put words on the good things he's tasting.



Though Garr still ferments his creations in the guest bedroom of his home in Franklin, a brick-and-mortar brewery is well on the way. They expect to open this summer—and I for one can't wait! TN Brew Works will be located on Ewing Avenue, just a stone's throw away from Jackelope and Yazoo. Brewer's row anyone?

Thanks so much fellas! Can't wait for the rest of Nashville to fall in love with your beer!


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