In case you haven’t heard, Nashville’s been on the up-and-up recently. A real-estate boom and a fresh gust of Millennial energy has engulfed the city and elevated quite a few of its neighborhoods. In addition to maintaining its reputation as Music City, it’s become quite the destination city. I decided to put Southern hospitality to the test and visit my brother in his newfound home. We definitely packed it in over the weekend, and I left for LA sufficiently exhausted but warmed by the charm of this easy-going city.
Here’s a few of the places he took me.
No romp through Nashville would be complete without the consumption of hot chicken, or so I’ve been told. After a mind-blowing meal from Party Fowl’s brunch menu, I’d have to wholeheartedly agree. We started off by splitting a Bushwacker--essentially a bourbon-spiked chocolate milkshake that just melted in my mouth--which warmed my cranky belly after foolishly deciding to skip breakfast. The meal itself was a revelation. I took one look at the brunch menu and just knew I needed the hot chicken and french toast special. I chickened out (ha ha) and got mild sauce on the side, but I devoured my plate and the mild sauce like a gym rat on cheat day and had no regrets about it. I don’t think I’d experienced such elevated comfort food ever in my life until I came to Nashville. It is a sensory equivalent of being wrapped in a blanket and fuzzy socks while also drinking champagne. It is not to be missed.
Imogene + Willie
American-Made Denim has always been a vital part of American fashion. Transplanted to the 12 South neighborhood from its beginnings in Kentucky, this family-owned denim brand has quietly become a Southern cult favorite with its storied beginnings, charming location at an old gas station, and understated Southern aesthetic. All of their designs are steeped in denim history--as are many things in the South--but designed with function and everyday bodies in mind. I’m particularly obsessed with the Catherine, their high-waist straight cut. Though their denim might be manufactured in LA (get in on this now Angelenos), their flagship store is located at the 1950s service station where it all began. Neat stacks of denim ready for purchase might have replaced the industrial sewing machines, but if you look up, you can see they’ve left the old paper patterns used during the cutting process up near the ceiling!
Location: 12 South
Nearby: Bar Taco and Taqueria del Sol
Wilder (and Goodwin Residency)
I’m a sucker for concept stores. When I heard that Goodwin, one of my favorite fashion e-commerce shops, was doing a residency at Wilder, naturally I made a beeline for it. Wilder is a concept store with a contemporary art focus on home decor. It feels a bit like a museum shop, if you cleared out the postcards and I Heart MOMA shirts and just left the statement earrings and ceramic interpretations of Mapplethorpe. It’s a neat blend of clean, colorful home decor, well-produced literary and art journals, and kooky art installations. I was particularly obsessed with a large yellow robot-face with spirally pink “guts” that spilled towards the floor (below!). Wilder’s thoughtful curation coupled with Goodwin’s display of emerging indie designers is sure to inspire visitors to choose lovingly made and tastefully designed things in their homes and on their persons. Though I wished I could take it all back with me, I settled for what would fit in my suitcase: a Cereal guide to Los Angeles. Funny how we might know our “city” forwards and backwards, but somehow the journey away makes us look back at it anew.
Coffee nearby: Barista Parlor
I didn’t expect Nashville to be such a brunch haven, but in fact I have been proven wrong. The two of us set out to run a simple errand and ended up sidetracked at this gorgeous, victorian-pharmacy-meets-industrial-chic space. Pinewood Social is hard to define; it’s part restaurant and bar, part coworking space, and part bowling alley. Laptops pepper leather couches, professionals court potential clients in white leather booths, and bearded bartenders serve gimlets to their flannel-clad guests all under the same roof--a young entrepreneur’s dream. We sat at a booth near the bowling alley and ordered pancakes and granola. I will say it was the most finely-calibrated granola bowl I’ve ever encountered, but what the two of us really enjoyed was their coffee cocktail menu. I had Easy Like Sunday Morning, which is simply a cortado with fernet and demerara. Served at the correct temperature for a cortado, it certainly lived up to its name, gently warming me both ways.
Across the Street: Crema. Small, friendly third wave coffee (roasted on site).
Over the course of the weekend, I convinced my brother to drive me to all three locations of Barista Parlor with nary a complaint as to what he was getting into (score!). Each location has a slightly different vibe but easy-going, if not a bit over-the-top. I enjoyed the openness of their East Nashville location, as it let in the balmy air without overwhelming the space. Their Golden Sound espresso is a pleasant Guatemala-Ethiopia blend that when purchased as whole bean comes packaged in an over-the-top box reminiscent of a kid’s cereal container. Medium bodied and mildly floral, it also tastes lovely as a pour-over.
Location(s): East Nashville, Germantown, the Gulch
What are your favorite Nashville hangouts? Let me know, ‘cause I’ll definitely be back again soon!