48 Hours in Nashville: Where to Eat, Drink, and Stay
A weekend in Music City is by no means enough, but here's how to make the most of it.
To grossly oversimplify, there's a lot going on in Nashville, Tennessee. Over the past decade, the city's restaurant scene has grown and diversified spectacularly, with some of the country's best chefs flocking to it and Nashville-born chefs, who may have once fled to L.A. or New York to make a name, staying put. The richness of the city's food scene is matched only by its music—and many of the best experiences you'll find, of course, combine the two.
If you find the swarms of bachelor and bachelorette parties tolerable, we couldn't recommend a better spot for a warm-weather weekend getaway. The eating, drinking, and exploring in Nashville could amuse you for several months (or a lifetime), but here's how to cram it into a weekend.
You've stepped off plane and the very first thing you need to accomplish is caffeination. This isn't hard in Nashville, where cool coffee shops abound, but you should start with the best: Steadfast Coffee in Germantown, a hip neighborhood once avoided for its abandoned-industrial vibes. Here, at a café that many consider to be the best in the city, you'll find the perfect coffee soda and a lovely outdoor seating area, where hopefully you'll meet some dogs with whom to mingle.
Walk around the neighborhood, which is charming as hell, until you find yourself developing an appetite. Fortunately, you are steps away from Butchertown Hall, where you can sip local brews (or super-strong margaritas) in the beer garden and order a few snacks, trying your hardest not to ruin your appetite for dinner, though you probably will. (The à la carte tacos and beef brisket are unmissable.)
For dinner, stroll over to Rolf and Daughters, the fantastic Germantown restaurant from chef Philip Krajeck (whose brand-new East Nashville spot, Folk, opened April 23. But we'll get to that later.) The restaurant, bright and comfortable, is always teeming with locals who can't get enough of Krajeck's brand of paired-down, ingredient-driven cooking and the robust natural wine list.
If you feel inspired to journey to a second location for your after-dinner drink—we should mention that you can get a damn-good digestif at Rolf and Daughters—we'd recommend cozying up at the old-timey-but-chic bar at Geist, which opened this year in an 118-year-old blacksmith shop.
Spend the night in the Germantown Inn, a cozy and historic B&B for a low-key romantic night with yourself (or someone else!) as you digest and perhaps enjoy a complimentary LaCroix from the very cute property kitchen.
The beds here are excellent.
Assuming you've slept in, you'll wake up at brunch hour, and there is no better brunch choice than Henrietta Red, chef Julia Sullivan's fantastic Germantown restaurant and oyster bar. For brunch, we like the fried eggs and beans, the smoked trout toast, and truly any one of the pastries (the monkey bread being essential.) The wood-fired oysters are timeless, too, so don't be afraid to have oysters for breakfast.
Hop in a Lyft or call a cab and venture to a less-trafficked part of town to check out Parnassus Books, which is quite possibly the coolest independent book store in the country. As we wrote in our roundup of America's best indie bookstores, the place is special: "Mount Parnassus, in Greek mythology, is the home of literature, learning and music. As the only independent bookstore in Nashville from the best-selling author Ann Patchett (Bel Canto, The Magician's Assistant) and a publishing vet Karen Hayes, it’s easy to find inspiration from the latest bestsellers to local authors and well-curated displays, book signings and special events."
A trip to Nasvhille wouldn't be complete without some Prince's Hot Chicken—the institution has been open for almost four decades—so scoot on over there, too, even though it's not particularly close. They serve their crispy chicken from mild to extremely hot, with pickles and soft white bread to absorb the fiery oil. Beginners should probably start with mild.
If you're ready to start drinking but also want to absorb a little more culture, head over to Woolworth on 5th, a new restaurant that opened at the site of the February 1960 lunch counter sit-ins during the Civil Rights Movement, when activists were fighting for the desegregation of lunch counters.
Most of the 18,000-square-foot space was rebuilt, but it still echoes the art deco-inspired aesthetic and wood-paneled walls of the past. Sit down at the counter for a cocktail. At night, the basement's New Era Ballroom fills up with Nasvhille music-lovers; they host regular music shows featuring music of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.
Check into Hutton Hotel, a charming independent hotel in Nashville's West End neighborhood, and maybe take a moment to sit and digest in your cozy, music-themed room before heading out to yet another meal at yet another Philip Krajeck restaurant. The chef's latest, Folk, was one of the most anticipated openings of the year, and its brilliant "neo-Neopolitan" pizzas are things of beauty. Make sure you've clinched a reservation, as the spot is predictably buzzy.
Hutton Hotel hosts some of the city's hottest acts in its downstairs venue and cocktail lounge, Analog, so what better way to end a night than in the place you'll be sleeping?
Breakfast has to be at Biscuit Love. Prepare yourself emotionally for the line flowing out of the establishment; it moves relatively quickly, as long as you have access to podcasts or good conversation. The pay-off is worth it: fantastic biscuit-centric breakfast dishes, savory and sweet, that will leave you feeling horribly full all day. Don't miss the bonut, which is part-biscuit, part-doughnut. Yes.