We'd planned to have a nightcap at the Sunset Grill, which is sort of the music industry canteen. The group opts instead for South Street, a gimmicky restaurant where trees grow through the tables. "I bring my family here for Christmas Eve dinner every year," Emmylou tells me, which suddenly makes it more interesting.
Still, I'm curious to see what I missed, so the next day I stop by the Sunset Grill. It's slick and minimalist, more L.A. than Nashville. At one table, two men in Hawaiian shirts are talking about the marketing possibilities of a fan site for the Charlie Daniels Band. "Give me a bottle of champagne," one of them says. "Make it cold and fresh."
I'm grateful that we didn't end the night here. It would have been like going to a Johnny Cash concert and having the program interrupted by Kenny G. I prefer to hang on to my vision of Nashville as a small town trapped in a big city, the kind of place where you can still find performing dogs and dairy bars and music in its rawest, most spontaneous form.
Kimberley Sevcik is the features director at Marie Claire.
Music: Clubs, Shops, and Shrines
Radio Café 1313 Woodland Ave.; 615/262-1766. A great place to see local talent, especially for fans of American roots.
Station Inn 402 12th Ave. S.; 615/255-3307. Bluegrass reigns. The act to catch, says Emmylou, is the Minute Men.
Great Escape 1925 Broadway; 615/327-0646. Rare records and more.
Country Music Hall of Fame 4 Music Square E.; 615/416-2001, fax 615/255-2245. Fetish Objects "R" Us.
Manuel 1922 Broadway; 615/321-5444. A disciple of the great Nudie, Manuel designs outlandishly embroidered getups for all the local stars.
Pangaea 1721 21st Ave. S.; 615/269-9665. Emmylou's source for Indian bedspreads and Mexican candles.
Restaurants and Cafés
Bobbie's Dairy Dip 53rd Ave. N. and Charlotte Ave.; 615/292-2112; lunch for two $12. Burgers, shakes, and, for Modernists, Belgian fries with creole mustard.
Rotier's Restaurant 2413 Elliston Place; 615/327-9892; dinner for two $20. Southern fare. Only Emmylou's mom makes better lemon icebox pie.
South Street 907 20th Ave. S.; 615/320-5555; dinner for two $50. A joint that bills itself as the "original smokehouse, crab shack, and authentic dive bar."
Sunset Grill 2001 Belcourt Ave.; 615/386-3663; dinner for two $60. New American fare, plus daring desserts—try the coconut sushi.
Bongo Java 2007 Belmont Blvd.; 615/385-5282. Porch hangout.
Four Walls 1804 Blair Blvd.; 615/292-7162; doubles $115, including breakfast. Three bedrooms in Hillsboro Village, Emmylou's favorite neighborhood.
Gruhn Guitars 400 Broadway; 615/256-2033. Emmylou, like most Nashville musicians, buys guitars here. You'll want to, too.