Nashville’s “It City” status doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon, but that doesn’t mean the Tennessee capital is resting on its laurels. Plans are in the works for a series of new boutique hotels downtown (a Virgin Hotel, as well as a 21c), but before we get ahead of ourselves, here’s what we’re loving in Music City right now.
Eat and Drink
The latest from brothers Benjamin and Max Goldberg (perhaps best known for The Catbird Seat and brunch-and-bowling spot Pinewood Social), Le Sel offers new-French cuisine, a robust raw bar, and “large format” style menu that’s designed to be shared.
Fried chicken prepared “Nashville-style” is having quite the moment, and there is no shortage of restaurants serving Music City’s new-found signature dish. Looking for the original? Try Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack out on Dickerson Pike. Or, if you prefer to stay closer to downtown, Hattie B’s on 19th is a suitable substitute. But no matter where you choose to eat, take heed: hot means hot.
If the honky tonks on Broadway aren’t your scene, pop into this Prohibition-inspired cocktail joint for a killer Presbyterian or the surprisingly smooth bacon-infused Old Fashioned.
Located in a refurbished movie theater off Melrose, Sinema offers a Hollywood-inspired cocktail menu (try the Suze and Sarandon), a menu of new American classics, and an Instagram-worthy bathroom. Coming soon from the team: A fast casual spot down the street to be called The Hook.
Even if you aren’t staying in East Nashville, this restaurant and beer garden is worth a trip over the river for its housemade phosphates, local brews, and award-winning burgers.
We've already given 404 Kitchen top marks for its whiskey selection, but this shipping container turned modern Southern eatery is so much more than your average watering hole. Adjacent to the chic 404 Hotel, the Matt Bolus restaurant serves an inventive menu of locally sourced meat and produce in dishes like pork bolognese, skillet cornbread, and Olive & Sinclair Chocolate Budino.
Barista Parlor, Crema, and Frothy Monkey tend to receive the coffee accolades in Nashville, but we prefer this Hillsboro Village cafe for its unpretentious staff, fantastic people watching, and curated menu of savory breakfast dishes and sweet baked goods. Plus, it’s a known hangout of Taylor Swift. Need we say more?
Acme Feed & Seed
Relatively new to the downtown area is Acme Feed & Seed. An updated version of the classic honky tonk, this bar and restaurant offers communal tables, 28 beers on tap, and local favorites like fried green tomatoes, catfish, and shrimp and grits.
If your itinerary won’t allow for a trip all the way out The Loveless Cafe—a country kitchen that serves legendary biscuits—get your flaky breakfast fix at Biscuit Love, the brick-and-mortar spinoff of a popular local food truck.
Country Music Hall of Fame
If you worship at the altar of Johnny Cash and Dolly Parton, Nashville’s Country Music Hall of Fame is a must-see. Explore exhibits on legends and newcomers alike, and before you leave, stop in to the historic letterpress shop, Hatch Show Print for a studio tour and a chance to try your hand at the old-school poster printing process.
The Bluebird Cafe
ABC’s Nashville has made this tiny listening room one of the most popular tickets in town. When the date you’re interested in goes live, click quickly for the chance to see up-and-coming songwriters in the round.
The Bars on Broadway
Head down to the honky tonks on Broadway for live music and cheap beer. Wander til you hear a sound you like, or make a plan to hit up the famous Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, Robert’s Western World, and The Stage.
The Escape Game Nashville
There’s a reason this activity ranks so highly on Trip Advisor—each themed interactive puzzle is completely immersive, forcing players to decipher clues and find keys to escape the locked room. Pro tip: Book the whole capacity for your time slot so you don’t have to tip-toe around strangers while racing against the clock.
The newly opened flagship from Reese Witherspoon’s Southern-inspired lifestyle brand is quickly becoming a go-to for cocktail dresses, handbags (the “Totes Y’all” well, tote, is a personal favorite), and cheeky home decor (think mugs emblazoned with "give me some sugar" and cocktail napkins stitched Southern saying like "pleased as punch"). After you make your purchase, pose for a pic in front of the practically made-for-Instagram blue-and-white striped shop wall.
The Cosmetic Market
Whether TSA tossed your shampoo or you forgot your favorite moisturizer at home, you can pick up a fix at this local beauty mainstay. While you peruse the Hill Center shop, stock up on Nashville brands like Therapy Systems, Otter Creek, and Local Economy.
The Goo Goo Shop
Hot chicken may be Nashville’s signature dish of the moment, but sweet tooths will probably prefer the Goo Goo, a slightly misshapen candy bar that originated in Nashville in 1912. The local favorite, a cluster of milk chocolate, caramel, peanuts, and marshmallow nougat, now boasts its own store, just across from the Johnny Cash Museum on 3rd Avenue.
Third Man Records
Music fans flock to Jack White’s record store for two reasons: an impressive vinyl selection and the Third Man Record Booth, where amateurs and professionals alike can try out a refurbished 1947 Voice-o-Graph. Simply step into the booth and record your song or message (up to two minutes of audio) and after a brief wait, the machine dispenses a 6" phonograph disc.
Old Made Good
It’s a bit of a hike for travelers staying downtown but Old Made Good’s selection of vintage clothing and housewares, is well-worth the drive. While you’re there, pick up a set of penguin notecards illustrated by local artist M. L. Philpott.
Looking for a souvenir? Skip the boot shops on Broadway, and head down 12th South to White’s Mercantile. Owned by singer/songwriter Holly Williams, this modern take on the general store features clothing, home goods, art, and pantry items, and has with a special focus on products made in the South.