Eat Your Way Through Nashville and Be Happy

Local suggestionsOn the Southwest flight to Nashville I struck up a conversation with a local Nashvillian and asked “Where should we go?” She and her friends gave us lots of suggestions and I started writing them on this napkin. Then other passengers started chiming in. By the time we were finished we had more places to eat than meals to eat them.

Fried chicken and biscuits and gravy at Puckett's in Franklin
Fried chicken and biscuits and gravy at Puckett’s in Franklin

With one southern boy in our party, we committed ourselves to eat as much southern food as possible in 48 hours. Kudos to Chuck. He managed to eat chicken at every single meal, even breakfast.

Fireside chats at Hermitage Hotel fireplace
Fireside chats at Hermitage Hotel fireplace

We arrived to the Hermitage Hotel late on Sunday night and felt peckish. It was 7:30 p.m. on our internal clocks. One of the recommendations was for the Capitol Grill at the Hermitage Hotel. Unfortunately its kitchen was already closed; fortunately we could order food at the Oak Bar. We kicked off our Nashville eating orgasma with divine deviled eggs and fried green tomatoes with pimento cheese. Jessica also ordered the Brunswick Stew and let me taste. Yum. My colleagues raved about the cocktails. The waitress was very good with recommending drinks and provided quick cheerful service. Welcome to Nashville.

The next morning we all had breakfast on our own. I actually got up early and worked out in the gym! I ordered breakfast in my room: oatmeal with raisins (it is all about the pacing). It was the same high quality as the food served on my last morning at the Capitol Grill.

Our workshop was in Franklin and at lunchtime we sprinted to the Burger Up to get a table and eat in the hour break. We were all pleasantly surprised when we looked at the menu to find gourmet burgers, chicken and salads. You could eat healthy or go for truffle fries. The original Burger Up is in 12 South. We highly recommend it.

Puckett's in FranklinThat evening some of us wanted to watch football and we needed to eat. We selected Pinewood Social and it was such an amazing experience it earned a dedicated blog post, as did our dinner the following evening at the restaurant Husk.

On our last full day together we looked at our napkin and realized that we had to go out to breakfast if we wanted to experience more of what Nashville had to offer. Plus people kept saying we should see downtown Franklin. So we got up early and went to Puckett’s General Store for breakfast. It was good food and generous portions. By this time though I could feel myself getting ready to wave the white flag.

Our speaker used Chick-fil-A as a marketing example during the workshop and we all looked at each other and said “lunch”. We all were looking for smaller portions while still delicious and with service in under an hour (with driving).

Jack's BBQThe next day my sister-in-law’s sister Gretchen and mom Chetty gave me a tour of Nashville. I still needed to try a “meat and 3 sides” so we went to Jack’s BBQ. I loved the flying pigs. The sides all looked like they might clog an artery so I selected turnip greens and cole slaw to go with my pork and cornbread platter. It was delicious but I was reaching “tilt”.

Meat and 3 Sides at Jack's BBQ
Meat and 3 Sides at Jack’s BBQ

I also wanted to try local coffee. We stopped in 12 North at Frothy Monkey and I enjoyed an excellent latte.

On the last evening, I was too pooped to go out, so I ordered a salad from room service and carved off another hunk of rib-eye from the ginormous steak Janet and I shared at Husk. It was even more delicious cold.

I got recommendations for non-southern places too. Try Urban Grub in 12 South or Etch restaurant downtown (the only one anyone mentioned has vegetarian options). I Dream of Weenie for hotdogs.

My colleagues and I all agree—we would return to Nashville in a heartbeat and stay longer next time.

5 Things to Do in Nashville besides Eat or Listen to Music

Okay, okay, you have full permission to go to Nashville and do nothing but eat and listen to music. You could easily focus on these two activities and have an unforgettable experience. In case you need to do something between meals to help you digest, here are a few ideas.

Check out the Men's Room near the Oak Bar at the Hermitage Hotel.
Check out the Men’s Room near the Oak Bar at the Hermitage Hotel.
  1. Go to the Men’s Room at the Hermitage Hotel

    Chetty, glass artist, was part of hotel restoration team
    Chetty, glass artist, was part of hotel restoration team

When we told people we were staying at the Hermitage Hotel, they’d say “Be sure to check out the Men’s Room. It’s famous.” So late one night we had Chuck check for occupants and when he gave us the all clear we went in. There is a blocked tunnel legislators used to go to and fro from the Capitol. The lavatory is beautiful and unique with green subway glass and art deco décor. Then my sister-in-law’s mom, Chetty, came to give me a tour of Nashville. First stop the Men’s Room, but from a slightly different perspective. Chetty sourced the glass for the bathroom and the lobby stained glass when the hotel was restored to its former glory.bicycles

  1. Ride a bike along the Cumberland riverfront

Not so appealing in January–when I was there it was too cold. Nashville has a city bike program so you can rent, grab and go. The last mayor promoted building lots more trails and connecting greenways, plus there are new bike lanes on roads. Start your adventure near the Shelby Street Bridge and park by the Titans’ stadium. Bonus: get a great view of downtown Nashville

parkway near Shelby Street bridge
parkway near Shelby Street bridge
Titan Stadium
Titan Stadium
  1. See the ParthenonParthenon, Nashville TN

This replica was built for the USA Centennial celebration in 1876 and maintained by the citizens of Nashville. (They heard the other one was falling down.) It has an art gallery inside, check for hours.

  1. Shop for books

My friends bought boots on Broadway at one of the 3 or 4 boot stores. I made a beeline for Parnassus Books. A citadel for independent bookstores and owned by author Ann Patchett, you can purchase all of her novels signed and request to have them personalized. Or you can discover a new author. We spent over an hour here (and I will not admit how much money. I spent) They ship to your home—one day soon it will be like the day the Scholastic books arrived in the classroom. Yippee.IMG_5968

  1. Soak up some historyTravellers Rest

Nashville is rich in history: Native American, Natchez Trace, Trail of Tears, Daniel Boone, Civil War, Civil Rights, Country Music. Everyday we were there we overheard people talking about the war. At first we were not sure what war. Upon more careful eavesdropping we realized they were talking about the Civil War! (Let it go.) We made quick stops at Sunnyside antebellum plantation home and Travellers Rest where the Confederate generals were headquartered during the battle for Nashville.


If I had more time, I might have also taken in the Johnny Cash museum or the Country Music Hall of Fame. Or go shopping in Franklin or The Gulch. My list is based on recommendations from locals we met along the way and my sister-in-law’s family who hosted me one afternoon.

For more ideas check out the fun little guide Nashville: Wildsam Field Guides. Or watch the HBO Sonic Highways episode on Nashville.