Chicago Versus Nashville

It’s a close one, but I don’t think I can really judge a city based on a few days. Nashville was awesome! As soon as you step off the plane, there’s live music in the air. I called up Mom in LA, and I couldn’t really hear her because of the live band in the airport. I can see how this gets gimmicky for the locals, but c’mon, who can hate a town for being soulful.

Of course, as with every place I go, I did my research. The first few hours were spent tracking down Jack White’s Third Man Records, a recording studio/record store/music venue. I heard about this place on NPR a few years ago while sitting in traffic on the 101. Ok. We go there, check. The record store is small and all the records are either made there or made by Jack White. If you’re a huge Jack White fan, you’d love this place. I respect the dude, but I was a little overwhelmed and maybe, underwhelmed. I would prefer to see a show there instead of the gift shop.

Anyway, we were hungry, so we seek out local places and end up at Whiskey Kitchen nearby. I ordered shrimp and grits and get my fill of real countrified food. Oooh, doggy, it was good. After this late lunch, we head over to Antique Archeology, popularized by History Channel’s American Pickers. I love that show, so walking in the store and seeing all the “junk” they collected in person was amazing. I perused the store as if in a fog. There was so much stuff to see that going around one and twice was not enough. It’s like an overpriced garage sale.

After Antique, we hang out in this area checking out the Bang Candy Company and getting coffee at the Garage Coffee Company. As a side note, this area is infested with hipsters who work there. The historic building that their retail shops are in is the Marathon Auto Works. The building was beautifully redone in modern loft style, but still managed to keep its industrial grit.

Following my research, we end up in East Nashville for the evening. We hung out at No. 308, a bar that specializes in creating fresh squeezed soda drinks for mixers. As you may have guessed, this is the hipster mecca of Nashville. There are tons of local shops, green products and active young people. After 308, we end up in another area of what the locals call “East Nasty” to dine at the Wild Cow, a vegan restaurant.

To my surprise and unplanned delight, there was an ice cream shop next door that had unique flavors (reminded me of Humphry Slocombe in SF) and a line out the door. It was called Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, and it definitely lived up to my excitement. I had two scoops: banana cajeta and guava, but I got really confused when I learned their ice cream sandwiches were gluten-free. I ended up sticking to my original choice of scoops, but then, after sitting down, the employee who served me comes up with half of a Salted Caramel and Smoked Almond sandwich. Thank you for making me fat, girl! I loved every bite of that Southern hospitality. You should get a raise. After Jeni’s, I fall asleep to Too Cute on Animal Planet.

Second day, we had a fabulous breakfast at Cracker Barrel in Gallatin with Eddie’s mom, Teresa, and hung out with Zeus, the dog. I say “fabulous” because one, I got to hang out with great company, and two, I actually got to eat some food off the menu! I’ve never been to a Cracker Barrel before, so I expected all of the food to be cooked in animal grease. I stand corrected: not all of the food is cooked in bacon fat. I found grits.

We hung out at Opry Mills for most of the day, and later, met Jeff (the final Herman bro), Daron and CJ. Skipping lunch, we ate dinner at Cabana, a Southern restaurant with a trendy Hollywood feel to it. Reminds me of Chaya Venice. After dinner, we make our way down to Broadway to visit the Honky-Tonks. We stayed at Rippy’s most of the night because the owner’s son, BT, hooked us up with free drinks. BT later took us over to get access to Tootsie’s (his dad owns that venue, too), which fails for all except BT because the fire marshall is in the house and so is Kid Rock.

Overall, Nashville was a good time. Nice to meet ya’ll! Next time, I’ll pick a weekend when Kid Rock is not closing down all the streets. Happy belated birthday, Johnny Cash!

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