We’re excited to announce the launch of our City Guide series, where we’ll be sharing insider tips about cool places around the United States and world. First up: Nashville, Tennessee. We enlisted art director Elise Joseph, who was born and raised there, to give us her tour…
Elise Joseph: I was born and raised in Nashville. We have a lot of exciting things going on in music, art and design, and the community feels so collaborative and supportive of one another. Spring and fall are magical — there’s nothing like the blooming willow trees, fresh breeze and rolling country hills.
WHERE TO EAT
For lunch, try Hattie B’s in Midtown or the West End. Nashville hot chicken — fried chicken with cayenne pepper, served with pickles over white bread — is becoming a thing on menus around the country, for good reason. I usually stick to a milder version, but you can go all the way up to “damn hot” and “SHUT THE CLUCK UP!!!” which comes with a burn notice (!). Come prepared to wait in line — this is one of Nashville’s finest.
For the best breakfast sandwich, head to the newly opened Proper Bagel. It’s located in the Belmont-Hillsboro neighborhood, a beautiful, residential part of town. You have to order the bialy sandwich, which comes layered with tomato jam, chive cream cheese, arugula and scrambled eggs.
They also have offbeat cream cheese flavors, like Nutella Peanut Butter and Lavender.
For dinner, try Rolf and Daughters in Germantown. The industrial space, in a 100-year-old factory, is cozy and charming, and they serve New American food to communal tables. Start with the sourdough and seaweed butter — it sounds boring, but I promise it’ll knock your socks off. I also love the heritage pork ragout pasta, but you really can’t go wrong with any of the clever dishes.
Little Octopus in East Nashville is also great for dinner. Their small plates are perfect for sharing with friends — each dish delivered to the table as soon as the kitchen prepares it. With spicy fingerling potatoes to avocado with crispy shallots, this place appeals to carnivores, vegetarians and vegans alike.
Robert’s Western World
WHERE TO HANG
Robert’s Western World. This small but legendary honky tonk features live country music from some of Music City’s best. It’s a grill during the day, but transforms after 6 p.m. into the ultimate Nashville hangout with dancing, cold beer, Moon Pies and fried bologna sandwiches. Always a good time.
Ryman Auditorium is one of the most beautiful places in Nashville. It’s best known as the original home of the Grand Ole Opry and still has the original wooden pews from 1892. Everyone from Bob Dylan to Patsy Cline to Coldplay has graced its stage. This hallowed hall makes any performance feel that much more profound. If you’d like, try to get tickets to a show while you’re in town!
Radnor Lake. Located just south of town, this peaceful oasis is my favorite getaway within the city. They have several quiet hiking trails, where I always happen upon deer, herons and turtles. It feels like another world.
WHERE TO SHOP
Wilder. My married friends Josh and Ivy Elrod opened this amazing design store in Germantown. I’ve found such cool furniture and decor for our apartment, and look to them for my perpetual incense fix. They’re super friendly and have some of the best taste in town.
Elizabeth Suzann’s studio in Berry Hill. She’s a Nashville designer making waves in the fashion industry. Make an appointment at her showroom to shop in person (sounds intimidating, but the team is some of the sweetest people you’ll ever meet) and take in all the beauty. (How lovely is this dress?)
Grimey’s in Melrose. Named one of the “Top Record Stores in America” by Rolling Stone, this local music spot is a true Nashville gem. Flip through old vinyl albums to find a souvenir to take home.
Gas Lamp Antiques, Pre To Post Modern or the Downtown Antique Mall are great antiques shops if you’re looking for vintage pieces or just want to be inspired. Most of these places are willing to bargain with you on the prices, so haggle away!
WHERE TO STAY
The 404 is a five-room boutique hotel and restaurant in the heart of the Gulch, an artsy central neighborhood. The rooms have a beautiful mix of vintage and modern pieces and feature photography by local artists, like Caroline Allison.
The Hermitage Hotel. This luxury hotel, in a historic Beaux-Arts building, first opened its doors in 1910. Guests choose from a “pillow menu” — including buckwheat, memory foam and down options — and will discover sugar cookies in the rooms after the turn-down service. (Fun fact: Aziz Ansari stays here during the “Nashville” episode of Master of None!)
If you’d rather rent a house, book an Airbnb in East Nashville. This residential area contains amazing restaurants, bars, parks and shops. Have some tacos at Mas Tacos Por Favor, pop by Two Son for some shopping and finish with an Old Fashioned at Butcher & Bee.
Nashville neighborhoods are friendly and diverse, and each has something special to offer. It’s definitely worth exploring! Public transportation isn’t great, however, so it’s essential to drive (or ride a bike). Also, head’s up: More and more people are moving here every day, so the lines tend to get pretty backed up at all the hot spots. Make reservations, if you can!
Thank you so much for the tour, Elise! What else would you add? And please let us know if there’s a city you’d like us to cover in this series!
(Fried chicken photo by Evan Sung. Photo of the 404 room via their website. All other beautiful photos by Zachary Gray for Elise Joseph. Graphic design by Miss Moss. Thanks to Stella Blackmon for editing this series.)