Word of Mouth: Nashville

Tennessee's capital appeals for more than its music, neon signs and cowboy boots

Part of the appeal of Tennessee’s capital city lies in its ability to retain its storied history as a lively, talent-rich musical destination while also thriving as a bustling metropolis of cultural institutions, worthy accommodation, excellent dining and more. Nashville has experienced significant growth over the past two decades, but plenty of favorites remain: Hattie B’s hot chicken, beloved honky-tonk bar Robert’s Western World, and internationally-acclaimed record shop Grimey’s (albeit in a new location) among them. Dotted in-between are newcomers that include a lovely wine bar from a Paris-trained chef and the lush guest rooms of an Art Deco hotel. Here we have selected some of our favorite spots—new and old—to visit in Nashville.

Third Man Records

Owned by Jack White (of the White Stripes), Third Man Records operates two shops: the original Detroit location (opened in 2001), and the newer Nashville outpost. More than a record store, walking in feels akin to wandering into a magic shop. Third Man has several different rooms: a record store, novelties shop, photo studios, recording studios, listening booths, as well as offices and a distribution center. The yellow, red and black store also houses a Scopitone video jukebox. Walk-ins are welcome, but if visitors want the full experience, there are tours available (Fridays and Saturdays) of the direct-to-acetate studio and more.

The Dream Hotel

The 168-room Dream Nashville, which opened in early 2019, offers guests proximity to Printers Alley (a photogenic stretch of bars and take-out restaurants), the city’s historic downtown center and a bevy of the property’s own eateries and bars, which are quite different from the neon-clad cowboy-themed bars around the corner. Upstairs, the hotel’s rooms feature airy, double-height ceilings, and the interior design boasts Art Deco influences. Bright oranges and deep, rich blues contrast the monochromatic detailing of each room’s accompanying bathroom. Downstairs, a restaurant (Stateside Kitchen), cafe (Natura), burlesque show at their nightclub (Dirty Little Secret) and cocktail bar (Snitch) offer excellent starting points to a day or night out—which, courtesy of a complimentary car service offered by Lincoln, can be navigated in new Nautilus or Navigator.

Drug Store Coffee

Adjacent to the Dream Nashville, inside the Noelle Hotel, Drug Store Coffee impresses for its easy-going vibe and finer design details. From the carefully considered collection of appliances and tools—which maintain a particular, lab-like theme—to the locally sourced Sump coffee and accompanying Drug Store merch for sale, popping in will please the tastebuds and the eye. We suggest trying the house-made double cream and blackberry jam biscuits and a drip coffee of the day.

Dino’s

An East Nashville institution, Dino’s is the quintessential dive bar: vinyl seats; formica tabletops; ice cold beer; classic, greasy snacks; and a laidback atmosphere. With a full bar and plenty of beers available, this spot is beloved for its $6 cheeseburger—though there are fish sandwiches, quesadillas and more available. Open every night until 3AM, Dino’s hosts happy hour from 4PM to 6PM Monday through Friday—when the weather is good, this is best enjoyed outside at one of their picnic tables.

L & L Market

Housed inside of a factory space built in 1929, L & L Market is home to an expansive, food hall-like list of vendors. Owner Tamay Ozari purchased the building in 1996 to accommodate his kitchen equipment company, L&L Restaurant Equipment Company. Acknowledging the exponential growth of the city, especially on the blocks surrounding his property, Ozari committed to restore the historic building and turn it into a marketplace for the public to enjoy. Opened in 2019, the Market now houses a Thai restaurant (Thai Ni Yom), a bakery (Five Daughters Bakery), shopping (Happily Grey, Land of the Living, and more), and a handful of specialty shops (Savory Spice and Masaya & Co, among others). Whether it’s to dine or peruse the shops, the renovated space treats visitors with a balance of preserved beauty and contemporary offerings.

Lou

Located in East Nashville’s Riverside Village, all-day cafe Lou, from talented California- and Paris-tenured chef Mailea Weger, features a brunch-like menu and an assortment of natural wines—plus, pastries from former Sqirl pastry chef, Sasha Piligian. Inside, it’s convivial and a bit bohemian, but there’s an elegance to every dish. Trained in classical French cuisine, Weger masters the minute details of daily service, and her immense talent leads to plenty of experimentation. The charred cabbage, beet honey vinegar, and fermented chili dish (above) is smoky, sweet, briny and pairs well with “breakfast wine”—discounted bottles leftover from the night before.

Bearded Iris Brewing

Established in 2016, Bearded Iris Brewing introduced craft drinkers in Nashville to hoppy but nuanced beers. Using specific varietals or blends of different hops, the Bearded Iris team can concoct double and single IPAs that maintain a consistent textural profile but differ in aroma and flavor. You won’t find stouts or sours here, but the talented cast of brewers showcases the diversity of the IPA style by offering iterations that punch. There’s at least a handful of beers on offer here to please every palate.

Images courtesy of respective venues