From Asheville to 36 Hours in Nashville

                   First Edition – Sleep and Eats

Summer is the time for road trips, especially this year when the temperatures are bearable so far and gas prices are at a record low compared to past years. For the spontaneous-hearted, the road beckons.

My husband and I discuss road trip scenarios on a weekly basis. We yearn to hit the open road for an extended period, but for the moment we are just getting a taste of various locales, tapas style. So I spend many-a-day visualizing maps in my mind and paring down the “ultimate” route to a more manageable one within a closer proximity. Having been on a couple of dry runs, I knew that Music City would qualify as an “intermediate level” road trip, given that it is a good four and a half hours from the mountains of Western North Carolina. Routines be damned, we found that by splitting the trip in half [with the occasional quick stop] was the best approach to keep ourselves sane and Jasper from having a conniption in the carseat.

Small cities have entered what seems to be an unprecedented renaissance. The timeliness reminds me of a new parent watching their child transition through the ages — there is no time like right now to get a glimpse of both the past and the present before the real growth spurt happens and these places look significantly different. It has me wondering, is it population growth, a new generation of entrepreneurs, the comeback after a recession — what is driving force behind these new characters. Whatever it is, the changes have me developing a slight case of fear-of-missing-out. 

Nashville is riding these tides of change by welcoming a wave of development focused on reviving its once-grand neighborhoods and hosting an influx of new creatives [who are not all of the musical variety].

In order to savor the flavor of a place we hope to frequent, we opted to concentrate our time in the East Nashville and 12 South enclaves. East Nashville is such a neighborhood exuding a mix of eclectic, hipster and friendly Southern vibes. A black sheep in a good way, it is considerably more “fringe” than 12 South that is more upscale urban mercantile maven. I suppose I enjoy seeking out the polarity in places, as it captures the depth of a place.

Where to Roost

Airbnb is the best option in East Nashville given that it is predominantly homes.The “Five Points” is considered the heart of East Nashville, so it is the recommended starting point for getting to know the scene and persona of the neighborhood, so I would aim to find a spot within walking distance. Since there are still areas of East Nashville where you may need to exhibit some kind of precaution when walking at night (though having lived many places, the chance is slim and I would just use common sense), several locals have shared with me a general rule of thumb of staying within range of Greenwood Ave to the north, Fatherland Street to the south and Gallatin/Main Street to the west is likely your best bet for walkable access to a local businesses. 

We lucked out on Airbnb and
 found a sweet carriage style apartment within walking distance of the Five Points. A splash of leopard print bedding and adorned with legendary Hatch Show Prints to solidify the Music City vibe, these digs were the perfect size for two adults, exceptionally clean, and outfitted with what you would need for a short stay. Debbie and Bill’s place is also family friendly, comes with a secured parking space, and very reasonably priced for the area. Check out their place here.

Hunger and Thirst

The Least Guilty, but Indulgent Breakfast — Marché Artisan Foods
1000 Main Street, East Nashville

Part bake shop and part cafe, Marché offers sweet and savory delicacies for breakfast, lunch, and supper with each new day bringing a new variation of the menu. The fare is French inspired, focusing on quality ingredients both local and seasonal in nature. Just as you seek the intimacy of those dark settings in dining after sunset, it seems only appropriate that one should want enjoy one’s petit déjeuner surrounded by an abundance of natural light. Marché is just that — bright and airy — with windows and ceiling fans aplenty. Popular with locals and tourists alike, the place is usually buzzing and the waitstaff are very friendly. First things first: seek out the bowl-sized concoctions produced by the coffee bar, this is the sort of imbibing you will need as you set out for a day of exploring Nashville.

The Must’s:

  • Closed on Mondays
  • Reservations are only taken for dinner

An Abundance of Southern Love for Lunch — Loveless Cafe
8400 Highway 100, Nashville

Take a lazy drive down some backroads [a good 20 minutes out of downtown] to a former ‘travelers’ rest’ turned infamous cafe. In a nod to the past, Loveless cafe stands as an outpost to Nashville, a gatherer of timeless memories and traditions in celebration of the Southern table. Named after a couple who served home cooked meals out of their front door to passersby as they cruised US Highway 100 from Nashville to Memphis, Tennessee, here you will find red and white checkered table cloths and kitschy decor setting the stage for a taste of real Southern cooking. Take your pick of the finger-licking meals du jour, but if you order based on the House’s specialty [as I did], then get the fried chicken paired with complimentary soft biscuits and you won’t be disappointed.

The Must’s:

  • Peruse the surrounding buildings, including a Smokehouse, Country Market, Barn, and Outfitter
  • Check out their daily specials on the website to help you decide on which day to visit
  • If there is a wait, take a photo under the iconic highway sign (#MyLoveless to share the love) and grab some corn hole bags from the country market to kill time

Fancy without the Frills — Margot
1017 Woodland Street, East Nashville

Personally I like to think of Margot more like a mature, older sister to Marché. Located right down the block, she keeps a watchful eye on her kin and as patrons come to admire either establishment, they are drawn to the talents of the entire family. Margot brings a bit of culinary sophistication to this evolving neighborhood, without the elitism. A convergence of French and Italian culinary style, Margot offers up fresh comforting meals with a modern twist, reminiscent of those European countryside dinners. With a menu philosophy of local and seasonal, don’t shy away from the prospect of ordering vegetarian entrees (e
ven if you are a carnivore). The service is both detailed oriented and attentive, while giving space for an intimate experience.

The Must’s:

  • Closed on Mondays
  • Menu changes daily
  • Being a small and intimate space, reservations are strongly suggested
  •  You can bring your own wine (for a corkage fee). Just down the block you can find an exceptional wine selection and knowledgable staff at Woodland Wine Merchant 

Coffee Royalty — Barista Parlor
519B Gallatin Ave, East Nashville

Being particularly particular about my cup of coffee, it was essential for me to seek out the best East Nashville had to offer. You won’t find any machine-made drip here — only hand conceived pour-overs by the talented baristas — making a clear statement that there is an art to making coffee. Beans are roasted on site sourced from faraway locales, offering an array of tasting notes to satisfy any coffee aficionado. With three different locations across Nashville, the East location exhibits unique art installations throughout its lofted space celebrating American military and maritime heritage. Barista Parlor is the kind of place you that makes you want to stay a while, strike up a conversation with a stranger and maybe even have that second cup.

The Must’s:

  • Not fronting Gallatin Ave, located on the right backside of the building
  • Roasting is done on Mondays
  • You can order whole bean coffee from their shop
  • Instagram: @baristaparlor

Donut Diva — Five Daughters Bakery
1110 Caruthers Ave, 12 South

When I heard that they were releasing an ice cream stuffed version of their famous 100 layer donuts, I knew I could convince my husband to make the trek to such a place (I love donuts, he loves his ice cream). Yes, you read that correctly…100 layer donuts — this bakery’s version of a “cronut,” a cross between a croissant and a donut. Pardon me, but someone’s version of heaven in your mouth, and I quote “it’s like America and France made slow sweet love and had a pastry baby.” Five Daughters Bakery is a local, family owned business, built upon a legacy of family bakers and in celebration of the next generation. Girly indeed with its bubble gum pink decor, it’s the kind of place you enter and just know that your sweet tooth is going to be satisfied. Let’s just say I felt considerably less guilty after a long walk down the 12 South corridor and knowing that the donut I’m scarfing was made without any of the yucky artificial stuff. Did I mention that they also make paleo donuts? Another fine establishment that will make you want to have more than one…

The Must’s:

  • First come – first serve, with the early bird getting the donut – it is highly likely that the bakery will sell out of certain kinds as the day progresses
  • Want to track realtime availability? Check out their donutcam here
  • Their other location is in Franklin, which also houses the factory
  • 2 Birds, 1 Stone: Barista Parlor locations also sell their baked goods

Stay tuned for the next edition sharing Where to Play in Nashville


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