I’m the first to admit I haven’t spent much time “down south.” With the exception of a few trips to Florida, Eric’s hometown in southern Illinois was as far south as I’ve ever been.
Until now! Eric and I just got back from an AWESOME trip to Nashville, TN! We decided to road trip from Iowa and with a stop over at the in-laws in southern Illinois, it wasn’t a bad drive at all! Even if you don’t have a place to stop, this is a one day drive from the Midwest easily. 🙂
I loved everything about this city. Everything. I never thought I’d want to leave the Midwest but I’d make an exception for Nashville. Yes. I would live there. This is HUGE for me. Huge. I’m not even kidding. I fell head over heals IN LOVE with Nashville.
Let me tell you why I like it. Ready? Great! Take a trip with us to fabulous Nashville, TN!
1. It’s a big city without being too big. All the great things about a big city are there without all the hassles. Case in point – we were downtown early in the evening on Sunday night…there was a Titans game about to start, a pretty big name at the Ryman and the streets were packed with people. We still found a place to park without much searching AND got a table at a restaurant right there in the middle of the action without evening without waiting more than 5 minutes. Now THAT’S what I’m talking about! LOVE it.
2. I loved the mix of old and young. The city totally has a young, hip vibe with cool places to eat/hang out/shop with a nice splash of history and old-timeyness thrown in. I loved that we heard a young guy play Hank, Sr. in a honky-tonk. I loved that the people at the next table were our parents age. There is truly something for everyone there and it’s all mixed up together into a melting pot of wonderfulness!
3. Live country music. Ice cold beer. And NO cover? Yes, please!
4. And, last but not least, there is a ton to do and see…and EAT! Here’s some highlights from our trip to Music City.
First, let me hype up this AWESOME deal from the Nashville CVB – The Total Access Pass. $45 gets you admission into four attractions of your choice. There are 16 to choose from including the Country Music Hall of Fame. This was a GREAT find. With two Total Access passes, it was like getting into all the attractions at two for one. This is a must. I mean, it’s 20 bucks to get into the CMHoF alone – this thing pays for itself in three attractions. Worth it. With our passes we went to the Hall of Fame, toured the Ryman Auditorium, went to the Hermitage and to the Belle Meade Plantation. The pass also included free admission to the Parthenon (yes, there’s a replica of the Greek Parthenon in Nashville! Who would have thunk it?!) but we ran out of time and didn’t get over there.
We loved the Hall of Fame – especially the exhibit about the Williams family. Fascinating!
The Hermitage (home of our 7th President, Andrew Jackson) was really interesting too. I learned a lot about him I didn’t know from high school history!
The Ryman was truly amazing. No wonder they call it the Mother Church of Country Music. We kind of went in there on whim and I’m so glad we did. I need-NEED- to see a show here someday. I bet it’s beyond amazing. I’m already on their mailing list. Next trip to Nashville WILL involve a show here.
Belle Meade (home of the bloodlines of such famous racehorses as Seabiscuit and Secretariat, among others) was great because they let you wander around the entire house and get up close to the items inside (most of which are original.) Very cool!
Other highlights – we drove down to Lynchberg to the Jack Daniel’s Distillery. This was probably the highlight of the trip for both of us. SO amazing – you can read about our trip down there here.
And we saw a show at the Grand Ole Opry. Wow, was that like stepping back in time or what?? The modern artists on the stage that night – Josh Turner and Montgomery Gentry. Both awesome. It was fun to see some old timers too. Eric is more familiar with those folks than I am, but I enjoyed it too. It’s a live radio broadcast (complete with sponsors and commercials!) so the announcer would prompt us to cheer and clap every now and then. So much fun! They actually let you come right up to the stage and take pictures if you want. I didn’t, but that’s pretty neat that you can get that close to the stars!
We also had our very first pro-hockey game experience with the Nashville Predators. We are hockey virgins no more! I’ve never been much of a hockey fan but it was actually a lot of fun – even though the Predators didn’t play that well this particular evening. Helpful tip – we waited until the day of the game to get tix and we got cheap seats for only 10 bucks each! Can’t beat that with a stick. Apparently they sell a hundred tickets at a reduced price the day of the game. Great deal! Sure, they were nosebleeds but they were far from bad seats. I liked being up high because we had a nice birdseye view of what was happening. It was easier for me to follow along that way. I learned all about penalty boxes and power plays. Hee. This game was a treat for sure! The zambonis are my favorite part. Of course.
And now the reason why you’re here – the FOOD!
Big, HUGE thank you shout out to Erin over at Erin’s Food Files. Erin’s blog is FAB! One of my favorites for sure. Her recipes are so creative-I love when she features the goodies she gets in her CSA baskets! Please be sure to check it out! She gave me the low down on all her favorite local eats and provided us with some GREAT recommendations. See, this is what’s so great about the food blogging world – although Erin and I have never met, we are acquainted through our mutual love of food – and blogging about it! We’ve connected through blogging! When she heard we were headed her way, she quickly came to the rescue with her recs as I was at a complete loss on where to eat! Thank you, Erin!!
Here’s just a sampling of where we chowed down. I could go on and on forever about every single place we ate but I’ll spare you and just mention the highlights. 🙂
Jack’s BBQ – 416 Broadway, Nashville
Okay. Jack’s ROCKS! It’s located right downtown in the heart of the action and has cute little flying piggies on the marquee. Hee. This a counter service type place, where you order at the counter and then take your food and go sit down. It was SO good. Now, I LOVE barbeque, but I really don’t know much about it. What I do know is that it’s serious business. Especially in the south. This was our first meal in Nashville and it was a great way to kick things off!
As I pondered my choices (had plenty of time do so, the line was pretty long!) I thought I’d probably end up with pork. I always get pork. But the smoked turkey was speaking to me. Calling to me. I went for it – in sandwich form. Mmmm. Like butter it was so tender. Perfect smokey flavor, lots of charred, crunchy edges to enjoy. Yum. I got baked beans on the side. They had a nice kick of spice to them – just how I like ’em. 🙂
Eric got the pork. I didn’t even end up trying it, I was so enthralled in my turkey, but he really seemed to enjoy it. On the side, he got mac and cheese (homemade and very cheesy and delicious) and cinnamon apples (like pie-sans crust. YUM.)
We got little cups of all the sauces to try before deciding which one to pour on our sandwiches. Eric liked the mustard-based sauce the best. I liked the sweet/spicy/tangy vinegar sauce the best, with the mustard coming in a close second. The tomato based sauce was good too but there’s something about vinegar and mustard sauces that always outdo the tomato sauces for me – not sure why that is!
This was probably my favorite place that we ate. Also one of the cheapest! Ha. I’m a cheap date, I guess. 🙂
Cabana – 1910 Belcourt Ave., Nashville
Cabana is on Nashville’s west side near Vanderbilt University. The neighborhood over there is totally cool. Very hip and vibrant. Once I got over feeling like a country bumpkin trying to fit in with the rich kids, I really enjoyed myself. Ha ha…I *think* Vanderbilt is a little fancier than what we public state school grads are used to (Going out on a limb and guessing they probably don’t have classrooms with scary looking live wires hanging out spaces where the ceiling tiles have disintegrated like we did? Am I right? Ha ha.) The area around campus is really beautiful.
On to our dinner! Well. Let me just say, if we go back to Nashville, I would absolutely try Cabana again. The food was excellent and I LOVED the atmosphere. We liked how the menu was a bit more upscale but there was still a couple giant TVs on hand to watch some football and keep things casual. Very cool vibe.
However. Yeah, there’s a however here. Just hear me out though!
We debated back and forth about getting a couple smaller plates to share or getting entrees. In the end we each went with an entree. I kind of wished we went with the smaller plates so we could have had more variety. The entree I chose originally was a pasta special. They were out. I know that’s no one’s fault but….you know….when you have your heart set on one thing and then you have to choose something else it’s like a major bummer. I ended up getting the braised bison short ribs with gnocchi. I liked the flavors a lot and the meat was insanely tender and delicious – but there was like four gnocchi on my entire plate…and I gave one to Eric when he tried a bite! I wanted more soft, potato-y goodness. There wasn’t enough contrast of textures without more gnocchi. Eric got a tri-colored cheese tortellini with Italian sausage and a crushed tomato sauce. It was for sure delicious, but it wouldn’t have been my choice when there were so many other interesting things to choose from! He’s kind of scared of the unknown, so no surprises that he chose that. It’s okay – I still love him. 🙂
Also, our server told us it was happy hour and that draft beers were a dollar off – I had a draft and Eric didn’t so I don’t think he knew how much it was supposed to be when he got the check. I looked at our receipt after we left and we didn’t get the drink for a dollar off. In the grand scheme of things, does one dollar matter? No, of course not. But still…you know…yeah….
Again, I will absolutely give Cabana another shot. The menu is so eclectic and fun, I can’t wait to get back and try it a second time. Overall, we really enjoyed ourselves there.
Jackson’s – 1800 21st Ave. S, Nashville
Jackson’s is also on the west end near Vanderbilt. We stopped in here for brunch on Sunday afternoon. It was getting late – close to 2:00 and this place was still packed to the brim. This is actually the only place we went on our trip where we had to wait to be seated. I’m a big believer in following the crowd and the crowd for sure knew what they were talking about here. There were so many things on the menu that sounded good, we really had a hard time choosing! Eric got an omlette (I can’t remember what was is in it!) and cinnamon toast. He seemed to enjoy it. I tried a bit of the cinnamon toast and thought it was just so-so. Just a basic buttered toast with a bit of cinnamon sugar on top. I’m not sure what I was expecting but I don’t think it was that. Oh well. Everything else was good.
I just had to get the monte cristo – ham, cheese, sandwiched between what tastes a lot like french toast and deep fried. I got mine with a side of bypass surgery. LOL. Kidding, of course! I knew I was only going to be able to eat about a quarter of the sandwich because they are always so so SO rich but I couldn’t pass it up. My prediction came true…I couldn’t even finish half of it but it was decadent and delicious. I’m big on the sweet/salty combo so this was right up my alley. Dipped in maple syrup, this is treat is salty, crunchy, melty and delicious!
I had a side of french onion hash brown potatoes. Onions, potatoes and cheese? I’ll take two orders, please. 🙂 These were good too – thick chunks of potatoes, fried up crispy and topped with lots of melted swiss. Loved the sweet background from the onions. Eric ate what I couldn’t finish of those. 🙂
Big River Grille and Brewery Works – 111 Broadway, Nashville
We came out of the Country Music Hall of Fame around noon absolutely famished. We wandered down Broadway and saw people pretty much streaming into this place. We need to follow that crowd, I told Eric. So we did. I was just expecting your basic bar food and sandwiches, which is all well and good, but I was actually pleasantly surprised and really enjoyed my meal here. First of all, they’ve got real, fresh-squeezed lemonade on the menu. Two big, enthusiastic thumbs up from me right there. I’m sold! You don’t see that nearly often enough. I ended up with the fish tacos. Grilled mahi-mahi kicked up with spicy cajun seasonings, lettuce, fresh pico de gallo, pepper jack cheese and an avocado sauce. All that yumminess came stuffed in a crunchy blue corn tortilla and then wrapped in a flour tortilla. Mmmmm. Very fresh and delicious. It came with a spicy rice and delightful black beans. And with ice cold lemonade to wash it all down, I left there a happy camper with a full tummy.
Oh, Eric had a bacon cheeseburger, I think. He enjoyed it. 🙂
So there you have it! Erin and Eric’s Excellent Adventure in Nashville. Let me just add here that everything expressed in this post is my personal opinion only. I received no compensation in any way shape or form, monetary or otherwise, from anyone mentioned above. We just had a really great time in Nashville! I hope anyone else planning a trip finds this post useful!
Bye y’all! 🙂 (Does that sound authentic? Do I fit in yet?)
One Year Ago:
- Cinnamon Crispy Squares – A dorm dining hall fave at home!
- Easy Herb Focaccia – A simple but delicious bread with an oniony kick.