Travel Guide, Nashville: Broadway, Hillsboro, and Hot Chicken

So, you’ve read my first two Nashville travel guides – East Nashville and Germantown and 12South and the Gulch – and you’ve probably been wondering, “Where are all the honky-tonks and hot chicken? Isn’t that what Nashville is all about?”

CLASSIC NASHVILLE

Yes, yes, it is, but since you already know you’ll be going out on Broadway and listening to some country music, I wanted to first give you a glimpse at how eccentric the city is beyond what we typically think of as Nashville. But, it wouldn’t be right to totally skip the classics, so that’s what I have for you today. Broadway. Hot Chicken. And the classic neighborhood that surrounds Vanderbilt University.

 

BROADWAY AND DOWNTOWN NASHVILLE

Downtown is where you’ll find everything that immediately comes to mind when you think Nashville. It’s where you’ll hear live music coming from every open window as you walk down Broadway, where boot stores line the streets, and the kind of food that sticks to your ribs is easy to come by.

WHERE TO EAT

Downtown Nashville isn’t exactly the hot spot for the foodie scene, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find a good meal or two while you’re exploring Broadway.

  • Merchants Restaurant: Embarrassingly, on my recent trip to Nashville, I just couldn’t eat any more rich food by the time I went to brunch at Merchants. And I ordered the avocado toast. Ugh, I know, I know. But it was delicious! So, while I’d recommend ordering the ooey gooey pimento cheese and the fried green tomatoes on a normal visit, I can now vouch for the fact that even their healthier options are wonderful.

 

  • Puckett’s Grocery and Restaurant: Another spot to get great Southern food in the midst of the tourist district, Puckett’s is worth walking off the main drag for. It gets crowded, but I’d much rather grab a fried green tomato sandwich here than at one of the honky tonks.

WHERE TO LISTEN TO LIVE MUSIC

Really, you just need to stroll up and down Broadway and pop in a bar whenever you like what you hear, but if you do want to hit up some classics, go to Tootsie’s or the Stage. Other spots to drink downtown? Acme Feed and Seed is a huge bar downtown, and there are some fun divey bars just north on Broadway, including Winners and Losers. Just know that everything has live music, so if you’re looking for a Nashville night out, you won’t have much trouble.

WHAT TO DO

Looking for some activities beyond eating and drinking? There’s lots to do in downtown Nashville besides honky tonk hopping, and here are just a few suggestions.

  • Take a tour of the Ryman Auditorium, the historic venue where Johnny met June and which was home to the Grand Ole Opry. Also check their schedule to see if there’s a show in town while you’re around.

 

  • Since Adam is a history and politics buff, I’ve been to more than a couple state capitols, and we added the Tennessee State Capitol to the list on our visit in May. There are amazing views of the city from Capitol Hill, and Bicentennial Capitol Mall Park is a neat place to walk around if the weather’s nice. There’s also a farmers’ market in this area on the weekends.

 

  • I love a good minor league baseball game, and the Nashville Sounds are definitely worth checking out if your trip falls during baseball season.

 

HOT CHICKEN

Yes, hot chicken deserves its own section here. It’s really that good. I’m not a fried chicken fan, but I could eat hot chicken every day for the rest of my life. There’s something about that spicy, eye watering crunch of the fried part and the white bread soaked in hot sauce that just gets me. Much has been written about hot chicken in all its Nashville forms, and I’ve had it at two different places, one classic and one much-hyped newcomer.

  • Prince’s Hot Chicken: My first hot chicken experience was at Prince’s and this is where you go if you want authentic. I definitely didn’t know what I was getting into, but I was forever changed. It’s HOT. Like really, really hot. So, get it medium. This place is divey, the menu is bare bones, but that’s how you know it’s the real deal.

 

  • Hattie B’s: This place has blown up since opening in 2012, and it lives up to all the expectations. Again, don’t try to show off, get the medium, and also get the crinkle cut fries and the banana pudding. Also, don’t make the rookie mistake of trying to go to the original location downtown. Go to Charlotte Pike, there will probably still be a line, but it won’t be nearly as bad.

 

 

HILLSBORO AND BELMONT

The areas surrounding Belmont University and Vanderbilt University are Belmont (naturally) and Hillsboro Village. These two neighborhoods are the places in Nashville where I’m like, “Seriously, where can I find a neighborhood this lush and charming and quaint in DC?” There’s this small town feel, but with local businesses aplenty.

WHERE TO EAT

There are so many restaurants in Hillsboro Village that I haven’t tried, but if you search on the Nashville Guru website, you’ll get a good feel for what’s there. Here are just a few that I can personally recommend.

  • Jackson’s Bar and Bistro: A bustling restaurant to stop in for brunch, this has classic brunch options that don’t stray into inventive territory, but leave you feeling full and happy.

 

  • Bongo Java: In Belmont, I wrote about them already because of their location in East Nashville, but seriously I’m still dreaming about the iced latte I had with bergamot, coconut cream, and chocolate shavings.

 

  • Proper Bagel: Right next door to Bongo Java in Belmont, Proper Bagel gets a crazy, out-the-door line, but it’s worth it for their scrumptious bagels and what seemed like hundreds of cream cheese options. The little kids in front of us were thrilled with the birthday cake cream cheese option…

 

  • Martin’s BBQ Joint: Any barbecue place that has joint in the name has to be good, right? And Martin’s delivers on everything you expect from Tennessee barbecue.

WHERE TO SHOP

Hillsboro Village might have the best shopping in Nashville, and so much of it is super affordable. With a few exceptions, actually all of the shopping in Nashville is totally affordable. There are so many stylish, trendy boutiques where you can pick up a shirt for under $30 or a dress for under $60. You can’t find that in a lot of cities!

 

  • Impeccable Pig: If you’re looking to pick up a trendy pair of striped, high-waisted shorts for $20 or a one shouldered dress to wear out for the evening, definitely stop by this shop.

 

  • Scout + Molly: Carrying slightly more sophisticated pieces at a just slightly higher price point, this is a great top for neutral basics that feel a bit more special than the everyday.

 

  • Hey Rooster General Store: Full of locally made Nashville goods, this well-curated store has everything from home to clothing to kitchen.

 

  • Posh: Their back sale room is everything. I could have gone crazy buying animal print shoes, a gold lame bomber jacket, and more.

 

 

AND IF YOU WANT A DAY OUT OF TOWN…

If after all your running around Nashville exploring the diverse personalities of each neighborhood, consider heading out of town for a day trip. Looking for a charming small town? Head out to Franklin. Bourbon fan? Visit the Jack Daniels distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee.

On this particular trip, we headed out to Arrington Vineyards, Kix Brooks’ winery out in Arrington, Tennessee. You’ll drive through the gorgeous Tennessee rollings hills before arriving at the massive compound that is the vineyard. Tasting lines get crazy, so I’d say bring a blanket, skip the tasting, grab a bottle, and just camp out in the grass.

 

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