Nashville is said to be a drinking city with a music problem. The fact that you can enjoy a glass of Tennessee whiskey while listening to a band playing the song Tennessee whiskey anywhere on Music Row seems to reinforce that. From speakeasy style cocktail bars to good ol’ honky tonks, Nashville seems to have a little something for every kind of drinker. All offered with a hearty welcome, plate of hot chicken, and genuine Southern hospitality.
I have been to Nashville a few times before, usually associated with work, and typically with a schedule so booked it left little time for me to explore. So when I found out I was going to be there for a week for the 2018 Craft Brewer’s Conference, I made sure to block out some time to explore. What I found was that there were lots of reasons to raise a glass in Nashville. Here are some of my must visits!
1: The Booming Beer Scene!
This is the 35th year of the Craft Brewer’s Conference and its arrival in Nashville means the beer scene here is bursting at the seams with potential. About a year ago there was a change to the alcohol laws, raising the level of alcohol in beers allowed from 6.2% to 10.1%. That meant that breweries were able to craft higher gravity beers highly sought after by their drinkers, and that restaurants and bottle shops would be allowed to sell those items. Breweries from within Tennessee and outside of it flooded into the market. Tennessee now boasts 66 craft breweries, up from 24 in 2011, and 19 of those craft breweries reside in Nashville! With the Craft Brewer’s Conference and the World Beer Cup being held in Nashville, literally thousands of brewer’s from around the globe flocked to the Music City.
As I said, there are about 19 breweries within the city limits of Nashville. Sadly I hadn’t time, nor the liver functions, to visit them all. The ones that I did get to visit each had some truly interesting brews pouring from their taps.
Tailgate Brewery - Tailgate started in 2014, and has grown by leaps and bounds since. They now boast a 50 barrel brewing system and at least 30 of their own house brews on draft at their 2 tap room locations. They have a “beer first” philosophy, meaning that no matter how crazy the ingredients they play around with (sourced locally whenever possible), that they always want the beer to shine most.
I have been to Tailgate twice now, and each time I have tried something I have never had before. Their Music Row location is an ideal starting spot for a pint or two. This past time, my three favorite brews were the Guava Wheat, Sake Kolsch, and the Negroni IPA.
Yazoo Brewing - Yazoo opened their doors in 2003. They quickly out grew their first facility and opened a new spot in 2011. Now sitting in the trendy area known as the Gulch, they brew a variety of beers including a pre-prohibition tribute to Nashville's original brewery Gerst, as well as an award winning Hefeweizen. In 2012 they added their Embrace the Funk line of sour and wild fermented ales.
I got a flight of six beers on my last visit, trying their Mexican styled beer Dos Perros, the Pale ale, the dark and smoky Sue, and three selections from their Embrace the Funk line. Hands down the favorite was the Trio from the Embrace the Funk line. It's brewed as a Tennessee tribute and triple threat. Tennessee brewery making a raspberry beer aged in Tennessee wine barrels that previously held Tennessee whiskey. Seriously you can not get more Tennessee than that.
2: Amazing Cocktail Bars:
Nashville's cocktail scene is constantly evolving and luckily for us, it just keeps getting better and better. The mix of artfully designed spaces, soft spoken speak easy hideouts, and seriously unique takes on classics brings a variety of options to the bar. Sometimes you can find all on the same street too, which makes for a memorable bar crawl. Since I was there for the Craft Brewer's Conference, my last visit was devoted mainly to beer, but I managed to persuade my group to a couple of select spots I just couldn't pass up.
The Patterson House- Hidden behind an unassuming faded door off DIvision street, with the name of the establishment written in small gold letters, rests the Patterson House. When it opened its doors in 2009, it brought bar concepts that the likes of Nashville had never seen. Homemade syrups, fresh juices, eight different representations of twice filtered ice, all in a pre-prohibition atmosphere with a set of house rules that set the stage for a uniquely quiet and welcoming drinking experience.
The bar of the Patterson House is tucked behind a velvet green curtain, which a delightful hostess will direct you through after she has set your places. One of the rules at The Patteson House is that you must be seated to get a drink, which means there is no standing room and never anyone leaning over your shoulder to order a drink. You silence your cell phone as you enter, because talking on the cell phone isn't allowed and the atmosphere just encourages you to disconnect for a moment.
When you order a drink, once you decide from their extensive menu that offers selections divided by main spirit then by how adventurous your palate is, remember to be patient. It's one of the rules and the manner in which the Patterson House bartenders go about their craft should be admired. Handcrafting each drink perfectly from parts to shake to pour is clearly their sole focus.
I could have stayed at this bar all night, and in fact we went back twice. Not only were our drinks beyond delicious and the bar snacks a wonderful compliment, but the bartenders are a joy to chat with. You can feel their passion for what they do just pouring out of them and I don't often meet people who get as excited about a new strange spirit or fresh ingredient as I do. As for drinks I enjoyed the Naked and Famous (Mezcal, Aperol, Lemon, and Yellow Chartreuse) and the As it Stands (Mezcal, Carpano Antica, Passionfruit liqueur, Campari, and Absinthe). My step dad fell in love with a drink called the Ruby Revolver (Rye whiskey, Lemon, Cynar, White Creme de Cacao, Grapefruit liqueur, and Angostura bitters) which I have successfully been able to recreate at home for him.
Just do yourself a favor and make this a must visit. Even if there is a line this place is so worth the wait. I plan to go back every time I'm in Nashville.
3: Fabulous food scene:
Nashville has as much to offer on the food scene as it does the entertainment scene. Seriously there are a plethora of restaurants offering the iconic Nashville Hot Chicken, tacos, barbecue, ramen, and everything in between. Finding those local hidden gems that dish up something unique to the area are one of my favorite memories of anywhere I travel. Right up there with shopping the local bottle shops.
Speaking of hot chicken, it is a Nashville specialty and something that is on nearly every menu in the city. Some places are dedicated hot chicken shacks, serving fried chicken drenched in hot sauce and spice with white bread and pickles by the basketful. Others have reimagined it as sliders, skewers, salads or anything else. I think I even saw hot chicken sushi, which I will 100% admit was just a bit too odd of.a fusion for me. You can't leave the city without trying at least a bit of hot chicken, even mild.
*Note: There are some hot chicken shacks which take no mercy on newcomers. They delight in tormenting those who ask for mild by giving them atomic hot. You've been warned.
Milk and Honey- The land of Milk & Honey is paved with craft coffee, handmade gelato, and fresh fruit popsicles. Milk & Honey, which originated in Chatanooga, opened a second location off 11th street in Nashville and expanded upon their coffee and desserts menu to include a variety of made in house breakfast, lunch, and dinner options.
We dined here for both breakffast and dinner. For breakfast, they start out bringing a fresh cinnamon roll made from brioche to the table. I wish I had the opportunity to snap a picture, but with our hungry crowd the delicious bun didn't stand a chance. I did however get the opportunity to snap a photo of the Queen Bee cocktail (lemon, creme de violette, vodka, St Germain, simple syrup, and bee pollen) before I finished it off.
Breakfast here was fantastic, so much so that I got dinner to-go on the last night I was there. The in house made pasta was fantastic, if a touch al-dente. I must admit that I did not try their gelato. I'm a bit of a gelato perfectionist and therefore very picky, but it looked fantastic. I'm sure it was delicious.
Bar Taco- Yes, Bar Taco is a chain with multiple locations across the country. However, a good friend of mine runs the one in Nashville so it was a must visit for me regardless and if you've a hankering for street tacos, then you really can't miss a visit.
Bar Taco is inspired by the beach cultures of Brazil, Uruguay, and Southern Califorina. With a wayfairer flair, this restaurant boasts a very laid back atmosphere with a focus on fresh ingredients with minimal fuss. White washed walls accented by woven basket lighting and plenty of beach inspired decor provide a perfect backdrop for one of their signature cocktails and a trio of tacos delivered on a silver lunch tray. Their signature beverage list includes fresh juices, bottled or canned beers, and an excellent selection of craft cocktails. The margarita is one of my favorites.
The street tacos are all unique combinations, including some veggie options and small enough that three makes a meal which allows you to diversify your plate and try a little of anything. There. are also a selection of different sides to accompany your tacos. Do not miss an opportunity to have the grilled corn. Seriously street corn grilled, topped with cotija cheese, lime, and a red pepper spice blend is one of the most delicious things you will have there.
If you though delisious stopped at the tacos, be sure to save room for dessert. The churros, fried strips of dough covered in cinnamon sugar, are served up with a warm cup of mexican dipping chocolate with a sprinkling of salt. *drool*
You will probably be in need of a siesta after the delicious meal but you will definitely remember it. I'm more than happy to have more than one reason to keep going back to Bar Taco every time I'm in Nashville.
Hattie B's - Hattie B's is Nashville establishment dishing up that most infamous Nashville cuisine: Hot Chicken. Founded in 2012 by a father and son team, Hattie B's now has 5 locations each dishing up different levels of hot chicken. At Hattie B's , they serve up Southern ( no heat), Mild (little heat), Medium (warming up), Hot (feel the heat), Damn Hot!! (fire starter) and Shut the Cluck up!!! (burn notice). Apparently the spicy ingredient in the Shut the cluck up is ghost peppers, which are essentially designed to melt your face off (my opinion not fact). I will whole heartedly admit I am a complete chicken and wimp when it comes to spice. Mild was as far as I was willing to dip my toe in that pool. Some of my group were brave enough to try the Shut the Cluck up and wound up red-faced with sweat on their brow proclaiming, "I can't feel my face."
Each heaping basket of chicken is served on white toast with a pickle, as is traditional for hot chicken, and comes with a side and slaw. The sides are a line up of southern favorites including a fan favorite of Pimento Mac and Cheese and Southern Style greens. To quell the heat they offer a selection of beers, local and domestic, as well as sweet tea, free squeezed lemonade and sodas.
Expect a line and a few minutes wait heading in the door. This place seems to be non stop busy from the moment the doors open to after they close, but its one of those places that is well worth the wait. Also they don't trick you with the heat levels like some other hot chicken shacks (disclaimer above) so you are in safe hands here.
Nashville has plenty to offer those devoted to the music scene, but equally as much to offer the foodie and craft beverage seeker. From antique shops to the multitude of music halls down Music Row, you're sure to be drawn in to the rhythm of this city. The friendly folk, fabulous food, and delectable drinks will have you falling in love and ready to plan your next trip. So be sure to add Nashville to your must see cities.
Celebrating all that we raise, sip, guzzle, clink, drinks and most affectionately cheers with!