WEEKENDER: NASHVILLE, TN
With the never-ending buzz surrounding its iconic music scene, its restaurants offering new takes on classic Southern cooking and some of the best cocktail lists in the country, Nashville is likely already on your travel radar. Plus, with affordable direct flights from Pittsburgh and a totally do-able drive (with scenic stops in Cincinnati and Louisville), it’s also one of the cooler options for a weekend away. Here’s our complete itinerary for the perfect long weekend in Music City.
Whether you’re starting your morning late after a long night out or waking up early to get to exploring, Nashville has a serious coffee scene that rivals that of any bigger city. Barista Parlor has long been the place to see and be seen while getting coffee, and with multiple locations scattered throughout the city, you can now grab a cup in the motorcycle-filled digs in East Nashville, the industrial-chic space in Germantown, or the spaceship-themed spot in the Gulch.
For something a little more low-key but still just as swoon-worthy, join the freelancers and aspiring musicians at CREMA, where you’ll find responsibly-sourced beans paired with avocado toast on the bright, buzzing patio. For a quick morning coffee that will still satiate a larger appetite, head over to Proper Bagel, Nashville’s answer to the classic New York City deli. Top a fresh-baked bagel with smoked fish, shmears and fried eggs galore, and be sure to browse the coolers full of savory salads and fresh-baked desserts. This place also serves Barista Parlor coffee, which tastes even better when paired with an egg sandwich.
Breakfast & Brunch
Nashville has always been known for its world-class music scene, but in recent years, the huge influx of young creative types has also put its brunch scene on the map. For the classic, always-reliable local favorite, hit up Marche Artisan Foods, a French-inspired cafe serving creative takes on Southern shrimp and grits alongside croissant French toast and seasonal quiche. Like most brunch spots, part of Marche’s mystique is its one-hour-average wait time — but unlike many brunch spots, it’s totally worth the wait (especially since you just might spot someone from the cast of Nashville or a singer-songwriter on the rise).
Closer to downtown, James Beard award-winning chef Sean Brock of Husk holds down the brunch scene. This upscale yet welcoming eatery is the epitome of fine Southern dining, and while tourists choose it for dinner, locals will tell you the Johnny Cakes with sorghum butter and Farm Egg Omelets make brunch the time to go.
Those looking for a taste of new Nashville will want to skip the tried-and-true spots and head over to Cafe Roze, an intimate East Side “all day cafe”. It’s hard to find an unattractive corner in the soft pink dining room accented by brass light fixtures and marble countertops, and dishes like avocado, and bee pollen smoothies, egg-topped grain bowls and coconut yogurt topped with fresh fruit are just as Instagram-worthy. Don’t worry though; despite the healthy, LA-inspired dishes, you’ll still find an enviable cocktail list from morning ’til night.
The bright lights, honky tonks and incredible talent-per-square-inch ratio on Nashville’s Lower Broadway is what made the city what it is today, and while today hoards of bachelorette parties make it feel a bit more like East Carson Street than a piece of American music history, it’s still a must-see on your Nashville bucket list. Do Broadway like the locals do by hitting a classic honky tonk like Robert’s or Layla’s rather than the crowded mega-bars, and check them out during the daytime when you can sidle up to the bar with a cheap beer and a bologna sandwich to listen to the aspiring country stars on the stage below.
For a change of pace, head over to Pinewood Social, Nashville’s take on the classic social club. The huge warehouse-style space is tucked away in a sleepy corner off of downtown, but inside, it’s bustling with a full restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, a cocktail bar as its center and a CREMA coffee counter. The focal point here, however, is the full-sized bowling alley, which can be reserved for events or, if you’re lucky, where you can snag a lane to pass an afternoon shooting for a strike while sipping handcrafted cocktails. During the warmer months, Pinewood Social’s patio is also popular because of its miniature swimming pool, bocce ball court and Palm Springs-inspired lounge areas.
Dinner & Drinks
Finish the evening or fuel up for a late night with dinner and drinks at one of Nashville’s award-winning restaurants. Magazines like Vogue and Bon Apetit are smitten by the Southern charm and world-class decor of Henrietta Red, this summer’s buzziest new spot. Have pre-dinner drinks and appetizers at the raw bar, which focuses on oysters and clams, before snagging a table in the dining room for wood-fired veggies, meats and traditional Southern desserts.
If you’re looking for something a bit more down-to-earth, check out Edley’s, one of Nashville’s favorite spots for hot chicken and classic barbecue fare. The 12 South location is a local favorite, with a spacious covered patio large enough to accommodate your whole crew — including your extra-large platters of hot chicken, macaroni and cheese, collard greens, and banana pudding. Grab a local beer from Yazoo, or try your hand at the Bushwacker, an infamous Nashville cocktail that tastes like a grown-up version of a Wendy’s frosty. If Southern food isn’t your thing, head to The Glutch for Latin-inspired, vegetable-forward dishes from the pretty-in-pink Little Octopus, whose pop-up beginnings were designed by newly-minted Pittsburgh celebrity designer Leanne Ford.
For night owls and music seekers, Nashville is full of endless possibility. Head over to the 5 Spot any night of the week for live, local music, swing dancing, 80s nights or the legendary Motown Monday dance party, or if you’re looking to see a bigger name act, check out the Basement or its larger, East Side sister venue, the Basement East (“The Beast” to locals). For karaoke, Santa’s Pub is where it’s at — just make sure you bring cash, ’cause this double-wide trailer doesn’t do credit cards.
If you want to keep the cocktails flowing, Bar No. 308, the Fox Bar & Cocktail Club and The Crying Wolf are the places to do it on the East Side. Closer to downtown, The Patterson House serves up prohibition-era cocktails in an ultra private, velvet-curtained lounge right off of Music Row.
For more information on a weekend (or a week!) in Nashville, look to Denizen Nashville as your complete city guide for more details on shops, music and more.