The idea of a last-minute getaway, for me, was always just that—an idea. Sure, there were quick trips home to Florida (usually to get my teeth cleaned since I’m too lazy to find a dentist in New York City) and an occasional ride on the crowded New Jersey Transit train to my friend’s parents’ house in Philadelphia. But a spur-of-the-moment trip to Cancun or ski weekend in Vermont? Nope. Never.
Until my friend Nic won, of all things, an Instagram contest. (Yes, people really do win those things!) The prize: a two-night stay with Domio, which offers tricked-out accommodations (think: stocked kitchens, extra-comfy beds, and a 24-hour concierge that’ll help you plan your itinerary) in seven major U.S. cities. With the lodging taken care of (#NotSponsored), it was up to us—Nic, our two friends Julian and Fernando, and me—to figure out the rest.
Chicago and Boston were too cold, San Diego and Austin were a bit far for such a short visit, and I had just gotten back from New Orleans. Nashville, on the other hand, was just a short two-hour flight from N.Y.C., plus none of us had ever been (though we’d all heard wonderful things).
With our jaunt to Music City just a few weeks away, we hastily started mapping out all the places we wanted to squeeze in. While we knew we wouldn’t get to see it all (which just gives us an excuse to go back), we narrowed down our list to include a mix of classic and newer spots, and also left plenty of room to explore on our own.
From honky-tonks to vintage treasure troves—and yes, hot chicken—here are all of the spots we hit on our three-day
trip eating marathon. If I missed any of your favorite Nashville spots (and I’m sure I did), please share them in the comments below!
What’s not to love about Pinewood Social? Correct answer: nothing. We stepped into this bright and airy workspace/coffeehouse/cocktail bar/restaurant/bowling alley/pool fresh off the plane—a decision that would prove to be very wise. We were warmly greeted and directed to a cozy booth, where we quickly ordered a round of coffee drinks: a latte with molasses and ginger, one with maple, herbs, and bourbon barrel–aged sea salt, plus a masala chai. That hit of caffeine, plus some just-baked biscuits with honey butter and spicy breakfast tacos, slowly brought us back to life from the early morning flight.
You can’t leave Nashville without trying hot chicken, said every single person who has been there. One of the city’s most popular spots (just ask the hour-long line we stood in) is Hattie B’s. I’m happy to report that the one-hour wait time—considered short, apparently, thanks to the drizzly weather—was 100% worth it. We all got the same thing: a hot chicken sandwich (heat level: medium) with pimento mac and cheese, creamy coleslaw, and a local beer. The chicken was crunchy on the outside and juicy on the inside, the bread was soft and sweet, and the spice level had me sweating a little, but not crying, so…it was basically perfect.
Artisan chocolate shop by day, absinthe bar by night, The Green Hour is a must for before- or after-dinner drinks. If you already know you’re fan of that licorice-y anise taste, go for the traditional absinthe drip. If that’s not your thing, opt for one of their cocktails (many of which come with a chocolate truffle pairing). And if you’re an absinthe first-timer, don’t be afraid to ask the bartenders for some guidance. Shoutout to Krystal for steering me towards the Midnight Marauder (rye, amaro, St. George absinthe, and orange bitters), plus a few truffles to try (the strawberry goat cheese and honey caramel were my favorites).
After a cocktail or two at Green Hour Bar, we took the eight-minute walk over to Rolf and Daughters, an inviting neighborhood spot set in a lofty industrial space. Here, we dined on creative apps (think: dry-aged beef tartare with mint and peanuts and a gone-in-three-seconds flatbread with chili butter and bottarga), off-the-charts pastas (like garganelli with heritage pork ragu), and a very good bottle of Italian wine I can’t remember the name of. As for the dessert menu, it looked thoroughly delicious (I’m still thinking about you, toasted rice mousse), but we were happily/sadly too stuffed to even consider it.
What better way to work off a meal of carbs, meats, and pre-dinner chocolates? A few hours of live music and dancing at Acme Feed & Seed, a multilevel venue in the heart of Downtown Nashville, of course. Located in a 22,000-square-foot historic building on Lower Broadway (the city’s most bustling and bar-filled street), Acme has plenty of room for its ever-changing lineup of local bands, extensive food menus, and seemingly endless list of cocktails and beers. You’re pretty much guaranteed to have a good time here, whether you stop in late at night for a drink and some tunes (from classic honky tonk to Top 40), or an afternoon bite of pulled pork nachos or spicy grilled cheese.
A long night of eating, drinking, and dancing can only be remedied with…more eating and drinking. So early that next afternoon, we turned to Saint Añejo, a buzzy Mexican spot with an ample selection of margaritas and egg-topped dishes for brunch. A word of caution for anyone brunching in Nashville: Make a reservation or you’ll have to wait, probably an hour at the least. Luckily, there were seats open at the bar in the tequila library lounge upstairs, so we killed some time with mezcal Bloody Marys and spicy chorizo queso. Once seated, we switched over to those margaritas I had been eyeing and dug into huevos rancheros, breakfast burritos, and the hot chicken and waffles.
Everyone in our group had at least one spot they absolutely had to see in Nashville—for Nic, that was the Johnny Cash Museum. At $20 a ticket (and considering that while I like Johnny Cash’s music, I am not his all-time biggest fan), I was a little skeptical that it would be worth it, but it actually turned out to be a highlight of the trip. Featuring the largest collection of Johnny Cash memorabilia in the world and interactive exhibits (you can try your hand at being a sound engineer and “mix” one of Cash’s songs), the museum is packed with tons of cool artifacts and music history. Whether you’re a Cash fan or not, it’s an hour or two well spent.
Since the museum is located just off of Broadway (Nashville’s bar and nightlife hub), we decided to walk around and explore a bit. We stepped into a few cowboy boot and hat shops before wandering into the already-packed Whiskey Bent Saloon. With a few $4 PBRs in hand, we watched stellar live covers of rock and country classics like Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” and Janis Joplin’s “Me and Bobby McGee” before heading home (and napping).
“If it doesn’t come from the South, it’s not coming through the door,” says Husk, a modern Southern restaurant that served everyone’s favorite meal of the trip. With an emphasis on heirloom products and local-seasonal ingredients, at Husk you’ll find regional classics through a 2019 lens. Each dish was a standout in its own right, but the most memorable were the crispy chicken skins with Tennessee wildflower honey and hot sauce, a “killed” salad drizzled in a deeply satisfying pork fat dressing, and a tender cut of pork with sweet potato spaetzle and sweet and sour cabbage. Oh, and the caramel corn chocolate cake wasn’t bad either.
After dinner at Husk, I was almost tempted to head straight home and sleep off the massive food baby I had just acquired. But it was our last night in Nashville, so I had no other choice than to head back to Broadway for some bar hopping. Of all the bars in Nashville Robert’s Western World, an old-school honky-tonk with a
reputation for hosting big-name country artists, was recommended to me by more than a few people—and it didn’t disappoint. We danced, we drank, we ate french fries and cheeseburgers (yep, even after that dinner), and of all the establishments we visited that night, Robert’s was the most fun.
Such a fun night doesn’t come without repercussions, and my repercussions required Advil—immediately. Luckily, Killebrew Coffee (recommended to me by Nashville resident and food writer, Erin B. Murrays) was just a five-minute Uber from where we staying. Only one other person in my group made it there with me, but the iced latte and pastries (a heavenly blueberry corn muffin and brown sugar “pop tart”) were essential to us as we powered through our last few hours in the city.
Because Julian and Fernando, ahem, couldn’t quite make it to coffee in the morning, we stopped by The Diner, a six-story, 24-hour diner serving everything from breakfast classics to burgers to sushi. Basically, no matter what you’re craving, it’s likely The Diner has it. This particular morning, we were craving eggs Benedict, lots of bacon and toast, and Bloody Marys (again).
The final must-see on our list was Reese Witherspoon’s clothing store, Draper James, if only to catch a glimpse of Reese herself (which unsurprisingly BUT STILLyet sadly did not happen). After sipping on the complimentary sweet tea, we walked down the street to Savant, a vintage shop overflowing with treasures from fringe suede jackets (one of which I would have bought…had it not been $400) and cowboy boots to taxidermy animals and ’80s T-shirts. In case you couldn’t tell, the prices here are pretty steep, but exploring the hundreds (if not thousands) one-of-a-kind items is the best part of stopping in—whether or not you actually take something home.
Just down the street from Savant is another find: Imogene and Willie, a destination for denim and comfy-casual (yet by no means inexpensive) basics located in a 1950s service station. It’s a beautiful shop to browse, but also sells more affordable take-homes like their vintage bandanas and knitted beanies.
With just four hours to go before our flight home, we decided to squeeze in one last meal at the nearby Martin’s BBQ Joint (even though we probably could have gone the entire day without another bite of food). Instead of ordering a whole dish for myself, Julian and I decided to split a sliced beef brisket tray, which comes with two sides (we chose the mac and cheese, baked beans, and added the coleslaw for good measure). After much labored breathing and many exhausted sighs, we finally polished off our plate and called an Uber to the airport. It was time to head home.
What’s your favorite last-minute vacation destination? Tell us in the comments below!