A Day in Music City: The Big City Friend

Despite Nashville consistently ranking at the top of almost every Best Cities to Visit list, if you’re like me, you probably have friends from the Big Cities who still think of Nashville as a hick town. If you can talk them into setting aside their biases long enough to come visit, though, they will see that Music City actually has a very cultured, sophisticated, and culinary side. Try this itinerary to impress even the highest of brows.

Brunch

Nashville has NO shortage of boozy brunch options. But, for your skeptical friend, I’d recommend staying as far away from Broadway and Midtown as possible. Some great options that are sure to impress:

RH Cafe at Restoration Hardware

Restoration Hardware is not unique to Nashville, of course, but this restaurant is so gorgeous, even the most stubborn city slicker will have to admire it.

Henrietta Red

With multiple awards under its belt, Henrietta Red’s resume speaks for itself. The food is delicious, the space pretty and absent of tourists, and walking around Germantown after brunch shows off a different aspect of Nashville than seen on CMT.

Geist

Also in Germantown, Geist has a great old-money vibe, with its exposed brick and abundance of hardwood. It’s also downtown-adjacent, so your friend can see the skyline without getting too close. And, if you’re really feeling adventurous, the excellent Nashville Farmer’s Market is just a short walk away.

Afternoon Activities

Depending on how party-hardy you and your friend are, you may be able to squeeze in a couple of these options, all of which demonstrate there’s more to Nashville than country music.

12South Shopping

Is 12South brimming with tourists and bachelorette parties at all times? Yes. But, there are a lot of great uniquely Nashville boutiques along the strip – including the flagship for Reese Witherspoon’s Draper James. And who doesn’t love Reese? 12South is also home to several of the Nashville murals, and a few great coffee and dessert shops if you need an afternoon pick-me-up!

Frist Art Museum

The Met it is not, but the Frist is a great art museum in the beautiful, historic former post office. Fans of architecture and visual art alike will enjoy the museum, and with its ever changing exhibits, the Frist appeals to a wide variety of tastes.

Cheekwood

The beautiful gardens of Cheekwood make me feel like I’ve been transported to a different era, and it’s easy to forget you’re in a city at all. Take the mansion tour for some additional history, culture, and art – the art exhibit changes regularly, so be sure to check out what’s currently on display

A little extra: The Nashville Public Library is a true gift, and they’ve recently started offering passes to Cheekwood via their Community Passport program! Simply check out the passes like you would a book, and save yourself the entry fee. (Note: passes may not be used for special events).

Cheekwood photo
Photo: @cheekwood

Dinner

Where do I even begin? If you want lots of options, I recommend checking out Nashville Guru’s Best Dinners list. But here are a few of my favorites. Don’t forget to make reservations, as these fill up fast!

Etch

When people rave about the cauliflower at your restaurant, you know you’ve got to be a good chef. Deb Paquette has curated a menu that is as award-winning as she is (the first female certified executive chef in Tennessee!) Downtown but not on the tourist map, this is a great option in SoBro.

Josephine

Josephine is cozy, delicious, and has an impressive wine list – and it is the favorite restaurant of one of the biggest foodies I know, so I think that earns it a spot on the list. Plus, 12South is just fun if you haven’t been there earlier in the day.

Once Upon a Time in France

Intimate and charming, Once Upon a Time in France is as authentic as it gets. I still dream of the steak tartare there – as well as the very reasonably priced house wine.

The Optimist

A seafood restaurant in Germantown, the Optimist won’t appeal to everyone’s palette. But for those who do enjoy seafood, they will also be rewarded with a trendy vibe and delicious drinks.

Earnest Bar & Hideaway

I miss the days when Earnest was Hemingway’s and the restaurant could openly celebrate its hero. Despite the name change, though, the Wedgewood-Houston outpost still delivers on Jazz Era vibes and inventive cocktails which would make the Old Man himself quite proud.

Sinema

Moody and intimate despite being a bigger restaurant, Sinema has an Old Hollywood charm, and it is always fun to see what they’re showing on the big screen for ambiance. Plus, they have some of the prettiest bathrooms in Nashville (and best for mirror selfies).

Music

It’s hard to imagine someone visiting Nashville and not wanting to go out on Broadway…but if hanging with the teeming masses is not your Big City friend’s cup of tea, there are still plenty of ways to experience the music of Music City.

The Listening Room

While the Listening Room is still country, it’s such a uniquely Nashville experience to listen to a writer’s round that I highly recommend to even non-country fans. It’s the least “bougie” option on this list, but a great one.

See also the Bluebird Cafe – but good luck getting tickets.

Rudy’s Jazz Room

I will have to write a full review after I’ve been myself. But a 4.7 Google rating in a town that KNOWS their music has to mean something. And it just looks classy.

The Electric Jane

The Electric Jane is new and very buzzy. Again, I will update my review after I’ve visited, but it looks very hip and very fun. I welcome your feedback if you go.

The Twelve Thirty Club

One of the swankiest bars in town, the top level (Supper Club) of the Twelve Thirty Club boasts some great music, as well – usually complete with horns for a Big Band sound, a la investor Justin Timberlake’s the 20/20 Experience album.

Nightcaps

If somehow you still have energy after such a busy day, these are some of the best places to end the evening.

Bourbon Steak

In my opinion, Bourbon Steak at the top of the JW Marriott has the most impressive view of downtown. Sure, the drink prices are as sky high as the views, but it’s worth it for the wow factor.

Rare Bird

Another great downtown rooftop view, Rare Bird at the top of the Noelle feels like a high class tiki bar. Or, pop down to the basement for the Hidden Bar speakeasy experience. But, be prepared to wait – this secret is not very well-kept.

Patterson House

Nashville’s original (?) speakeasy, Patterson House has a cocktail list to die for, written on parchment paper to give it an even more Old World feel. Rich velvets make this the perfect cozy place to wind down.


Did I leave out any essential sophisticated or cultured spots in Nashville? Any reviews of the places I did mention? Let me know in the comments or send me an email!

And if you try this itinerary, let me know how it goes – I fully expect some Big City humble pie.

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