Best Things to Do
Monell's in the historic Germantown neighborhood is a great place to fuel up for a day of downtown sighseeing. Located directly behind the Capitol and just steps from Nashville's Farmers' Market, Monell's serves Southern- and family-style food at its finest. The two-story red brick converted home sits on a quiet street among many renovated and lovingly cared for shotgun houses; around the bend modern condos and progressive restaurants are turning this ZIP code into a hip destination. Inside, diners are seated next to each other at big, farmhouse tables. Huge mounds of grits, scrambled eggs, corn pudding, sausage, bacon, potatoes, biscuits and their special peach preserves are graciously passed around. Fried chicken is served with every meal here, and it’s well worth saving room for a piece. Trust us, you will need some exercise afterward.
For more great grub, cross the Cumberland River and dine in East Nashville, one of the most vibrant and diverse communities in the city. Many chef-owned restaurants offer entrées made from that day's harvest. Among the best is Margot Café and Bar in Five Points. Chef Margot McCormack scours local farmers' markets for the freshest ingredients and plans her menu accordingly. The menu, which changes nightly, always includes a brace of small plates for sharing, meat and fish selections, at least one vegetarian option, and beautiful desserts.
A little deeper in East Nashville sits Eastland Café, a neighborhood bistro serving comfortable American food. It’s known for Community Hour (like Happy Hour with a portion of the proceeds going to the local school’s PTO), snacks such as deviled eggs and short-rib tacos as well as entrées of wood-fired pizzas, roasted chicken or locally sourced steak with signature chimichurri sauce.
Green the sunrise at Marche Artisan Foods, chef Margot McCormack’s casual, French-inspired spot. There, you’ll find perfectly prepared omelets and pastries. You’re likely to spot a celebrity or two here; it could be a star from the Christian music world (which revolves around Nashville) or a member of the Raconteurs, one of Jack White’s post-White Stripes outfits.
Head back to Germantown for dinner at City House, which serves the best Italian food for miles around. The chef, Tandy Wilson has been James Beard nominated nine times, and his kitchen includes an in-house charcuterie. No part of the pig goes unused, and that’s a good thing. There’s also handmade pasta and a bevy of fantastic main plates that celebrate Tennessee’s vegetables, too.
You can’t leave Nashville without having breakfast at Pancake Pantry. There’s no truer tradition in the city than standing in the line of locals wrapped around the block waiting for a pile of pancakes from this Hillsboro Village hotspot. There are plenty of choices on the menu, but the pancakes are a must. Try all the varieties: from sweet potato and buckwheat to buttermilk and even chocolate chip!
A stroll around downtown’s Second Avenue (day or night) is a great place to people watch and shop for souvenirs. The best of all the honky-tonk bars is Robert’s Western World, home to some of the city’s hottest pickers as well as a fine fried bologna sandwich. You can even pick up a pair of cowboy boots after you imbibe a bit.
End your trip on a tasty note at Rolf and Daughters. The dinner will send you back to Germantown, just a stone’s throw from downtown. Chef Philip Krajeck’s modern peasant cuisine, featuring such dishes as house-made garganelli pasta with heritage pork ragout or brook trout with spinach, spring onion, morels and ramps, makes use of the best of what’s grown and raised in the countryside surrounding Nashville. The atmosphere matches the city — casual but warm and thoroughly creative.