As a classic country music lover and food fanatic, Nashville is my Mecca.
Home of the Grand Ol’ Opry, honky tonk bars and delicious, delicious southern grub, I’ve been dying to get to Music City. Plus, Patsy Cline lived here. And maybe you didn’t know this, but I’ve got a thing for Patsy Cline. So when my handsome, thoughtful husband surprised me with a trip to Nashville for our anniversary, I about peed in m’pants.
Even though our Airbnb sucked, this long weekend was one of the best trips I’ve ever had in my entire life. Sure, I had great company, but also the food! The music! The pop culture history! And we rented a Charger, which was so funny! Here’s what we ate, drank, partied and cried. (PS I’m the only one who cried)
So it’s 10 pm, you’ve just landed in a new city and you’re so hungry, you could eat a dead armadillo on the side of the road. Whelp, that was us. But unlike our Minneapolis neighborhood, which basically only offers pizza and crappy bar food late-night, Nashville has Hattie B’s Hot Chicken. Imagine: perfectly friend chicken, smothered in hot sauce. Pick your heat carefully: we did a mix of medium AND hot wings, and regretted the hot. We aren’t even wimps about that kind of thing! Remember, you do not win a prize for eating the hottest chicken, so just chill out! We sampled the mac & cheese, slaw, southern greens and banana pudding. Josh literally had to whack the banana pudding out of my hand, saying, “What the hell is wrong with you? You’re going to feel like crap if you keep eating that!” I didn’t listen, and I did feel like crap, and it WAS WORTH IT.
We couldn’t wait to get the eff out of our Airbnb, and thankfully the finest coffee shop in town was just down the road. Barista Parlor is one of those coffee shops that takes itself a little too seriously, but you still secretly wish your house looked even a third as cool as any nook in the whole shop. Or that you could pull off that mustache and suspenders look (even if you’re a girl). We ordered fancy-ass pour over coffees and the most amazing biscuit egg sandwiches. I got mine on a gluten-free biscuit, because I’m clearly watching my gluten intake (see Hattie B’s blurb above… yeah, that meal was T-O-T-A-L-L-Y gluten-free). Loved the sammy so much, we went back Monday morning before heading to the airport.
I heard Jill Riley from The Current (the Twin Cities’ awesome public radio station) mention that you can’t check out RCA Studio B unless you book a tour, available only through the Country Music Hall of Fame. I made sure to get that shiz in order well-before our trip because it sells out. There was no way I was going to miss seeing the place where Elvis recorded 260 songs & Dolly famously crashed her car running late for a recording session!
We took a shuttle bus from the CMHoF to the studio– about a 10 minute drive with 20 of our fellow music lovers. It’s an unassuming cinderblock building, but once our guide let us in, it just felt like some place special. There were big black and white photos of all the greats: Elvis, Jim Reeves, and of course, Miss Dolly. Our guide started playing “Only the Lonely,” over the sound system. A Roy Orbison classic! I love Roy! And then, the tears (PS in case you haven’t heard, music makes me cry) started– and this was just in the lobby!
Next, we moved into the actual recording studio– still home to the Steinway Elvis used to hammer on for hours before he was finally ready to lay down some tracks. Our guide played Skeeter Davis’s “The End of the World” and The Everly Brothers’ “All I Have to Do is Dream. Tears and tears. And then she told this awesome story about Elvis recording “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” in that very room, in one take, in the dark, at 4am. Then, she shut off the lights and played the whole damn thing. Let’s just say my eyeballs and ugly cry face were thankful for the darkness.
One of the best tours I’ve ever taken. Who needs to see the Roman Colosseum when RCA Studio B exists?
You can’t get to Studio B without buying a ticket to the CMHofF, not that I minded because it was awesome! Tons of cool memorabilia– like a purple fringy number Patsy Cline once wore, Elvis’ gold Cadillac (crushed diamonds in the paint! WHAT?!)– plus an entire exhibit dedicated to Dylan, Cash & the Nashville Cats. It runs through December of 2016. So if you have ears and love music, go, go, go!
We waited in line for about 30 minutes for five tacos, a horchata and an agua fresca. It was so good, I would’ve waited an hour. Probably.
Rodriguez & Brian Wilson at The Woods Amphitheater
This concert = whole reason Josh planned the trip. The Beach Boys are my favorite band (super normal for a person born in 1982), but the only musician I might love more is Rodriguez. And here they were, on tour together, going everywhere but the Twin Cities. So Josh surprised me with tickets to the show and guess what!? I cried.
Amazingly, I didn’t cry at the actual show. Not even sure how that’s possible, but it’s true. The amphitheater is wooded and fairly small, and the weather was perfection. A bit out of town, but a great place to see a concert. Brian Wilson & his huge crew were great (is there anything better than listening to the Beach Boys on a summer night?), but Rodriguez’s acoustic set completely stole my heart, just like I expected it would.
If you’re wondering who in the hell is Rodriguez?!, do yourself a solid and watch Searching for Sugar Man. One of the best documentaries of all time!
We were so not ready to go back to our crappy Airbnb, so Josh and I headed to the bars on Broadway. By 10:30 pm, literally every person we passed on the street was so shit-faced they couldn’t even walk. Excellent!
There’s literally dozens of bars blasting live music and they all look the same– think Bourbon Street in NOLA or Dirty 6th in Austin, Texas. However, I had it on good authority that Robert’s Western World was THE place to go. We weren’t disappointed: dark, divey and full of people dancing their pants off to Brazilbilly– the best house band of all time. They played lots of classic country and I even convinced Josh to dance.
We also mowed one of their famous bologna sandwiches, which all of a sudden is my favorite food. WHERE HAS THIS BEEN ALL MY LIFE? Also, throwing a shout-out to their bathroom, which was the messiest I’ve seen since my college days. So bad that I was inspired to take a photo.
Cool space, overrated everything else. Josh and I split this hash that I definitely could’ve made myself.
Oh well, they have a neat bowling alley AND swimming pool. Plus, there’s an awesome view of the skyline from their parking lot, which is where we took this sexy photo. Most chicks splayed across the hood of a [rented] Charger kick off their Birkenstocks first, right?
Confession: I haven’t been to church for, well, awhile. But the Mother Church of Country Music fixed that. What I wouldn’t give to see a show at the Ryman– built in 1892 and eventually home of the Grand Ol’ Opry for 31 years. The biggest names in country music graced this stage, Patsy included. Since we were tourists and everything, we sprung for the backstage tour and relaxed in the Jonny Cash dressing room for a hot minute. I heard Sturgill Simpson is playing here in October. Who wants to go with me?
Union Station Hotel
We wanted a mid-afternoon snack and cocktail and heard this hotel was an absolute stunner. So we dropped in and yep, the building and lobby were gorgeous. The food and drinks? No so much. They rave about their four-star restaurant and craft cocktail program, but seriously: terrible service, dirty bar and half our food never even arrived! There were only two other people in the place, which would make you think service would at least be speedy, but no. I would’ve rather eaten McDonald’s.
All memories of Union Station vanished once we entered the crazy world of Jack White. It’s unlike any record store I’ve ever experienced– mostly because the guy who owns it is a kajiliionaire instead one of those enthusiastic but broke music geeks (but I love those guys, too). There’s a booth where you can record your own quickie vinyl album, a bunch of cool old instruments and I’m pretty sure I saw some sort of vintage arcade game that involved a chicken that lays eggs(?) There’s not much inventory, but what they have is amazing! Check out their selection of albums recorded live at Third Man. We spent $70 on music, no problemo.
Nashville has a full sized replica of the Parthenon. I might get some flack for this one, but not worth your time. It’s concrete, and has a bunch of art and crap. Also, this really tall statue. I for one wish I’d have taken a nap instead. ZZZZZZZZZZZZ.
This order at the counter spot had a line out the door, but we didn’t mind waiting because we knew it’d be good. The dry rub ribs were ridonk, pulled pork smothered in all their sauces ridic, as was the broccoli salad and slaw (I tried to eat some veggies to fend off the meat sweats).
Patsy Cline’s House
While at dinner, I decided to smear bbq sauce all over my phone while Googling “Patsy Cline’s House, Nashville.” I stumbled upon this Facebook album that not only had photos, but the actual address! Josh and I made the executive decision to do a drive-by and prayed we’d get there before the sun set. We made it, and her home seemed so nice and normal… unlike us weirdos who were driving through a neighborhood at a snail’s pace, checking out the home of a celebrity who’s been dead for 50 years. The house is so not a tourist destination, but it was a highlight for me. I love Pasty.
After creeping on Patsy, we headed back toward our crappy Airbnb, deciding to make one last stop. Apparently Dino’s, Nashville’s oldest dive, recently came under new ownership. They only do burgers, fries and handful of other things you dip in a deep fryer or cook on a flat top grill.
However, rumor has it former Husk pasty chef does their pies and desserts. So we stopped in for a slice of pie and beer, which might sound like it doesn’t go together, but trust me: it does.
In total, we spent three nights and two glorious days here. I’m usually the kind that requires a lot of downtime, but Josh and I didn’t stop moving the entire trip. If you’re looking for an easy, fun US travel destination, THIS IS IT! I’d go back for the bologna sandwiches alone.
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As you may or may not know, I am all obsessed with traveling in the good ol US of A these days. Here’s why.
Advice: what’s the next American destination I should visit? The Carolinas are definitely on my list, as is Savannah. What am I missing?