Category Archives: Tennessee

National Civil Rights Museum/Memphis, Memphis BBQ/not on Memphis, City grocery, Square Books and Snack bar in Oxford, MS

I went to the Lorraine Motel where MLK was murdered for the third time today and was amazed to see that a woman who was protesting a proposed civil rights museum on the site back in 1989 was still there with her protest signs. She apparently thinks it memorializes the murderer. I disagree. I was as impressed today as I was during my second visit to the site (when it was a museum) about 9 years ago with Noah. It does a powerful job of laying out what led to the Civil Rights Movement and eventually MLK’s murder, with a dramatic finale: the (now glass-enclosed) motel room where MLK was shot on the balcony.It was poignant to visit this place now, with so much racial unrest. Still.


The City Grocery, Oxford,MS

Tonight we are staying in another really cool Airbnb in the woods south of Oxford,MS.  It’s on the ground floor of a house in a rural area with an unlikely contemporary art gallery (the Tree House Gallery) on the edge of a two lane winding country road. We have our own apartment with not one boring piece of furniture, artwork or rug. Shabby chic, interesting art everywhere, antiques, rugs from foreign lands. It’s a treat. And there is a huge screened in porch above us that I hope to linger on tomorrow morning.

Our Airbnb in the woods outside Oxford

Not surprisingly, my stomach is rebelling from all the rich food we have been eating. We tried another BBQ place recommended by locals (Memphis BBQ in Horn Lake, MS) but didn’t like it as much as Central BBQ – atmosphere was too fast foody. In Oxford, we stopped to browse in  the charming and very Southern square at the famous Square Books and had a beer on the second floor balcony of  The City Grocery, a beloved second story old bar overlooking the square (which reminds us a bit of Franklin, TN) and ate rich food at Snackbar nearby (fried oysters in a creamy sauce for me and dirck and I split “Vietnamese coffee ice cream” which had thru-the-roof butterfat content. My stomach is starting bubble up again just thinking about it.)Locals were raving about new places — Saint Leo’s (for pizza) off Oxford’s Square and Grit in the tiny town of Taylor (famous for the Taylor Grocery, a southern restaurant in a building that barely looked open anymore (part of the charm, apparently). Sadly, it wasn’t open on a Monday.

Memphis airbnb

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Filed under Airbnb, grassroots art, Memphis, Mississippi

central BBQ, Rum Boogie Cafe, Otherlands Cafe, Rev. Green’s Church, FourWay, Sun Studio, Southern Folklore center – Memphis!

Rum Boogie Cafe

Loving this town. This morning we spent over two hours in church, much of it listening to fantastic gospel music by not only Al Green (aka Rev. Green) but an assortment of church members, all with fantastic voices! The church, on a remote exurban road, was full of visitors from Brazil, Germany, Australia and Iowa….we bumped into a friend sitting in the pews who is from Des Moines.

Central BBQ

New friends, Judy and Brian from northwest Iowa (met them at Rum Boogie Cafe)

Affter church, we went with two friends we met for the first time last night at Rum Boogie Cafe, a fun juke joint on Beale Street, to Four Way, the famous soul food restaurant for lunch. Turns out the rest of the after church crowd was there so the place was packed. But it was worth the wait. Great people watching, especially the church women dressed so elegantly, with fabulous hats worthy of Ascot. The last time I saw such great hats was at Charles and Di’s wedding in 1981. The food was delicious too — fried chicken, with two sides (excellent cornmeal dressing). We sat next to a table of churchgoers who were really friendly and we enjoyed talking with them while our chicken was being fried (which took awhile).

Trying out Elvis’s mike at Sun Studio

We have been struck by how nice and welcoming people have been here. People smile and say hi when you pass them on the street or wait in line with them at a restaurant (“Where ya’all from?”) and everyone seems to have a story or favorite rib joint to share. (The man I was sitting next to at Four Way told me his favorite rib place is Memphis BBQ which is actually in Horn Lake Mississippi, which we have since tried. Too fast food  an atmosphere for us. We will stick with Central BBQ, where we enjoyed dry ribs yesterday in the “historically hip” Cooper Young neighborhood, where our lovely 1920s Craftsman style Airbnb is located. Our hosts have done a great job fixing up this house, as have many of their neighbors with similar bungalows. (We also saw some great shotgun shacks on Blythe Street, parallel to Cooper.)

Heavenly gospel music at Rev. Green’s church

After Four Way, we took a totally entertaining tour of Sun Studio— our guide was a lot of fun and the tour reminded me a bit of touring the Motown headquarters in Detroit. Then to the Southern Folklore Center, which happened to share space with a Jewish museum. The center’s co-founder, an outgoing filmmaker named Judy, gave us a guided tour of the center and pointed out several of her relatives in the historic photos of Jews in Memphis decades ago. Who knew? (Apparently Jews own the famous Peabody Hotel…) Also thoroughly enjoyed a light breakfast at Otherlands Cafe in our neighborhood, with mismatched tables and local art including a folk artist named Karen Capps who it turns out lives a block from where we are staying.

We went back to Beale Street tonight (Freeworld, 30-year -old cover band, at Blues City Cafe where we sat with a nice couple from Denmark. Swedes were at the table next to us.) At one point, a guest artist – an older woman – got on stage and played a mean harmonica and sang. Who knew?

A singer with the band

Beale Street was more fun than I expected. I was worried it would be full of drunks like New Orleans’ Bourbon  Street …but we got there relatively early, which may have helped. And the music was great. On Saturday night, we  wandered into Rum Boogie and encountered, as one guy put it “a smoking hot band” (Vince  Johnson  and the Plantation Allstars) followed by a slightly less smoking one but when I walked to the bathroom, I stumbled across  another great band in the next room and a dancing crowd. Just nice to see people having a good time. Some of the best music was on the street with various bands playing and at one point on a surprisingly warm night (it was 91 degrees at one point) I found myself line dancing in the street with a bunch of strangers. Why not?!

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Next time in Nashville: where to shop!

For our next trip to Nashville (or Austin):

NYTimes March 2017:

NASHVILLE — The novelist Ann Patchett, who lives in this city, has said that she brings out-of-town visitors to two places: the Parthenon, the replica of the ancient Greek structure in Centennial Park, and United Apparel Liquidators, or U.A.L. as devotees know it. Both are temples of a sort.

The small clothing chain has three stores in the Nashville area. The flagship is also in the city, in a strip mall of no distinction, half-hidden between a nail salon and a Chinese takeout place. Ms. Patchett took the author of “Eat, Pray, Love,” Elizabeth Gilbert, shopping there one day last year, and during a literary talk that night, they dished about the Christian Dior flats that Ms. Gilbert purchased.

“They were so beautiful,” Ms. Gilbert told the audience, “I was licking them in the store.”

Better still, Ms. Patchett noted, the designer shoes were “10 percent of what they had once cost.”

Technically, U.A.L. belongs to the booming retail category known as off-price. But where discounters like Nordstrom Rack and T. J. Maxx have a bargain-basement atmosphere and leftover-seeming merchandise, U.A.L. feels like a designer boutique. Imagine walking into Jeffrey in New York or Fred Segal in Los Angeles and discovering it’s having an everything-must-go fire sale.

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Nashville restaurant recommendations from a Pinewood Social server.

Our young server at the trendy Pinewood Social restaurant/fun house was so enthusiastic about her new hometown – Nashville – that she eagerly offered us a handwritten list of her favorite places to eat in town, even broken down by category.
Here it is: (I couldn’t always read her handwriting so some of these may not be correct spellings…)

Italian: Rolf and Daughters, Moto, Mafraoza’s
Breakfast: Fenwick’s, 300, Sky Blue (which we went to in East Nashville!)
Deli/Sandwich: Duke’s (also a bar), Mitchell
Mexican: Mas Tacos, Rosepepper, Sait Anejo
Ramen: Twoten Jack
Dessert: Five Daughters (we went there too – pricey rich donuts); Jeni’s (ice cream)
Bars: Patterson House, Bastion

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Nashville farmers market, Arnold’s Country Kitchen, original Barista Parlor and unexpected trip home via Kansas City 

Hanging at our Airbnb Lilypad.

Hanging at our Airbnb Lilypad.

Arnold’s Country Kitchen looked slightly swollen compared to my first visit three years ago. Turns out it is in the middle of an expansion. Fortunately it was open and still serving terrific meat and three sides, albeit in an lighter, less cramped space. Everything was delicious – fried chicken, roast beef, trout, kielbasa mains and sides including mashed potatoes, cauliflower casserole etc. The chess pie with meringue was too sweet for all of us. I guess one sign of nashvilles popularity is the fact that two of the places I visited three years ago have expanded (on site like Arnold’s or new location like the Family Wash).

WHile the rest of the gang went to the Country Music Hall of Fame, I explored neighborhoods some more, stopping at the farmers market in Germantown which has an indoor food court with a cool store called “Batch” that sells small batch food makers’ goods and a jam-packed international foods market. We ended up at the original Barista Parlor coffee house in east Nashville, playing scrabble and dealing with screwed up flights home. OUr flight was messed up by air traffic control issues in LA, of all places, that led our plane to arrive late and leave late from Nashville, too late for us to make our connection in St. Louis. Which is how we ended up flying unexpectedly to Kansas City and driving a rental car through the dark and fog ack to Des Moines.

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Road trip to Franklin, Leiper’s Fork, Arrington Vineyard – Pucketts, two locayions

We got lucky  with the weather for our road trip south into Tennessee walking horse country. Following winding two lane back roads in and out of hollers, often along roads lined with fences, past Confederate battle sites, gracious old southern horse farms and garish McMansions, we stopped for a great lunch at Puckett’s – outstanding mufaletta sandwich with dirty rice, fried catfish poboys, gumbo, key lime pie in a fun old space full of music triangle memorabilia. The Sunday brunch for $17 was more than all but one of us could manage. Quite a deal.

We walked around the square (more like a circle) in tony downtown Franklin and found a few stores open (with some good sales) and Civil War sites. Also stopped in the visitors center where we got a helpful map of back roads to quaint Leiper’s Fork which was much more lively on a Sunday than when I visited on a weekday. The general store, also owned by Puckett’s, is wonderfully scruffy, with shelved lined with large cans of collard greens and bags of black eyed peas. Well heeled bikers on bicycles and motorcycles) sat at outside tables, enjoying the sun and warm temps (low 60s). A little girl walked a baby pig on a leash in a little store beside the market. Four guys on guitars played oldies inside the market by the front counter.

Onto Bailey Road south (gorgeous) and a few other roads east to Arrington Vineyards, a beautiful spread atop a hillside with great views of horse farms nearby. PLace is owned by a country singer (Kix Brooks). Good wine too. Such a fun day!

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Pinewood Social, The 5 Spot, edleys BBQ, Parnasis Books, Hattie B’s, Germantown, The Family Wash

img_0906Somehow I got to talking with An owner/manager of the trendy Pinewood Social, a “scenery” space inside an old trolley car barn that has a restaurant, retro bowling alley, pool and lively bar and he ended up sending over a birthday whiskey to Dirck and free appetizers to our table, which was a nice touch. Next stop, the 5 Spot, an east Nashville club where we found ourselves at a mad 1980s dance party full of mostly young women dancing exuberantly to the music of my youth.img_0912

In the morning, Dirck and emma shelled out a stunning $27 for six donuts at Five Daughters Bakery which was outrageous. They were good but not that good and most were not only topped with frosting but frosting filled too. Way too sweet. The best one was simply sprinkled with sugar and flakey doughy inside. We walked around our Lockeland Springs neighborhood past more renovated bungalows and new interesting very modern homes. Also lots of small entrepreneurs including a homemade chocolate corner store around the block.img_0913

  1. Lunch was at Edleys BBQ in the 12south neighborhood, across from Reese Witherspoon s clothing store, which is uber preppy, sort of a cross between Talbots and LIly Pulitzer and seems to attract a lot of Reese lookalikes who pose for photos beside a wall mural on the side of the building.Good brisket at edleys. No ribs at lunch, only dinner. We explore the Germantown neighborhood north of downtown which has more cool old homes, these ones often brick and historic, plus new condos and small independent pricey shops with names like”rich hippie.” I wandered into one seemingly abandoned old brick building in a desolate spot by between the river and railroad tracks and found myself in this cavernous shop Peter Nappi, selling incredibly expensive Italian leather shoes.
    Germantown store

    Germantown store

    Also went to a very high design coffee place called Barista, co-owned by then Black Keys’ drummer and finally found the restaurant Rolf and Daughters inside an old factory. Such is life in Nashville.

    Germantown coffee

    Germantown coffee

TOnight we tried the hot fried chicken at Hattie B’s in midtown which was fun and faster than Prince’s. MIld was hot enough for me. DIrck had medium heat and Noah dared rather hot which was too much for me. We ended up at the Family Wash, another music place which had us confused at first because it’s in a different location than when we last visited 3-4 years ago. They  specialize, oddly, in Shepards pie.

Hot chicken

Hot chicken

And low key live music. we found the original local on greenwood near The Porter Street Bistro where I had. Good brunch during my last trip here.

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lilypad, Sky Blue Cafe, Art & Invention Gallery, the Pharmacy – East Nashville 


Very fun day with all six of us here in East Nashville to celebrate Dirck’s 60th. We are staying in a sweet little two-bedroom Airbnb cottage on Lillian Street (aka the “lily pad”) with a foldout couch and air mattress for the two youngest in the living room.  The place is cozy with hipster cool decor, lots of old accents, thin wood slat floors, exposed brick and white subway tile and funky light fixtures in the neat little kitchen.

img_0409We walked east along Fatherland Street (kinda creepy name) lined with small fixed up bungalows and Victorians to Sky Blue Cafe, a little neighborhood corner spot with hearty creative brunch entrees (delicious  pancakes, omelettes, home fries bowls) and then walked over to the 5 Points area and visited a few shops I remember fondly from my last trip here several years ago, including Arts and Inventions, a crafts gallery (where I first discovered the fanciful birds painted y local Vicki Sawyer, who has gone on to major merchandizing…I spotted her products last month in Pasadena!) img_0897Other highlights include a few vintage clothing stores in the area, 5 Points pizza, the turnip truck market and a coolly named hotdog truck “I dream of Weenie” in an old VW camper. img_0411Last night I had an excellent brat at The Pharmacy, which also serves very fresh tasting and hefty burgers and sweet potato fries. We got birthday cupcakes at Nashville Sweets. Also visited a small shopping area with inviting small shops along Fatherland, including the wonderful Her Book Store, which was not exclusively for her…I bought a book  for a him.)img_0407

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Dining at The Pharmacy in Nashville

2013nashvillephoto(21)On our last night in Nashville, we ate at The Pharmacy in – you guessed it – East Nashville. Its menu is limited primarily to burgers, brats, fries – and the ones we tried were very good (a cheese burger with three types of cheese, prepared medium rare, with a sweetish-potato batter perhaps bun; a brat loaded with not-too-tangy sauerkraut on a bun that didn’t hold the loaded brat well but was tasty; well-cooked sweet potato and regular fries – especially good when we requested a hot batch to replace the lukewarm batch originally served to us.) The place had a fun neighborhood vibe – waiters wearing plaid flannel shirts, lots of wood and stamped tin, indie music in the atmosphere.
We didn’t have the energy to go return to the Five Spot (see photo) nearby for dance night – which didn’t start until 10:30 or, we gather, really get going until midnight. But I was tempted. Who are these people partying into the wee hours of Sunday and Monday night? Musicians perhaps. My husband noted that there was live music in the food courts at Nashville airport when he got there midday yesterday (none that I saw/heard at 9 a.m., alas) and he’s never seen so many people walking through an airport with guitar cases. cool!

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Tennessee hill and horse country, Arnold’s Country Kitchen, belle Meade plantation

I explored the horse country south of Nashville which was pretty and rolling, with long stretches of land fenced off with a big house, sometimes a lovely colonial brick plantation in the distance. Franklin is an old town about 20 minutes outside Nashville. Pretty buildings but felt very much like a bedroom community. Reminded me a bit of Alexandria va. It was also too cold to walk,around. In Columbia I went west and picked up a portion of the famous Natchez trail scenic parkway which was scenic but off season so not as scenic…. It was odd to be on this pristine two lane highway with no other cars. Felt like I was on some sort of test track.

I got off at highway 46 which turned out to be the most scenic of the roads I went on, winding through horse farm country and a few incorporated towns (I have now been to Sawdust, Tennessee! And there even was a possum hollow there. But not much more.) I passed through a pretty village with lots of antique shops and galleries ( and a historic plaque referring to Thomas Hart Benton. Not sure if it’s the famous Kansas city artist.) I think it is called leipert’s fork village.

The highlight of the day was a superb lunch at the famous Arnold’s Country Kitchen in Nashville, It’s a humble looking red cinder block building but inside it was full of people at 1:30 pm and I went thru the cafeteria line and got fried chicken with three sides ( great mashed potatoes) and a flattened grilled version of a corn muffin. This is the classic “meat and three” found around town.

I squeezed in a tour of the belle Meade plantation which was very different than the Laura plantation I Louisiana. It was a horse plantation and a brick colonial with limestone fronting and columns, not creole like Laura. Had a very long drive back to hotel in cold rain. Nashville traffic can be a drag.



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