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.
Filed under Nashville, Texas
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
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.
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!
Somehow 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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We 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!) Other 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.
Last 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.)
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!
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.
I had a Nashville day from start to finish and it was so much fun, even if there was torrential rain for much of the day. First stop, some Christian gospel music at the Nashville cowboy church held in a theater in a worn out strip mall near our hotel. Surely I was the only Jew in the room. But some fine music by, among other Johnny cash’s sister Joanne and Ernest Tubb’s nephew. I could have done without the forced prayer and prostelizing at the end but comes with the territory.
From there a completely different Nashville in the emerging east Nashville neighborhood where I had some of the best scrambled eggs ever, made with with gruyere and cream and hand cut bacon, thick slabs. Then I spent maybe two hours I one of the best craft/art galleries I have been to in a long time, art and invention. Fantastic assortment of jewelry, textiles, ceramics,glassware, exquisite little paintings of that when combined looked beautiful).
FROM there I went next door to another row of little shops in houses goodbye girls and hello boys – test vintage clothes and then to a mid century modern vintage/antique stoe next door, Wonders on Woodland. i now I have restocked my Xmas gift closet.
We went to a party at RFD tv (which means rural free delivery…a national AG cable tv station) and toured their studios. Fun. And tonight we ended by listening to great live rockabilly By Heath Haynes at the 5 spot club in east Nashville. Loving this trip.
Very full day in Nashville where we arrived at about noon ( we could have arrived about two hours earlier if we had opted for a 45 minute connection at ohare…which we could have made, as it turns out.) we spent much of our time driving around in a light drizzle ( but hey it was almost 70 degrees!) trying to get our earrings. We had an excellent lunch at hipster hangout Marche artisan foods, ( photo below) cheerful, unpretentious, good food in east Nashville. Then we drove around the touristy section of the downtown district but couldn’t find a place to park. So we drove onto the gulch glitzy new lofts, the west side (end?) near vanderbilt university and then to fancy belle Meade (expecting Nicole Kidman to drive out of one of the mansions) and then down to the Loveless Cafe (see photos below), which was as I remembered it from 24 years ago but less remotely located ( alas, development nearby.)
We are in the enormous Gaylord opryland hotel and very pleased to have a room that actually looks out on the real world, not like the countless other rooms looking out at a simulated indoor world of gardens and mock courtyards. Then room is spacious, great beds, linens. No complaints ( though this is never a place I would have picked to stay. We are here because Dirck has a conference.)
Dinner was at prince’s hot chicken shack, a beloved hole in the wall with very spicy chicken (the mild was hot so can’t imagine what the higher levels do to your mouth) and very slow service. But quite a scene and good people watching. A mix of black people presumably locals and a few white college kids and tattooed people and tourists like us. !next stop, live music at the Family Wash, a fun place in east Nashville that I am guessing is a former laundromat. We heard an excellent set by a guy anted Cary Ott who sounded at times like James Taylor, Jeff tweedy, Bruce Hornsby and even boz Skaggs but mostly like himself. The signature shepherds pie looked great but we were too full of hot chicken to try it. But I did have an excellent local beer…chase pale and Dirck had yazoo.