Nashville is a dangerous place to visit. After a mere 48 hours in this friendly, music-driven, mid-sizer, you might suffer a serious desire to move there. I know I did.
This city is certainly buoyed by its country-western sense of style and its incredible music history, but what surprised me was the balance to the town. There’s an edgy arts scene, innovative architecture, great restaurants and all manner of things to sip — from haute cocktails to cold craft beers. Here are three spots to tap your steel-toed boots or toss a few back in Music City.
ROBERT’S WESTERN WORLD
Start on Broadway. This street is where you’ll discover the classic Nashville seen largely on movies and on television. Like Beale Street in Memphis or Bourbon Street in New Orleans, Broadway’s a rite of passage when going out for the first time here. There’s a lot of neon, a ton of bars and fresh-faced banjo players trying to make a buck and name for themselves on nearly every corner. Robert’s Western World is a fun honky tonk with boots and old album covers lining the walls and great country acts on the stage.
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Hint: Grab a bit of cash beforehand. The music’s free, but you’ll want to tip.
Details: www.robertswesternworld.com; 416 Broadway; 615-244-9552.
THE 404 KITCHEN
The 404 Kitchen was my favorite place in the city. There’s a tiny, adjoining 404 Hotel (only five rooms), and the building has a clean, urban design. It’s nestled in The Gulch, a great neighborhood full of shops and cute cafés.
At the 404, your cocktail recipes come courtesy of Travis Brazil, and each works perfectly with the delicate-yet-hearty cuisine that Chef Matt Bolus dishes up. I suggest sitting at the bar and chatting with the staff. Then put your night in their hands. Everything here is fresh, local and interesting, without pretension. I adored the Last Word Ma’am — a riff on the famous Last Word cocktail. Their version comes with Old Tom Gin, Green Chartreuse, Cherry Heering and a blend of citrus ($12).
There’s no vodka at The 404. “I’d like to invite people out of their comfort zone in terms of flavor,” Brazil told me. I’m a very seasoned drinker, and even I left with a larger comfort zone than I came in with. As well as a deep love for the housemade burrata, which comes over corn pone with beans and brussels sprouts slaw.
Details: http://the404nashville.com/; 404 12th Avenue S.; 615-251-1404.
Despite the early hour — lunchtime — I couldn’t resist having a drink at Pinewood Social. The space, once a trolley car depot, is now a multi-use space. Sit for coffee on couches in the front, have a killer cocktail and an excellent catfish sandwich in the main section, or head to the back and bowl on their vintage lanes. In summer, there’s even a pool on the patio. What’s not to love here?
Drink: To Infinity & Beyond ($12), with tequila, Gilka Kummel, lime, pineapple, guava and grapefruit.
Details: http://pinewoodsocial.com/; 33 Peabody St.; 615-751-8111.