My Nashville by Anna Vitiello
Welcome to Nashville: my home away from home and one of my favourite cities.
I’ll admit it, I’m one of those (a vegetarian with a penchant for fancy coffees and protein snacks) but luckily for me, Nashville has a few spots that cater to people like me. When I’m here, I can often be found sampling interesting - if sometimes questionable - interpretations of coffee at any one of my favourite haunts, or trying a new restaurant with a suitably appealing vegetarian offering.
Welcome to Nashville: my home away from home and one of my favourite cities. Before visiting for the first time in January of this year, my apprehension at my boyfriend’s big move got the better of me and I did more research than I’d done for my final year dissertation, asking anyone and everyone what they knew of the city. The response from those that had visited was always the same: “it’s the best!” My apprehension faded and, once there, seemed almost a little ridiculous. (It was during one of these ‘Oh my goodness what will I do in Nashville’ conversations that the wonderful folk of Nanushka and I first started this conversation.)
It has become one of America’s trendier cities (which, coincidentally, has worked out well for me.) From music and film’s biggest names to young creatives and families, it is filled with the buzz of newness: new boutique hotels, shops and restaurants are opening up all over the city and, as a vegetarian foodie with a penchant for vintage shopping, this bodes well indeed.
In a city where nitro coffee and hundred layer doughnuts are the norm, though (more on those later), it can be hard to know where to start. Trendy restaurants are popping up the town over and there are more hip areas than you can shake a country band’s drum stick at.
Luckily for me, it’s full of like minded creatives - photographers, musicians, entrepreneurs - as well as fast becoming Hollywood’s second city, with A-listers popping up in mansions throughout the outskirts. It’s certainly diverse, that’s for sure, and as a Londoner, it easily feels like home. But to know Nashville is to need a car, or getting around can be an incredibly expensive set of endless Uber rides. The city is divided into pockets of areas which, in my humble opinion, warrant attention: 12 South, The Gulch and Downtown are all home to great food and coffee haunts, while East Nashville is reserved (not exclusively, but it often feels like it) for the cool kids. But after months of experimenting with what the city has to offer, I’ve come to love certain spots more than others.
THE FRIST MUSEUM
I first went here with my in laws who, on their visit from London, went back another two times. They have some pretty incredible exhibitions on at all times from room upon room of contemporary art to exhibitions exploring issues such as civil rights. It’s worth taking a few hours to spend some time getting stuck into what’s on - it’s somehow awe-inspiring and uplifting at the same time. There are other art galleries around the city that are totally worth visiting, such as Rymer - some house local art, others international, but there’s something for everyone (including a brilliant selection of Cisco Kid vs Donald Trump which is well worth seeing.)
One of my favourite places to head to for a nibble or coffee, the Gulch is one of the city’s more polished areas. I often stop in at Milk & Honey with a friend for a bite to eat where I love the honey latte and any one of their salads before heading to Barista Parlour round the corner for meetings over a Vietnamese coffee. I love this part of town - it’s small and relatively quiet - but feels like a little village tucked into a lively city. It’s also home to a couple of my favourite dinner spots: Little Octopus for the tastiest sharing plates and Moto for truly incredible Italian cuisine. Oh, and don’t forget to stop in at the Thompson hotel for a little local ale (if that’s your thing) and a look at the view - the rooftop is my favourite for an early evening drink.
I’m also a sucker for an independent health food store - you could say most of my money is spent here - and Turnip Truck is my Heaven. I can be found aimlessly wandering the aisles looking for new and interesting snacks and bulk buying Perfect Bars and coconut water to store in the fridge for warmer days.
Disclaimer: I don’t consider myself a cool kid - quite the opposite, in fact - yet some of my favourite places to hang out are here. First up, Folk - home to some of the best food, ambience and wine in Nashville. Might I suggest the feta tomato pizza with a side of ricotta fennel salad washed down with a glass of house red? But don’t leave without trying the olive oil gelato - two of my favourite things combined - because it’s worth every single cent.
Brunchers, like me, will love Cafe Roze for a spot of hearty, healthy midday food. Like most spots in East Nashville, it’s eccentric exterior means you can’t miss it (and makes for a jazzy snap, too) - swathes of pink ribbon give it away a mile off.
But a trip to East Nashville wouldn’t be complete without a spot of vintage shopping, and boy do I have a few to recommend. High Class Hillbilly is one of my favourites (and by far my favourite name for a store) and has the most amazing mix of everything from Dior robes to band tees. Black Shag is equally amazing as is Pre to Post Modern. I always go with a little time to spare - sifting through and trying pieces on properly is a must as everything has it’s own quirky fit.
On a lazy weekend, grabbing a coffee and taking a walk down 12 South can be all I feel like doing. It’s a touristy spot, but I love Frothy Monkey’s flavoured coffees and, once caffeinated, I’ll pop into one of my favourite vintage stores in town. Though it looks more like a small antique store from the outside, Savant Vintage houses a small range of high end vintage as well as a few rails full of beautiful summer dresses and dungarees as cool as they come. I’ve found one of my favourite vintage YSL pieces here but have also fallen in love with a few dresses that I am sometimes - emphasis on sometimes - able to resist. Nashville is also swimming in incredible Mexican food, and one of the best - Bartaco - is right here. It’s also one of the most popular places in town and doesn’t allow bookings, so a call half an hour ahead of time is a must (or else, dinner at a confusingly early hour.)
The city can feel pretty small and contained at times - there are so many areas and places to go but somehow they all feel pretty small - so looking over from the outside from the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge is like stepping out. It’s never particularly busy and you can literally take a moment to sit, look over the city and breathe. I wish I could hang out here more.
To say that I’m obsessed with the Noelle Hotel is an understatement. It’s Nashville’s newest (and grooviest) hotel and I would happily move in tomorrow. Built in the 1930s but recently renovated, it has the most incredible original stone floors, pillars and tables and a rooftop that is the perfect hangout on a warm evening. Its restaurant, Make Ready, is one of my favourite places to go for a smart dinner, and there’s also a secret hidden Speakeasy bar that almost no one knows about (you’ll have to ask for directions if you’re intent on finding it.) There’s also a small boutique downstairs selling bits from local brands including Clary Collection - organic, pure oils and balms made from oils created in a barn in Bellemeade, just outside the city centre. I love discovering brands like that here and jewellery and interiors labels, too.
That nitro coffee I mentioned? Well, I tried my first one in Germantown at Steadfast with a friend. It is, essentially, fizzy coffee - sounds odd and it is just that. But, when it’s 35 degrees outside at 65% humidity and even an iced Americano doesn’t sound refreshing enough, this is the drink to order (and the place to hang.) The garden outside is ideal for hanging with friends when the weather cools down a little.
I’m not usually one to take regular trips to farmer’s market, but I am a new convert thanks to this one. It has all the usual local produce - vegetables, corn, fruit etc. - but behind are a few stalls I’m secretly visiting for: ceramics, art and bits of jewellery to sift through. The sheltered part of the market is where my boyfriend and I love coming for a casual lunch - I had my first taste of Venezuelan food here a few months back but Greek, Indian and American cuisine can all be found here. I should probably mention Jeni’s Ice Cream while I can and might I recommend the dairy free salted caramel (it’s make from coconut and the creamiest, most delicious one I’ve ever had) or any number of their weird and wonderful flavours. You won’t regret it. One of my favourite pizza spots is here, too - City House has a very cool, casual vibe and some seriously peculiar but delicious food combinations (cheesy mayo on pizza, for example.) One of the best things about restaurants in Nashville is that there often unassumingly sitting somewhere on a residential street where you can genuinely relax and have a good time. But one piece of advice: always book when you can. Nashville is a foodie town and the restaurants are always busy!
Photography by Kelsey Cherry