My nose was in a book for the rest of the drive, but I occasionally looked up to admire my favorite puffy clouds suspended in a bright blue sky. It was the most beautiful day for traveling. The sun cast a warm glow on me, but the cool temperatures in the high 60’s and low 70’s , kept the temperature inside of the car amazingly comfortable.
After about 6 hours in the car from Columbus, we were closing in on Nashville. I expected to see the cityscape much sooner than we did, but the view was all concrete freeway until we came down a large hill. I tried to take it all in with its tall buildings and billboards advertising a Patsy Cline exhibit at The Country Music Hall of Fame. Our hotel wasn’t far from the exit and before we could process it, we had arrived. We pulled up to the Hutton Hotel and the employees greeted us with warm smiles. The decor was contemporary, but welcoming.
We were happy to casually settle in before picking a place for dinner. We were given a choice of rooms between the 5th and 12th floor and chose the 12th floor because we had to use an elevator either way. The sun was just beginning to set as we opened the curtains and looked around our home for the week. The modern bathroom featured a rain showerhead and all-glass sink. The king-sized bed called to me right away, but we really wanted to go somewhere on our first night in Nashville.
Looking through my list of places to eat, I noticed that Tavern was within walking distance of our hotel. The weather was in the low 70’s and the sun was no longer out, so I grabbed my cardigan and scarf before heading out. We took in our first glimpses of Nashville as we walked a few streets over to the restaurant. Gas stations, bars and restaurants seemed to be on every corner. I appreciated that it always felt very safe to walk around at night.
We found Tavern quickly and were seated right away. We ordered drinks and toasted to Nashville as we looked at the incredible menu options. Their special of the night was oxtail nachos, which sounded great, but we started with the kale salad. The flavor and texture was wonderful with lots of salty Parmesan, crunchy almonds and dried currents. For dinner, Marc opted for The Tavern Burger with a patty of ribeye and filet and added caramelized onions and white cheddar. It really was an excellent burger. I ordered the Basket of Crispy Little Fish recommended by our server which was corneal-fried organic catfish, whole citrus tartar sauce and Tennessee sweet potato fries. The fish was very tender with the right amount of crunch and I enjoyed the fries, too.
We were completely full, but a hidden speakeasy, the Patterson House, was supposedly nearby and we decided to seek it out. We walked up and down Division street with no luck. A little frustrated and tired from our day of travel, it was time to head back to our hotel.
I had just settled into the king-sized bed when we heard a huge crash in the bathroom. Apparently the little glass shelf over the glass sink was not level and one of the drinking glasses slid off and landed in the sink. Marc called down to the front desk and someone came up with a dustpan and broom to clean it up. The glass was mostly in the sink, but little shards had scattered around the floor. The guy that came to clean it up had a deep southern accent, the first one I had heard on the trip. I stayed in bed, too comfy and tired to move, so I didn’t see him, but Marc later said that the guy looked him deep in the eye and said, “Be careful as you walk around, ok?” Marc used a wet hand towel and wiped around the floor to make sure all of the glass was gone. Exciting, huh?
We didn’t realize until we arrived that Nashville is one hour behind Michigan time. This meant that I was waking up earlier than normal each morning, which really helped in planning each day. That first morning I started a ritual of getting out my list of things we wanted to do, my map of Nashville from the hotel, my phone and my iPad to plan the day’s events. There may have been a bit of Pinterest time in there, too.
I wanted to keep our itinerary easy-going because we were on vacation after all. I looked on my Foodspotting app and noticed that there was a Pinkberry just down the street. I had never been and I love tart frozen yogurt. Breakfast anyone?
We already had plans to meet up with Lindsay and Taylor for lunch and I suggested to Marc that we get Pinkberry and then plan our route to the area we were heading to for lunch. Marc wasn’t keen on my idea, but in the end, we ended up at Pinkberry and he liked it. He usually goes a little crazy with the combinations at ice cream places while mine always looks a bit plain and neat. I’ll never forget the time we went out for ice cream on our honeymoon and the lady refused to combine the ice cream and toppings Marc suggested! She said it wasn’t a good idea! The poor guy at the Pinkberry counter had a beeping machine or two to deal with and apologized for the flavors we could not taste. We really wanted the original tart and that machine was working fine.
We headed to the 12 South neighborhood of Nashville that we were told by several people is the “hip and trendy” part of the city. It was a beautiful spot and had lots of great dining options. Lindsay and I agreed upon Burger Up for lunch and we arrived early because we didn’t know our way around. We walked up 12th avenue south as we waited and accidentally stumbled into Imogene + Willie, a place I had been meaning to go. The store was filled with interesting things to look at and we figured it was best to go back after lunch when we had more browsing time.
That Monday was absolutely gorgeous, mid-70’s with a cloudless sky of full sunshine. Not shockingly, all of the outdoor tables were occupied and we found a table inside for four. I ordered a ginger beer and Marc ordered the local Yazoo brewery pale ale. Lindsay and Taylor arrived and we shared lots of laughs and they gave us great tips on what’s cool, cheesy cool and what isn’t worth doing in Nashville.
Lindsay and I both ordered beet salads and I topped mine with a burger patty, so I could try their burger. Marc had the lamb burger with fries and Taylor ordered a fried oyster po boy. Everybody enjoyed their food and we couldn’t get over what a beautiful day it was. Las Paletas, the gourmet popsicle shop next door was on our mind for dessert, but they are closed on Mondays! We continued to chat outside and then Lindsay and Taylor had to get back to work. They are such a nice couple and it was kind of them to take a long lunch break to meet up with us.
We walked back to Imogene + Willie to take it all in properly. The textures and materials of the building itself combined with the curated items inside combine for a comfortable atmosphere with the easy style I associate with Nashville. The store also smelled amazing thanks to a candle they were burning and I now wish I had purchased. I+W makes premium denim right in Nashville and will hem while you wait. They are pricey, but they are made in the USA and should last a long, long time. They encourage you to buy them tight and they will break in to become your favorite pair.
When we walked in the first time, we noticed a cluster of sewing machines. Paper patterns for denim hang from the ceiling decoratively and maybe necessarily, too. The people that work there are super nice and fun to talk with. When I was first planning a trip to Nashville, I had heard about I+W’s Supper and a Song, where local bands or singer/songwriters would come and play concerts in their backyard on Wednesday evenings. The Mas Tacos taco truck would come for people to eat. It was a great success with the neighborhood and people of all ages came, but a neighbor(s) complained anonymously about the noise. Even after they kept to a strict schedule of music from 6:30 to 8 pm, the complaint(s) continued. Here’s the blog post where they eloquently wrote about how it came to be and why it went away.
Whether you’re in the market for a great pair of jeans or just want to walk around and look at their beautiful goods, it’s worth a trip. Marc bought me the beautiful leather clutch above for an early birthday gift from a local artist named Annie Williams. The leather is buttery soft and will forever remind me of Nashville. I fell further in love with the piece when the guy at I+W said that Annie was the sweetest person and told me that Annie’s personal clutch has broken in gorgeously.
What kind of Detroiters would we be if we didn’t stop in at Third Man Records? For those of you who don’t know, this is Jack White’s (from The White Stripes, The Raconteurs, The Dead Weather) record label that was founded in Detroit in 2001, but the only physical location is in Nashville.
Currently, it isn’t a large place, but it was full of people when we first walked in. It’s basically a room with Third Man Records and Jack White memorabilia with a nice selection of vinyl for purchase. The lighting is moody with the help of yellow window clings and red light bulbs. A record player was spinning Jack White’s latest album, Blunderbuss. A collection of records to play are stacked near the turntable. All you need is the help from the gal behind the counter dressed in a black and yellow retro flight attendant-like dress. She was very nice and let us listen to the 5,6,7,8’s while giving us some recommendations for what to do in the area. We picked up the self-titled 5,6,7,8’s album (Japanese punk rock chicks) and The White Stripes’ Icky Thump, which Marc had always wanted on vinyl.
There was quite a bit of construction going on outside and I stumbled on an article that stated Third Man Records is expanding into the building next door and will have a batcave for their rolling record store (their record truck), public restrooms for attendees of Blue Room shows, a covered patio and grill for hotdogs at each show and a record-cutting lathe and vinyl mastering suite that fans will be able to see from the blue room.
Without set plans for the evening, we wanted to see what “The District” was all about. It’s a few blocks of bar after bar with live music commonly knows as the “Honky Tonks”. Lindsay and Taylor said it was worth walking by and Whiskey Kitchen was close enough to stop by for dinner. We decided to walk from our hotel because we quickly found out that almost everything we did was within 8 miles of our hotel. However, we also discovered that nobody seemed to walk anywhere. Maybe that’s why the timing of the crosswalks seemed a bit off. The weather was beautiful, though, and we needed the exercise.
Whiskey Kitchen is affiliated with The Tavern and usually chain restaurants make me hesitant, but both of these restaurants have exciting menus and wonderful food. Our waitress, Haley, was a gem of a waitress. She was friendly and attentive, yet left us alone to eat and chat in peace. She had excellent recommendations, but didn’t sway us away from anything we had our hearts set on.
As you may have guessed, they have a pretty extensive list of whiskey and bourbon to choose from. I ordered the Maple Manhattan which had Four Roses Kentucky bourbon and maple syrup, a drink that Beth recommended. The maple syrup went really well with the smooth bourbon. Marc ordered the Four Roses whiskey flight, which our waitress suggested and I gave it major cute points for the wooden block the glasses were set in.
We started with jalapeño fried pickles, which we both really enjoyed. They were crunchy and sour and just good. For dinner I ordered the Fried Green Tomato BLT with hand-breaded fried green tomatoes, bacon, brie cheese and baby spinach on sourdough bread. The textures worked beautifully together and the flavor of the tomato, brie and smoky bacon was delicious. Marc went for the Southern Sliders that came with a basket of buttermilk biscuits and a choice of fried green tomato, steak, fried chicken, or smoked ham with flavored butter, honey and buttermilk horseradish for topping the sliders. Marc chose to get one of each kind and was most impressed with the tender smoked ham. You can be sure I used some of his honey on a couple of bites of my BLT.
Above is a picture I took as we approached The District. We walked up and down the street and it was the first time we really felt like we were bumping into tourists. Large groups of baby boomers filled the streets, dressed in their glitziest outfits. Each bar that had been recommended was packed full. All of the music was decidedly country and honestly, it isn’t really our first choice in music. A promising rendition of “Ice Ice Baby” came from a large karaoke bar, but none of the music piqued our interest enough to stop and stuff ourselves inside one of the crowded bars. We took a wide-eyed look at the bright lights and walked back to our hotel.
After a Monday full of activities, the one thing we had planned for Tuesday, was tickets to a show at the Grand Ole Opry for 7 pm. We thought it would be best to check out where the concert would be, so we weren’t looking too lost. Bolton’s Spicy Chicken and Fish was on the way and became Tuesday’s lunch destination.
Bolton’s is a tiny place, but came highly recommended for their hot chicken. Hot chicken is a Nashville specialty and it’s basically spicy fried chicken. I really didn’t know what it was at first, but certainly wanted to try it. We drove up to the tiny place and the owner came out and asked us to park in a different spot. The parking lot was tiny and shared with another business. Cars need to be corralled a bit to make room for a large lunch crowd. There was only one other couple eating there when we arrived and we just didn’t really know the procedure. Marc moved the car and the owner thanked him for moving and then we tried following him in the side door, unaware that it was the kitchen door. Oops.
We finally walked in the front door and a friendly lady opened up the sliding window and asked what we’d like. I said, “Hot chicken!” and she said, “OK!” I ordered the quarter breast plate and my two sides were peppery mac and cheese and greens. She said that was what she had for lunch, too, and that’s when I wanted to high-five myself. Marc ordered the quarter leg plate and she asked what spice level he would like, mild, medium or hot. I became a little worried about my hot chicken order. Marc ordered his chicken hot because he likes hot and spicy food. I like spicy things, too, and I try to be a good trooper when it comes to spice. Our order was out quickly and we dove in.
They are NOT kidding around when they say hot chicken. My eyes began to water and soon we found ourselves unsure of whether the chicken was hot (spicy) or hot (temperature). I let my chicken cool off and ate some of my mac and cheese, which was very good. Nothing fancy, just shells and a creamy white cheddar sauce and lots of plain black pepper. The greens were full of flavor and a bit salty. I went back to the chicken and in a matter of minutes, Marc and I had orange seasoned fingers, watery eyes and apparently my face was red. The flavor was excellent and the chicken was cooked perfectly. After a while we grew used to the warm tingle on our lips and took frequent sips from our bottled drinks. Definitely get a drink. In the end, finishing my chicken felt like a feat and it was strangely addicting. When we left, the owner was at the side of the building and kindly asked if we enjoyed our food. We said we did and he nodded in appreciation. I love those gracious Southern manners.
I booked our tickets for the Grand Ole Opry about 4 weeks before the show. Then, the show said that Crystal Gayle (Loretta Lynn’s sister), Trace Adkins and Lee Ann Womack would be there. I was pleased with the line up because all of them are pretty much cross-over artists and it sounded like a fun show. At some point, though, we found out that the show happened to land on Loretta Lynn’s 50th anniversary of membership at the Grand Ole Opry and it turned into a big celebration for her. Loretta Lynn, Miranda Lambert and Pistol Annies were added to the night’s line up.
When you arrive on the property, it’s like a big maze. The road stretches and curves in several directions and you can go to the Garylord Opryland Hotel and pay $20 to park or you can take another route which takes you to the Opry Mills mall and the Grand Ole Opry House. Parking for the mall and the Opry House is free and just across the street from the Opry House. We found a spot and walked across the street to claim our tickets. The lady at the box office told us to make sure to arrive early because the show was completely sold out. Marc took this to heart and became quite attached to his parking space. He suggested we stick around and see what we could do before the show. It was about 5 hours before the show and we thought it would be possible to look around the area and entertain ourselves.
We made a friend in a retired lady from Idaho who was looking for the walking path to the hotel. Her sister was walking around and trying to find the path. They were on a roadtrip and she was loving their stop at the Grand Ole Opry. She lives in a remote area of Idaho and told us excitedly about their dinner at The Rainforest Cafe. We told her that we had one in the Detroit area and she said they had nothing at all like that near her. She was incredibly excited by the big city. At that moment her sister walked up to us, stating that she had found the path and we walked together for a little while and then they moved to a car to make it easier for the older sister to get around.
The inside of the hotel was massive. Tropical plants, colorful koi fish, fountains, restaurants and shops made us feel like we were inside of a unique mall. We walked around and noticed that we were one of a few young couples around, as the majority were retirees on holiday. The hotel also doubles as a convention center and several people were walking around with name badges, papers and briefcases. It was certainly something to see.
We walked back to the Opryland House and thought we’d check out the giftshop. Inside, a Hatch Show Print caught our eye (I’ll explain more about that later) commemorating Loretta’s 50 years at the Opry. I was drawn to the type and the bright colors. We thought it would be a nice souvenir of our trip, too. Outside of the gift shop, Moose Head Kettle Corn was selling their kettle corn in a large variety of flavors and show-goers were allowed to bring their popcorn in for the show. We bought original sweet and salty kettle corn, Chicago 2.0 (cheddar caramel mix) and salt and vinegar popcorn for later.
We dropped our goods off at the car and noticed a movie theater across the street as part of the mall. Marc looked up movie times when we realized it was still another two hours until the doors opened for the show. A horror movie and Trouble With the Curve was playing and we opted for the latter.
The theater was pretty deserted and while I took a quick bathroom break, I came out to discover Marc with a frothy beer in hand. As I took this photo, the employees were saying that I wasn’t the first person to take photos of the beer counter. It was new to them, too, and apparently a big hit. We enjoyed the movie and walked back to the Opry House a few minutes before the doors opened.
The sun was setting behind us and the sunset cast a beautiful glow on the Opry House doors. Inside, we noticed the auditorium was very church-like, no doubt because the Grand Ole Opry used to be taped live from The Ryman Auditorium, a former church that is also nicknamed, “The Mother Church of Country Music”. A piece of the Ryman Auditorium stage was cut out and installed on the Grand Ole Opry House stage. We sat in our assigned seats in long padded benches and soon a Minnie Pearl impersonator appeared to introduce the show.
91 year old Little Jimmy Dickens in his rhinestone suit came out and told some jokes about marriage and being old and sang a bit. He was adorable! I also got a retweet from @liljimmydickens! I stated before that we’re not big country music fans, but we do like old country music. We really enjoyed ourselves at the show.
Trace Adkins came out and shrieks from the ladies were crazy! Between their screams and his low voice, I think my ear registered both ends of the scale that night. Crystal Gayle, Lee Ann Womack and Miranda Lambert came out and performed their favorite Loretta Lynn tunes while thanking her for paving the way.
Loretta finally took the stage in her golden dress with puffed sleeves. Loretta was incredibly sweet and told everyone her dress was 50 pounds. Her voice is still incredible and her songs were fun to listen to. She sang the catchy, “You Ain’t Woman Enough (To Take My Man),” based on a real suspicion she had of a woman flirting with her husband.
At one point she said she didn’t know what to do next, but then different people came up to lead the rest of the tribute show and she sang duets or listened to them as they thanked her or shared a personal story. It was a great night to be there and I feel lucky that our vacation coincided with such a special occasion.
The night was still young and we hadn’t eaten much that day. We went back to our hotel to change and decided to walk to the Patterson House, again. Thanks to Lindsay and Taylor, we realized there was no sign for the Patterson House and instead only a sign for The Catbird Seat (another incredible restaurant we didn’t go to, but comes highly recommended for their high-end tasting menu). We found the spot and walked into the dark room and put our name in. It was close to 11 pm and we were waiting with two other couples. A mantel, dim lighting and a library make up the waiting room while blue velvet curtains surprisingly hold in the noise from the bustling bar.
We waited about 15 minutes and were led to a section at the 68 foot bar. Each person waits for a seat because this spot is all about the experience with a mixologist. The Patterson House is known for their unique and classic craft cocktails. Most drinks are $12 and they have a small bar menu, which we took advantage of. I started with a gin cocktail with egg white foam that was wonderful and Marc had the bartender surprise him. We ordered truffle deviled eggs, short rib sliders and tater tots.
A few minutes later, two girls to our left were served the same three appetizers that we had just ordered. Marc and I looked at each other and wondered if it was a coincidence or if they had been served our food. The girls dug in like nothing was amiss and we held off on saying anything and instead ordered our second drinks. Christian, our bartender, got a feeling of what we liked based on our first cocktail and picked our second round. I had a modified manhattan that was incredible with a housemade maraschino cherry and Marc had a special concoction based on his taste for a drier cocktail.
Extremely happy with our second round of cocktails, our order of small plates finally arrived and we were glad we didn’t try to accuse our neighbors of taking our food. The food was excellent and the perfect bite of something savory to go with our drinks. Marc’s drinks came with a perfectly round ball of ice! We loved our experience at The Patterson House and recommend going during the week, like we did. Lindsay and Taylor said that they get really busy on the weekends.