For the past couple years, Nashville has been on my list of U.S. cities I wanted to visit, based on all the great things I was always hearing about the place. So when Jordan had work-related reasons to travel to Nashville last week for a couple of days, I was all in to tag along and make a trip of it.
And I can see what all the hype is about.We arrived in Nashville on Thursday morning and checked in at the Union Station Hotel in the downtown area. I was blown away when we pulled up and even moreso when we stepped inside.The hotel is a converted train station that had been left dormant for many years before being converted into a hotel about 30 years ago. The original arches, stain glass, and floor tiles are really stunning. And all of the rooms are uniquely decorated with a mix of old, new, and nods to Nashville being “Music City.” Once we settled in, it was time to go to work on making some progress working through our list of must-see places in Nashville. And as is always the case, the majority of the places on our list were food-related.
The first stop was a trip to Hattie B’s for Nashville’s famous hot chicken.My goodness, this fried chicken was some of the best I’ve ever had. Jordan and I both like spicy food, so we ordered our’s “hot,” (which is the level 3 on a 1-4 scale). We had to take a couple breaks to wipe runny noses and let our taste buds stop tingling, but it was so worth it.
After some hot chicken, we walked through Hillsboro to Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream. They have a ton of unique flavors that made it so hard to choose! I’m talking flavors like Thai Curry Pumpkin and Riesling Poached Pear Sorbet. WHAT?! Every sample was delicious, and we ultimately ended up with scoops of Wildberry Lavender, Salted Caramel, and Sweet Cream.All that food set us up perfectly for a nice long nap — a luxury made possible by not having Jameson with us on this trip.
We woke up to have dinner at The Farm House — a farm-to-table Southern restaurant — with a group of pastors and their wives, all in town for meetings with LifeWay.
Following dinner, we headed to the Bridgestone Arena to watch a Predators game. This was mine and Jordan’s first time at an ice hockey game, and we had a terrific time. Seriously, if you judged my reactions, you would have thought I’d been rooting for the Predators all my life. They ended up winning with a nail-biting finish!The next day, while Jordan attended a meeting, I headed to Barista Parlor with one of the wives, Hilary, who I’d met the night before. Our lattes were crazy expensive, and living in NYC, it’s hard for me to get sticker shock. But if I’m being real, they were also pretty darn delicious and unique. As we sipped our lattes, Hilary and I got to talk about the differences between life in NYC and Oklahoma City (where she lives), This Is Us, the delights and challenges of ministry, what it’s like to lose a house to a tornado, this year’s crazy election, and racial reconciliation. It was a really life-giving time.
We reconnected with Jordan and Hilary’s husband, Andrew, and the four of us headed to the 12 South neighborhood to explore. We made our way into the different shops and loved the reworked buildings and emphasis on local goods. My favorite shop was White’s Mercantile, which is like an old country store with all kinds of different goods. We picked up a few things for friends and ourselves, but I pretty much wanted 90% of what was in that place.No real story about this photo of this church below other than I just really love it. I wanted to bring it home to Harlem with me.There were also some great murals in the 12 South neighborhood, so you know we had to snap some pics. Just following instructions, folks…Hilary likely hated us for this, but we made her pose in front of the “Make Music Not War” mural, because she’s a worship leader and great musician. How would I know, you ask? Well, because I listened to one of her songs on iTunes, and you can too. After some more walking, we grabbed coffee from Frothy Monkey and came across Five Daughters Bakery, which was the perfect place for a treat and to park it for a little while. These donuts are croissant donuts, so similar to the famous Cronut we have in NYC. These were really rich and tasty. For dinner that evening, we met up with a couple, Dylan and Maiko, from our church who just happened to be visiting Nashville at the same time as us. We ate at Etch downtown, and all of us loved our meals. So much that we were all insisting that other people at the table try some of what we had, but when offered, we all just locked in and devoured what was on our own plates.
Per the recommendation of our server, we made a visit to the top of the Thompson Hotel, and then we came back downtown to BB Kings to listen to a great live music set. It’s also worth mentioning that the crowd in BB Kings that was on the dance floor was every bit as entertaining as the musicians on stage. Those people came to party, you hear me?! Everything you’re imagining right now — it was that and much more. Hilarious and a lot of fun.
We had been wanting to catch up with Dylan and Maiko in NYC, so it was a special treat to hang out with them as we were all exploring Nashville for the first time. They’re so great.On our last day in town, we headed to Biscuit Love, a place that several people told us we had to try. We waited in line with Hilary and Andrew for nearly an hour and it was worth every minute. Jordan got this crazy concoction called “coffee soda,” and it was strangely one of the best drinks ever. We also had the “bonuts,” which are these little things of perfection that you get when a biscuit and a donut have a baby. And I ordered the “chronic bacon,” which was spicy and sweet and just altogether BANANAS. Hours after the meal, Jordan kept randomly saying, “Maaaaaan. Biscuit Love.”We snapped some photos at this nearby mural, and while I may look confident in this photo, it’s actually a candid where I was pointing at Jordan, telling him, “ok, that’s enough,” because there was literally a line of 13 people behind him waiting to take a photo in front of the same mural. Oh, how Instagram has made us all so unoriginal. We said farewell to our new friends Hilary and Andrew, but not before snapping a quick photo. It’s such a joy to meet people doing similar work, with similar passions, and to have really meaningful conversations with people even after knowing them for just a short time. We shared our stories of suffering, but we also all talked about the amazing grace of God even in our lack of understanding everything He does.For our last few hours in Nashville, Jordan and I headed over the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge to take in views of downtown and head in the direction of East Nashville.We ate a late lunch at The Pharmacy Burger Parlor before heading to the airport, feeling full and anxious to see Jameson.
We had such a great time in Nashville — in part, because of really great food, really great music, really friendly Uber drivers, and a really unique hotel. But also, because we got to explore it with some really great people, who made the trip even better than we could have hoped for.
Thanks for the good times, Music City.
Photos of hotel exterior and Basquiat by The Union Station Hotel.