A few weeks ago, I went to Tennessee with three of my oldest friends. We spent half the time in Nashville, and half in Eastern Tennessee visiting Dollywood. We had a blast - we ate too much, listened to more country music than I ever have in my life, and seriously considered buying cowboy boots. Nashville is a great town, and I felt like I only scratched the surface of it in the few days we were there. Nonetheless, I thought I'd share my favorite spots for those that might be considering a trip to Music City. Read my recommendations after the jump:

The Loveless Cafe - A Nashville institution, even though it's actually about 30 minutes outside the city. They've been serving their famous biscuits since the 1950s, and they greet you with a big plate of them as soon as you sit down. Expect to wait a least an hour for a table even during the week, but there are plenty of gift shops to peruse. Something of a tourist trap, but a damn good one. If you have breakfast here, don't plan on eating for the rest of the day. 

Bolton's Spicy Chicken & Fish - After watching Mind of a Chef (Season 2, Episode 1 - watch it on Netflix!), we knew we had to eat some Hot Chicken while we were in Nashville. Bolton's is a bit of a hole in the wall (plan on taking your food to go), but so good! And spicy! I'm a bit of a wimp, so I thought the Mild was plenty spicy. Some of my braver friends asked for Spicy and wanted to try the Extra Spicy, but that just seems crazy to me. 

Husk - If you want to splurge on a fancy dinner in Nashville, you'd be hard-pressed to do better than Husk. The restaurant is located in a gorgeous old mansion perched on a hill above the city. They work with local farmers to highlight the best in Southern produce and regional cuisine. Expect a thoroughly Southern take on fine dining: generous portions, pork in everything, and a heavy hand with the salt. I highly recommend. 

Marche Artisan Foods - After a few days in Nashville, you may feel the need to eat something that isn't fried. Marche is a European-style cafe that has salads, sandwiches and lighter fare. Once inside, you could easily be fooled into thinking you were in San Francisco or Brooklyn. Even if you don't eat there, it's worth stopping at their Market for locally-made goodies like Olive and Sinclair Chocolates.

Hey Rooster General Store - Good assortment of locally made gifts, stationery, and home goods. I'm regretting not buying these Taco Studs. Don't miss the two shops next door: Hang the Moon Consignment for well-priced vintage clothing, and Ellie Monster for crazy custom Western Wear.

Hatch Show Print - The Hatch Show company has been printing posters since the 19th century. Their shop and gallery is located inside the Country Music Hall of Fame. Their shop features a huge display of their iconic letterpress posters, as well as a glimpse behind the scenes of the printing room.

Rich Hippies - We had to check out this shop after staying at the owner's super cool Airbnb. This tiny shop has a really cute assortment of clothes and gifts for the hipster baby in your life. It's located in a little shopping center with some other great shops like Pony Show Outlaw Vintage.

Downtown Nashville - Even if, like me, you're usually put off by neon lights and drunken crowds, you still have to visit the downtown Nashville strip. Yes, you'll have to battle through crowds of bachelorette parties (soo many bachelorette parties!), but it will seem worth it once you make your way inside one of the honky tonk bars. You can wander down Broadway and hear a different band playing in every bar until you find something you like. The amount of live music playing everywhere really is pretty unbelievable.

My two favorites were Layla's and Robert's Western World. Robert's is one of the most famous spots on the strip, and for good reason. The live band was excellent, and you can't beat their Recession special: a fried bologna sandwich, chips and a beer for $5.

Country Music Hall of Fame - Worth the price of admission just to check out Elvis' gold piano and gold limo! Great selection of amazing old costumes, instruments, and memorabilia tracing the history of country music, as well as the beginnings of Rock n' Roll. You don't have to be a huge country music fan to appreciate how it's history has shaped modern popular music.

Stayed tuned for the low down on Dollywood. Dolly Parton definitely needs her own post...

[ from top: Nashville print by Hatch Show Prints, Loveless sign photo by Evan, table of biscuits photo by Kelsi Seid, Bolton's photo by Kait, Husk chalkboard photo by Kelsi Seid, Shop photo from Hey Rooster General Store, remaining photos by yours truly]

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