East Nasty

If you’re like me, you probably aren’t all that familiar with the city of Nashville, and if you know anything about it at all it’s probably pretty much an idea of stereotypes. I haven’t really spent too much time in the city, and my basic understanding was that it was pretty much all about two things: country music and Opryland (which might be the same thing, if you think about it). This weekend I learned that I could not have been more wrong.

There is so much more to Nashville than just “Nashville.” In my experiences there in the past I basically was in tourist mode (and with my parents) and spent time at Opryland (the amusement park that is no longer there, and now is an enormous mall), the Opryland Hotel (which is lovely, but a bit of a mega attraction), and downtown (as an adult) wandering in and out of the bars and the Ryman Auditorium, full of singers all competing to be “the next big thing” and those that  already are really “big.”

This weekend, though, I never saw any of that. I spent the weekend in East Nashville, or East Nasty, as some of the locals are prone to refer to it as. I have to say I was more than a little intrigued by what I discovered. It’s an area that is very transitional at the moment, and that transition means it’s an eclectic mix of old and new, small and big, black and white, gay and straight, conservative and liberal, hip and hipper. It’s the perfect recipe.

The center of the neighborhood is an area known as “Five Points” that is full of restaurants and bars, and like the greater community around them, are unique, focusing on locally produced food and beverages. There are almost no chains, so every vendor has a look and style of its own. Best of all, everything seems to be within an easy walking distance, and people are actually walking everywhere. It’s a community, and not so much a tourist mecca. In fact, at times,  I felt like the only “tourist” floating around the neighborhood this past weekend.

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The urban renewal began with the opening of a bar called “3 Crow Bar” several years ago, and the movement has spread. Other bars popped up, pizza, burgers, and taco shops also followed suit. Abandoned bank buildings became upscale wine stores, and corner markets were converted to cool southern bistros. I had brunch one morning at Marche, and experienced the most heavenly grits known to mankind, and had dinner at Lockland Table, and was more than impressed by the pork loin that I was served, and that they knew instantly how to make the perfect French 75, my current “go to” cocktail.

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There’s also terrific shopping in the area. A block over from 3 Crow Bar, a quaint community of stores that sell the works of local writers, clothing designers, and consigned clothes. In the same area you’ll find the Art and Invention Gallery, the organizer of The Tomato Fest, a local art festival that attracts 35,000 people each year and has been called the best festival in Nashville for the last seven years and running.

The highlight of exploring Nashville for me was the discovery of Barista Parlor. I’m a bit late to this whole world of coffee. I’ve only been drinking coffee for less than a year, and I’m still figuring out the language. The Barista Parlor is actually an old auto garage that was converted into an upscale/downtown coffee shop. There’s outside seating, occasional live music, and the employees take their coffee seriously. Very Seriously. So seriously, that when I joked about ordering a pumpkin spice latte, they didn’t even crack a smile. When I asked about their six types of coffee, I was told, with all seriousness, “They are all amazing.” I only had time for one cup, but I was more than impressed with the way it was served.  The atmosphere, especially because it was at sunset, and the music were just right, the company was lovely, and I had a dog sitting next to me with it’s head on my lap, slowly going to sleep. It all made for a nice evening.

….and yes, the coffee was amazing.

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It was nice to get away, and see a different side of a city that I thought I was familiar with. Along the way, I also made brief trips over to Germantown for another breakfast at the Red Bicycle (can’t recommend it enough), as well as to the west side, to an Italian market and restaurant called “Coco’s” that proudly proclaims “Owned by REAL Italians” on it’s signage, and has a bocce ball court in the front. In Nashville, who knew!?

East Nasty makes for a nice weekend, and I feel like I only scratched the surface. Maybe it’s because my life is in a bit of transitional period, but the transitional nature of the neighborhood was something that I really related to, and I found deeply endearing.  I’m going to have to do a bit more exploring of this very different side of Nashville.

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Categories: My View of Things, North America, Thoughts

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