Hey Nashville…we “got nothing against a big town”
Editors’ Note: We’ve just gone through a tumultuous campaign and election that has left a lot of folks’ nerves jangled. Our hope is that today’s “report from the road” will give you something fun and interesting – and less stressful – to fill your head and soul with. Enjoy.
While Bart and Rorie prefer discovering unknown, off-the-beaten-path places, they agree with the lyrics from Mellancamp’s song Small Town: “Got nothing against a big town”. With more than 850 miles behind us, and lots to see and do ahead of us, we decided it was time time to explore Music City and its surrounding communities.
We arrived in East Nashville around dinner time (how fortuitous) and couldn’t wait to try out some local fare. The bad news? A lot of places we wanted to try were closed. The good news? Riverside Grill Shack was open and ready to feed us well.
Riverside Grill Shack really is a shack but the food coming out of a window in this tiny building is awesome. Steve and Susan Richter, who became known on the food truck circuit for their addictive Über Tüber hand cut fries, opened in this building last fall and as the reviews show, have a huge following already.
After a very satisfying and almost healthy meal (yes, we included a salad with the burger and fried buffalo chicken) we moved on to the place that would be home for 3 days. It was an amazing Airbnb house in East Nashville (https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/11345064).
It’s owned by Josh and Brittany Farrow, who greeted us soon after we arrived. Josh (pictured below) is a successful singer songwriter (http://theeastnashvillian.com/article/josh-farrow) and Brittany works at an independent radio station. They are a very talented, energetic couple who love music and Nashville. Great hosts!
Your Tour “proprietors'” digs in East Nashville…
After a great and much needed night’s sleep, we made a beeline to the fantastic, 132 acre Centennial Park in downtown near Vanderbilt University. We love to power walk and this place gave us miles of beautiful paths to work off last night’s Grill Shack dinner.
The Parthenon is the centerpiece of the park. It’s the only full-scale exact replica of the Athens, Greece Parthenon in existence.
Beautiful scenery we saw walking in the park
How appropriate – a statue honoring suffragettes
After our morning exercise routine, we headed downtown to the heart of Music Row to see the Ryman Auditorium, locally known as “The Mother Church of Country Music”and the venue where bluegrass music was born. Formerly a Union Gospel Tabernacle and then the Grand Ole Opry House until 1974, the Opry moved to its current location when the building started to deteriorate and crowds became too large. Check out the stain glass windows.
We walked around the corner and found ourselves on Broadway, the honky-tonk artery of Music Row, which happens to feature some fabulous places “to pork out”.
Tootsies is across an alley from the Ryman. The bar is where many performers would hang out and drink while waiting to take the stage at the Opry House. Must have made for some interesting concerts! When patrons got too unruly, owner Tootsie Bess would stick them with a jeweled hatpin given to her by Charlie Pride. Bart wanted to know if his orange sneakers would be noticed against Tootsie’s orchid facade.
Handmade boots are for sale up and down Broadway. Rorie was on the hunt for a pair of red cowboy boots. Do these come in a size 7?
What’s better than 1 praline? 1,000 of them! You’ll gain 10 pounds just from the smell wafting to the street from Candy Kitchen.
Sadly we discovered Goo Goo candy clusters on this trip…a Nashville specialty. Created in 1912, it’s the perfect dairy and protein snack packed with marshmallow nougat, caramel and peanuts then drenched in chocolate. Can’t possibly be more than 1 point on Weight Watchers right?
Time for lunch. So many choices, so little time. Hmmm, maybe some Q? Yup! We followed the amazing smell of hickory smoke and the famous flying pigs neon sign (always a good omen for us) to Jacks BBQ, a local favorite.
After wolfing down really good brisket sandwiches and baked beans, our batteries were recharged and we were ready to explore more of Nashville.
In case anyone is considering moving to Nashville and looking for part-time work…
Country music legends abound in Nashville and so do the museums honoring them, including the modern Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and the red brick Johnny Cash Museum packed with memorabilia that tell the story of his life.
Walking on, we marveled at the beauty of the Schermerhorn Symphony Center. It features a custom-built concert organ with 3,568 pipes.
Next stop…Franklin, Tennessee
We still had time before meeting some wonderful local folks for dinner, so the Tour moved out of the big city to the smaller community of Franklin. What a great destination! Naturally our first stop was to check out a restaurant/grocery store we heard great things about – Pucketts. Puckett’s is southern hospitality at it’s finest. Casual, bustling, and with an old fashioned general store vibe. There’s great food, a homey feel and even live music while you chow down on real deal comfort food.
Puckett’s GM Tom Zazzetti had his hands full during the lunch hour rush, but took time to share his restaurant’s story with us.
Moving on to Main Street, we could see why downtown Franklin is among America’s best examples of outstanding historic preservation. Brick sidewalks and Victorian architecture make up the 16-block National Register district.
Gray’s, now a restaurant, was a working pharmacy in the early 1930s and for many years after.
On the way out of town, Rorie spied signs for The Factory (http://factoryatfranklin.com). We love to be spontaneous, so away we went. The detour was well worth it. Built in 1929, this is yet another site on the Register of Historic Places. The complex has shops featuring local culture, the works of Franklin artists, a theater and restaurants. The entrance to The Factory is actually pretty hard to miss because it’s guarded by a 20 foot tall sculpture of a metal man that’s made out of old rusted factory parts.
Rorie seems confused…
Cool industrial interior…
Tucked away in the back of the Factory is an artisan butcher shop called Carnivore Meat Co. It doesn’t come any fresher than their locally sourced natural meats and poultry, which are cut and ground in-house. Smoked and dried products are made right there too.
Stuart was our knowledgeable and very friendly “tour guide” and he let us sample a number of very tasty products – including hot pepper salami. Wow. We were sold.
Rorie, the more health conscious of the road-warrior Russells, decided that “the best salami ever” from Carnivore could be a morning, lunch and afternoon snack.
After a full day of food for the heart, soul and stomach, we ended the day having a fun and relaxing dinner. Bart’s college dorm mate Bob (who he hadn’t seen in 45 years) and his beautiful, fun wife Rhonda met us at the hip Music Row restaurant Union Common. Bart and Rhonda were drawn to the burger, which was described as “two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, and onions on a sesame seed bun“. Hmmm, sounds vaguely familiar. This scrumptious burger, however, was a truly haute cuisine alternative to the McDonald’s version.
Although the restaurant encourages sharing your food, we noticed the tendency of certain people at the table to hoard the thin, crispy strings of duck-fried potatoes! No names shall be mentioned Rhonda. A great time was had by all and we called it a day.
Next stop Arkansas. Stay tuned…