Music is what draws most visitors to Nashville, and with good reason. The city is teeming with talented performers, and you’ll hear them playing everywhere you go. That’s more than apparent in the new TV hit, Nashville—while the show might be a bit soapy, it gives a pretty accurate portrayal of the city.
But in between your visits to all the obligatory stops (Ryman Auditorium, Grand Ole Opry, Country Music Hall of Fame and so many more), you should explore some emerging neighborhoods to see where real Nashvillians live and play. You’re still in the South, remember, but this is the hip South, forward-thinking while venerating the past—for example, many stores have a retro, villagey look, with exposed brick, high ceilings and weathered concrete floors.
You won’t find many tourists in this chic neighborhood where locals hang out, just east of Hillsboro Village. What you will find: Urban Grub, which calls itself a “fish pit and Southern Cantina”; Edley's Bar-B-Que, for genuine ‘cue and small-batch brews; and Las Paletas, serving artisanal Mexican-style popsicles in flavors like hibiscus, honeydew, peanut butter and avocado. The coffee hangout here is the Frothy Monkey, a homey place in an old house.
The award for trendiest shop in the area has to go to Imogene + Willie, a store + factory housed in a 50s-style gas station. Here you can buy a pair of old-school jeans in a style inspired by vintage Levi’s, made of fabric from North Carolina’s Cone Mills, one of the last factories in the country with the narrow looms that produce vintage denim. Fans include Gwyneth Paltrow (who wore the jeans in Country Strong), Sheryl Crow and Kings of Leon.
Stop by Katy K’s Ranch Dressing to browse through new and vintage western clothes for men, women and children. The long hallway is lined with autographed musicians’ headshots; on the racks you might even find rhinestone-coated suits made by Nudie (tailor to the stars) that might once have appeared onstage at the Grand Ole Opry.
Urban Grub: 2506 12th Ave S; 615.679.9342; urbangrub.net
Edley's Bar-B-Que: 2706 12th Ave S; 615.953.2951; edleysbbq.com
Las Paletas: 2911 12th Ave S; 615.386.2101
Frothy Monkey: 2509 12th Ave S; 615.292.1808; frothymonkey.com
Imogene + Willie: 2601 12th Ave S; 615.292.5005; imogeneandwillie.com
Katy K’s Ranch Dressing: 2407 12th Ave S; 615.297.4242; katyk.com