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.
Anchoring the Hillsboro Village neighborhood, southwest of downtown, is the Pancake Pantry, which opened more than 50 years ago and today is more popular than ever. For breakfast, you’ll need to be there by 8 a.m. or face a wait. Better yet, get your buttermilk flapjacks in the early afternoon—the restaurant closes around 3 p.m., and by then it’s almost tranquil.
Once you’re fueled up, check out some of the village stores. Bookman/Bookwoman carries more than 10,000 books, both used and new, including first and signed editions. If you’re wondering about the name, here’s the story: The original shop was called Bookman; when the owner decided to expand into a second storefront next door, the owner’s wife suggested it was time female book lovers received their due.
Among the other shops worth a stop: quirky, colorful Pangaea, for hipster clothes and accessories, plus lots of cool Mexican stuff; Retropolitan, for an artfully arranged display of furniture, both vintage and contemporary; and the sprawling Posh, for more hipster clothes, plus boots, accessories and music.
Nashville is full of trendy coffeehouses; the one to visit here is Fido, for more than java: It serves breakfast all day, plus lunch and dinner too.
Pancake Pantry: 1796 21st Ave S; 615.383.9333; thepancakepantry.com
Bookman/Bookwoman: 1713 21st Ave S; 615.383.6555; bookmanbookwoman.com
Pangaea: 1721 21st Ave S.; 615.269.9665; pangaeanashville.com
Retropolitan: 1801 21st Ave S.; 615.383.9840; retropolitanstyle.com
Posh: 4027 Hillsboro Pike #705; 615.269.6250; poshonline.com
Fido: 1812 21st Ave S.; 615.777.3436; bongojava.com/fido-cafe