What to do in Nashville, Tennessee

As the weather gets warmer, travelers eager to get back to honky-tonkin ‘in Nashville can not only expect to find things much as they were pre-pandemic – Tootsies Orchid Lounge, Legends Corner and Robert’s Western World are still going strong with noisy fun along Lower Broadway – but also a staggering number of new restaurants, hotels and venues. They will also find one of the most influential music museums to open anywhere in decades: the National Museum of African American Music.

There were, of course, losses, such as the closure of Douglas Corner, the well-known venue, and Rotier’s Restaurant, but honored country music draws as Ryman Auditorium, Grand Ole Opry House and the small but mighty singer / songwriter, The Bluebird Cafe, made it through , as most Nashville restaurants did.

In fact, according to the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp. (NCVC) the city added a staggering 197 new restaurants, bars and coffee shops; a pair of jazzy retro bowling alleys; and 23 hotels in 2020 and 2021.

“I think we’re one of the very few destinations that kept building while everything was shut down,” said Deana Ivey, president of the NCVC. “We have more music, more restaurants, more hotels and a growing art and fashion scene. If the early figures we received for March are correct, then March will be the best month in the city’s history. “As an indicator, she said, the preliminary number for hotel rooms sold in March 2022 was 7.6 percent higher than March 2019.

Currently, according to the NCVC, vaccination and masking requirements are being left to companies, and a number of venues require proof of a negative Covid-19 test, so visitors should contact these venues directly.

Nashville’s newest cultural gem, the National Museum of African American Music (NMAAM), opened last year on the long-planned 5th + Broadway, a complex of restaurants, shops, offices and residential areas across the street from the Ryman Auditorium. The museum aims to tell the comprehensive story of the influence of African American music on American culture. Museum designers have done a remarkable job of designing the intersectionality between different genres in the 56,000-square-foot facility, where videos of musicians are in constant rotation.

Numerous artifacts on display include BB King’s guitar “Lucille”, George Clinton’s wig and cape and a microphone used by Billie Holiday. Storytelling is divided into six main spaces, five dedicated to specific genres, including R&B, hip hop, gospel, jazz and blues, with rock ‘n’ roll mixed throughout. The main gallery, Rivers of Rhythm, ties it all together within the framework of American history. The museum also informs visitors that Jimi Hendrix, Little Richard and Etta James all spent time singing and playing in Nashville.

In revelry lane, Nashville now has two venues with a common theme, the Brooklyn Bowl Nashville in the Germantown neighborhood and the Eastside Bowl in Madison. Both claim a stylish décor and ambiance from the 1970s, combining bowling with a restaurant / bar / music experience. The Brooklyn Bowl Nashville Music Venue, based on the original Brooklyn Bowl in, yes, Brooklyn, seats 1,200. Jimmy Fallon jumped on stage in February to join local Grateful Dead cover band The Stolen Faces, and Grand Ole Opry’s new inmate, Lauren Alaina, played recently; Neko Case is scheduled for August.

Up in Madison, the Eastside Bowl, with room for 750, also brings in respected talent. Singer-songwriter Joshua Hedley performed in April, and the Steepwater Band rockers are scheduled for May. Eastside Bowl has regular bowling and “HyperBowling”, a cross between pinball and bowling with a reactive bumper used to navigate the ball. The food includes the much-missed shepherd’s pie from Family Wash, an Eastside institution that closed in 2018.

Nashville fans returning to the city for the first time in two years will find a food scene still rising at a furious pace, with chef and founder of Husk, Sean Brock, making some heavy lifts. In 2020, he opened Joyland, a burger and fried chicken joint, and at the other end of the Continental spectrum, an old-fashioned gourmet restaurant in the new Grand Hyatt Nashville. The latest dishes that included tile fish with crispy potatoes, leeks and watercress and an unforgettable whipped rice porridge with lemon dulce de leche and rice cream wrapped in a sweet crisp. Last fall, Mr. Brock’s flagship restaurant, Audrey, in East Nashville, centered on his Appalachian roots; upstairs his high-concept restaurant, June, is where he hosts “The Nashville Sessions,” which highlights tasting menus created by notable chefs.

Other acclaimed chefs are finding a place in Nashville. French chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten developed the concept for the new Drusie & Darr restaurant at the newly renovated Hermitage Hotel, and James Beard Award-winning chef Andrew Carmellini has picked up the Music City outposts for New York’s The Dutch and Carne Mare, both at the newly installed Hotel W Nashville in the Gulch neighborhood. Others add; RJ Cooper, also a James Beard winner, launched Acqua, next door to his smart Saint Stephen in Germantown last month.

For both locals and travelers, the opening of another Pancake Pantry in the center relieves fans of having to stand in line at the Hillsboro Village location for the store’s made from scratch flapjacks (their heavenly sweet potato pancakes with cinnamon cream syrup come to mind). Similarly, the much-vaunted Arnold’s Country Kitchen on 8th Avenue South now has a night and weekend plan to accommodate the usual crush of meat-and-three fans. Encouragement on the West End Corridor is the historic and colorful Elliston Place Soda Shop, back after moving to 2105 Elliston Place. The ice cream shop had been in operation for over 80 years right next door, and now has a polished menu, a full bar and, you guessed it, a stage for live music.

There will certainly be no shortage of accommodation options for visitors in the near future. The city added 4,248 hotel rooms over the last two years. The 130-room Moxy Nashville Vanderbilt is the first hotel ever to open in the cozy Hillsboro Village, and the massive new luxury monolith, Grand Hyatt Nashville, downtown has one of the tallest rooftop bars in the city along with seven restaurants.

On the extreme luxury side (think “curated pillow menu” and original art in every room), Joseph, who began accepting reservations on Korean Veterans Boulevard in mid-2020, picked up Michelin-starred chef Tony Mantuano to oversee the food. at the hotel’s restaurant Yolan.

Nashville’s gains over the past two years did not come without some collective gasp over the losses. The popular Sutler Saloon in the Melrose neighborhood announced in March that it would close. The closure, also in March, of Ernest Tubb Record Shop, a country music institution on Lower Broadway, surprised the city, as did the closure of Douglas Corner after 33 years of helping start some careers (Trisha Yearwood and Alan Jackson, for starters) . The beloved Rotier’s Restaurant, which had operated on West End Avenue since 1945, will also be missed, and the George Jones Museum, which had only been in operation in the city center for six years, closed down in 2021, citing the pandemic. Finally, after being a generator of family memories for generations, Chaffin’s Barn Dinner Theater stopped it in 2020.

Still, every day in Nashville, there seems to be fresh news about a restaurant, cafe, or honky-tonk swinging its doors open. This month, Garth Brooks announced that he had purchased a property on Lower Broadway, teasing the name of his future bar on Twitter with a video of his new three-story building and letters slowly spelling “Friends in Low Places,” a by Mr. Brooks’ finest bar anthems.

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