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Country and Culinary Adventure in the City of Music

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By Katie Sterling 

It has to be said that if you extend an invitation that requires a plane to get there, I am more often than not looking at flights before the full details are even relayed. Any chance to explore a new city, or revisit a favorite one, is the only excuse I need. Life is short, buy the plane ticket! In the case of this specific trip, the life we were invited to celebrate was the impending arrival of a family friend’s baby in Nashville – a city I was eager to return to and which my travel companion had yet to explore. With our tickets booked and our itinerary set, this mother-daughter duo set out to celebrate the newest mother-daughter duo and have a few adventures along the way. In the immortal words of Shania Twain, “Let’s go girls!”

After an airline delay, we landed in the City of Music not quite in the mood to boot scootin boogie, but rather rest and recharge before the full weekend ahead. Thankfully our hotel, Tempo by Hilton Nashville, was the perfect choice to ignite our excitement for our country-fueled weekend while still allowing the opportunity to sit back and soak in the amenities. 

Having only opened a few months prior, Tempo by Hilton stands just minutes from the bustle of Broadway and evokes a stylish, more contemporary take than traditional Hiltons. Leaning into the city that surrounds it, Tempo is outfitted in an art-deco design that mirrors the art and architecture of Nashville’s past and present. It even goes so far as to craft the country aspect by paying homage through art to the greatest female country artist…you’ve never heard of. Mary Louise, a completely fictional singer, is brought so vividly to life through the hotel’s décor, it comes as a shock to visitors to learn of her true history. It’s not only a clever marketing tool, but a message that in this city, any and all singers can get their moment in the spotlight. 

Famished from the flight, we settled in to the Lovelorn Lounge, located adjacent to the fifth-floor lobby, which afforded sweeping views of the city. Not too tired to indulge in our first meal of Southern specialties, we ordered Nashville hot fried calamari and crispy chicken fritter sliders off a menu expansive in options. Thankfully, the bar rotunda requires no reservations, making it the ideal stop for weary travelers like ourselves or those looking for an afternoon indulgence. Satiated, and on the precipice of exhaustion, we simply had to take the elevator up a few floors to our room. Expertly designed and quite spacious, the double-queen room had everything a traveler could need to settle in for their stay; from heavenly-scented Apotheke shower amenities to a Bluetooth speaker mirror ready to blast those country tunes and dare I say, perhaps the most comfortable hotel bed I’ve ever slept in.

With a full night’s sleep, we woke up refreshed and ready to hit the first stop that only seemed appropriate for these newsies: Hatch Print Shop! After all, Hatch is a working letterpress print shop that still uses vintage type and hand-carved blocks to create one-of-a-kind posters, the same technique old newspaper printing presses utilized. While glass windows allow passing patrons to see the press machines being put to use, we opted for the official tour where guests are taken behind the scenes for a thorough breakdown of Hatch’s history with the city and the chance to create your own letter-block souvenir. Hatch is located just adjacent to the Country Music Hall of Fame, a must-see museum for first timers as it perfectly encapsulates the history of this musical city and the evolution of country music itself. We were delighted to discover that one of the current exhibitions happened to serendipitously be about the roots of Los Angeles country-rock, highlighting the crucial role country tunes played in reinvigorating the rock scene throughout Laurel Canyon and local nightclubs. We had left LA to learn about Nashville and circled back to a little history of our own home! 

Our historic tour of Nashville continued with an excursion to Andrew Jackson’s famous manor home, The Hermitage, a short ride from downtown. Having previously toured Belle Meade Mansion (highly recommend), we chose this trip to learn a bit more about the seventh president by touring his manor, museum and expansive grounds. Tours are offered throughout the day to explore the home itself, but perhaps the highlight of The Hermitage is the freedom to walk the property, through the cemetery where the Jacksons are laid to rest, and the beautiful gardens. 

With heads now full of history and legs weary from walking, we set out for perhaps the most important item on our agenda: dinner. Sperry’s is an old school steakhouse, and dare I say, a Nashville institution, made famous for opening in 1974 with the city’s first-ever salad bar. Seeing as how we were meeting up with our family friends, this local haunt in Belle Meade was an ideal spot to cozy up in the corner of the dimly lit steakhouse and catch up over wine and old-school favorites. When you step into Sperry’s, you could be stepping back into time where the food isn’t fussy, but instead hearty classics that only solidify why this establishment is a much-beloved spot. To end the evening, as any newspaper editor should do, we ventured to Printer’s Alley. In its heyday, 13 publishers and 10 printers were located in this alley before it became a hotspot for speakeasies during Prohibition, and now serves as a lively option for live music and late-night drinks.

If Friday was for tourism, Saturday was for exploring local haunts…in more ways than one. With the sun shining, we headed out to Nashville’s Farmers Market, a year-round establishment that has farmers and artisans selling their wares outside with an expansive food hall inside. It’s an ideal spot to do a little local shopping and then recharge with a hearty lunch.

But, as any local or recurring visitor knows, the weather in Nashville can take unexpected turns. Since we needed to wait out the rain, we decided to head back to Tempo to try out their virtual TopGolf, one of a myriad of games on offer. It’s an ideal spot to grab a drink or a bite and still be active when the weather acts up.

Leaving our clubs behind, we ventured out to familiarize ourselves with another female rockstar making waves not in the country world, but the culinary one. Co-owner and Executive Chef Maneet Chauhan opened Chauhan Ale & Masala House in 2014 to combine Indian flavors with traditional Southern dishes. Let’s just say you’ll never know how much you need tandoori chicken poutine in your life until you’ve dined at this establishment. Celebrating their 10th anniversary this year, Chauhan’s menu offers diners a plethora of traditional dishes with options to customize based on your favorite curry. 

Along with the poutine, we ordered the tandoori chicken and tamarind lamb chops in a korma curry, all washed down with a Taj Mule beverage. Each dish was fresh, easily shareable and as beautifully presented as it was exceptionally flavorful. And as anyone knows, dessert feeds the soul not the body, so we had to top the night off with their spiced mirat Nashville rum cake topped with salted caramel cardamom and sprinkled with pistachios. Chauhan Ale & Masala House is an ideal spot for those looking to venture away from the traditional BBQ the city romanticizes and instead, dine on flavorful dishes that exude individuality.

With just an hour to kill post-dinner and before our next excursion, we popped into Rudy’s Jazz Room which was one of the most unexpected delights of our trip. When in doubt of how to spend your time, always ask a local! We never would have known about this spot if our wonderful waitress at Chauhan hadn’t recommended it. An intimate space, serving Prohibition-era cocktails and live jazz, we only wish we had a bit more time to spend here. But, ghosts were calling! That’s right…our last stop of the day was a haunted walking tour of Nashville with Ghost City Tours. While some smirk at the idea of a ghost tour, I find it a fun and frankly, fascinating way to hear the history of a city and see famous monuments at night when they’re beautifully lit up and devoid of the usual daytime crowds. Equally entertained and spooked, we returned to Tempo with a bit more local knowledge and cheeky stories to regale.

While our last day was mostly filled with baby shower duties, we did sneak out to visit one more classic Nashville spot. Since 1910, The Hermitage Hotel in downtown Nashville has been a cultural institution thanks to its political history, infamous ghosts and “Best Restroom in America” award thanks to its distinctive tiling. 

After wandering the five-star hotel, we settled in for their afternoon “Spillin’ Tea with Draper James” served in the grand lobby and veranda. This traditional three-course tea, with a Southern flair, was the ideal way to decompress from a weekend of exploring and sightseeing. As modern as The Hermitage Hotel is, you can still feel the rich cultural history of the space, a sentiment that I feel applies to most of Nashville. It’s a city constantly evolving, but still recognizing the importance of holding onto its roots. 

Those that travel here will no doubt sense this juxtaposition, especially if you’re willing to go off the beaten tracks a little. After all, it’s in the unexpected detours where we found the Southern charm of the city shined the brightest. 


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