Local On the Road: Nashville

As much as I love my local community, I sometimes have a severe case of wanderlust. I love traveling, meeting new people, and experiencing different cities.   Often I get asked if I support local places when I’m out of town and if so, how do I find local places? Not only do I support local places when I’m traveling, I seek out where the locals go. All you need to find some hidden local gems is an ability to get off the unbeaten path a little (and an adventurous friend doesn’t hurt either, right Ashlee?) One of my favorite places to visit is Nashville; it really is a big city with a small town vibe.  Now don’t get me wrong, I love Broadway in Nashville just as much as the next tourist, but I have found that there are some great locally owned places in town as well.  

When Ashlee and I travel together, we make a deal to only eat and drink at local places. We were initially overwhelmed by the vast majority of restaurants, honky tonks, and bars that Nashville had to offer.  However, we took the advice of a friend to explore the Midtown area. This is where we found a treasure trove of great places. First up is the Red Door Saloon. Disclaimer: this is a bar that is covered in Chicago sports memorabilia, including the Cubs. When we looked past the novelty (let’s face it the Cubs are a novelty baseball team!) of the memorabilia, we saw that they also have a pirate theme. It’s weird but the combination works. The staff there was nothing short of amazing. The bartender was polite, interesting, and genuinely helpful by telling us what the best items on the menu were.  We were surprised by how good the “bar food” was. To this day, I crave their baked potato salad. They have a vast array of beer, including several from local breweries.  Whenever, you visit the Red Door Saloon, be sure to look in the hole on the floor-you won’t be disappointed!

Nashville has been described as a drinking town with a music problem so of course we had to experience a little of both of those. One of our favorite places to visit is Winners and it’s neighbor Losers. Winners is THE place to be on a Monday night because of Whiskey Jam. Whiskey Jam is the brainchild of Ward Guenther and Josh Hoge and is a weekly jam session that attracts both unknown artists as well as some big time names. The week before we were there, Miranda Lambert came in and sang a few songs. Words can not accurately describe how much fun this event is. From the free Fireball shots that they passed around to hearing the songwriters sing their own songs that have been covered by country music’s biggest stars, it is definitely an experience that you don’t want to miss. Now when Whiskey Jam is over, just walk next door to Losers to continue to dance the night away and I promise that you won’t be disappointed. 

There is one place in Nashville that we have changed the days of our trip just so we could visit-Arnold’s. This place is just so good! Arnold’s has been featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives and has the best fried chicken, roast beef, and sweet tea that this Southern Belle has ever eaten. It is a cafeteria style restaurant and is only open from 10:30am to 2:30 pm Monday thru Friday. Expect a line out of the door, but it moves quickly. In addition to having great food, it has a very comfortable atmosphere that has hipsters, business men, tourists, and blue collar workers all eating their lunch together. One of my favorite things about Arnold’s is the sweet little man that works the dining room, cleaning tables and refilling drinks. This man is always smiling, complimenting the women, and giving the men a hard time. Quite simply, he is the epitome of Southern Hospitality. 

In short, there is always a delicious meal, friendly face, and local vibe no matter where you go. It’s not the big name chain stores and restaurants that give the places we travel to their character, but the people and businesses that stand alone and stand out. Whether you are in a big city or small town, be on the lookout for the locally owned, the little guy, and see what truly makes these places special. 


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