When I first visited in March 2013, I had hosts to take me around and share their favorites, which were all amazing. This time I did a little research of my own and came up with a decadent dinner and oh-so-charming breakfast on the way to the airport.
The Catbird Seat comes up again and again in searches for great food in Nashville. If I was ever a skeptic, my visit cured me. It's a small place where diners sit around the chef and watch him cook your food. That's a little gimmicky/1980s Hibachi craze for me, and in extroverted Nashville, I will admit that I was definitely the wallflower in the group. But I did get to see everyone's food, and it all looked amazing. And you eat whatever he decides to make that day, but don't worry--you're in good hands. I rarely like duck (go ahead, hate me), but the duck with crispy skin and smoked pears was absolutely beautiful. Wagyu beef and bitter greens was melt-in-your mouth tender with a sharp little pop of mustard. And the sturgeon nigiri served over potato that looked like rice was brilliant, fluffy, and salty. For dessert, we had honey ice cream with lemon curd and a buttermilk biscuit (above). Delish.
You want to pick your own dinner like a grown-up? OK, how about some chicken? In a total about-face from the aforementioned chi-chi bistro, I like Prince's Hot Chicken Shack. It's kind of a dump in a strip mall that serves beautifully crispy, non-greasy, and pleasingly spicy fried chicken. Growing up in northern Illinois, my only glimpse into "Southern" fried chicken was Popeye's, which I always thought was fine. But now I get it. They stay open until 2am, so you can drop in for some protein served up with a side of Wonder Bread (we are in the South, after all) and pickles to sop up the alcohol poisoning that's going on inside.
I got ahead of myself! You want to go out for drinks and hear some kick-ass music, right? There are so many choices for live music and booze in Music City, USA, but I hate country music, so that helped me narrow my choices quite a bit. As a Chicago girl, I'll sample the local blues anytime. I went to Bourbon Street Blues and heard a great show. The catfish sliders are nice, and they have a great selection of local whiskeys. Ask for a whiskey ginger if you need some training wheels (I do). It's just whiskey, ginger ale, and a lime, so no one will beat you up for ordering it. Then, back up and get chicken.
And now, after the potato-disguised-as-rice, whiskey, and fried chicken, you are woozy and have done terrible things to your stomach. Before suffering through security at the Nashville airport (which seems like an odd collection of impatient, seasoned travelers and scared families from the sticks who have never been on a plane), get a little coffee and a nice, buttery pastry at CREMA. Known for their frequent collaborations with Catbird Seat, they serve a beautiful cappuccino, and their pastries are fresh, fluffy, and all made locally. It has a quiet, slightly Pottery-Barn feel perfect for nursing your headache. But if you have the time and the stomach for it, you could also go to Frothy Monkey, which has equally terrific coffee and pastries along with comforting hot breakfast dishes in a funky, down-homey setting.