Nashville: sometimes described as the drinking city with a music problem. But, the food scene may quickly overshadow both and take the top spot as this town’s best bad habit you won’t be able to kick.
With a flight time of under two hours from the DC area, it’s almost too easy to make a quick break to Nashville, and get a fix of true southern hospitality, music and cuisine. After spending the last 48 hours in music city, some food and drink suggestions:
Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack: Hot Chicken is the unofficial signature dish of Nashville. According to just about everyone, Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack is the best of the many Hot Chicken options, and is the establishment that put Nashville on the map. A little history: the story goes that Hot Chicken was created by a fed up woman who decided to teach her cheating man a lesson by smothering fried chicken in a questionable amount of spices and hot sauce. Unfortunately for her, the alleged cheater, Thornton Prince, liked his punishment so much he built a famous business out of it. Generations later, Prince’s now attracts a major, eclectic crowd of regulars and curious tourists alike. Prince’s Hot Chicken is said to still serve the original recipe, and remains a secret that has yet to be duplicated.
You might struggle to identify all of the exact ingredients, but it’s clear that the creator of Prince’s Hot Chicken was definitely pissed off and fired up (pun intended). The spice level ranges from mild to XXX-Hot and even though we settled on medium, it was equal parts pleasurable and painful. After the first few bites, you might mistakenly think you have Prince’s Hot Chicken beat. You don’t. This dish is the definition of a slow burn and the outrageous spice sneaks up on you. That said, I think it’s a must try because the fried chicken is the best I’ve ever had. Also, spring for the extra cup of pickles because the combination of pickles, fried chicken and bread is oddly great. Just put your ego aside when ordering and be cautious with the spiciness you choose.
Peg Leg Porker: Easily my favorite meal in Nashville. Nothing will ever beat true Southern barbecue, and Tennessee BBQ is certainly no exception to the rule. Located near The Gulch neighborhood, this restaurant is no frills. The line to order can get long but it moves quickly and you can drink beers while you wait.
We opted to eat the entire menu and for two people ordered a pulled pork platter with mac and cheese and smoked green beans, a rack of smoked ribs with coleslaw and fries and an extra pulled pork sandwich just for kicks. Now that I’ve listed that out, I’m mildly horrified, but not horrified enough to leave out the fact that we rounded the meal out by getting Kool-Aid pickles and fried chocolate pie for dessert. Diet starts tomorrow…
This food was straightforward, perfectly done and a nice reprieve from fried chicken. Recommendations: cover everything in the Peg Leg Porker barbecue sauce. It’s great! Other recommendation: you’re going to want to order the Kool-Aid pickles because it’s a novelty, but don’t. Weirdest thing ever.
Biscuit Love: We really tried not to fall into the tourist trap that is Biscuit Love, but we fell and we fell hard. After a failed attempt Saturday morning to get into the renowned brunch spot, we set a ridiculously early alarm for Sunday to make sure we experienced the hype.
The only reason we got in was because we got in line well before 9AM. Had we been any later, we probably would’ve waited hours. I’m really glad we got to experience Biscuit Love, but I don’t think it’s worth waiting hours. The food is good but not anything particularly distinct. Our meal highlights included Bonuts (biscuit donuts!) and the bananas foster oatmeal, which did make my heart skip a beat (and is vegan, surprisingly).
The East Nasty (voted Nashville’s best sandwich of 2015 by Bon Appetit) wasn’t anything I’d write home about.
Corsair Distillery: This is a good afternoon activity (and a break from eating) that can take as much or as little time as you want. Corsair hosts distillery tours, but also welcomes you to just sit at the bar and choose your own spirit tasting adventure. The staff is fun and knowledgable, and they’ll provide you with all the sound bites you need to walk out the door feeling and sounding like an expert in the nuances of distilling processes for moonshine, bourbon and whiskey. My favorite Corsair liquor though was the whole vanilla bean vodka.
Corsair is a little removed from downtown Nashville, and there’s not much else around it, but if you don’t have time to make the hour and a half trek to Jack Daniel’s this is a good way to get your distillery fix.
Final recommendations: Pay a visit to Acme Feed & Seed (my favorite Broadway bar) for a great roof deck, even better live music and the best Bloody Mary I’ve ever had. Order a “Nashville Way” Bushwacker (traditional rum is replaced by whiskey). Finally, every time you spot a bachelorette party, drink.
For great music, locals with genuinely warm dispositions and a crazy amount of food and booze options, Nashville is the destination of your dreams.