A Coffee Shop, A Beer Bar and A Liquor Store to Visit in Nashville

Let’s round out my Nashville visit with some odds and ends. All three of these places I’ve deemed worth of a visit.

While Barista Parlor will be your go-to breakfast and late-afternoon pick-me-up destination for coffee and a pastry, an alternate shop to consider based on your location is Steadfast Coffee. The clientele is distinctively Nashville (or any upscale gentrified shop frequented by people in fun hats), the aesthetic is different.

Borrowing from minimalist Danish design, the second floor shop in the Germantown section makes its bones (or brews in the case) with a variety of coffee drinks. With my welcoming smile, I told my barista how much I enjoyed single origin coffees. As a result, she offered me a free serving of their single-origin coffee soda. Not what I’m into at 8am, but I went for it.

The place does off a full breakfast, but I went for a pastry. I spent my time there staring at the lightbulbs and overhead lighting.

It’s highly recommended that you take some beans home.

For the beer travelers who are out late after the local breweries are closed, head over to just westside of downtown to Hops & Crafts. Located in an unassuming blocks of businesses (think of an upscale strip mall), the bare bones bar has a who’s who of Tennessee craft beer. You have Honky Tonk, Bearded Iris, Smith & Lentz and Czann represented.

No food in the place, so you can just focus on the well-balance selection of styles — not all IPAs or pale ales. Afterwards, you can catch a gig at the legendary Station Inn across the street.

Say who want to load up your road-trippin car with some local brews that you can’t get back home. I headed over to CorkDorks. Yup, I love the name, too. You can grab your six-packs, but cruise the single bottle section to make your own six-packs. That’s the way to go so you can try every one of Tennessee’s craft breweries.

 

Tourist Hell: Nashville’s Lower Broadway

You don’t need to spend much time in Nashville to realize that the city is much more than country music, barbecue, hot chicken and western chic.

That’s the way the city’s main drag, Lower Broadway, is avoided by locals as much as humanly possible. It’s some garish theme park of lameness that attracts loud tourists, dopey families on vacation, hucksters and bachelorette parties. Because of it’s concentration of bars that sell booze in mass quantity on the cheap, it’s like Bourbon Street without the charm.

After my visit to the nearby Country Music Hall of Fame and Hatch Show Print, I figured a quick walk up and down and pop into the famous honky tonk Robert’s Western World would get the touristy aspect on the visit out of my way.

It checks off all the aspects of what makes a tourist hell — souvenir shops selling crap (include one that sells confederate flags), chain restaurants, slow walking families, people dressed in costume asking for money, big lights, attractions whose soul purpose is to extract money from you, over-the-top candy shops and the fact that you would never want to drive through because of the foot traffic.

The myriad of bars with cover bands and singers playing cover song makes the street loud no matter what time of day. I headed toward Robert’s Western World because it’s the one I knew of from the band BR5-49, who use to be the house and went onto some notoriety. It’s also known for their fried bologna sandwiches, cheap beer and wall of boots.

When I got there at 2pm, there was old man playing, a few people at tables and a bored, indifferent bartender. I got the  fried bologna sandwich (meh), opted for a local craft beer and a sticker and matches. At least the bathroom was clean and there’s plenty of photos on the wall to look at.

I don’t know what I was expecting, but it’s a mix of sad, kitsch and local flavor … if that flavor was 1950s, 60s and 70s.

If you find yourself in this area, and you want to do buy something fun, try the Goo Goo Cluster store, which is next to the Johnny Cash Museum (where you I got a sticker that says, “Johnny Cash Was a Friend of Mine”). Yes, you can get Goo Goo Clusters anywhere in Nashville, but the store sells a specialty one made with candied bacon!

At Third Man Records, You Can Purchase Actual Physical Music

I ended my Nashville trip on an appropriate note with a visit to a record store. Not just any record store — THE record store tailor made for audiophiles of any genre of music.

Jack White’s Third Man Records store in the SoBro neighborhood was founded to cater to vinyl hunters who care sound quality and obscure music. Since it’s founding in 2009, it’s transformed the former warehouse district (that was rampant with abandoned buildings) into vibrant arts, entertainment and restaurant area. I could tell because it took me three laps to find parking.

While it’s not a huge warehouse of music, movies and merchandise like Amoeba Music or Rough Trade, it’s a carefully curated space that sells vinyl LPs, EPs and singles recorded and pressed next door at the concert venue. You won’t find the latest releases, just the Third Man Records releases and a few hidden gems from White and his tastemakers.

It took some restraint not to get everything of interest, so I limited myself to $100 of vinyl and some Third Man merch. For the vinyl, I picked up live recordings from Beck, Parquet Courts, First Aid Kit, Conan O’Brien, Black Belles, Smoke Ferries and Man or Astroman. In the merch category, I highly recommend a few badges, buttons, a record bag and a turntable slipmat.

For White Stripes fans, there’s a small shrine to the duo, where you can see their Grammys and Legos from the “Fell in Love With a Girl” girl.

It’s a neat space for browsing leisurely, trying out the jukebox and checking out the memorabilia and record art on the walls. You might even find that under-appreciated old time artists that you can impress your fellow music fans.

 

The Hatch Show Print is a Must-Tour for Design Fans

If you like looking at vintage advertisements or just appreciate a well-put together poster, then Hatch Show Print should be in your itinerary for Nashville. It’s current location in the Country Music Hall of Fame building gives the 100+ year old print show a higher profile and easy add-on to your CMHF ticket.

Even if you never heard of Hatch Show Print you recognize the style — block letters, simple bold colors and a portrait image or graphic. Every country music star has commissioned a poster from the shop. More important, they do any genre of music, but they are not beholden to music. They do events, conventions, business ads and television adverts.

Here is where you should pre-book online if you 100% want to visit — and you should. The tour groups are small (around 20 per tour) and are run three times a day. The CMHF site will off combo tickets so you visit the hall and time it so you can mosey on over to the hall. The shop, the hall, the gift shop, clothing store and restaurants are connected in the building via a central hall.

What makes the print shop unique is they still use the same techniques as when they were founded. While they use computers to plan out the design and show clients, the printing is done the old fashion ways. During the tour, you’ll see the turn of the century machinery used to hand crank each poster and the wood blocks and metals used to make the type.

After you see the process, you’ll go in the backroom to get a bit of history, see some of their archives and roll out a print yourself. Me being a geek, I asked two questions — what paper stock is available and if  a client screwed up and misspelled their show — yup, so ask and they’ll point it out on the wall.

While the shop has printed 100,000 events, they don’t reprint or reuse designs. Keep that in mind at the gift shop where do sell excess concert prints. If you do buy that unique concert poster, frame it because they are not many like it. They do have generic posters that they mass produce or place on t-shirts that say “Nashville Rocks” or “Drink More Coffee”. Yup, I bought the “Drink More Coffee” poster. Anything you can put a design on they have —  stickers, stationary, postcards.

 

 

The One Thing To Do in Nashville — Visit the Country Music Hall of Fame

Nashville as Music City U.S.A. is not some tourist marketing slogan. The places lives and breathes it while being a focal point of its economy.

Music labels are moving resources from New York to Nashville (as well as Los Angeles) because of its wealth of musical talent, production know-how and industry expertise. It’s not just for country music, it’s for all genres who appreciate the city’s history.

Sure, you can hit up any number of dive bars to see the potential next big act or the tourist trap honky tonks on Broadway, but you should really get an all-encompassing experience at the Country Music Hall of Fame. Located in the heart of Nashville, it’s everything you wanted to know about country music and appreciation of the artists that made it an American tradition.

Do I like country music? Yes and no. I’m all over Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, Porter Wagoner, Hank Williams and even some of the goofy acts you’d fine on 70s comedy show, Hee-Haw. The stuff that passes as country music — that’s just water-down country mass marketed to the general public.

Luckily, the Country Music Hall of Fame focuses mostly on the history and it’s most vital artists. Like an good museum, you start with a timeline of the origins, dating back to British and Irish musicians bring fiddles, banjos and guitars with them in the mid-1800s.

Many of the stereotypes we associated with country music — the big hats, big buckles, cowboy shirts and twangy accents — comes from early Hollywood talkies from Tom Mix and Roy Rogers.

One of the many thing I liked about the museum is that embraces the often goofy aspects of vintage country. Look for crazy outfits and a decked-out Rolls Royce fit for The King.

It also brought out a lot of forgotten artists that I remember my parents listening to like the Mandrel Sisters, Eddie Rabbit, Alabama, Kenny Rogers and Mac Davis. There’s plenty of recordings and videos through the hall.

The special exhibit during my visit was on an unlikely Nashville artist, Bob Dylan. Many of his best known albums were partially recorded in Nashville, even during his Greenwich Village days.  Blonde on Blonde was recorded in Nashville in 1966 to take advantage of local musicians.

Your visit will end with the rotunda with the bronze plaques of the hall members. It’s newest members in 2017 included Alan Jackson, Jerry Reed, and Don Schlitz.

Plan for about three hours to explore the museum. You can buy tickets online, but there no line when I visited. Tt is worth seeing if there are any online discounts.  I also did the Hatch Show Print shop tour, which will add about 90 minutes to your visit.