Although Tim’s lived in Nashville almost four years longer than I have, we both consider ourselves transplants—he from Ohio and me from Illinois. As born and bred Midwesterners, we can tell you this town’s a whole lot bigger than Dayton and much easier to navigate than Chicago; the weather’s nice, especially this time of year; and, mostly, the food’s fantastic, with locally sourced ingredients aplenty. Because it’s almost summer travel season and because we get emails so often requesting recommendations for the area, we thought, in today’s post, we’d take you out and around our Nashville, which tends more towards food than the music scene, and show you some of the spots we like best.

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Our neighborhood: We live in South Nashville, in a tiny little nook of a neighborhood called Glencliff. When I first moved to Nashville, I lived in East Nashville, or more specifically in Inglewood, which is kind of East East Nashville, farther away but filled with historic architecture I love and some of the hippest, coolest eateries in the city. Tim was living pretty close to where we are now, in the area most locals call Little Mexico, off the long commercial strip that is Nolensville Road.

Best part of our neighborhood: The thing about Nashville is that no matter where you live within the city, you’re close to everything. Our sweet little street is filled with brick houses built in the 1940s and households of people who like to take care of them.

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Our home: Tim and I live in the main level of a little white brick house. We love our hardwood floors and built-in bookcases, as well as the fact that every single room has a window, bringing in lots of natural light. Tim and our friend Terry built a bunch of our furniture when we moved in, from our farmhouse-style dining table to the living room buffet. Mostly, the shelves and walls are filled with thrifted treasures and, lately, watercolor work. Sometime in the future, we’ll have to show you our office/guest room/storage space, complete with its walls of clothespinned paintings and dual corkboard displays.

Nashville clichés: The first time I came to Nashville, I expected to buy cowboy boots and hear country music. Turns out, while you can definitely find those things, especially on Broadway, this city’s music scene is actually much more diverse. Also, most people don’t have Southern accents, even people who’ve grown up here all their lives. That still amazes me.

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Best places for breakfast: I’m pretty partial to Marché, an East Nashville café with a charming French-Italian style, long rustic tables and large windows on every side. They source their ingredients locally and use grass-fed meat. Weekend brunches are notoriously crowded at this spot, however, so if you go on Saturday or Sunday, plan to wait. We’ve also enjoyed casual breakfasts at coffee shops like Frothy Monkey and Fido, both of which offer full menus in addition to drinks.

Best place for a picnic: Any of the city’s many parks (see below) or, if you’re up for a short drive, Arrington Vineyards. Weekend evenings are free concerts, rolling hills and some of the prettiest views in the area.

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Best place for lunch: Silly Goose is an East Nashville restaurant sandwiched between Jeni’s Ice Cream and Ugly Mugs coffeehouse, sourcing ingredients from local suppliers and featuring various couscous dishes, salads, sandwiches and drinks in mason jars. As a bonus fun fact, my friend Christina has a great writeup (cover story!) in Issue 9 of Nashville’s Native magazine, featuring chef Roderick Bailey. For a more casual meal, check out The Jam, a fun vintage coffeeshop with an awesome whole-foods-focused menu.

Best tacos: Go to Mas Tacos for the fried avocado tacos, if you’re lucky enough to visit when they’re on the menu, but stay for absolutely everything else. We’re big fans of the chicken tortilla soup, the cast-iron chicken tacos, the quinoa sweet potato tacos and the black beans.

Best pizza: You can’t beat Bella Nashville and its thin, chewy Neapolitan-style sourdough pizza crusts, cooked before your eyes in a wood-fired oven, smack dab in the middle of the Nashville Farmers’ Market, which, incidentally, is open year-round. Our favorite is the Margherita with turnip greens added on top.

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Best place to celebrate with a fancy dinner: Sister to Marché, East Nashville’s Margot is the place to go for fine dining, with the same high-quality ingredients and a more upscale atmosphere. The menu changes daily but usually features six appetizer choices and seven entrees—every one I’ve ever picked has been good.

Where to go with special dietary needs: The Wild Cow restaurant offers a variety of vegetarian and vegan dishes in its little space around the corner from Silly Goose. Last weekend, I had a slice of raw cheesecake at this unassuming bakery called Khan’s, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since.

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Where to go on a cold day: If you’re like us, cold days tempt you to hibernate, but, if you’re willing to venture out, Nashville has no shortage of cozy coffeeshops. Besides Fido and Frothy Monkey, which were mentioned above, try Crema, the very cool Barista Parlor, The Well or Edgehill Cafe.

Where to go on a hot one: Tim and I met at Las Paletas, a gourmet popsicle place in the trendy 12 South neighborhood, and there’s nothing quite like grabbing a grapefruit paleta and taking it with you on a stroll through Sevier Park on a sunny day. And when it’s a beach you crave, head to the Anderson Road Recreation Area at Percy Priest Lake—this city may be land-locked, but lounging by the manmade water area, you’ll forget completely.

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Where to go to shop: For books, McKay’s. For antiques, Gas Lamp Antique Mall or the monthly Nashville Flea. For the cutest baby clothes: Tweed. For a wide range of artisan goods: Erabellum Art Co-Op (but check their hours before you go!). For cheap thrifted finds you have to hunt for: any of the city’s many Goodwills, Music City Thrift, which is near our ‘hood, and Southern Thrift.

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Where to walk: Tim and I love taking long, rambling walks through area parks, inhaling the fresh air and remarking on the changing greenery. We especially like Percy Warner, Shelby Bottoms and Sevier (mentioned above). Also, if you don’t mind a 20-minute drive, Franklin’s downtown is cute and charming, perfect for casual strolls, and it boasts a variety of both unique and big-name shops, including a new Anthropologie.

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Weirdest place we like to visit: The Gaylord Opryland Resort is as touristy as Disneyworld, but we have to go every Christmas to check out the killer lights display, including a life-sized nativity scene. True confession though: I also like walking through the labyrinth of atriums and walkways every so often at other times during the year—the place overwhelms me in an odd and mesmerizing way.

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Farmers’ Markets: Come next month, farmers’ markets will be everywhere, and we can’t wait! Last year, our CSA pickup was at the 12 South Tuesday market, so we found ourselves there every other week; the Franklin farmers’ market meets at The Factory, a cool warehouse-style space with shops and eateries; and the East Nashville Wednesday market always draws a crowd.

Marche + Silly Goose

Good ethnic food: Sitar is the Indian restaurant that launched my love affair with garlic naan and butter chicken—also, shout-out to their homemade rosewater lassi, which I dream about from time to time. What’s great about The Smiling Elephant is that they use no MSG and cook with olive oil instead of canola. There’s also Woodlands, an all vegetarian restaurant with a big Sunday buffet and even bigger crowds of people eating it.

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Free fun: It’s worth linking to Nashville For Free, a website highlighting each week’s free events. Especially as summer comes, there are free concerts popping up like wildflowers. Also, Vanderbilt’s University Orchestra offers free shows regularly, and they’re a lovely treat.

Nashville + Shelby Bottoms

Daytrips: From Nashville, you’re a quick drive to Lebanon’s outlet mall and antique stores, Franklin’s cute downtown and beautiful neighborhoods or Clarksville’s funny blend of military buildings and old, old houses. Being that it is the South, Civil War memorials aren’t hard to find, and, in the warmer months, picking fruits at nearby farms is as easy as searching u-pick farms online.

Shanna Mallon

Shanna Mallon started Food Loves Writing back in 2008, as a way to remember her grandma and write about her life through food. Since then it's become a place leading her to a lifestyle of eating whole foods, a new home in Nashville and the love of her life, Tim. Follow Shanna on Twitter @foodloves, keep up with Food Loves Writing on Facebook and stay inspired with the monthly newsletter.

This Post Has 44 Comments

  1. Kathryn

    I seriously just checked to see if the company I work for was recruiting in their Nashville office 😉

    Your love for your adopted home just shines through every line of this post and it makes me so excited to visit one day.

    1. Shanna Mallon

      haha! I’ll be honest and say I wouldn’t mind a job transfer to London… : )

  2. Molly @WonderlandK

    Oooh, great post idea! You’ve inspired me to think about doing one for Baltimore.

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Do it!

  3. Megan

    Wow Shanna, you guys make Nashville look awesome! I visited for a quick weekend in college, but really hope to spend some time there soon. I will be keeping this list in mind next time I end up there, thanks for all the great recommendations!

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Absolutely! Hope you come!

  4. Lindsey @ Pas de Deux

    What a fun glimpse into your life and your city. I don’t have plans to visit Nashville and time soon, but you have made me want to come visit!

    1. Shanna Mallon

      : ) Hope you do someday!

  5. Jacqui

    I love how you’re making this city your own, a place to call home. I’ve never thought about Nashville as a place I want to visit until you moved there!

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Ooooh I’d love for you to visit!

  6. HopefulLeigh

    Great minds think alike, Shanna! I started working on my own post about Nashville a couple of weeks ago. Love seeing the city through your eyes!

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Cool! Looking forward to hearing what you like. : )

  7. ashley c

    what a great post & such a small world! my husband and i live in the same neighborhood. we love woodbine. :)

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Well, hey there, neighbor! Nice to meet you!

  8. Marie @ Little Kitchie

    Fabulous post! I loved reading about your town. Bookmarking this for a hopefully someday trip to Nashville! (I’ve only been once… again, I was 8 or 9 and on another horse show trip. Lame.)

    1. Shanna Mallon

      ahaha! I love your horse show references. They make me smile. And come to Nashville! I’d love to lunch with you!

  9. Joanna

    Great, now I want to move all over again! Someday…

    1. Shanna Mallon

      !!!!!!

  10. Nicole

    Love this! Nashville is such a cool city and we can’t wait to go back. I’ll add your recommendations to my list :)

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Nicole, When I read your Nashville posts, I was amazed at how you found all the best spots. Good taste! I think we’d eat together well. : )

  11. Danielle

    Loved that you showcased so many East Side establishments. We live in Inglewood as well and loved seeing our side of the river make your list so many times!

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Well, hi, Danielle, and I know! East Nashville has so much to offer!

  12. Amber

    Thank you so much for this post! Being new to Nashville, this post is perfect! I’ve been to a few of the places you mentioned but I am excited to try tons of new spots! I live in the adorable Franklin and its tempting to stay in the quaint little city but I’ll venture out! Thanks!

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Franklin is so adorable, Amber, so I know just what you mean. Have you been to the Mercantile Deli downtown yet? So cute and good food!

  13. Rachel

    Wow, Shannon! I LOVE this post!

    I grew up in Franklin, and my parents still live there (my dad is an architect in Nashville and will surely appreciate the same neighborhoods you mention). I was just there two weeks ago for a visit, and we discovered a couple of new restaurants (my mom is newly vegan, so we were seeking out options). We stumbled upon the Sunflower Cafe, which is right around the corner from the zoo (have you been to that beautiful zoo? you can feed the lorikeets!). I so wish I had seen this post before then, though, as it is chock full of all sorts of fantastic recommendations! I can’t wait to go back (can’t wait anyway, since it’s always fun to visit my parents). I am sending along your recommendations to them, since they will surely be able to try them out sooner than I can.

    And it’s so funny because even though I lived there until my 20s and still visit regularly, I have no idea about all these different neighborhoods you mention. Makes me realize I need to get out more when I’m there!

  14. Lyndsey

    Shanna, I’ve only lived here since August, but this city has already captivated and won my heart. A few happy tear trails and a tight throat accompanied the reading of this post for me. You described it so simply and lightheartedly, and yet with such clear life and character. You also highlighted several places that I haven’t tried yet and you’d better believe I will be frequenting them in the near future. :)
    Such a great idea for a post – you and Tim seem like the perfect people to explore a fun city with. Can’t wait to see a post with details about and a picture tour of your house, including the office/guest room/storage space!!

    1. Shanna Mallon

      You’re so sweet, Lyndsey — would love to explore with you sometime! : )

  15. Rachel

    I just realized I called you Shannon in my comment! I’m so so sorry! I absolutely know your name is Shanna, but I think I somehow combined your first and last names in my head (they always want to mush together for me for some reason). And I have a friend named Shannon, so that name just wants to fly off my fingertips. Big apologies. Wish I could edit my first comment. But still love the post all the same. So, to thank you properly: Thank you Shanna, for such a comprehensive post about my home town.

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Haha! Oh, don’t you worry about it, Rachel. People call me Shannon all the time. And I liked your explanation the best: That makes so much sense that it’s like combining my first and last names, ha! : ) Thank YOU so much for your thoughtful comments. Glad to have you reading!

  16. Lan | morestomach

    sigh. you paint such a charming SUNNY picture of Nashville! :)

    this has, of course, inspired me to do something like this for Baltimore…

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Oh, I hope you do! I’d love to learn more about your city!

  17. Bethany

    Perfect, perfect. Would love a visit! The best vacations are the ones planned around food – so I’ve recently found out. Sounds like Nashville is a real gem.

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Oh my goodness, I could not agree more. We pretty much vacation to take pictures and eat… ha!

  18. Kasey

    Love this, Shanna! Thank you for sharing so many of your recommendations with me prior to our trip. It’s taking me forever to get the trip up in writing, but your post is inspiring me :) xo

    1. Shanna Mallon

      I can’t wait to read your post, Kasey! I love your city guides.

  19. Emily

    Great post, Shanna! I live in Glencliff, too, and my boyfriend works in Franklin so we haven’t ventured much beyond South Nashville/Brentwood/Franklin since we moved here last year. I really want to check out more of east and west Nashville. I’m bookmarking this post for the next time I feel like exploring!

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Oh, good! And hey, neighbor! : )

  20. Pingback: Interview: Keller talks about Nashville | The City Space

  21. SouthernSpoonBelle

    Love Nashville, thank you for your perspective on the city! Have visited a couple times a year my entire life to visit family, and always love checking out new cafés and restaurants. Will add a few of these to my list for next year…

    1. Shanna Mallon

      I’m so glad! Thanks for your comment!

  22. Nashforfree

    Hey, thanks for the shout-out! Been asleep for awhile, but I’m updating the blog again.

    BTW, this post was awesome. Going to share it around for sure.

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Thank you for the great resource you provide! Glad you’re back around — we love what you do!

  23. Rachel Q

    My boyfriend and I just enjoyed a lovely trip to Nashville this weekend after several months of saving and planning, and we used this post as a guidebook. When we rolled in after 9 hours of driving from Wisconsin, the first place we went was Mas Tacos! We both agreed they were the best tacos of our lives. This thoughtful post was such a help, and I trust all of your suggestions.

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Aw, I’m so glad, Rachel! And you picked a great weekend to come here, especially from Wisconsin. These warmer temps have been so nice. Glad you had a good trip, and thanks for letting us know! : )

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