We were in Nashville for two 40th birthdays recently: a friend’s milestone and a stop at the Grand Ole Opry.
The venerable country music institution was founded downtown in 1925 but moved to its current spot, a few miles from downtown, in 1974. The Opry calendar this year features celebration specials, including upcoming Thursday night Opry Country Classics shows this fall at its former home, the historic Ryman Auditorium.
Tennessee’s capital is about four hours northwest of Atlanta. If you’re looking for a quick getaway, here are a few ideas.
WHERE TO GO
The Grand Ole Opry, 2804 Opryland Drive. 615-871-6779, opry.com. Showtime is 7 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Performers vary, but you can expect family-friendly fare and a packed house of fans in pews redolent of the Ryman. Tickets are $29.50-$69.50.
The Ryman Auditorium, 116 Fifth Ave. North. 615-889-3060, ryman.com. Completed in 1892 as the Union Gospel Tabernacle, it still features original oak pews, dating to 1892 on the main floor and 1897 in the balcony. Events and prices vary; highlights include bluegrass nights on Thursdays through July 31. Tickets are $27.50.
The Hermitage, 4580 Rachel’s Lane. 615-889-2941, thehermitage.com. President Andrew Jackson’s post-presidential retreat and final resting place features a vast and stunning collection of furnishings original to the home. Even the wallpaper is in remarkably good condition. Outside, the grounds feature lush gardens and the graves of Andrew and Rachel Jackson and members of their family.
Music Row, Broadway and surrounding streets. We checked out Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge (422 Broadway. 615-726-0463, tootsies.net), where you can write on the walls, and the Stage on Broadway (412 Broadway. 615-726-0504, thestageonbroadway.com), where you cannot. Neither had cover charges but the bands play for tips. Be cool and come with cash.
The Bluebird Cafe, 4104 Hillsboro Pike. 615-383-1461, bluebirdcafe.com. Reservations are recommended for this highly acclaimed venue; see the website for performances and prices. This is a “listening room.” They sing. You don’t.
WHERE TO EAT
Husk, 37 Rutledge St. 615-256-6565, husknashville.com. We trekked up a day earlier than the rest of our group specifically to hit Husk 2.0. While it would be hard for any restaurant, even a sibling, to live up to the well-deserved hype of the mother ship in Charleston, S.C., it was worth the change in plans.
The building, constructed between 1879 and 1882, is an architectural gem. The locally sourced menu changes daily. We started with the divine Field of Dreams duck egg with English peas in soured buttermilk with a nest of spring herbs ($12) and Bear Creek bone marrow with parsley biscuit and sweet onion preserves ($14), a dish that arrived atop glowing embers to keep the heat steady. We thought it could have used a touch more heat before leaving the kitchen, though. The consistency was gooey.
For dinner, we tried the Gulf snapper and Gullah fish head stew with okra and Carolina Gold rice ($29). The savory broth and high quality rice gave this dish delicate, well-crafted flavors. We also had the plate of Southern vegetables ($25).
Husk’s cocktail menu is as enticing as its food menu. I sipped the Miracle on Ice ($11) with Cazadores Reposado tequila, St. Germain, lemon juice, mole bitters and peach Nehi. My husband had a Manhattan ($27) with Knob Creek bourbon, Knob Creek rye, Carpano Antica vermouth, blood orange bitters and a black cherry. Charlie declared it the best he’s ever had, a meaningful declaration given his years of assiduous research.
The Southern, 150 3rd Ave. South. 615-724-1762, thesouthernnashville.com. We had a tasty and inexpensive lunch here: the shrimp BLT ($13) and the Caribbean spiced braised pork and mango pico on a sweet potato/grit cake ($11.50).
Virago Robata Grill & Sushi Bar, 1126 McGavock St. 615-254-1902, mstreetnashville.com. A lively Asian fusion spot, made considerably more lively the night we and seven other couples celebrated our birthday girl. Great news for us and the innocents in the main dining room: There’s a private area available for large parties. Our host made the selections, a great way to test-drive the menu.
Standouts included the rock shrimp tempura with black sesame ($14); mushroom toban yaki ($14), especially good with the coconut-jasmine rice ($6); ninja bacon, which is a pitch-black serving of crispy pork belly with red curry and coconut ($13); and wagyu skirt steak with green sriracha ($24). We were done in by the time brisket egg rolls with daikon kimchi and Korean barebeque sauce arrived ($12). Dang.
Noshville, 1918 Broadway. 615-329-6674, noshville.com. Everyone at this New York City-style deli seemed in dire need of restorative carbs on a Saturday morning. Two griddle cakes the size of hubcabs ($4.99) set us up right.
Merchant’s, 401 Broadway. 615-254-1892, merchantsrestaurant.com. A lovely restaurant at the site of the old hotel of the same name, built in 1892. We had a pretty good burger ($12) and grilled chicken sandwich ($13), and the super-crispy duck fat tater tots ($5 for a half-order or $7 for a full order). Mercy!
The Farm House, 210 Almond St. 615-522-0688, thefarmhousetn.com. For our final bite in “NashVegas” we had some nourishing (detoxing?) oatmeal and fruit. We’ll explore their farm-to-table menu next time.
WHERE TO STAY
We stayed at the Hutton Hotel (1808 West End Ave. 615-340-9333, huttonhotel.com), our group’s designated destination.
Hip, demonstratively eco-friendly and staffed by some of the sweetest people in the world, it was clean and comfortable.
Our stay could most charitably be described as collaborative, though. We had to wait to check in, but the staff did spot us some drink vouchers. We made it to our room in about an hour but our luggage did not. After a while, we called downstairs to ask if our stuff might be joining us at some point, a question that turned out to be rhetorical. We finally fetched it ourselves. Later, the staff sent up some lemonade and marshmallows for our trouble.
The turndown service involved someone coming in and placing the bathrobes, still on their wooden hangers, onto the bed. One night, the robe whisperer left his or her walkie talkie behind. Not creepy. At. All.
Given the special occasion, we booked a suite that turned out to be a smallish, one-bathroom pad. At $339 per night (tax and $30 per night valet service were extra), it offered a view of a construction site.
Next time, we’ll check out the historic Hermitage Hotel, 231 6th Ave. North. 615-244-3121, thehermitagehotel.com.
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