Twenty years ago, the Midtown neighborhood of Nashville was pretty much a drive-thru strip where you’d have no reason to stop on the way from hopping Hillsboro Village on the way downtown, unless you made a little side trip to Elvis-a-Rama, and attraction off of Music Row billed as “Elvis’s life through music and murals.” I’m not kidding. This was real! However, nowadays this corridor is a hotbed of food, drink, music and fun, and highly worth a visit.
Here are some spots worth checking out on the stretch of Broadway between the Village and where it meets up with West End Avenue.
Broadway Brewhouse is a favorite recommendation for us here at Sounds Like Nashville because it still has appeal to locals as well as being a great destination for Music City visitors looking for a great time. Attached to a premiere chicken wing joint called Mojo Grill, Broadway Brewhouse was one of the first bars in town to serve up beers more interesting than the usual Bud and PBR found in local taverns. Thanks to a wall of taps that stretch the length of the bar, you can sample beers from all over the world while watching the big game on television or hanging out on their patio. They also serve Nashville’s prototypical version of the popular Bushwhacker frozen drink.
You might need that icy Bushwhacker to cool down after a visit to Hattie B’s Hot Chicken around the corner from the Brewhouse. The original location of this chain of Nashville Hot Chicken emporiums often has lines that stretch out the door and around the block of hungry customers looking to sample Hattie B’s fiery fowl, but a recent expansion has mitigated the wait at least a little bit. Pro tip: you can order online or via phone and skip the line straight to the counter to pick up your order of chicken in heat levels ranging from Southern (their name for mild which still has a little kick to it) to the infernal Shut the Cluck Up. The chicken tastes the same in your hotel room as it does in the small dining room, and you’ll be closer to the facilities in case you, err…suffer the repercussions of eating hot chicken.
Urban Cookhouse is a small chain of healthy restaurants based out of Birmingham that emphasizes local ingredients cooked using Big Green Egg grills instead of fryers. Their innovative sandwiches feature smoked and grilled meats and their fresh-squeezed strawberry lemonade is totally addictive. Another bonus is that they have a spacious parking lot behind the restaurant for customers, a rare amenity in the crowded neighborhood.
Although any meal at Tavern is worthwhile, it’s at brunch where they really shine. Vandy students mingle with Music Row executives to enjoy creative cocktails, sangria, Bloody Marys and mimosas. Oh, and food too! Classic brunch dishes such as eggs benedict and huevos rancheros share the menu with more unusual treats like a maple fondue waffle bar for the whole table and buffalo cauliflower that is perfectly fried and will convince carnivores to go vegetarian for at least a few minutes until it’s all gone.
Midtown is blessed with two great pizza parlors. First is Donato’s Pizza, where they brag about how many pepperoni’s they can cram on top of their pies. Actually it ain’t braggin’ if you can back it up, and with 150 pepperonis on one of their specialty pizzas, they have the right to puff their chests a little bit. This being Nashville at all, Donato’s sometimes features live music in their cozy dining room.
Two Boots Pizza refers to the two “boots” of Italy and Louisiana, and this Italian/creole mashup of a pizzeria takes the best from both cultures to create some delectable pies. Each outpost of Two Boots offers some regional specialties they call “Home Pies,” and in Music City that means hot chicken! Another way to try Hattie B’s without waiting in the queue is to order “The Kitty” from Two Boots. This homage to country music legend Kitty Wells is topped with hot chicken tenders from Hattie B’s along with blue cheese dressing and jalapeños plus pickles on the side.
The restaurant at the hip Kimpton Aertson Hotel is called Henley, and it has become popular to both hotel guests and neighborhood residents looking for fine food and even finer drinks. The bar at Henley is a quintessential hotel bar, with talented mixologists who know how to make everyone feel at home be they a weary traveler or party people pregaming for a night on the town. The restaurant is designed to feel almost like visiting a stately Southern mansion, with a front porch, the bar area, a small dining room and a fun library area where you can enjoy your meal with a little more privacy. Even more private is the secret “Rabbit Hole,” a special table that’s actually in the kitchen where small groups can enjoy what Henley describes as “a multi-course tasting experience inspired by Tennessee, its rich bounty, and crafted with modernist techniques.” It’s not cheap, but it’s worth it!
Caviar & Bananas is sort of like Nashville’s version of Dean & Delucas, a specialty store offering regional foods plus a wine bar, coffee counter and high-end deli serving breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner. It’s also a great spot to shop for culinary souvenirs to take back home to give your friends a little taste of the South. Or you can just scarf them all down in your hotel room after a night of honky tonkin’. We won’t judge.
In a town that features a bunch of high-end taquerias, Nada stands out thanks to the restaurant’s striking decor and fantastic cocktail bar. The towering wall of tequilas and mescals makes it tough to pick one, but trusty bartenders will happily guide you to a choice, or you can just select a cocktail from their list. Don’t forget to eat though, even if it’s just an order of their loaded queso or a few tacos from their menu of elevated Mexican specialties.
Ainsworth isn’t your everyday sports bar. From the opulent decor featuring wood and leather and artificial grass on the walls to a menu that includes gold-dusted wings that can run as pricey as $1000 for 50 wings (of course, that particular menu item also includes a gold bottle of Ace of Spades champagne for the big ballers,) Ainsworth screams high class. You can scream too when your favorite team wins a game displayed on one of many hi-def television screens scattered around the dining room, bar area and private lounges. Just don’t spill your champagne…