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Nashville Neighborhood Watch: Hillsboro Village

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Nashville Neighborhood Watch: Hillsboro Village
Biscuit Love; Photo Courtesy of Biscuit Love

Hillsboro Village is literally a “blink and you’ll miss it” dining destination, just two blocks long and nestled between Green Hills and Midtown. But you’d be hard pressed to find a greater variety of good eats and drinks with a few minutes walk anywhere in Nashville, plus there are some fun shops and boutiques interspersed among the restaurants and bars, so you can make a full day of it. Find a parking spot on a street nearby and hoof it for a trip back to the days when pedestrians still ruled the streets and sidewalks.

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream marks the southern entrance to Hillsboro Village along 21st Avenue, and it’s hard to miss since there is almost always a line out the door of fans who just can’t get enough of the butter fat-laden specialty ice creams being scooped out of the colorful vats inside of Jeni’s. You can also pick up a pint to go of your favorite flavor.

Next door to Jeni’s is Revelator Coffee Company, a Southeastern chain of fine cafes serving expertly-prepared espresso and coffee drinks made using premium beans. Using modern equipment to roast and brew, Revelator serves a fine cuppa in a sleek and stylish environment.

Double Dogs just wants to make people happy. What sort of people? The kind who like great hot dogs, tasty burgers, craft beer and cocktails, and all the televisions any sports fans could ever ask for showing just about every game you might want to see. Y’know, the kind of people you’d want to hang out with.

If you do prefer burgers more than dogs, Hopdoddy Burger Bar is just a hop next door, serving creative toppings on top of beefy patties on buns baked from scratch. In addition to Angus beef burgers, you can also find sandwiches featuring chicken, turkey, tuna and vegetarian options like a great black bean and corn patty or the “Impossible Burger,” a plant-based option that might just fool you into thinking you’re eating meat.

Fido Cafe has been a Village stalwart for decades. Named after a dog as a reference to the former Jones Pet Shop that once occupied the location, Fido serves all sorts of creative coffee drinks as well as beer, wine and a surprisingly elevated menu of breakfast-centric dishes along with soups, salads and sandwiches.

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When Sunset Grill closed in Hillsboro Village after almost 25 years, many fans of their fresh cuisine were disappointed. But like a phoenix from the ashes, three excellent dining options arose in the building, so that’s helped to soften the blow. I Love Juice Bar is pretty small with just a few tables, but a lot of great food comes across their little counter. From fresh-squeezed juices to healthy smoothies to bowls, I Love Juice Bar has all sorts of treats that are actually good for you.

Not quite as healthy, but no less delicious are their neighbors next door at The Grilled Cheeserie, where they serve elevated versions of the gooey sandwiches that were the staple of “Sandwich Night” in many households. Featuring specialty melts like a Pimento Mac & Chee and a rich Spinach & Artichoke Melt that is almost like eating your favorite dip on bread, The Grilled Cheeserie probably shouldn’t be an everyday dining option, unless you’re really good friends with your cardiologist. So if it’s going to be a treat anyway, go ahead and order something from their fantastic Milkshake Bar to go with your sandwich.

Biscuit Love; Photo Courtesy of Biscuit Love
Biscuit Love; Photo Courtesy of Biscuit Love

While the Biscuit Love location in the Gulch often has long line of tourists stretching out the front door, their second outpost in Hillsboro Village has the same food and usually smaller crowds. As the name implies, their biscuits are to die for and the sandwiches that the kitchen makes using those fluffy delights make for a full meal, especially the East Nasty, a slab of fried chicken topped with cheddar and sausage gravy atop a buttermilk biscuit.

Speaking of long lines, Pancake Pantry almost always attracts a crowd around the block waiting to get inside to enjoy all sorts of varieties of flapjacks. They offer 23 types of scratch-made pancakes ranging from savory Sante Fe Pancakes to delightfully sweet Strawberry Shortcakes. To tell the truth, it’s probably worth the wait since making pancakes at home never works out as well as you expected.

Cabana is another long-time Village favorite since the days when the neighborhood was one of the only places you could depend on to find a decent drink in this town. Even though there are now plenty of crafty cocktail bars around Nashville, Cabana still delivers great drinks plus what they call “Casual Southern Comfort Cuisine.” It’s also a very popular spot for parties looking for semi-private dining in one of the restaurant’s cabanas that are available for reservations with a reasonable food and drink minimum spend on weekends.

Decidedly and delightfully lowbrow is The Villager Tavern, where generations of neighborhood residents and college students have enjoyed cold beers, darts and foosball since 1973. If you visit on your birthday, you and your friends can “enjoy” the “privilege” of drinking a dog bowl full of draft beer. It’s a rite of passage, so just go for it!

Take a quick turn down Belcourt Avenue in the middle of the Village to discover a few more fun eateries. MacDougal’s Chicken Fingers and Wings is rightly proud of their limited menu. By concentrating on tenders, wings and fries served with thick slabs of Texas toast, McDougal’s ensures consistent and delicious baskets of fried goodness. Accompanied by a tangy housemade remoulade dipping sauce, their food is absolutely craveable.

Donut + Dog also offers a weirdly specific menu of gourmet hot dogs and brioche-style donuts, but they do it oh so well. You can also order custom coffee drinks or craft beers to go with your meal, depending on what time of day it is.

Sushi 88 is a quaint little sushi joint offering inventive rolls, sashimi and noodle dishes for dining in or carrying out. While it’s nothing fancy, you can’t beat the prices for affordable sushi made with the freshest ingredients available in this land-locked state.

Belcourt Taps is located in a converted bungalow, and the vibe feels like you’ve been invited into a friend’s house for beer and burgers. That is, if your friend also had local songwriters set up in the living room to entertain you with live music and if he had a smoker in the backyard to cook up some fantastic barbecue. But hey, this is Nashville after all. It could happen.

Bare Naked Bagel; Photo Courtesy of Bare Naked Bagel
Bare Naked Bagel; Photo Courtesy of Bare Naked Bagel

If there is one food that Nashville could use more of, it would be good bagels. Bare Naked Bagel is doing their part to right this wrong. Owned and run by three native New Yorkers, Bare Naked Bagel serves up the closest approximation to a real Manhattan bagel in the neighborhood, either alone, with a schmear of cream cheese or as part of some impressive bagel sandwiches like The Californian or the Italian Stallion. They’re definitely a welcome addition to the neighborhood.