All mouth-watering photos, including this from Mas Tacos Por Favor, courtesy of Isabel Thottam.

This month I’m featuring guest blogger and Instagram foodie extraordinaire, Isabel Thottam. She’s soaking up the sights, sounds, and flavors of Nashville, Tennessee as a transplant-turned-local, and she kindly agreed to share her tastiest stops for a short jaunt to this classic American city. Isabel and I have travelled together as well — from New Mexico to Nicaragua — and I’m excited to introduce her to all of you Wanderful ladies. Enjoy!

Nashville is a small town with a big-city name that has hundreds of people relocating to its bustling real estate market every single day. It’s a city often referred to as “Nash Vegas” for being the bachelor and bachelorette party destination of the South, but what tourists might not find are a few hidden gems in the city’s local food, music, and social scenes.

Whether you’re driving through Nashville on a cross-country road trip or visiting for the weekend, here are a few tips from a local for a more laid back experience.

Crema — photo courtesy of Isabel Thottam.

Eat your way through Nashville.

I’ll be honest, most of my time in Nashville is spent eating, not drinking or listening to music. Sometimes you get a good combination of all three, but I can make one solid suggestion for your trip here: Come hungry.

Brunch is a huge deal in Nashville. Though you won’t find the most diverse cuisines, you will find what you’re probably looking for: chicken and waffles or biscuits and gravy. Biscuit Love Brunch is widely popular and deservedly so for a mouth-watering (and sometimes face-sweating) hot chicken on a biscuit. You’ll mostly likely have to stand in a line that stretches out the door, but it’s worth it.

Photo courtesy of Isabel Thottam.

Hands down, the best brunch spot with the most bang for your buck is Sky Blue Café in historic East Nashville. It’s a personal goal of mine to eat my way through their menu, and I have yet to be disappointed. Their Florentine Benedict and the deliciously challenging Em’s Bowl (a biscuit topped with home fries, two eggs, sausage gravy, Colby jack, jalapeños, and sour cream) will leave you desirably comatose.

I’m always looking for tacos anywhere I go, and Mas Tacos Por Favor tops the charts. Their Chicken Tortilla Soup and Fried Avocado Taco are usually sold out, so try both if you’re lucky and they’re available!

Mas Tacos Por Favor — photo courtesy of Isabel Thottam.

Even if you’re not feeling up to it, you have to try hot chicken while in Nashville. Most people will suggest Hattie B’s, which is good, but not nearly as hot as what Prince’s (the original) or Pepperfire in East Nashville can offer. If you don’t eat chicken, you can’t get out of this just yet – Bolton’s offers a spicy fish and an authentic Nashville experience.

Hattie B’s — photo courtesy of Isabel Thottam.

Secret shows are worth the wait.

Secret shows probably aren’t so secret anymore, but Nashville takes their experiences to another level.

Sofar Sounds hosts intimate secret gigs across the globe, and Nashville’s chapter puts on monthly house shows you want to get invited to. The trick is you have to be on their mailing list to know it’s happening – then you have to email and ask for an invite and cross your fingers that you get invited. The gigs never cease to turn out some of the hidden, local talent or well-known artists passing through. You never know what you’re getting into, but you won’t be disappointed!

If you can’t get into a Sofar show, the good news is there are so many opportunities to see live music in Nashville. If a band you love isn’t in town, you surely can walk into any restaurant or bar and find yourself dancing. Similar to Sofar, Cause A Scene is run by locals who just want to gather and listen to good music. If you can plan your trip around one of their shows, you’re guaranteed to see and discover a new favorite artist in Nashville.  Isn’t that why you’re here?

Sofar show — photo courtesy of Isabel Thottam.

Drink socially with coffee or beer.

If you’re asking someone for something to do in Nashville, they might suggest a place called Pinewood Social. You may not believe them, but it actually is an old warehouse converted into a modern-day “social” club. Known for it’s fancy cocktails; vintage bowling lanes; and a trendy, outdoor pool, Pinewood is a great place to catch up with an old friend or meet new ones. The atmosphere is casual and laid back, so you won’t be competing against music for conversation.

Cocktails in the evening, coffee in the morning and afternoon; Nashville is also budding quite the coffee scene that will have locals arguing over which spot is “the best spot.” Crema steals my heart for its smooth espresso; latte art; and small, cozy atmosphere. Plus, anytime you put wildflowers in a mason jar, you create a calm, relaxing environment.

Barista Parlor — photo courtesy of Isabel Thottam.

Barista Parlor is probably one of the most Instagram-ed places in Nashville. I’m sure you’ve already heard of their garage doors, motorcycles, and moustaches. But they do have the drool-worthiest, sage-infused savory sausage that they so wisely place on a warm biscuit, covered in peach or strawberry jam.

While Nashville may be inadvertently known for its Honky Tonks and country music scene, the city has more to offer than cowboy boots. If you’re close enough to drive here for a weekend or you’re looking for a good stopping point on your road trip, Nashville surely is the new place to be. You may just leave wanting to re-locate!

Downtown Nashville — photo courtesy of Isabel Thottam.


About Isabel Thottam

Isabel Thottam is a freelance writer and social media strategist. In 2013 Isabel graduated with a B.A. in Visual and Media Arts from Emerson College, where she specialized in Screenwriting with a minor in Entrepreneurial Studies. Isabel currently writes for Monster’s Career Blog, giving advice to college students and post-graduates. She is an avid traveler, Instagram addict, and a strong advocate for social good companies and tacos.