Cowboy boots and honky-tonk, everything, everyone lit up on a Saturday night beneath neon signs, not a few in the shape of guitars. All this is what’s made Nashville one of the hottest destination in the US. But all this, is not what you’ll fall in love with.
This is Native Traveler in Music City. We came in search of the Nashville beyond the clichés. We wanted to unearth one big thing about this place that might change the way we saw everything. And I think we found it. Listen in.
(Feature: 2:05; NPR Producer, Jakob Lewis: 9:47; Creative Curator, Libby Callaway: 23:25)
Strolling “East Nasty”
By Liz Beatty
The 20-minute walk from my East Nashville Airbnb reveals that breathtaking change that every local tells you about. Nearby my tidy craftsman cottage, a luxury SUV occupies a groomed driveway next door to a scruffy bungalow with a torn brown plaid couch on the porch. In one block on the main drag, a hipster haberdasher sells $200-plus fedoras next to a tattoo parlor, a pawnshop and the cherished breakfast haunt, Nashville Biscuit House. Inside, a waitress serves ‘southern meat and 3’ (one choice of meat and three sides) under five dollars to locals she knows by name. Their “East Nasty” has somehow morphed into the coolest part of town.
Recent bursts of gentrification have spawned trendy eating spots like The Pharmacy, The Treehouse and just across the bridge to downtown, the reimagined industrial digs of Pinewood Social, complete with bowling alley and interactive letterpress art installation. There’s the Barista Parlor Café with original coffee packaging and portraits by 21st century letterpress printing master, Bryce McCloud. A playful genuine reverence for local roots inspires a striking concentration of vintage clothing, art and vinyl shops—imagine, the lore-filled United Record Pressing is just across town. Among the best, Fond Object Records, and Black Shag where I covet a fuzzy fuchsia ‘70s show outfit of rock and blues pioneer, Edgar Winter.
Mostly, this quiet enclave east across the Cumberland River feels like the crash pad of Nashville creatives. Chill recording spaces like the Bomb Shelter thrive just beyond the orbit of Nashville’s hit-making studios. Venues like The Basement East and Family Wash showcase grassroots talent. Maybe best of all, the vibe here is cool, but in large swaths, unkempt, a neighborhood still figuring itself out. Take the Mas Tacos Por Favor on Mcferrin Ave—just a rustic step above the owner’s original old food truck, it draws a lineup of loyal locals at 3pm on a Monday. “This fish taco is a work of art,” I mumble to the bar keep through a half-full mouth. She grins and slides over my second margarita in a plastic cup.