If you’re going to Nashville for music and culture, I applaud you. But this plan isn’t for you. This plan is for the people who came to eat. This plan is for the people who are super trigger-happy with the phrase, “When in Rome…” specifically when it applies to eating. This plan is for the people whose husbands call them disgusting, but in a kind of half repulsed, half reverent way. Please cue Montell’s “This Is How We Do It.”
Step 1: Lunch at Arnold’s
Matty and I landed in Nashville around 9:00 am. My friend John (also my very first creative partner) told me Arnold’s is the best, and to beat the crowds, we need to be there by about 10:45. In the morning. For lunch. But hey, I’m here to eat, and as John pointed out, “that’s 11:45 your time.” As one of those people who normally eats lunch the moment the clock strikes noon like I’m Cinderella and I’ll lose my one chance at true love if I don’t cram food down my gullet at that exact moment, 11:45 isn’t too early at all.
Arnold’s is a classic “meat and three” joint, which, if you don’t speak Southern, means you pick out a meat and three little side/dessert dishes. I wish it had been a meat and five or six, because there were so many yummy choices.
Step 2: When in Rome…
Or in this case, Nashville, do as the Nashvillians do and have a beer, y’all. I wish I remembered the name of my beer. It wasn’t a Jackalope Lovebird Wheat or a Bearded Iris Noisemaker, but it was some other local brew with a similarly charming name and it went down easy while reminiscing with John. So did the next one.
Step 3: Hot Chicken!
The reason for our trip to Nashville was that Matty was there working on some exciting new happenings for his production company, ELEMENT. He was meeting with a great group of Nashville peeps who took us to Hattie B’s for their legendary hot chicken. Hattie B’s has the following scale for the levels of heat you can order:
So obviously, I had to get SHUT THE CLUCK UP!!!/BURN NOTICE. (Don’t worry, I also got a piece of mild as back up.) I made it through two bites of the STCU chicken before quitting, and all the collard greens, mac & cheese and beer I could jam down my throat didn’t quell the burn. Next time I’ll settle for mere “HOT!” and enjoy being able to taste things.
Step 4: Turn Down for What?
At this point, you might be like, Natasha, you’ve had a huge fried lunch and a huge fried dinner (and at this point I’m embarrassed to mention the chocolate croissant I had for breakfast but that’s what you do at the airport!), it’s time to call it a night. But I’ll say when it’s time to call it a night! And it’s not until after I’ve had my turn-down treats, which were caramels.
[Side note: the maid asked if we wanted turn-down service and I told Matty we’d missed a big opportunity to yell-sing, “Turn down for what?!” The next night, Matty did just that, AND asked for an extra bag of caramels for me, solidifying his #1 position in my heart for life. This is the Glory of Love that Peter Cetera was singing about.]
Step 5: Breakfast at Biscuit Love
How great of a name is Biscuit Love? They’ve basically given a name to a feeling I experience much more than I’m willing to admit. If biscuit love is a forbidden love, I am the Juliet of biscuit romances. But enough about the name. Let’s talk about the food.
I went here with my old friend, Danielle, and she insisted we split a plate of bonuts, which are fried biscuit dough with lemon mascarpone and blueberry compote/the best thing you’ve ever had. Because we’re not amateurs, we also got a full breakfast. In my case, that was an egg plate that came with cheese grits (swoon), chicken sausage, and of course, a biscuit.
If it makes you feel any less nauseated, I didn’t eat it all. But I did finish those cheese grits.
Step 6: Recuperating Lunch at Merchant’s
Mere hours after feeling the Biscuit Love, I went to lunch with my friend Patty, who asked if I wanted barbecue, to which I replied a firm NO. I’m grateful she took me to Merchant’s, a classic downtown Nashville bistro where we both got salads. And okay, fine, I also insisted we split some deviled eggs. Maybe Matty’s right; I am a little disgusting.
Step 7: Romantic dinner at Etch
Many thanks to Danielle and Hugh, who each suggested Etch. After all the heavy food I’d eaten, Etch’s clean and light food was just what the doctor ordered. (Actually, the doctor would probably order me to go on a liquid fast at this point, but let’s not be literal.) We shared their roasted cauliflower and then I had scallops. In other words, I ate like a normal person instead of like the spaghetti guy in Seven.
Step 8: Taco Loungin’
I met Christina, Matty’s business associate’s wife, on Hot Chicken Night, so she’d seen me at my worst, but thankfully still wanted to hang out. She graciously offered to take me to lunch on our last day and together we chose Bajo Sexto Taco Lounge because it doesn’t get any better than sex, taco and lounge all in the same name (with the exception of Biscuit Love, obvs). We had Palomas and some really unique tacos, one was crispy duck and one was surf & turf, which had Asian-style scallops and pork belly.
Extra Credit Bonus step: GooGoo Cluster
I’m of the mind that you need to try the local specialities, even when your body is begging you to please not eat another single thing. Enter GooGoo Cluster.
Body: Seriously, I can’t handle even a single Cool Ranch Dorito more of food.
Me: We’ll just try two to three bites of this.
Guess what? It was pretty Goo-Good. (Sorry.)
ADVANCED EATING TOUR BONUS STOPS:
Loveless Cafe – we didn’t make it there this trip, because even I couldn’t fit in linner, but the Loveless has amazing fried chicken and biscuits that you can totally Biscuit Love. We went there on our last trip to Nashville and it was fantastic.
Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream – multiple people told me this is the best ice cream ever (although I find it hard to believe that anything could beat Bi-Rite Creamery in San Francisco) and it was my one big Nashville eating regret that we didn’t have the time/stomach to make it here.
Anything else I missed? Let me know in the comments.