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A Guide to Nashville’s Hipster Neighborhoods

nashville

Today’s post is the first from another new writer, my sister Rachel. She lives in Athens, Georgia, but loves exploring the South. She enjoys coffee, music, and all things cultural.

Like so much of the South, what you see on TV or gather from the lives of its inhabitants (Paula Deen, Mark Sanford, Honey Boo Boo) does not provide an accurate picture of the states that create my home. While you may think that Nashville has nothing more than country music, bar-crawling along Broadway, and fictional characters from a dramatic ABC show, this Southern city has so much more to offer. I travel to Nashville not only to see my family and friends who call Music City home, but also because Nashville is a city with a vibrant food and arts culture situated along the Cumberland River. Hip, young locals might feel as at home here as they would in cities like Portland, Austin or Brooklyn. But it all comes down to knowing which neighborhoods are worth visiting.

East Nashville

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If you had spoken to Nashvillians a few years back, they would have swiftly directed you away from this side of town. But thanks to small business owners who decided to invest in this neighborhood, you’ll find East Nashville to be a place pocketed with vintage clothing shops, farm-to-table style restaurants and markets, and refined coffee shops all frequented by the artists and musicians that call this neighborhood home.

Every true hipster knows that if you can find the best coffee shops in a city, then you can find the best of everything else: music, art, and food. Luckily, Nashville is home to some of the South’s best coffee shops, like the award-winning CREMA, a specialty coffee shop near Broadway, and one of my all-time favorites, Barista Parlor. A destination in itself, Barista Parlor began in 2011 at the hands of owner Andy Mumma, a Southerner who started Barista Parlor as a culmination of the best of the country and his city. He selected the top US-roasted coffees and detailed his shop with artisan creations of Nashville, such as the hand-carved wooden menus by local print artists and bar stools and tables fashioned out of locally reclaimed wood.

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While specialty coffee shops can be intimidating, rest assured that Barista Parlor isn’t what you might expect; the baristas here are friendly, as all good Southerners should be, and the shop has an open-bar system. This means that most tables face the counter and brewing station, fostering an open environment to not only enjoy the shop’s coffee, espresso, breakfast sandwiches and desserts, but also to learn how your favorite morning cup is made. Stop by Barista Parlor early before the line reaches the door. This way, you’ll get your drink sooner, a definite perk for a crisp winter morning, and be able to people-watch as local artists, families, and retirees enter through the former garage’s open doors. Step up next to the old motorcycles that frame the theme of the shop, matching Barista Parlor’s racing flag logo and sailing ship artwork, and take one of the unique hand-carved menus. As the counter barista pauses to flip Iron & Wine on vinyl, take note of the macarons, pastries, and cookies displayed in the front counter’s glass casing. While you’re there, pick up one of the gourmet chocolate bars from Olive & Sinclair, a brand of delicious chocolate stone-ground in Nashville.

Along with your espresso, try the Southern Frenchman, a unique breakfast sandwich consisting of a crumbly buttery biscuit, bacon, egg, and jelly. Served on handmade wooden plates, Parlor’s breakfast sandwiches are both creative and delicious. I tried the Ham & Swiss on a crispy brown bun with homemade pickles and a sweet, savory honey mustard sauce.

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After enjoying your quiet morning cup, don’t forget to pick up a 12-ounce bag of one of the many roasts that Barista Parlor sells in store, such as Intelligentsia, Counter Culture, Verve, Sightglass, Handsome, and Stumptown, or invest in some brewing equipment to make great coffee at home. Barista Parlor offers brewers like the Aeropress and Chemex, porcelain pour-over cones, electric kettles, glass decanters, and filters so that you can take your Nashville coffee experience home with you.

Next in East Nashville, head over to one of the many vintage clothing stores and upgrade your hipster wardrobe beyond the extensive amount of flannels, beanies, and desert boots that have found their way into your closet. Try the Hip Zipper Vintage, which offers affordable and properly selected vintage pieces. For the ladies, you’ll find tons of vintage shoes, bags, and jewelry to round off your new outfits, which the friendly staff will be happy to piece together with you. Gentlemen, fight off those first bites of winter with a fresh letterman jacket. Other options nearby for vintage include Old Made Good, whose owner helped decorate the antique-y interior of Barista Parlor. Here you’ll find clothing, home goods and quirky gifts, like vinyl records that your parents heard live or locally made jewelry for your girlfriend who eerily resembles Zooey Deschanel. You may also want to shop at stores like Hey Rooster General Store, which offers handmade goods and gifts on nearby Gallatin Avenue, before heading over to one of the top-rated restaurants in town, The Pharmacy Burger Parlor & Beer Garden. This locally-loved burger joint and beer garden provides the perfect ending to a casually cool day in East Nashville. But if you’re not in the mood for a burger, stop by the popular Marche Artisan Foods, a casual cafe and market serving three meals daily, or their sister restaurant, the upscale Margot Café & Bar, offering simple, seasonal takes on European dishes.

Hillsboro Village

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Aside from East Nashville, a neighborhood I recommend for your hipster weekend in Nashville would be Hillsboro Village near Belmont and Vanderbilt universities. Located south of Music Row and right next to Midtown, Hillsboro Village is a youthful neighborhood, blending the residences of music producers and the Belmont music students who want to befriend them. Near historic homes and small music studios, you’ll find affordable restaurants, interesting shops for clothing, books and gifts, plus another one of my favorite coffee spots in Nashville called Fido. This former pet store not only features house-made muffins, cakes, and specialty lattes in addition to its coffee; Fido has an all-day menu, making it the perfect place to stop for a bite no matter the time of day.

I’d recommend stopping by Fido after a casual dinner at the nearby SATCo, or the San Antonio Taco Co, where you’ll rub elbows with Vanderbilt students. This low-key, cheap taco spot is a delicious, quick choice when you’re on the west end of the city. Head into the door on the right side of the neon SATCo sign, grab a pencil and fill out your favorites on the tear-off Tex-Mex menu. Try the fish taco with guacamole and a side of their creamy Velveeta-y queso dip. San Antonio Taco Co. is perfect for after a long drive (or ride on the MegaBus) or to cure a hangover after a rowdy night on Broadway.

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Also in Hillsboro Village, you’ll find Pangaea, a small store loved by locals and visitors alike because of its clever collection of gifts, clothing, and jewelry. My favorites from Pangaea include a “What Would Jesus Wear?” magnet set, Dios De Los Muertos decorations, and vintage-inspired compasses. Next door, wander the overflowing aisles of BookManBookWoman Books, one of Nashville’s handful of independent bookstores. Its two rooms are filled to the brim with used books with some newer volumes sprinkled in toward the front.

While you’re in the area, head over to Local Honey, another vintage shop that is perfect if you’re traveling as a couple to the city. Wind your way through the old house-turned-hipster-haven, where they have a selection of vintage and redesigned clothing for both men and women, all at fair prices. Don’t worry, gentlemen, you’ll find more than embarrassing Hawaiian print shirts here. Local Honey’s men’s section, curated with cool factor and wearability in mind, is designed by the gentlemen who are now Local Honey’s new owners.

The Best of the Rest

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Besides shopping, coffee, and the best restaurants, Nashville is nothing without live music. While I’ve only been to a few of Nashville’s live music venues, there are plenty of places to go after exploring one of Music City’s hip neighborhoods. If you’ve got the time to plan ahead, try to catch a show at the Ryman Auditorium, a former church, the birthplace of the Grand Ole Opry, and “the Carnegie Hall of the South.” Not only have famous feet stepped on the stage of the Ryman, such as those of Elvis Presley and and Johnny Cash, but the stunning acoustics of this Nashville landmark make it one of the best places in the country to see live music. Another venue that has recently gained popularity is the Bluebird Cafe, a small listening room that features original songwriters, many of whom have gone on to write for Nashville’s biggest country music stars. If you can’t score a reservation at the Bluebird during your time in Nashville, try the Exit/In for a bit of contrast. This rock venue has also hosted many big names in the national music scene, such as Bon Iver, Willie Nelson, and The Ramones. If you’re looking for something a bit different during your trip to Nashvegas, then try the Listening Room Cafe or 3rd & Lindsley Bar & Grill, both of which will give you a true taste of the Nashville music scene.

No matter which neighborhood you frequent in Nashville or how Instagram-worthy your trip, you can bet on this city giving you a unique Southern experience. From the modern twists on classic Southern recipes to the city’s quintessential country music blended with new folk-rock influences, Nashville encompasses the true face of the new South: keeping the best of the city’s history and coupling it with the creativity of a new generation.

All photos are property of the author unless otherwise noted.

Mentioned in this post
  1. CREMA
    Restaurant in Nashville Tennessee

    15 Hermitage Ave
    Nashville Tennessee
    (615) 255-8311
    http://www.crema-coffee.com/
  2. Barista Parlor
    Attraction in Nashville Tennessee

    519 Gallatin Ave
    Nashville Tennessee
    (615) 712-9766
    http://www.baristaparlor.com/
  3. Hip Zipper Vintage
    Attraction in Nashville Tennessee

    1008 Forrest Ave
    Nashville Tennessee
    (615) 228-1942
    http://www.hipzipper.com/
  4. Old Made Good
    Attraction in Davidson County Tennessee

    3701B Gallatin Pike
    Davidson County Tennessee
    (615) 432-2882
    http://www.oldmadegood.com/
  5. Hey Rooster General Store
    Restaurant in Davidson County Tennessee

    1106 Gallatin Ave
    Davidson County Tennessee
    (615) 712-7680
    http://www.heyrooster.com/
  6. The Pharmacy Burger Parlor & Beer Garden
    Restaurant in Nashville Tennessee

    731 Mcferrin Ave
    Nashville Tennessee
    (615) 712-9517
    http://thepharmacynashville.com
  7. Marche Artisan Foods
    Restaurant in Davidson County Tennessee

    1000 Main St
    Davidson County Tennessee
    (615) 262-1111
    http://www.marcheartisanfoods.com/
  8. Margot Café & Bar
    Restaurant in Davidson County Tennessee

    1017 Woodland St
    Davidson County Tennessee
    (615) 227-4668
    http://www.margotcafe.com/pages/home.htm
  9. Fido
    Restaurant in Nashville Tennessee

    1812 21st Ave S
    Nashville Tennessee
    (615) 777-3436
    http://bongojava.com/fido.php
  10. San Antonio Taco Co
    Restaurant in Nashville Tennessee

    416 21st Ave S
    Nashville Tennessee
    (615) 327-4322
    http://thesatco.com/
  11. Pangaea
    Attraction in Nashville Tennessee

    1721 21st Ave S
    Nashville Tennessee
    (615) 269-9665
    http://www.pangaeanashville.com/
  12. BookManBookWoman Books
    Attraction in Nashville Tennessee

    1713 21st Ave S
    Nashville Tennessee
    (615) 383-6555
    http://www.bookmanbookwoman.com/
  13. Local Honey
    Attraction in Davidson County Tennessee

    2009 Belmont Blvd
    Davidson County Tennessee
    (615) 915-1354
    http://www.lhnashville.com/
  14. Ryman Auditorium
    Attraction in Nashville Tennessee

    116 5th Ave North
    Nashville Tennessee
    (615) 458-8700
    http://www.ryman.com/
  15. Grand Ole Opry
    Attraction in Nashville Tennessee

    2804 Opryland Drive
    Nashville Tennessee
    (615) 871-6779
    http://www.opry.com
  16. Bluebird Cafe
    Restaurant in Davidson Tennessee

    4104 Hillsboro Pike
    Davidson Tennessee
    (615) 383-1461
    http://www.bluebirdcafe.com/
  17. Exit/In
    Attraction in Davidson County Tennessee

    2208 Elliston Pl
    Davidson County Tennessee
    (615) 321-3340
    http://www.exitin.com/
  18. Listening Room Cafe
    Restaurant in Davidson County Tennessee

    217 2nd Ave S
    Davidson County Tennessee
    (615) 259-3600
    http://listeningroomcafe.com/
  19. 3rd & Lindsley Bar & Grill
    Restaurant in Nashville Tennessee

    818 3rd Ave S
    Nashville Tennessee
    (615) 259-9891
    http://www.3rdandlindsley.com/

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8 Responses to A Guide to Nashville’s Hipster Neighborhoods

  1. Damon and Jo April 1, 2015 at 10:13 am #

    Thank you Rachel! I will be coming to Nasvhille this weekend for the first time ever and was looking for some sort of go-to “cool” guide to Nashville! You nailed it! Maybe I’ll see you around. :D

  2. Amy July 24, 2015 at 11:31 am #

    You forgot to mention a Nashville hipster staple right behind Exit/In: Cafe Coco, an open 24hr hipster haven.

  3. Nativenashvillian July 26, 2015 at 8:45 pm #

    This isn’t very accurate. Crema is in Sobro not East. Satco is in midtown, not Hillsboro village. What about Germantown? The nations? Inglewood?

  4. Brett January 10, 2016 at 12:57 pm #

    Rachel,

    Your comment is racist and is the reason why people hate gentrification. Rather than embracing a local culture, folks seem to be happy enough, blasting it out of the water with fads that will die as quickly as the caffeine buzz from your hip coffee shops.

    “…East Nashville has gone through a much needed renaissance. Instead of solely weave-in hair salons and quinceanera dress shops, you’ll find East Nashville to be a place pocketed with vintage clothing shops, farm-to-table style restaurants and markets, and refined coffee shops all frequented by the artists and musicians that call this neighborhood home.”

    • Caroline Eubanks January 13, 2016 at 3:52 pm #

      Brett,
      I’m responding on behalf of Rachel as I run the website. I’ve removed the passages mentioned in your comment. The purpose of this post was to encourage travel to Nashville and point out places travelers might enjoy. Thanks for reading this and offering your opinion but I assure you that what you claim was not her intention.
      Caroline Eubanks
      Editor

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