The Gulch is an area that I used to avoid mainly because of its “trendy” factor—which often translates to high prices and crowds, neither of which I care for—and the ongoing construction due to all the condo high-rises popping up left and right. But lately it seems the Gulch is having a moment (again), and I can’t deny all the cool stuff opening in the LEED-certified community (not to mention, I started working in an office right down the street so, you know, convenience and whatnot).
You’ll find a mix of locals—mostly 20- and 30-somethings who work downtown and find their way here after hours—and out-of-towners, who hear the Gulch is the spot to see and be seen. While street parking can be a pain, you can always park at the Icon, a mixed use complex that allows a free hour of parking. Anything after that is $2 an hour. There’s also a relatively large lot with the same pricing structure on Division Street across from where (the now former) Rumours Wine Bar is located.
Where to Eat
Prima. The newest restaurant to open on the block—just this week, actually—restaurateur Miranda Whitcomb Pontes’ Prima is a 8,800-square-foot upscale European-style bistro with nary a piece of barn wood in sight, as one friend so accurately put it. And as another put it, “this chandelier is the new Pinewood Social,” in reference to its Instagrammable aesthetic. There’s a large wine cellar upstairs and a number of secluded dining chambers perfect for a private event or intimate meal. I only went for the preview, which was drinks and passed apps—each of which was better than the last—but I hear the menu is full of vegetarian options, a welcome addition in a town full of meat-heavy farm-to-tables.
Chauhan Ale & Masala House. This Indian restaurant debuts on the other side of Broadway next week, huzzah! I’ll be there for the preview night and will update the text once I’ve had a chance to try it out. I was at celebrity chef Maneet Chauhan’s pop-up dinner in East Nashville a couple months ago, and I have very high hopes for this spot. Nashville Guru did a sneak peek of the restaurant that you can see here.
The 404 Kitchen. Chef Matt Bolus has been receiving praise and garnering accolades from far and wide for his high-end dining concept housed in an old shipping container that was named a James Beard semifinalist earlier this year. And deservedly so; his 404 Kitchen is consistently one of the tastiest and most reliable meals in town. Matt’s a veteran of such notable restaurants as FIG and Gin Joint (both in Charleston), not to mention Knoxville’s Bistro by the Tracks, and Nashville is lucky to have him at the helm of our dining scene. His burrata is the bomb, and the man also loves his truffles so take note and order whatever truffle goodness is on the menu that night. Tip: There are only 40 or so seats, so make a reservation or grab a spot at the bar (from where you can order food).
Adele’s. Jonathan Waxman put his stamp on Music City when he opened this much-buzzed-about spot near Broadway in early summer that’s open daily for dinner and Fridays for lunch. Adele’s now also offers weekend brunch, something I plan to take advantage of this weekend as brunch spots in this neck of the woods are far too few. Even if you’re not hungry, grab a seat at the bar (that milk punch, OMG) or on the patio in warmer months.
The Turnip Truck. If healthy is your mantra, this is your spot. Think of a smaller, independently owned Whole Foods featuring plenty of local brands, and you’ve got the Turnip Truck.
Virago. Sushi in Nashville? Inconceivable! But if it’s good enough for big city gals like Hayden Panettiere and Taylor Swift (who we’ve lost to NYC, sadly!), it’s good enough for me. Bonus: The wasabi martini, while an interesting flavor profile, is unique and delicious. The best time to go is happy hour (weekdays from 5 to 7pm), when select cocktails are just $6 and other items from the raw bar are also heavily discounted. Virago also boasts one of the best rooftop bars in town (though it’s only open in warmer months).
Moto. When M Street opened this new spot a year or so ago, I immediately just assumed it was going to another cookie-cutter Italian joint. I was wrong. With inventive pizzas, to-die-for meatballs and blueberry lasagna (yes, blueberry lasagna!), Moto pushes the envelope and is my favorite spot for out-of-the-box Italian cuisine in Nashville.
Whiskey Kitchen. The last of the M Street establishments to round out the block (not counting Saint Anejo, which I more recommend for drinks and not food), Whiskey Kitchen is best for lunch or early happy hour as any other time of day the place is a madhouse. It’s got a gastropub-like menu (with the burger always being a good choice), a great selection of whiskeys (duh) and plenty of tasty bar bites, as well.
Kanye Prime. This was one of the first restaurants we dined at after moving back nearly three years ago, and I remember leaving this steakhouse super-stuffed and super-impressed. So why haven’t I been back? The only excuse I can come up with is that there are just too many good restaurants opening on the regular here in Nashville—and also that this is definitely a “special occasion spot” with steaks ranging from $29 to $65. Still, my stomach growls when I think of Kayne’s melt-in-your-mouth popovers. Go there and save some for me, K?
Burger Republic. While it’s hardly my favorite burger in town—Fido’s Local Burger, Gabby’s, Pharmacy or Burger Up share that honor—this mini-chain does cook up a mean patty, served alongside some delightful boozey milkshakes (like Nutella or S’Mores, two of my favorite things in the world), and for that I love it. Plus the Tennessee Burger, featuring Jack Daniel’s Honey BBQ, smoked Ketchup, maple-glazed Benton’s bacon and crispy onions isn’t half bad either.
Also in the Gulch are Watermark, Cantina Laredo and City Fire, but as I haven’t eaten at any of these places, I didn’t want to include them. Feel free to add your two cents about any of these restaurants in the comments if you have.
Hops + Crafts. If you didn’t know it was there, you might breeze right past Hops + Crafts as it occupies a small space in the same building as Turnip Truck. But it’s got an excellent selection of both local and regional craft brews and is a must-stop for beer lovers—or those looking for a casual happy hour spot. (Note: There are also a handful of breweries in the immediate vicinity, which I will cover in a future guide!)
Saint Anejo. I like the food here, though many don’t, but I LOVE the margaritas—or rather, the 2-for-1 deals on Wednesday. Go for happy hour and order a ginger-rosemary marg with chili con queso dip. You won’t be sorry. Spirits connoisseurs will be blown away by the tequila library on tap; personally, I love the patio and the open-air indoor bar on warm nights.
Sambuca. I’m always one to recommend going local first, and Sambuca is a chain that you’ll find in other cities, but if everywhere else has a line, it’s a fine spot to go for a pre-dinner drink (and has great views of the city from its upstairs bar).
Where to Chill Out
Barista Parlor Golden Sound. The new Barista outpost debuted in the Gulch this past fall with the same menu as its predecessor (i.e. delicious biscuits, seasonal scones, and that bourbon vanilla latte I can’t seem to get enough of). I can’t rave about Barista enough—it’s not the kind of place you go to grab a quick cup of joe on the go. The artisan-style approach to making coffee means it takes a bit longer to get your order, but it’s well worth it (and with free WiFi and plenty of space to spread out, it’s a great place to work if you’re a freelancer like me).
Bond Coffee Co. Prior to Barista opening, this was the only real cafe in the area if you needed to schedule a coffee date in the Gulch (or to find free WiFi). I fear Barista’s arrival might means this under-the-radar spot might lose some business, but then again Bond is in a visible position in the Icon, meaning it’s more likely to attract passersby while Barista Parlor is tucked away on Magazine Street not in plain sight.
Where to Hear Music
Station Inn. One of the local icons, this live music joint features a bevy of well known musicians and acts like Jim Lauderdale, alongside up-and-comers or new-to-towners like Nashville star Chip Esten.
12th & Porter. I’m no expert on indie music, but I do know that 12th & Porter lands some pretty good acts. Some say the venue has passed its prime, others say to watch the events calendar to see who’s coming next. I’ll let you decide which route you choose.
Where to Go
The Gulch is primarily a dining and shopping destination, with plenty of stores from national chains such as Loft and Urban Outfitters balanced out by beloved local institutions like Two Old Hippies (not cheap, but chock full of fun gift items and unique apparel).
If you are a sucker for chic home decor, stop into 2OH NEXT (from the same team as Two Old Hippies). If you’re looking to drop $1,000 (or more) on a pair of artfully crafted cowboy boots, Lucchese is your place.
Looking for more culture? Mosey on up to Broadway and into the Frist Center for the Visual Arts, which always has something cool going on.
Where to Stay
The 404 Hotel. This 10-room “urban hideaway” debuted this past March a few months after the attached restaurant of the same name. While I’ve yet to check it out, a dear friend is an “invisible concierge” for the boutique hotel and assures me its top notch. It seems a bit out of my price range, but for those of you with a little more dough to spend and want to stay in the midst of all the action, it’s a great option.
Union Station Hotel. While not technically in the Gulch, this historic hotel is just up the way on Broadway and is the old train depot, one the most recognizable landmarks in town. It’s now owned by Marriott as a member of the brand’s Autograph Collection, and rooms start at $209 a night. If you’re looking for a full-service hotel with character and walking distance to Broadway, Union Station will definitely deliver.
I’m sure I didn’t cover everything cool in the Gulch, so Nashvillians, feel free to pipe up if I missed any of your tried-and-true favorites!
For more Music City-related guides, see: