The Gulch in Nashville

Nashville Neighborhoods: The Best of the Gulch

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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).

The Gulch in NashvilleYou’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.

The Gulch in NashvilleIf you’re heading to Nashville soon, here’s a roundup of what you can expect out of this downtown corridor:

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.

Prima Nashville

courtesy of Prima

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.

Chauhan House

photo via Nashville Guru

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).

404 Kitchen in NashvilleAdele’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.

Adeles in Nashville Adeles in NashvilleThe 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.

Turnip Truck in NashvilleVirago. 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).

Virago sushi in NashvilleMoto. 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.

Blueberry lasagna at MotoWhiskey 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.

Whiskey Kitchen in NashvilleKanye 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?

Kayne Prime in NashvilleBurger 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.

Burger Republic in NashvilleAlso 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.

Watermark in NashvilleWhere to Drink

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.

Saint Anejo Mexican in NashvilleSambuca. 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).

Barista Parlor in Nashville Barista Parlor in NashvilleBond 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.

Station Inn in Nashville Station Inn in Nashville12th & 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).

Two Old HIppies in NashvilleIf 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.

2OH Next in Nashville Lucchese in NashvilleLooking 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.

404 Hotel in NashvilleUnion 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.

Union Station in NashvilleI’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!

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For more Music City-related guides, see:

COMMENTS
  • November 12, 2014

    Wow! What a list! Some great places to eat and chill out in Nashville.
    Renuka recently posted..My 25 Greatest Travel Moments So FarMy Profile

  • November 12, 2014
    Jen

    Great list! Definitely places to check out when we go back! Spent 4 days with some g/f’s in Nashville in August and I can whole heartedly say Nashvilled was one of the best cities I’ve visited in awhile. Fabulous & friendly people, fantastic music, and delicious food!

    • November 12, 2014

      I’m so glad you liked it! Where was your favorite place you ate?

  • November 13, 2014

    Nashville looks like such a fun city!
    Miquel recently posted..Am I Running Away?My Profile

  • November 15, 2014
    Schuyler

    After wanting to visit Nashville for 8 years or so… around the time I graduated from college, I think… I finally visited for work last July. I always thought I’d enjoy Nashville but I didn’t get to explore it nearly as much as I wanted! I’ve been thinking over the last few days that I’d love to go back soon. It was a really cool city, easy to get around and friendly. I’m loving this neighborhood tour so I have some spots to visit next time.

    • November 16, 2014

      Awesome! Glad you got to get a taste for it. What did you do while you were here?

      • November 16, 2014
        Schuyler

        I found a place in East Nashville on Air B&B, so I was in that area; during the conference, I was at the Omni. I visited Traveller’s Rest, the Opry, Belle Meade, and Belmont Mansion, and drove to Franklin to visit some of the homes there. I also did some shopping… Serendipity (12 South neighborhood), Pangaea (Hillsboro), Fabu. I tried some great food; since I was in the neighborhood I stopped at Pancake Pantry and had sweet potato pancakes for the first time (they were amazing). I went to the Belcourt to see a film, and it was nice to do it in the middle of the afternoon when it was quiet! I also stopped by Mas Tacos a couple times, and Hattie B’s.

        I had expected to spend a lot more time listening to music, because I majored in music business in college and had considered moving to Nashville. My coworker and I got to the Bluebird one night, but I missed out on The Family Wash, The Station Inn, Ryman, Robert’s Western World… ok, well, I think I already have my next trip planned.

        I would have liked to wander around Belmont and Vanderbilt, since I work in higher ed, but I’ll have to save that (and the music) for next time!

        • November 16, 2014

          NICE! It sounds like you definitely did Nashville right =)

          Funny, I’ve never thought of sweet potato pancakes as being a Southern (or Tennessee) thing but I recently had a friend come down from NYC and that was on her Nashville to-do list!

  • November 15, 2014

    Can’t say I’ve ever had much desire to go to Nashville…until now, that is. I’m a sucker for innovative restaurants and there seem to be tons in this area! Blueberry lasagna!? Yes. Please.
    Leah of The Mochilera Diaries recently posted..San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua: The Good, The Bad, & The UglyMy Profile

    • November 16, 2014

      Oooh girrrrl, you’re in for a treat then. We’ve got plenty of innovative restaurants in other areas—Rolling Mill Hill, Germantown, East Nashville, 12 South—that this is just a start 😉

  • November 16, 2014

    Ah I would love to go back to Nashville, especially with this list in hand! Okay this is super random, but I’m trying to decide between Canon’s 15-85 and 24-105 lenses and read that you have both. The 24-105 seems like the better lens, but I’m worried that it won’t be wide enough on my Rebel. I realize a lot depends on photography style, but I would love to hear your thoughts on them!
    Silvia recently posted..Photography Lessons from BoracayMy Profile

    • November 16, 2014

      I LOVE the 24-105mm. It is the only lens I use these days other than my wide (10-20mm) on occasion. I think it will offer you a great variety, and the portraiture capabilities are so much better than the 17-85.

      • November 17, 2014

        Thanks, Kristin, that’s super helpful! I’m now between the 17-55 and 24-105, but I think I’m going to go with the 24-105. 🙂
        Silvia recently posted..How I Afford to Travel the WorldMy Profile

  • November 16, 2014
    Uma

    Wow, there is a lot of stylish places to be found in Nashville these days … can’t wait to visit so I can partake in some of these spots!
    Uma recently posted..Discover Sydney’s Countryside: Top Things To Do In Hunter Valley, NSWMy Profile

  • June 9, 2015
    Tia

    Really helpful post! I really love these places! I should visit Nashville! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  • August 1, 2015
    David

    We are coming to Nashville in mid August and was wondering if there was a place like a bar/restaurant where we could have lunch and some drinks and listen to some local country western talent during the afternoon?
    Thank you.

    • August 1, 2015

      Yes, definitely. Pretty much anywhere on Broadway has live music 24/7. You could eat at Jack’s BBQ or Merchant’s and then wander into the Stage and/or Robert’s for music. Or you could eat at Rippy’s and watch a show while you dine. Acme Feed & Seed is great, too; they do Southern food and have live music daily (though usually at night). Basically, if you head to Lower Broadway, you’ll have plenty of options =)

      • August 1, 2015
        David

        Thank you for your prompt reply Kristin.

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