Travel


I like to eat. I like to cook too so I appreciate chefs that use locally sourced ingredients to create fabulous dining experiences. Let me tell you, if you choose right, you’re going to have some fabulous dining (and drinking) experiences in Nashville.

When I was there in May for the digitalNow conference, I enjoyed some great meals. I also spent time with my friends Teri Carden of ReviewMyAMS.com and Ben Martin of Online Community Results who moved to Nashville last year. They’ll be chiming in here with some dining and drinking tips of their own.

Since we’re spending lots of time downtown during the ASAE Annual Meeting aka #ASAE14, let’s start there. I’m also including a few places that are located in The Gulch neighborhood.

Husk

My favorite meal in Nashville was at Husk, owned by chef Sean Brock who also owns and runs Husk in Charleston. I walked there for lunch after the digitalNow conference ended — what a great send-off meal. The restaurant, an 1895 home surrounded by gardens, sits on a hill overlooking downtown.

“If it doesn’t come from the South, it’s not coming through the door,” says Brock. My lunch was a celebration of Southern culinary culture, and that celebration started with The Commencement, a cocktail of Cynar, St. Germain, Cocchi Americano, Regan’s orange bitters, salt and soda. My oh my, that was tasty. I was in the mood for greens so I ordered a salad to start: Bloomsbury Farm lettuces, radish and onion with red-eye vinaigrette. I bet the Charcuterie Plate would be another great choice.

Whenever I think about Husk’s Parker House rolls, like right now, I can still smell the yeast and taste that butter glaze. Oh goodness, they are swoon worthy. The best rolls I’ve ever had. Really. I’m starting to think I should bake more regularly.

Husk in Nashville #asae14

A Southern Plate of Vegetables at Husk
(photo by Daniel Zemans/Flickr CC license)

Apparently I felt the need for vitamins because I chose A Plate of Southern Vegetables as my main course. I do love my vegetables. Who knew a plate of vegetables could be so filling, and mind you, I only had two rolls. My plate, a gorgeous slab of polished tree trunk, held four pottery bowls: grits with poached egg and mushrooms in soy broth, succotash with okra, heirloom tomatoes with blue cheese and buttermilk dressing, and hushpuppies.

I finished with a classic — buttermilk chess pie served with lemon cream sherbet studded with tiny little purple and yellow flowers and accompanied by Cruzes’s buttermilk crema. I’m glad I could walk it all off afterwards. What a fabulous lunch.

Husk (Twitter, Instagram) – 37 Rutledge St., .8 miles/17 minute walk from the Music City Center (MCC) or a 1.1 mile/4 minute drive.

The Southern Steak & Oyster

The day before digitalNow started, I had lunch with the Nashville CVC folks at The Southern. After hearing so much about hot chicken (more on that in another post), I knew I had to try the Hot Chicken Salad – mixed greens topped with spicy fried chicken, blue cheese, pickles, celery and carrots. Before I return to Nashville, I’m going to come up with my own version of hot chicken, but baked, not fried. Stay tuned to my Grabbing the Gusto blog for that one.

If I were to have dinner at The Southern, I’d have to try their Royal Red Risotto or Fish n’ Grits followed by Bananas Foster Bread Pudding. Burp. And, of course, there’s oysters.

The Southern (Twitter, Instagram) – 150 3rd Ave. S., .3 miles/7 minute walk from the MCC.

The Southern Nashville #asae14

The Howling Brothers at The Southern during brunch
(photo by Chris Connelly/Flickr CC license)

Virago

If you’re tired of southern food (are you mad?!?!), here’s one of Ben’s favorite sushi places. He says, “The view of the Nashville skyline from their rooftop bar is the best we’ve found. Take a taxi.” His insider tip: “Get the V5 edamame.” On their Instagram feed, Virago has promoted a $6 “Raw Deals” happy hour from 5-7 pm, along with #MakiSakeMonday at 5:00 p.m. featuring half-priced sushi and two-for-one cocktails.

Virago (Twitter, Instagram) – 1126 McGavock St., 0.8 miles/4 minute drive from the MCC.

Merchants Restaurant

The upstairs and downstairs dining rooms at Merchants each have their own menu and good-looking cocktails too. I’m intrigued by the sweet tea pork loin served downstairs with pimento cheese grits, molasses glazed green beans and bourbon jus with some duck fat tater tots as a starter.

Merchants (Twitter) – 401 Broadway, 0.3 miles/6 minute walk from the MCC

merchants restaurant nashville #asae14

Merchants Restaurant in downtown Nashville
(photo by Tom Bastin/Flickr CC license)

Etch

I’ve never been to a restaurant that has Butter Tasting on the appetizer menu. Not yet anyways. One of my digitalNow acquaintances was still raving the next day at lunch about her dinner at Etch. Everything on their menu looks delicious. And the readers of the Nashville Business Journal selected it as their favorite new restaurant. The chef, Deb Paquette, says the cobia – described on the menu as “turkish spiced, brown buttered oranges, capers, olives, raisins, almonds, feta, beignet” – has been a big hit.

Etch (Twitter) – 303 Demonbreun St., 0.2 miles/5 minute walk from the MCC. Closed Sunday.

Flyte World Dining and Wine

Located between downtown and The Gulch, Flyte also has a tempting menu. The chef has a family farm outside Nashville that provides much of the produce for the restaurant. Roasted beets with blueberry, juniper, chive puree and rye crumble are calling my name. Next, I might go for pork with caramelized ramps and onions, Carolina golden rice and pecan milk. All bets are off if the chicken and waffles are on the menu: “two-day yeast waffle topped with thinly sliced spicy pig ears, a silky buttermilk custard, bourbon barrel-aged maple syrup and spritz of house-made hot sauce.” Dang.

Flyte (Twitter) – 718 Division St., .6 miles/14 minute walk from the MCC. Closed Sunday and Monday.

The Farm House

You will see deviled eggs and pimento cheese on a lot of upscale southern menus, so you may as well give in and try them here. I’m looking at the southern natural pork chop with farro boudin, smoked carrot with hay honey, peach apple sauce and buttermilk demi. I can’t not get the charred cream corn and it only seems right to try the skillet plum upside down cake with bourbon butterscotch sauce and brown sugar bourbon ice cream.

The Farm House (Twitter) – 210 Almond St., 0.2 miles/5 minute walk from the MCC. Closed for dinner on Sunday.

Puckett’s Grocery & Restaurant

If you want a friendly atmosphere with good southern food and some pickin’ on the side, make your way to Puckett’s. I’ll have the cherry smoked hot wings and southern fried catfish with sweet potato fries and cole slaw. And the cobbler.

Puckett’s (Twitter) – 500 Church St., 0.5 miles/10 minute walk from the MCC.

Pizzeria Al Taglio

Let’s say you have a few too many craft cocktails and you’re not feeling your best when you arrive at the Music City Center for a day of sessions. Nothing a few slices can’t fix! Lucky for you (and me), there’s a pizzeria right in the MCC. It opens at 11:00 a.m. You can make it until then. Plus, there’s beer.

Pizzeria Al Taglio – 201 5th Ave. in the Music City Center, follow the signs!

Keep your eye out for food trucks. You can follow Nashville food truck lists from Duly Noted and Charles Settles to find out which truck might be in the neighborhood.

Do you know Nashville? What did I miss downtown? Let us all know in the comments.

Stay tuned for more posts on good eats, drinks and other delights in Nashville.

This is the second in a series of posts for ASAE Annual Meeting attendees about Nashville. Thanks to the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corporation, I received complimentary registration and accommodations during the 2014 digitalNow conference – giving me an excuse to spend more of my money on Southern food and craft cocktails.

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If you’re on the fence about attending the ASAE Annual Meeting in Nashville, let me tell you: Nashville will pleasantly surprise you.

No, that’s not quite right.

You are going to have a blast in Nashville! What a cool city!

That’s more like it. In May when I attended the digitalNow conference in Nashville, I wasn’t expecting to fall for the city like I did. What I also didn’t expect: writing eleven posts, at last count, to share my excitement about Nashville. Here’s #1.

I spent a good deal of my time in Nashville with two friends who moved there last year — Teri Carden of ReviewMyAMS.com and Ben Martin of Online Community Results. They have a lot to do with my newfound love for this city because of the places we went together. They’re also going to share some of their favorites in this series of posts about Nashville.

nashville basics #asae14

Photo by John Paul Endicott/Flickr CC license

Welcome to Nashville

I’m very pleased that Southwest has direct flights from RDU to BNA —Nashville International Airport. And, if I decide to come in earlier or stay longer, they don’t charge a fee to change my flight. And, as you probably know, you can check two free bags for free. I’m not on their marketing team, I’m just a big Southwest fan.

Check out the Bonnaroo-themed skylight displays and the other art exhibits in the airport. You’ll probably hear live music in the distance while you make your way to baggage claim.

Once you arrive, the Nashville CVB will take care of you. They’re offering complimentary airport shuttle service to all ASAE’s host hotels on a continuous basis Friday, August 8, 8:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m., Saturday, August 9, 8:00 a.m.–10:00 p.m., and Sunday, August 10, 8:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.

If for some reason, you’re not into shuttles, the airport is about a 15-20 minute drive from downtown, or at least the Omni where I stayed. I don’t remember the taxi fare but according to the airport’s website, it’s $25.

nashville basics #asae14

Music-inspired art at the Omni Nashville

Home Away from Home at the Omni

I’m staying at the Omni Nashville again during Annual and, if it’s not sold out, you should too. It’s right across the street from the Music City Center where Annual is being held and is “fully integrated” with the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum on four levels. I read somewhere their mission is to be an authentic expression of Nashville’s vibrant music culture. Mission fulfilled.

Sometimes it’s the little things that add up to a great experience. Like the music played throughout the public areas of the hotel – a great selection of country AND rock. And then there’s the music-inspired art. I’ll go into that in more detail in another post, but let me just say, the hotel has an art curator in charge of its 350-piece collection. Make time to wander the halls.

The hotel’s design “incorporates local artwork, natural materials, exposed steel and regional limestone – all modern expressions of the city’s distinct character.” In other words, it’s beautiful and comfortable, or as the hotel describes it: “urban elegance with a vintage touch.” See if you can spot all the guitar references in the lobby — the frets on the ceiling and floor, music notes in the chandelier, and the bend of the body in the wood behind the reception desk. If you go into Bob’s Steak & Chop House, check out the cigar box guitars and vintage microphone collection.

Maybe this time I’ll have a chance to enjoy the biscuit bar or the rest of the farm to table menu at Kitchen Notes or have a late night cocktail and listen to a live band in Barlines. If the lines for coffee are too long in the Music City Center, walk across the street to the Bongo Java Coffee Shop in the Omni. For those who are into #poolcon, the rooftop pool at the Omni is stunning. And, it has an outdoor bar too!

nashville basics #asae14

Music City Center photo by Triangle Art Works

Music City Center

While I was in Nashville, the Music City Center (MCC) celebrated its first birthday. Outside on the front patio (across from the Omni), they were serving pieces of a huge cake shaped like the Center – which is shaped like a giant guitar. I passed because I was already too full from the three-dessert sampler served at lunch inside. The food at the MCC was top notch and much of it is sourced locally. I’m already envious of those who will be invited (because I’m sure someone will be) to the chef’s table and tasting room in the MCC’s kitchen.

Here too, the art is fabulous. They even have QR codes on the labels so you can learn more about each piece and artist. All but five of their 128-piece collection are by Tennessee artists. Like the Omni, they use local wood and stone throughout the Center. And art is everywhere – so refreshing. I loved how everyone I met during a tour of the MCC, including guest experience manager Regina Hicks, had a favorite piece of art.

After being at the Music City Center, your expectations of convention centers is going to rise to a new level. Meeting planners are going to love this place. One of my favorite quotes during my tour was when we in one of the green rooms: “This town understands green rooms better than any others.”

nashville basics #asae14

Marty Robbins suit in the halls of the Omni Nashville

Getting Around

Given the schedule, you probably won’t have time to venture far, but I know some of you like to play hooky during sessions. If you need a ride somewhere and you’re too cool for taxis, Nashville has Uber, Lyft, Scooter Squad and Music City Dream Cars if you want to rent a ridiculously sweet car for the day.

If you want to use leg power, Nashville Bicycle often offers 24-hour passes for $5, or at least they did during the CMA Fest and Bonaroo. Or you can rent a bike or take a bike tour with Green Fleet Bikes.

If you travel in large groups and need a bus, and not just any bus, check out the Big Love Bus.

We go to conferences to get inspired by the new knowledge and ideas we pick up in educational sessions. But usually the city is just a backdrop. It was different in Nashville. I left inspired, refreshed and recharged by the city’s music, art, food and good times. They’ve got something special going on there. You’ll see.

This is the first in a series of posts for ASAE Annual Meeting attendees about Nashville. Thanks to the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corporation, I received complimentary registration and accommodations during the 2014 digitalNow conference – giving me an excuse to spend more of my money on Southern food and craft cocktails.

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