Music City is experiencing rapid growth and development in categories beyond the town’s homegrown country music—its booming food and lifestyle scene is hosting imports from Brooklyn to New Orleans, mixing and matching raw Southern roots with contemporary and refined finesse. The Southern empire is making waves—ride along the three-hour drive from Memphis and take advantage of the capital city’s trends and classics.
Does anyone else wake up craving bagels? Anyone? Well, fully loaded with lox, veggies and herbs or simple with a slab of cream cheese, the bagel sandwich is coveted after late and sleepless nights. When home in Memphis, I pick up a massive order from City East for my neighbor friends; or if I'm thinking ahead, I special order a batch from my chef-friend Josh Steiner of Strano.
But Proper Bagel, recently opened in the Belmont neighborhood of Nashville, has quickly mastered (and capitalized upon) sleepy Sunday mornings, welcoming hour-long lines for a creative line-up of cream cheese and bagel flavors flown daily from Brooklyn. Its crisp white color palette refreshes the hungry audience, making the line amicable and (somehow) enjoyable. During a quick 24-hour girls' trip to Nashville earlier in the month, the Proper Bagel agenda line item pushed to the very top of our list.
If you thought the everything bagel represented variety, try their spinach everything, slightly dyed a natural green that instills some notion of healthiness. Or if you once tried a cinnamon cream cheese, go for the nutella peanut butter. You can try a spoonful while you wait in line, and no one will judge.
The upscale market menu moves beyond a bagel, though; its Instagram boasts brilliant challah avocado toast and kale salads. Barista Parlor blends are the brews of choice. Hold up, New York, cause these are my bagels of choice! And yes, Memphis, they're worth the drive alone!
In an attempt to better observe and appreciate the greater region of which we live--the beautiful South--the day-trip has quickly become my favorite way to spend a weekend. The "tradition" kicked off in Oxford in January. We dined at Chef John Currence's City Grocery, ventured through Town Square and picked up a few novels and knick knacks along the way. Next weekend, I'll head back to Mississippi for a romantic evening at the Alluvian with Alex.
But this past Saturday, the tradition continued in Nashville. Though I had visited approximately a year ago, I treated the Tennessee capital like a blank canvas of culinary opportunity and observation. I was (happily) tasked with restaurant reservations for the twenty-hour stay--and with so many spots on my list, I quickly shifted the focus to all-things food. But are we surprised?
Lunch at Husk Nashville offered plenty o' biscuits, gorgeously presented shrimp and grits with a bright yellow egg yolk (top photo), a peanut butter french toast, and deviled eggs, among others. Their vegetable plate boasts macaroni and grits as two out of the four plates. Oh, the South. More details to come...
A stop at Bleubird's new Two Son, followed by shopping in Green Hills, pushed us into a dizzy spell of decaffeination. We ventured to the Frothy Monkey for honey lattés and a very memorable snickerdoodle cookie.
Our evening out was spent in the rediscovered neighborhood of Germantown (no, not Memphis' suburb). I couldn't decide between 5th & Taylor and Rolf & Daughters...so we decided on both. A very successful progressive dinner, if you will!
On the outdoor patio of 5th & Taylor, a sizable warehouse with striking artwork and hundreds of dripping candles, we were graced with beautiful breezy weather and cucumber vodka and beet gin gimlets. A unique fennel dip (think artichoke dip with a different green centerpiece) with toasted crostini served as our appetizer.
We walked a block to Rolf & Daughters, a cozier space with out-of-this-world flavor combinations. The dishes were described in ingredient lists, challenging our vocabularies and enlisting the help of Google and/or Wikipedia for the first few minutes of our meal. However, our waiter Pam pushed our palettes to new heights--squid ink and mushroom pastas, a broccoli with currant and anchovy, and a lamb sausage with navy beans, to name a few. All was impeccable, especially with the bottle of Italian Pinot Noir by our side.
Sunday morning, the Gulch introduced us to the nationally acclaimed Barista Parlor. The atmosphere was so fantastic -- quiet yet lively, busy yet focused. I ordered a bourbon vanilla latté with almond milk and purchased a few goods along the perimeter of the warehouse space.
Before long, it was time to eat lunch (How? I don't know). The new nearby Proper Bagel was beckoning us, even with its hour-long line. We couldn't have asked for better weather, better new friends in line, or better cream cheese samples. The nova sandwich on a spinach everything bagel did not disappoint--after all, the smoked salmon is flown in from Brooklyn. I got a few ruggelah and pumpernickel bagels to-go for Dad upon ordering at the counter. Had we had enough time, I would have ordered the avocado toast!
The surprisingly scenic drive back to Memphis posed so many ideas--so many concepts--of which I appreciated and would love to see in my own neighborhood. For now, I'll cherish the day trip. I'll be back soon, Nashville.
Want more? Check out my friend The Crazy Tourist's Top 25 Things to Do in Nashville!
I had always heard about Pinewood Social, the brilliant 13,000-square-foot collaboration of breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner; coffee and alcoholic drinks; bowling, dining, and lounging. It's dubbed "a place to meet;" and oh, did I meet a fine selection, both on and off the menu.
Upon entering the vast space, the 360-degree bar may first grab your attention. Yet turn left, and you'll see a mini Crema shop (Nashville's popular espresso spot) with apron-clad baristas and a tiny curated pastry counter. I withheld the initial intention to order a vanilla almond milk latté and saved it for the way out, since we were immediately hitting the road back to Memphis.
Although I am a major brunch fan (especially sunny side up eggs), my mother and sister prefer lunch. So, off we ordered at 11:30 a.m.: a lobster roll, kale salad with grilled shrimp, chicken and biscuits with no gravy (rookie mistake, but we didn't feel as stuffed), and fried broccoli.
The chicken on the biscuits was divine -- not too greasy or breaded, but perfectly crisp upon a dense biscuit. I managed to mention that this put Chick Fil A to shame...and I never thought I'd utter those words.
The lobster roll was different than expected, especially since it wasn't "roll," but more of a sandwich on texas toast. The lobster itself was meaty and flavorful. I could have done without the bun and cauliflower salad. Lobster meat on a plate, please?
The kale salad was mountainous and marvelous, especially with shrimp. I recommend it, though I could have enjoyed a small portion rather than regular (they give you the option). I loved the parmesan and mix of greens and purples atop the plate. It went nicely with the flash-fried broccoli with vegan almond aioli (which I could have eaten alone).
The cinnamon sugar doughnut special...oh goodness. Three dips: bourbon vanilla, salted caramel, and Nutella. Because the dessert was served as doughnut hole, one bite felt like no harm! So I ate three. One for each dip. No regrets.
Next time, I'm bowling and trying the dinner menu. I cannot wait to return and Pinewood Socialize.