Have “One Lip-Smackin’ Good Time” on the Music City Bites & Sites Tour
Not only is Nashville known as Music City, where aspiring artists make their mark on the world’s music, but the city is also picking up pace in the culinary realm. Bon Appétit named it the “Coolest, Tastiest City in the South” and with many restaurants like Rolf & Daughters and The Southern Steak & Oyster getting accolades from Bon Appétit and Esquire Magazine respectively, there’s no wonder Travel + Leisure named Nashville No. 3 on their list of “America’s Best Cities.”
With these accolades swimming in my mind, I decided to put Nashville to the test by embarking on the Music City Bites and Sites Tour headed up by Ellen Sevier, a Nashville native with family roots that lead to General John Sevier, the Revolutionary War hero and first governor of Tennessee. Little did I know I would get a fantastic history lesson along with the food tour. Sevier knew lesser-known facts about Nashville and gave us a colorful history as the group strolled along the riverfront, down side streets and onto bustling Broadway, right in the heart of Music City.
There were six stops on our tour that offered a variety of culinary samples like cocktails, Tex-Mex, burgers and pralines. While I loved every establishment we visited, here are my three favorites that were simply unforgettable:
Pralines by Leon
Besides the fact the pralines in the small shop located on 2nd Ave North were wickedly delicious, the history behind Pralines by Leon is just as divine. The original recipes were written by Constantine Vlahos, a Greek immigrant who settled in New Orleans and began making pralines full-time, incorporating the whole family. After his father’s business was sold to new owners in 1955, Leon Vlahos took his father’s handwritten recipes and, in 1994, opened Pralines by Leon in the Historic Downtown Nashville location. Since then, the Food Network, Travel Channel, Southern Living Magazine and more media outlets have gotten a taste of Pralines by Leon and keep coming back for more. Even former President George W. Bush had the candy served during his first State of the Union Address dinner and wrote the company a letter saying how much everyone enjoyed them, that there was “not a single leftover praline!” From bourbon pralines, pecan pralines and even caramels, Pralines by Leon is one confectioner shop you have to visit. Believe me; you’ll want more than just a sample.
The National Underground
Owned by Joey and Gavin DeGraw (yes, the famous Gavin DeGraw), The National Underground welcomes its patrons with natural light streaming through the windows and low lighting around tables. The music and vibe of the tavern is low-key and laid back. You’re also guaranteed to walk in on local and national talent playing on stage seven days a week in true Music City fashion. The National Underground claims it has the “No. 1 burger in Nashville” and as I took a bite of the succulent, half pound brisket seasoned with DeGraw’s dry rub and cooked on an open flame, it was hard to argue. Seasoned, fresh potato chips are served alongside the burger and the crunchiness of the chips with the handmade burger on its soft Martins potato bun is out-of-this-world amazing.
If you’re walking along downtown Nashville and get a hankering for enough sugar to make your teeth sing, you’ll want to make your way to The Rocket Fizz Soda Pop and Candy Shop on 2nd Ave North. Don’t be surprised if, when you first walk in, your eyes glaze over at the wonderland of candy and soda. Calories didn’t count on this stop as we sampled a range of soda flavors. Rocket Fizz has soda flavors like blue cream, cinnamon, cotton candy, gingerbread and apple jalapeño. International candy is stocked high on each shelf with different versions of favorites like Kit Kats, taffy and more. Vintage-inspired music and movie signs cover the walls, making this destination one of a kind.
Have you been on a Music City Bites & Sites tour? Have you been to these establishments? Let me know about your experiences in the comments below!
*All photos courtesy of Kevin Heim