Relax in Nashville Like a Local

Relax in Nashville Like a Local


Before moving abroad, I lived in Nashville from 1987-2014.   This year I plan to move back to Tennessee and the place I call home.  Most tourists come to Nashville for offerings in the  downtown area –country music, sports, special events–but for lazier days wandering urban neighborhoods like-a-local is relaxing and fun.  Over Thanksgiving weekend I had an amazing meal  in  East Nashville at Lockeland Table.  I had to try their Southern Girl Cocktail.  The Tennessean shows how it’s done here.   Two other favourite places I love to roam and relax are  Hillsboro Village where I did some Christmas shopping, and 12th South where I stayed a couple of nights before returning to the Caribbean.



At Pangea my daughter, Taylor, and I love to shop for clothes, purses, and other global goodies from Asia, India, and Central America.  We found unique Christmas gifts–an antique brass compass and magnifying glass, a book on Southern cocktails, a leather wristband band–and a necklace and earrings for ourselves.  Through the years I’ve loved birthday surprises from here–a book on literary lore, gift cards for vintage clothing or bedding.

And if you want to play around with a new look, stop by SEE.  Here truly all that is old is new again with retro- large- lens-a-plenty. I saw my eye doctor there and picked out new specs for a new year.



The Belcourt in Hillsboro Village

A holiday highlight was a mother-daughter day at The Belcourt which was closed for renovation when I was home last summer.  Although I missed this old familiar face , sinking into the seats of the historical hub of independent films felt like home.  The nonprofit first opened its doors in 1925 to show silent movies on the city’s largest stage, but its vital voice in the community rallied supporters to make needed structural upgrades and add a second floor for a third screen and classroom space for educational outreach. For steering its expansion/revival Stephanie Silverman was named 2016 Nashvillian of the Year.  Last fall in addition to the beloved weekend classicsnew releases,  midnight moviesSaturday family films, and offerings by Vanderbilt University faculty, local ladies benefited from Strong Leads: A Film Seminar for High School Girls, a six-week-after-school program on films about or made by women. And speaking of strong female leads…

Fans of Camelot, Taylor and I saw Natalie Portman in Jackie.  I’ve always had a thing for the Kennedy story–probably because  I remember though only four-years-old watching As the World Turns with my mother (I named my little sister after Penny, the main character).  When Walter Cronkite interrupted the program to announce the President had been shot in Dallas, my mother called her mother.  It was the first time I saw her cry.  The film focuses on the seven days after JFK’s assassination from Jackie Kennedy’s perspective shared exclusively with  Life magazine writer Theodore H. White.

Though heavy for the holidays, we appreciated the film’s honesty.   Portman’s performance, a raw and rare portrayal of a very real wife, mother, woman, pushes past previously guarded and gilded glimpses at the most private-forced-public of First Ladies. Today a new generation reads What Would Jackie Do?   inspired by her iconic taste in apparel, home restoration, and social graces.  As with many women of her era, it wasn’t her style to take charge of her life until after Jack’s death when she became the Leading Lady of his legacy and her children’s future.  Like Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon, the story of King Arthur’s Camelot from the queen’s perspective, the movie is more interesting than the original fairy tale because–like many women–Jackie helped create it to protect the ones she loved.  Intelligent writing and exquisite cinematography merge historical details documentary-style with high art. The result is gut-wrenching. Although her prominent position exacerbated her tragedy, women who have lost children or raised them alone by death, divorce, or default can relate to how alone she felt.  Taylor was impressed with Portman’s portrayal of strength and loyalty.  She observed of Jackie’s tortured and tenacious planning of the burial: “She wanted the funeral to be perfect, but funerals are really more for the living than the dead.”  Portman is expected to be nominated for an Oscar and the movie for Best Picture.  It has already won Critics’ Choice Awards for Best Actress,  Best Screenplay and Costume design, and Hollywood is still abuzz about Portman’s Jackie-like couture on the Golden Globe Red Carpet.  If you are into history or empathy, see it no matter where; but if you can catch it at The Belcourt, bonus.

Other places locals like…

Fido  coffee/cafe 

Jackson’s brunch and drinks on patio (for specials like 1/2 off bottles of wine go here)

Cabana nightlife

Pancake Pantry for those who don’t mind a line and a long wait


Just a few streets away from Hillsboro Village is 12th Avenue South flanked by new high rise apartments, historical craftsman cottages, and locals’ long-time hangouts.


Once upon a time this building was a cheese shop where I took Italian lessons upstairs. Today it is Five Daughters Bakery, home of the legendary cronut–a donut/croissant hybrid that takes three days to craft.  Read about the adorable family behind the business here.





Last summer when I stayed in the 12th South area,  I couldn’t get into bartaco for dinner.  Crowds spilled out the doors and draped over the patio walls waiting for a table, so my sister, niece, daughter and their guys met there for lunch instead.  The food was fresh, the music fun, the atmosphere relaxed–much like beach bars in Samana province of The Dominican Republic where I was headed the next day.  The baja fish and sesame ribeye tacos, corn, guacamole and sangria were excellent.  My only regret is not trying the black bean salad and a mojito, but I plan to be back…

So fun to have Andres and Emily, our “Texan tourists,”and Penny with us.
Taylor, Ben, and me

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Borrowed from Five Daughters Bakery for Two Sisters & Two Cousins Below


Sprinkles cupcake ATM...every neighborhood needs one.

It was nice to finally check out Draper James,  Reese Witherspoon’s place.  The southern girl is from Nashville so this one is the flagship store.




Below is my friend, Carol’s home, where I stayed last summer and last week when in town. You can book her upstairs suite with a separate entrance on AirBnB here.  Just off 12th/ down the street from Five Daughters Bakery and Mafiaoza’s Pizzeria, it is central to all Nashville offers including her southern hospitality.  While her home is now a quiet retreat that stays booked most of the year, back- in- the- day I danced under the stars at many-a-salsa-party in her beautiful backyard.

Separate side entrance to suite–see Air BnB link above for all photos




A reader’s paradise above and below


Ms. AirBnB, Carol, and our friend, Kim


Places locals like…

Frothy Monkey–one of the coolest coffee shops in the city

12 South Taproom  A recommendation from Carol for live music and fresh oysters (on my Next Time list)

Epice–I’ve had dinner here twice and love lingering over their delicious Lebanese food at marble tables on the patio

Urban Grub–large round booth to gather friends left of bar; best grits in town; oysters and craft cocktails their superpower

East Nashville’s Bounty and Backyards

East Nashville’s Bounty and Backyards

And in another backyard in one of my favorite neighborhoods, East Nashville, I enjoyed summer with a supper my friend Beth cooked from her garden.  The Mississippi girl filled her table on that hot July night with cool salads, grilled corn and shrimp that tasted like a Southern Living spread.  A really good soul, her accent and easy way soothes mine. Many-a-memory was made at her house—like an incredible birthday party she gave me–and times we met there before salsa events.




Beth should write recipes for Southern Living magazine. Seriously.
Beth should write recipes for Southern Living magazine. Seriously.





April, our newlywed
Cheryl, the Birthday Girl


And just a few blocks away are two other sweet spots.    A couple of years earlier, I helped Kim pack up her home on Manchester as she moved to make a new one with Andy in Franklin. We’d celebrated birthdays there, too, starting at her house and carrying them–cake-in-hand–to share at MadDonna’s just around the corner where once-upon-a-time all my friends (many I met there) danced salsa to Funtopia’s tunes bi-weekly. Likewise, at April and Jason’s, we’d celebrated holidays together and the marriage of friends, Mayuresh and Madhavi.

At Kim’s on her birthday
At Kim's on my birthday
At Kim’s on my birthday
Madhavi and Mayuresh's Wedding Party
Mayuresh and Madhavi’s Wedding Party

Like Malasaña in Madrid and Camden in London, East Nashville, named one of the 12 Coolest Neighborhoods in America, is a center of all-things-hip. Dog rescuers, foodies, artists, cyclists, craft beer enthusiasts, coffee shop dwellers and vintage shoppers call 37206 home.

Ive been a fan of many restaurants in this neighborhood for years–Sky Blue Cafe and Marché Artisan Foods for brunch, Holland House for fancy drinks by a fire,  Eastland Cafe for Happy Hour,  Batter’d and Fried for seafood, and Jeni’s Ice Cream for a quick dessert.  But the places I return to most have great food and fresh air– big backyards, patios, or decks.

Eastland Cafe Lemondrop
Eastland Cafe Lemondrop

At Rumours East I sat and sipped many-a- summer with friends under twinkling white lights and the throbbing golden glow of fireflies.






Mad Donna's
Mad Donna’s
Last night we all made it to MadDonna's and Rumours
Last night we all made it to MadDonna’s and Rumours East

Next door, my shirts are still selling at Chuck Beard’s bookstore, East Side Story. I love hearing about his latest projects and live events as he continues to create and promote locally made art, books, and music.

out front

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Should you want to stay in this community which is well connected by bus and just across the Cumberland River from Nashville’s iconic 2nd Avenue, Chuck and his wife, Emily, may have a room for you.  They love meeting people from around the world and rent their master suite on AirBnB. Amazing hosts, they’ll provide a heap of Southern hospitality and point you to the best new finds in the area.

A special treat this summer was dinner out with my sister, Penny, and our cousins, Sonjia and Sheila–granddaughters of Uncle Sonny whose farm I’d tried to visit in Kentucky.  It had been years since we’d seen each other and catching up under the big trees in The Pharmacy‘s beer garden was so good. If you want American fare– specialty hot dogs, old-fashion soda fountain drinks, and burgers voted #1 in Nashville the last two years–this is a good pick.

My hot dog buried in sauerkraut
Sheila, Sonjia, Penny
Ok, so I had the beer this trip, but I did the Creamsicle with my kids on a previous visit. Highly recommended.
Ok, so I had the beer this trip, but I did the Creamsicle with my kids on a previous visit. Highly recommended.

At Rosepepper Cantina a group of friends and family bid me bye before I moved to Morocco.  I didn’t realize I was saying farewell to Mexican food for a year.  Good food and then there’s their maragaritas.  Josiah makes the best in town.   Here’s how he does it.

In Morocco I do get locally grown tomatoes year-round, but I hate that I missed this year’s Tomato Fest.  It was voted “Best Festival” by The Nashville Scene readers the last six years.  To learn more about other East Nashville happenings like the Grassy Knoll Movies and Farmer’s Market, go here.  And if you want to know a secret to remember come July 4, 2016… don’t fight the crowd at Riverfront to see Nashville’s famous fireworks display.  My son and I once spent hours trapped in traffic in a parking structure when the smoke cleared.  In East Park across the river you’ll have the best view in town without hassle. Rather than sweating shoulder-to-shoulder, you can spread a blanket or kick back in a lawn chair and enjoy freedom.