(K?)nashville or bust*!


One man. Two boys. Twelve kids.

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75 Responses

  1. Plinko says:

    I’ve only been once and didn’t get to spend much time there, but The Stock-Yard is the best steakhouse I’ve ever been to in my life.Report

  2. Chris says:

    I was born there (grew up in Franklin, 20 minutes south). My parents and two of my 3 siblings still live there.

    My suggestions:

    You must eat lunch at Loveless, but get there early. The waits will be long if you don’t.

    Eat breakfast at Pancake Pantry.

    Visit the Parthenon in Centennial Park (just off Vanderbilt’s campus). It really is kind of cool.

    Take in a show at the The Bluebird.

    The Frist has some interesting exhibits right now. I recommend it.

    A night out in The District is pretty much mandatory, but it’s really touristy at night.

    The Exit/In is my favorite live music venue, but you’ll have to see if there’s a show you want to see playing.

    If you’re at all interested in Civil War history, I recommend a trip to Franklin, particularly to the Carter House and Carnton Mansion. An incredibly bloody battle was fought there, and they’ve preserved a lot of the history.

    On you’re way out to the mountains, you’re going to hit the edge of the Cumberland Plateau. Savage Gulf (the locals will call it Savage Gulch) State Park is one of my favorite places in the world, particularly up around the Stone Door.Report

    • Chris in reply to Chris says:

      I forgot to add, you will see a lot of Jorts. Head wear should be either baseball caps or cowboy hats, though.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Chris says:

        Is a Red Sox hat acceptable?

        Unfortunately, my last cowboy hat was retired during an earlier bachelor party and I have yet to find a suitable replacement.

        In case anyone was wondering… I like hats.

        But thanks for all the links! You’re the second one to recommend Pancake Pantry.Report

        • Chris in reply to Kazzy says:

          Red Sox hats are fine. There are plenty of yankees in Nashville these days.

          Pancake Pantry is fun, and the food is good, but you have to go to Loveless. I mean, it’s not a choice. Also, if you’re up for a drive, the Natchez Trace is pretty cool in Middle Tennessee. It has this crazy ass thing, which happens to be about a mile from my parents’ house.Report

    • Scott in reply to Chris says:

      Those are all good suggestions but you forgot to mention Andrew Jackson’s home, The Hermitage.Report

  3. Burt Likko says:

    I’m here for you, man.

    Nashville is a big, sophisticated, modern city. It’s famous for country music and that’s about half the music you’ll find there. But you’ve got the whole universe of music available for you. The “rock” clubs are more “rockabilly”, but you can get more straight-ahead rockin’ in the blues clubs and since you’re just down the road from Memphis, the performers are world-class. If you guys can’t find some kind of live music being played that you like in Music Row, then y’all are VERY tough customers.

    Dress like you normally would at home to go out to see live music. The worst reaction you’re likely to get is a funny look but it’s every bit as heterogenous as Atlanta or Houston or Chicago. Some clubs are a little dressier, some clubs are a little more country, but for most places, as long as you’re reasonably well-groomed, you’ll be just fine.

    I don’t know what “Italian party shorts” are but if I understand you correctly, yes, Nashville has a thriving gay scene too. Enjoy your Italian party shorts, maybe make a new friend.

    And order what you like to drink, Jack Daniel’s is Tennessee whisky and it’s popular, but you’re less than an hour away from some fine Bourbon distilleries just north of the state line and there is nothing at all wrong with a bourbon. Get the whisky you like. Get gin or vodka or tequila if you like. Some places are a little stingy with the grape juice, but this is a bachelor party, so if it’s the sort of crowd that’s drinking wine, someone there will know where the good selections are (hint: you get steaks there too). And out on Music Row, most people are going to be drinking beer anyway. It’s not Vegas but it’s bright and loud and distracting and there’s going to be lots of talent working the clubs. Enjoy.

    When you head east to Knoxville (yes, that’s where the University of Tennessee’s flagship campus is) you’ll drive through some gorgeous hill country and then you’ll get into town. Knoxville isn’t really as rockin’ as Nashville except right around UT, but you’re going there to head up to the park. If you’re looking for a nice place to have lunch in Knoxville, the Tomato Head in Market Square downtown is a good casual sort of place where you can see a blend of businesspeople, hipsters, and students all together.

    If it’s game day on Saturday and you’re not going to the game, then you probably want to stay away from the University, because it gets way crowded. If you are going to the game, be sure to wear orange. On Saturday in Knoxville you can wear all the Italian party shorts you want, all day long — if they’re orange. If you’re partying in Knoxville at night, I reccomend Sapphire on Gay Street. Hip and fashionable. The Downtown Brewery, also on Gay Street, is a fine brewpub, and less than a block from where my office was when I worked downtown. Look for the big replica of the Remington “Bronco Buster” statue.

    Avoid Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. Seriously — it looks like a quick jog south of I-40 to get there, but it’ll take you 90 minutes to drive from the interstate into Pigeon Forge, especially on the weekends. If you must go to that massive tourist trap, then from Knoxville take Alcoa Highway south into Maryville (which you will pronounce as “MRRvll,” with no vowels) and then hang a left onto Lamar Alexander Parkway. If you’re only planning on going through Gatlinburg to get to the park, then even better — stick to that route and use the Townsend entrance to the park. That’ll get you better access to Cades Cove anyway.

    Some friends of mine there are in an astronomy club and gather on the weekends on various spots just north of the park for a night of stargazing. If that sort of thing interests you, I can get you more details by e-mail; there’s some protocols about showing up after dark that you want to observe to be courteous to the viewers.

    And they’re serious what they tell y’all about the bears up there. You camp there overnight, you keep your food secure, hear?Report

    • Kimmi in reply to Burt Likko says:

      Go to Cosby, or Little Cataloochee. Great places to hike and camp.
      (not so serious as the bears in cali, who WILL break into your car for a Bubble Gum wrapper!).

      Hang your food high, and you’ll be fine (or get a bearvault).Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Burt Likko says:

      Damn, Burt, I’m here for a long weekend, not forever!

      Seriously though, this will all be very helpful. I appreciate the variety of options.

      I do wonder, though… what about my Italian party shorts makes you think a gay venue would be the best jaunt? Not that I have a problem with gay venues (spent most of my bachelor party in them, though NOLA is pretty much one big gay venue), just curious what you are imagining. And, yes, I am wearing them right now.Report

  4. James Hanley says:

    Before I embark, any last minute advice?

    Don’t use the word “cracker.”

    Should I wear my Italian party shorts?

    Are those the shorts you got from The Situation?

    Will I get shot if I order a bourbon instead of whiskey by mistake?

    No, but they’ll probably ask you what kind you want. If you’ve got a few bucks and they have it, try Blantons. Are you a bourbon guy in general?

    Is Jack Daniels a big deal down there or is that a nice whiskey in Manhattan the way Budweiser is a fancy American export in Mexico?

    Really? Jack is considered a good whiskey in Manhattan? Is everyone in Manhattan a frat boy?Report

    • Jack is not considered a good whiskey in Manhattan. Blantons is considered a good whiskey everywhere. Even in Camelot, because it looks like the Holy Hand Grenade.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

        I do not understand the guff that Jack gets. Sure, I have had better whiskies, but it is a perfectly acceptable drink. The ‘Coke’ of whiskies. If I sit down in a bar and say, ‘gimme a whiskey’, I am not gonna be disappointed if what slides down to me is Jack.

        Blanton’s is, IMO, but WAY overrated (as is Maker’s Mark, which to me tastes like used band-aids) and I attribute this overrating in both cases to good packaging. I keep the Blanton’s on my shelf only for guests and the Maker’s only for cooking/mixed cocktails (both were gifts).Report

        • James Hanley in reply to Glyph says:

          Jack’s fine with Coke because the sodapop hides the taste of the Jack. But keep in mind that everyone’s taste buds differ, so ultimately we can only go by what works for us, and Jack hits my tongue like a sip of motor oil.

          Blanton’s, though, I find very smooth and complex. Well worth the price, although at the price I don’t buy it often (I like to keep a bottle of bourbon in my office, and have rotated between Blanton’s, Buffalo Trace, and Eagle Rare, which is not to say there aren’t other equally good bourbons out there).

          I agree that Maker’s Mark is over-rated. It was the first “good” bourbon I ever tried, and I found it much superior to Beam, so I drank it until I gave Knob Creek a try. I like Knob Creek, and I drank that until I found the triumvirate listed above, so now I rarely buy a bottle of it, although I’m generally happy to find it at a bar or restaurant, since Maker’s is so frequently the only decent bourbon on the premises. (I should give a shout out to Wild Turkey 81, which is also pretty decent (although with their 101 the proof overwhelms the flavor)).Report

          • Kazzy in reply to James Hanley says:


            Is your aversion to Jack one that is widely held in Tennessee? This is sort of what I’m getting at… if I walk into a bar and order a regular Jack drink (FWIW, if I do have Jack, it’s usually Gentlemen Jack), are they going to have a quiet chuckle about the out-of-town whiskey-noob? Or would it be seen as a legitimate, if possibly inferior to others, order?


            • Ryan Noonan in reply to Kazzy says:

              My guess it’s totally acceptable. I don’t share James’ aversion to Jack myself; I just wouldn’t call it a “good” whiskey. It is, for me, the bare minimum of quality I will drink, but sometimes the bare minimum is fine. That’s why it’s the minimum.Report

            • Glyph in reply to Kazzy says:

              I think Gentleman Jack is quite good, actually.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Glyph says:

                An older maintenance guy (who once described himself as living “4 beers away”… as in the length of his commute was the time it took him to drink 4 beers… I don’t want to know how he knew this) turned me on to Gentleman Jack. He asked if I wanted a drink. I said yes. He slid me one. I drank it. It tasted good. I asked him what it was and he said, “Gentlemen Jack”. I thought this was some colloquialism I was unfamiliar with (the guy was 30 years my senior, African-American, and from the south… so there was enough cultural gaps between us to think we might have simply called the same thing different names, because I had never heard of GJ before). Anyway, I saw it on the menu at another bar and it’s been enjoyed ever since.

                I’ll probably just have to do some whiskey tasting. And maybe some bourbon tasting. A handful of flights should suffice.Report

            • Plinko in reply to Kazzy says:

              Are you picking up a bottle at a store or going to a bar?
              If it’s a bar, unless you’re going to a particular type of establishment, there’s a good chance Maker’s Mark will be the best bourbon on the shelf. This might be a good thing to research.

              I’ve not been to many places that serve Buffalo Trace (which I consider my default) much less a Blanton’s, Four Roses or Eagle Rare. I can’t imagine many bars have any Van Winkle at all – maybe an extremely fine steakhouse – it’s very hard to find even in Atlanta.

              You might want to give a rye a shot if where you are going has a good one.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Plinko says:

                Thanks. My hunch is we’ll be mostly in bars, but I wouldn’t put it past us to pick up a bottle or three. We’ll aim for some of the good stuff mentioned here.

                Can you elaborate on what you mean when you say “rye”? I will confess to being less-than-an-expert on spirits.Report

              • Ryan Noonan in reply to Kazzy says:

                Rye is another kind of whiskey. Flavor profile very similar to bourbon, but a little drier and spicier, typically. Believe it or not, Jim Beam makes a totally acceptable rye.

                I have no idea what you’ll find in bars, myself. In DC, the worst dive would have at least Maker’s, because we’re all hipster scum. I do not know the story of Nashville well enough to offer a prediction there.Report

              • Glyph in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

                Yeah, second this, Beam’s rye is actually pretty good.Report

            • James Hanley in reply to Kazzy says:

              Two things:

              1) You won’t get laughed at. Unless you publicly act snooty about Jack the way I have here.

              2) I’ll admit to not having tried Gentleman Jack, so the distaste I have expressed is limited to their standard black labeled swill.Report

          • I still consider Maker’s my default. It’s perfectly serviceable, and doesn’t do anything special. You can mix it into anything. My slightly-higher standards are Four Roses and Eagle Rare. Eagle Rare is almost absurdly under-priced. And Blanton’s is my non-Van Winkle favorite, actually.Report

            • BlaiseP in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

              I’ve never developed much of a preference in bourbons: there are too many fine offerings to take sides. Like James, I go through phases and will often order something relatively obscure. Gentleman Jack is currently on my shelf at present. Maker’s has put in many appearances. Old Fitzgerald occupies a place of honour out of sentimentality: it was the drink of my now-deceased business partner, more a second father to me, always drunk neat with a bottle of cold Canada Dry Ginger Ale back.Report

            • James Hanley in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

              … Maker’s [is] perfectly serviceable,


              I haven’t noticed Four Roses for sale around here, but since it’s time for me to re-stock my office for the fall term, I’m now going to look for it.

              Totally agreed that Eagle Rare is under-priced–one of the reasons it’s usually on my shelf.

              Van Winkle…sigh…I’ve only heard the stories. If you get your hands on a bottle, you might oughta take a trip back to the lower peninsula; I’m not far at all from the Big House (or as we prefer to call it, the site of the Oregon Ducks’ 4th greatest victory of all time).Report

              • Glyph in reply to James Hanley says:

                I tried to get some Van Winkle bourbon recently when I was in an exclusively-bourbon bar at The Galt House (in what other hotel could a libertarian stay?;-) in Louisville, but the bartender informed me that stuff goes in no time, so I had the rye instead. It was decent.Report

              • Ryan Noonan in reply to Glyph says:

                Most of the fancy bars will keep an empty bottle where you can see it and a non-empty one somewhere you can’t. You can’t just walk into a place and ASK for it.

                A friend tracked down and bought me a bottle of 15-year for my bachelor party. He essentially had to play 20 questions with a liquor store owner before the owner was convinced I deserved to have it.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

                I hate that crap, to be honest. Just stock more of the crap. Or jack up the price. But if a man wants to buy it and wash his clothes with it, don’t be a douche.Report

              • Mark Thompson in reply to Kazzy says:

                Stocking more is not possible in the case of the Pappy – the few retailers who the Van Winkle family sells to only get an allotment of, at most, a dozen bottles a year in most cases. I calculated the other day that the entire state of NJ is alloted about 80 bottles a year. And to be honest, I’m not sure that the Van Winkles allow the retailers to charge a higher price.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Kazzy says:

                They can’t stock more; there’s just not enough of it made. Mr. Van Winkle himself (grandson, I believe, of the original Pappy), prefers to keep it a craft operation and refuses to go mass production.

                But, yeah, no need to be a douche about who buys it. Their money’s as good as anyone else’s once it’s in your bank account.Report

              • Plinko in reply to Kazzy says:

                Here’s as good a background as you need.

                Now, that said, the bourbon aficionados I know think ORVW (and the other varieties of PVW) is vastly overrated and prefer Blanton’s.

                Also, I am totally on board with a bourbon club. I try to buy something new every month anyway.Report

              • Mark Thompson in reply to Kazzy says:

                I wonder if part of the reason your afficianado friends view OVRW as overrated is that it’s wheated (IIRC, it and Maker’s Mark are about the only wheated labels), so it’s got a slightly different character than most bourbons that might be offputting for afficianados or purists.Report

              • Glyph in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

                One does not just WALK into a bourbon bar…

                RE: yr friend, that sucks. I am as opposed to spirit snobbery as I am music snobbery. If it’s good, why wouldn’t you want everyone to know about it? For whatever reason, I would be less opposed to the seller just pricing the bottle at something crazy (because he thinks it’s really that rare or good) than making yr friend know the ‘codeword’.Report

              • Mark Thompson in reply to Glyph says:

                The Wife and I each managed to get our hands on a glass of the 20 about a year ago after years of asking at restaurant after bar after restaurant (I believe we started our quest in 2007 or 2008).

                It lived up to its reputation.

                Which is most unfortunate, because now I’m obsessed with getting my hands on a bottle, the latest efforts of which I detailed in comments at NaPP the other day.Report

            • James Hanley in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

              Hey Ryan,

              I did find Four Roses single barrel at my liquor store today. At 100 proof it’s a little stronger than my usual preference, but it has a good aroma (with a strong hint of nutmeg), and a bold taste that’s both hot and with elements of sweetness. Definitely not as genteel as the Eagle Rare, but a really interesting taste. Thanks for the tip.Report

          • Glyph in reply to James Hanley says:

            Knob and Woodford are both good, as are your Buffalo Trace and Eagle Rare. I also like Bakers & Booker’s, Bulleit is very good for the price, and my wife gave me a Hudson Baby Bourbon (yes, it’s from NY!) recently that I quite like.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to James Hanley says:

      I’ve heard good things about Blanton’s, but have never had in.

      Jack is a “nice” whiskey in Manhattan in that it is a more-than-acceptable drink to order and you likely won’t get it unless you ask for it by name (i.e., it’s not well). There are certainly finer ones available at most any bar. I just didn’t know if it was one of those things where it is sort of see as a mass-consumer brand locally and the real deal elsewhere.

      And why would I say cracker? Unless I’m ordering soup, which is unlikely, I don’t imagine that being an issue.Report

  5. Mike Dwyer says:

    I don’t have any specific instructions for Nashville, having never spent much time there, but I have spent a lot of time in Tennessee and in general it is pretty awesome. We have a pretty friendly cross-state relationship and a lot of people in southern Kentucky identify more with the Volunteer State than the Bluegrass. Vols fans are almost as common as those UK goobers.

    The Smokey Moutains are lovely but I second Burt’s warning to avoid Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge. They are fun (in a cheesy way) but the traffic is murder. If you like sharp, pointy things, Smokey Mountain Knife Works is close to the freeway and it is AWESOME.

    The only words you need to know to understand basic Southern cuisine are ‘meat and three’. If you want more high-end stuff, Southern restaurants have plenty of that too.Report

  6. Kimmi says:

    Okay, here’s some backwoods advice:
    1) Don’t insult Jesus (don’t tell bad religious jokes)
    2) Don’t curse a blue streak
    3) If everyone’s drunk and lighting fireworks, it’s probably time to go.
    4) Don’t get lost. If you do get lost, turn around. If in the course of turning around, you happen to be at an illegal whiskey still? Flee as quickly as possible.
    5) Don’t drive on the old Saturn fieldtesting road. They say sharp turns the next ten miles? they mean it.

    As to Knoxville? Don’t go sermonizing about evilutionism, and you’ll be fine.

    Like any place in the backwoods, it’s better to look rich than to look like a geek (Lexus ++, Prius –)Report

    • Chris in reply to Kimmi says:

      This borders on being offensive, but my curiosity has gotten the better of me, and I’ m wondering where the “old Saturn fieldtesting road” is? It must be near Spring Hill, but I’ve never seen it.Report

      • Kimmi in reply to Chris says:

        … how would I find that offensive?
        It’s route 32 (type into google maps “cosby,tn” to “little cataloochee creek, cataloochee, nc”)
        It is NOT faster than taking 40.

        Please be careful if you actually go on that road! The end of it was somewhat washed out when we were there (in a rental). Of course, that was after catastrophic flooding… However, I can’t guarantee they’ve spared the money to put the road back together…Report

        • Kimmi in reply to Kimmi says:

          *snicker* oh, shit. someone took a google-mobile down that! (I bet that was a dare. and I bet I know who did the daring…).Report

        • Chris in reply to Kimmi says:

          I’ve been on Route 32, though I didn’t realize it was the Saturn test road. It’s similar to a lot of roads in the mountains. S-curve after s-curve after s-curve.

          Also, what I meant is that what you said bordered on being offensive. “Don’t get lost. If you do get lost, turn around. If in the course of turning around, you happen to be at an illegal whiskey still? Flee as quickly as possible?” Seriously? Or maybe this is the way you tell jokes. It’s hard to tell with you.Report

          • Kimmi in reply to Chris says:

            I assure you I’m quite serious. As in, “this happened to a friend of mine” — whose grandmother found the spent bullet in the backseat the next day (luckily didn’t notice the bullethole). [If someone you know stood a genuine chance of getting killed because of his actions, wouldn’t you tell someone else not to do those actions?]

            You get similar advice when you’re out in places with people doing illegal things. Lotta National Forests are really thick with pot plantations, and other people who can’t call on the police.

            And, dayum if I’m not surprised that’s what got someone offended! You do have my apologies, it was not intended to offend.Report

            • Chris in reply to Kimmi says:

              assure you I’m quite serious. As in, “this happened to a friend of mine”

              Argh, now I’m kicking myself.

              Anyway, you can talk about evolution or God, you can cuss (in fact, in some places you’ll hear a hell of a lot of cussing, though maybe you should refrain around kids, because oddly, southern parents are like parents), but don’t go around insulting people, because unlike everywhere else in the world, people in Tennessee don’t appreciate being insulted by strangers. Also, you’re almost certainly not going to stumble upon a still, but if you do, it’s highly unlikely that anyone’s going to care (stills aren’t the problem up there anyway, there’s something else that people have hidden up there that they actually guard with weapons and boobie traps, but that’s way, way off the roads and there is absolutely no chance that Kimmi or anyone she knows has ever stumbled upon it).

              I do agree that if anyone’s drunk and lighting fireworks, you should probably move a safe distance away, but that advice goes for drunks with explosives everywhere (though there is a store called Tennessee-Alabama fireworks that sells both alcohol and fireworks, so…).

              Perhaps, Kimmi, if you’d chosen to drive in 21st century East Tennessee, instead of 1923 East Tennessee, you’d have a different view of it.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Chris says:

                Ya mean that place a nun broke into? I won’t say I know the nun, honestly, but a friend of a friend is a very pissed off security consultant whose advice was ignored at every turn.

                (we got meth labs around here — you should see what my advice is for heading into Fayette county).Report

              • Chris in reply to Kimmi says:

                Right, it’s the friend of a friend thing that caused me to kick myself. We’ve heard about your friends of friends before.

                Seriously, you’re not going to run into a still. If you do run into a still, ask for some moonshine.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Chris says:

                yeah. you have. you’ll notice, though, that I’m not using “friend of a friend” for the still part.

                Truth, my friend, is often stranger than fiction. [If that nun story didn’t give you pause, look up what 4chan has to say about Orange Communications.]Report

              • Chris in reply to Kimmi says:

                Does Orange Communications have tanks?Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Kimmi says:

                no, but that part about the nun made the papers. 😉Report

  7. Kimmi says:

    One other thing, now that I’m thinking about the people I know down in East Tennessee.
    There are dry counties down there. Might be worth knowing where they are, if you plan on eating at restaurants, and really need the liquor.Report

  8. Kazzy says:

    Thanks to everyone for weighing in thus far! Lots to work with here. In the interests of clarifying, we are likely limiting ourselves to Nashville and the Zorb Ball spot in the Smokeys (can you call them that?) and whatever might be on the way in between. As much as I’d like to explore other places, it is unlikely doable in the 4 days I’m here.

    If you have more, keep ’em coming. In the mean time, I’m going to hunt down some grub. As is usual summer trips, I am the first one here by a number of hours and need to get some food in my belly before the booze starts flowing.

    Also, remind me to share stories and pictures of my Italian party shorts when I return. I don’t want to build them up into more than they are… but everyone should have a pair. And they are legit Italian… like from the country, not the Jersey Shore. And while I called Burt out for associating them with teh gayes… they most certainly have a dash of fabulousness to them.Report