I'm not going to lie: I didn't totally hate quarantine. As a hush fell over the city and life, I felt transported to the Nashville I moved to almost 10 years ago, before it was an “it city” and before I was a 30-something with real adult responsibilities. For the first time in years, I spent sweet, slow afternoons under my favorite tree in Sevier Park, reading for hours. I'm still not mad about Woodlands takeout every Saturday, East Nashville Hot Yoga online classes in my very air-conditioned apartment and long drives through my favorite neighborhoods, windows down, music up and without all that traffic we've come to know and tolerate.
But there has also been so much I’ve missed: coffee with friends, trying new restaurants, late nights in smoky rock clubs surrounded by people we love, smudgy stamps on hands after a night out dancing. And underneath these fun things I've missed have been the heavier questions we're facing: how to protect the vulnerable, how to love our neighbors and how to navigate the impact quarantine has had on small businesses, musicians and the people who make Nashville what it is.
So, as signs of life return to Nashville, I can’t help but feel cautious hope and optimism for the day when we can gather with friends at a local restaurant, when bands play sold out shows and when Broadway is full of people having the time of their life, pedal taverns and all.
Here are some of my favorites that I can’t wait to get to back to:
I've certainly missed my "third places" during the quarantine, and while there are plenty of coffee shops to camp out in in Nashville, Fido continues to be my go-to. I love grabbing a spot by the windows and writing, reading and people watching on a Sunday afternoon. They also have great food for when you get in the creative flow and want to stay through dinner.
For the days when we kind of miss watching Netflix all weekend but also want to put on real pants, enter The Belcourt. This historic theater is my favorite place to catch a movie in town, and they always have great independent films and music docs you can’t see anywhere else.
There are so many great restaurants in Nashville, but Barcelona is the one I go back to over and over. Their food is just the best, I’ve never met a wine there I didn’t like and I never regret ordering way too many dishes because I just can’t choose a favorite (I like to think of quarantine snacking as training for the future tapas I’ll eat here). Here’s to hoping we never have to live without patatas bravas ever again.
I ended 2019 at Pearl Diver, it was the last bar I went to before quarantine and it’s calling me back. Maybe it’s the memories of innocent 2019 me who had no idea what was coming for her, maybe it’s the humid summer weather arriving in Nashville, but I can’t wait to be sipping mai tais and mojitos on their patio once they reopen (honorable mention to NVR NVR, Duke’s and the Printer's Alley bars and hotels for other places I can’t wait to spend a Saturday night).
One of my favorite stay-at-home activities is mixing some cocktails and cozying up with our record player. Add in the quarantine binge of the Zoë Kravitz remake of High Fidelity, and I’ve been itching to browse Grimey’s for some new vinyl. Living Waters Brewing next door is also a great place for a coffee or local beer while you admire all your finds.
CANOEING THE HARPETH
I’ve done plenty of communing with nature this quarantine, but not with other humans or anywhere outside a three-mile radius of my apartment. So, as summer rolls around, I'm hoping to be able to get out in some new nature, and being on a river is my favorite kind of nature. The Harpeth is an easy float in a kayak or canoe, and there are great outfitters like Foggy Bottom for boat rentals and shuttles.
ACME FEED & SEED
Few people have captured the heart of Nashville through hospitality like Tom Morales, and his restaurants have helped make the Nashville food scene what it is. Personally, I can't wait to watch a sunset from the Acme rooftop, but you also can’t go wrong with a meal at The Southern or The Loveless Cafe if you really want a taste of what makes this city special.
Nonprofits have been impacted by the quarantine too, and our community needs them more than ever as so many lives have been affected by the events of the last few months. While I look forward to the day when we can get back out in crowds to volunteer, the good news is we can find creative ways to support them now! Some of my favorite local organizations are Preston Taylor Ministries, Gideon’s Army and Thistle Farms, all of which do amazing work. MusiCares also has a relief fund for those in the music industry affected by coronavirus, and Second Harvest Food Bank is helping address food insecurity, including helping children who are no longer able to get school lunches.
I'm sure we've all used the phrase "I miss _____," at some point during quarantine, and for my husband and I, it's always, "I miss B.B. King's." This is my favorite spot to go dancing in Nashville, especially on Fridays and Saturdays when the B.B. King's All Star Band is in the house playing pop, soul, funk and disco. Living room dance parties just aren’t cutting it anymore.
It's just not the same without music in Music City, whether that's catching a national act at Ascend or a friend's band at a local club, bar or restaurant. Mercy Lounge is one of my favorite places for a rock show, you might be able to talk me into a night downtown if Robert's is involved and I'm so glad to finally have a good jazz club in Rudy's. I don't know when or where our first show will be, but one thing is certain: that will be the day when Nashville might just start to feel “normal” again.
Kristen Shoates is a freelance writer and marketing strategist specializing in working with nonprofits, artists and small businesses. She is passionate about telling stories and helping entrepreneurs and world changers turn their visions into reality. Kristen co-owns Sky Studios - a local music lessons and recording studio - with her husband, and in her free time, loves travel, music, books, wellness and any chance for a new adventure.