Very good friends of mine moved to Nashville for work-related reasons a few months ago. I’d have gotten down there to see them sometime anyway, but when Nick Cave’s 2013 tour was announced, getting tickets for the Nashville show at the historic Ryman Auditorium was inevitable – my friend V and I always see Nick together: in DC, LA, or Tennessee!
Other than a brief sojourn through the very edge last summer en route to southwestern North Carolina, I’d never been in Tennessee before. I picked my weekend judiciously: Friday and Saturday temperatures were near 80. Heading south in the US is always a bit of a risk for a vegan; I have preconceived notions of endless barbecue pits, bacon-wrapped cheeseburgers, and gallon jars of mayonnaise. I am very pleasantly surprised to be able to tell you that Nashville is actually very vegan-friendly! The food situation was not at all what I imagined.
My first impression of Nashville was that it is very tiny. I flew in from Dulles on a tiny little commuter plane and arrived in tiny little Nashville International, where I strolled to my rental car on foot. Other than Charleston, which also has a teensy airport, I’m used to huge, sprawling airports – like Dulles – with shuttles, trains, multiple terminals, and miles upon miles of walking. Every time I visit the South I’m also immediately impressed by how friendly everyone is. People are nice in the South. Up here in the Midatlantic and north, people are BORED OF YOU and not afraid to let you know it.
I collected my car and headed to V and C’s house to rouse them from their 9 a.m. slumber. V immediately slipped into hostess mode and we were off to see the sights of Nashville. Which really aren’t that many as it’s a very tiny town. One of the more interesting and unexpected was … the Parthenon?!
Yes, that’s right. Nashville is home to the world’s only full-scale replica of the Parthenon, which I was told by the attendant is even better than the real Parthenon because it represents the Parthenon in its glory, not ruins. I have to admit, the top floor with its immense statue of Athena – created to look exactly as it would have looked in ancient Greece – was pretty interesting. To give you a sense of scale, here is me in front of Athena.
Another fun thing to do was the farmers market. The market comprises a flea market, food court, farmer stalls, and a garden center. V and C bought a bunch of plants to start a garden. And I’m wearing a hat C bought at the flea market.
Nashville’s greatest attraction, however, is Didi Mao! Didi Mao is the 6-month-old kitten belonging to V and C and she’s super, super, super awesome! She looks like Gomez and acts like Torticia. She’s very friendly and playful and we hit it off instantly. LOVE Didi Mao.
So, the food. When she first got there, V promised me there was plenty for me to eat, and although I would never accuse her of lying to me (except about bloody marys, boat drinks, Prosecco, hammocks, and guacamole), I wasn’t really expecting to, you know, see the word “vegan” right on menus. BUT IT’S THERE! Nashville knows what vegans are! Nashville seems to HAVE vegans! (Nashville also has really good beer, by the way.) After a long, adventurous day, we decided to settle in Friday night with a box of wine and what V claimed was the “best pizza in the world”. We got carry-out from Five Points Pizza, which not only has a vegan pizza on the menu, but will make any other pizza vegan with Daiya cheese. And V was right, the pizza was GREAT. Definitely one of the best I’ve had, and I love me some pizza. It may have been better than my pizza!
Nashville even has a few completely vegetarian restaurants. The Wild Cow is almost entirely vegan and really great. It’s one of those rare restaurants where I’m actually overwhelmed by the menu because I have too many choices. I ended up getting the Buffalo grinder, which is tempeh or tofu smothered in Buffalo sauce, with shaved carrots, pickles, and vegan ranch. I had a side of garlicky kale, which was perfect. I forgot to take a picture until after I’d eaten half the sandwich. I’m looking forward to returning here the next time I visit V, and I think she is too.
Across the street from the Wild Cow is Rosepepper, a Mexican restaurant, which we visited Sunday afternoon before I headed back home. I was pleasantly surprised to see a vegan burrito on the menu and it was HUMONGOUS, but I’m afraid it was also rather bland. It consisted of steamed carrots and cauliflower, a few black beans, and rice, and really could have used some spice.
And what about the main attraction – aside from Didi Mao (oh, and that minx V, of course) – of the weekend? Nick Cave was amazing!! Of course. He always is. I’ve seen a LOT of shows over the years and there are some performers who just have an incredible stage presence and can really rock a live show…and many more who can’t. Nick Cave is one of the best live performers I’ve ever seen. And the Bad Seeds are really tight.
I generally hate seated shows, and the Ryman, being the former home of the Grand Ole Opry, has rather church-like pews, but it didn’t seem as bad as most seated shows, and in fact, most people stood most of the time. You were also allowed to take drinks into the venue, which I’ve found is sometimes not the case in the more theater-like venues, such as the Strathmore, where yes, I’m going to see Nick in tomorrow night…
Nashville isn’t a city I’d have gone out of my way to visit, but you have to like a city that identifies so closely with music, and it’s super-easy to get around (there’s no traffic!), there’s a lot of beer, and it’s surprisingly vegan-friendly. I’m looking forward to visiting V, C, and Didi Mao again soon, so SOMEONE HAD BETTER GET THAT HAMMOCK HUNG.