So. It’s been a while since my last post, my apologies. I have been traveling like a mad-woman, and eating my way through it all. Which means lots of delicious blog posts coming up!
Anyways, I went to Nashville a few weeks back on vacation, and totally loved it. How great is it that you can hear live music at all hours of the day, in any bar?
It was Ken and I roadtripping to Nashville, and let me tell you, we had a blast. But really, anything would have been better that my last experience in Nashville. The last time I visited Music City (freshman year of high school), I had a broken kneecap and was awaiting surgery. But, my dear father won tickets to the Grand Ole Opry, so they piled the whole fam in the minivan, propped my leg up in the middle aisle, gave me some pain meds, and away we went. My perceptions of Nashville were heavily skewed by the fact that I had to crutch up the stairs of the Parthenon, and clamber over the elderly with my crutches at the Opry. My mother confessed recently that it was one of her biggest regrets as a mother and I proceeded to revel in the glory of that admission. But I digress.
Anyways…Let’s set this post up by saying that I spent a good 3-4 hours putting together our itinerary. But wait…I should back up. That’s 3-4 hours on a FOOD & COCKTAIL itinerary. In comparison, I spent about 45 minutes on an Nashville tourist attractions bucket list, then a lot of hardcore iPhone googling in the car on the way down there. Priorities, folks, priorities.
But hey, the hard work paid off. We ate and drank amazingly in Nashville.
I’ll give you the rundown of where we ate and drank and the availability of gluten-free options at each.
Gluten-Free Restaurants in Nashville … Bon Appetit!
- Holland House Bar & Refuge – This is a must. Wonderful craft cocktails and a vintage, chic atmosphere. And you’re going to want their grilled provolone. Even better, they have a fantastic happy hour from 5-7 pm on weekdays. Read my full post here.
- Burger Up – Located in the 12South Neighborhood, this upscale burger joint has fantastic gluten-free options. As the name suggests, they serve burgers of all kinds, and they are delicious. The fries are not gluten-free, but try a salad – you won’t be disappointed. Read my full post here.
- Cantina Laredo – While we didn’t eat at the Nashville location, I have personally dined at the Cantina Laredo in Branson, Missouri, many a time. They have gluten-free options marked on their menu, fantastic margaritas and tortilla chips fried in a dedicated fryer. Try the fish tacos–Mahi Mahi, marinated vegetables, queso fresco and chipotle aioli. ¡Delicioso! The Nashville restaurant is located in The Gulch, right between downtown Nashville and Music Row. There are plenty of shops, restaurants and music establishments to spend a couple hours here.
- Porta Via – In my Nashville research, Porta Via showed up over and over again for best gluten-free pizza in Nashville. So I dragged Ken out to the suburbs and we prepared for a romantic evening. Their specialty is certified Neopolitan pizza, which involves a lot of criteria from Italy that I can’t quite explain. They’ve also created a gluten-free version. It seemed like heaven on paper, but our experience here did not live up to my expectations. The atmosphere is strange – though there were people eating in there, it’s definitely more conducive to carry-out. Service was slow, and our waitress was on the bizarre side. Finally, while I can’t confirm this, I don’t have faith that it actually was free from cross-contamination. However, the crust was fantastic – one of the best I’ve had. The toppings were average–perhaps it was what I selected, but it didn’t do the crust any favors. If I’m back in Nashville again, I probably won’t be back here.
- Margaritaville – Margaritaville always has great gluten-free options and a dedicated GF menu. Get the nachos. (And share them…they are massive, see my Orlando post.) Though not unique to Nashville, this Margaritaville is located right on Broadway and has live music playing all day. For a gluten-freer in search of food in downtown Nashville, this is a solid bet.
- Panera Bread – As much as we wanted to sample only local eats while in Nashville, we found ourselves in a bind around lunchtime one day in downtown Nashville. We stumbled across Panera and were saved from hanger. Located pretty close to the main Broadway strip, this is a great spot if you are in a bind. My favorite dish at Panera has always been, and will remain, the chicken caesar salad, without croutons. The dressing is gluten-free. Check out their hidden menu for more GF options.
- Tacqueria de Sol – Wonderfully delightful Mexican food with gluten-free options. The queso is maybe the best queso I’ve ever had. That’s a bold statement, I realize. Call ahead before you go to check whether the chips will be gluten-free. Some days, they are made in a dedicated fryer, but other days they are not. Many of the tacos and enchiladas are gluten-free if you get them with corn tortillas (just check with a staff member when you are ordering). I had the Memphis Taco (chopped smoked pork with a spicy jalapeño cole slaw and tequila barbecue sauce) and the special taco of the day, Chicken Verde (grilled, lime-marinated grilled chicken breast with Tijuana green sauce, cilantro and onion), plus rice and beans. If I lived in Nashville, I would be here weekly.
- The Red Bicycle Coffee and Crepes – Great little north Nashville spot serving gluten-free crepes. Perfect for a quick brunch or lunch. I got the “Spinach” – chicken, spinach, mushrooms, mozzarella and balsamic vinaigrette. It was really good. Of course, you have to do savory AND sweet, so Ken and I split a Cinnamon Roll crepe: butter cinnamon sauce and brown sugar cream cheese filling. Definitely recommend!
- Patterson House – Duck into this old-fashioned Prohibition-era speakeasy in the Vanderbilt and prepare for a swanky evening and exquisite cocktails. This is a must-go in Nashville. Be prepared to wait in the front room (which is set up like a parlor of an old house) unless you go early, anywhere between 30-60 minutes, and deal with not-so-friendly hosts. But, if you love craft cocktails, this is all worth it. However, they have a limited food menu, so eat before you go. If you need a nosh while enjoying a cocktail, the bar nuts and truffled deviled eggs are gluten-free. I ordered an Old-Fashioned for drink #1, and a Whiskey Smash for drink #2 . The Whiskey Smash was delightfully summery and refreshing, made with Rebel Yell Bourbon, Lemon, Mint, Peychaud’s Bitters. The bartender carefully pressed the mint leaves to extract the essential oils and scent. I kind of felt like I was in Portlandia, but hey, it was neat. Ken ordered…the Bacon Old-Fashioned. It may be a sin to say it, but I was not a fan. The bacon infusion was overwhelming. If you still want to go for it, make it your last drink of the night. The bacon lingers, and lingers, and lingers. But overall, a fantastic experience.
- Bluebird Cafe – This is one of the neatest things we did in Nashville. Basically, singers and songwriters who write for the country music stars gather in an intimate setting to sing their own music and play guitar. It’s absolutely touching and such a great experience to hear the songwriters and the geniuses behind the stars – I highly recommend. Apparently, The Bluebird Cafe is also featured frequently on the show Nashville. If you are trying to score the free tickets to the early show, get there with plenty of time before doors open. They only let in about the first 25 people. We got there at 4 pm (doors open at 5), and we were #23 and #24. For gluten-free options, they can do hummus with veggies and steamed edamame.