Nashville: Food Tour and Soul in Music City Trolley

We frequently try to begin our exploration of a new place with a food tour.  The guide usually provides some local history along with the tastes of the area.  Occasionally we’ll even go back to one of the places we visit. We did that this time.

Evan met us at the designated meeting point with the news that we were the only ones signed up for this mid December tour.

On our way to the first restaurant, he told us about Nashville’s rich history in Civil Rights.

John Lewis came to Nashville as a student of American Baptist College and later Fisk University.  He, with others, made Nashville the epicenter for racial rights in America.

The first Woolworth’s Sit-in happened in Greensboro, North Carolina in 1960 but sit-ins spread across the south.  John Lewis was part of the sit-in at the Nashville Woolworth’s.  It was his first arrest for civil disobedience – after he and others were beaten for sitting at the lunch counter.  

The Nashville Woolworth’s was recently re-opened as a theater. In keeping with the building’s history, their shows highlight inclusivity.

Even though Rosa Park’s refusal to give up her seat happened in Montgomery, Alabama, a street is named for her in Nashville. 

Our first taste of Nashville was Prince’s Chicken, the original rendition of Nashville’s “Hot Chicken.”  Mr. Prince was a philandering man in the 1930s.    His girlfriend tried to get some revenge by making his chicken way too hot with spice rubs and more spice in the oil.   He loved it and started selling it.  (This is the place we visited again.)

Over BBQ at Jack Cawthon’s we learned Nashville’s legal requirements for calling your establishment a Honky Tonk. You must serve cold beer, have a dance floor and have music the entire time you are open. There are 100 such establishments on Broadway in Nashville.

The bat man building seen behind Broadway is the AT&T building.  Its status as the tallest building in Nashville was at risk, so they added the bat ears. It maintains its tallest building status.

At Tootsie’s Orchid Honky Tonk, (the lavender building pictured above) a young Willie Nelson kept “drinking” his pay check.  To compensate, he set out the first tip jar.  That was very successful for him and now nearly all musicians in Nashville are paid only in tips.

The same Tootsie’s Orchid has an alley entrance near the back of the Ryman Auditorium. 

Being a church first, alcohol was not allowed at the Ryman Auditorium and these feet symbolize the quick trips across the alley for some liquid refreshment before or after performances.

We planned to go into Tootsies one afternoon for music and a meal but Randy was carrying our backpack and they do not let them in for security reasons – guns, bombs etc.  They don’t have the time to check bags so have banned them all along Broadway.

We took a peek down Printers Alley.  Nashville was once the country’s largest supplier of Bibles and religious books.

There was a devastating flood in Nashville and surrounding areas on May 1-2, 2010.   More than 13 inches of rain caused flooding from the Cumberland River and others.  The discoloration at the bottom of this building shows how deep the waters were. This building is several blocks from the river.

This mural depicts Music City Legends.  There is a patch of blond hair near Brad Paisley’s neck and right shoulder.  That was Taylor Swift’s hair before she was replaced by Paisley in late 2020.  That didn’t go over too well with Taylor’s fans! Our guide speculated she had gotten a little too popular.

You can tell by the way we are dressed that we were cold.  We were in and out of Nashville before the December deep freeze but we live in Phoenix – we are cold weather wimps.

Our next tasting spot was the Broadway Brewhouse for a Bushwhacker.  This frozen drink was first served in the US Virgin Islands, and also featured in Pensacola, Florida before eventually becoming a signature drink of Nashville.  We can recommend it!

Our last food stop was for America’s first candy bar – the Goo Goo Cluster.  It qualified as such because, beginning in 1912, it was the first bar with layered ingredients.

While waiting for our Soul of Music City Trolley Tour we had the opportunity to do a moonshine tasting.  Our experience with moonshine was limited and pretty awful so Randy was reluctant – but he followed me when I went forth!

They have 35 types of moonshine at the Ole Smokey Distillery.  We were able to sample an assortment of moonshine with a beer “palate cleanser.”

We started with Blue Flame – 128 proof.  It was like our other moonshine experiences – awful. Then we had a piece of moonshine soaked dill pickle.  It was actually pretty good.  Mango Habanero followed and then a couple others, gradually reducing the alcohol levels. Our favorite moonshine, and also the one with the least level of alcohol, was Butter Pecan at 35 percent.

We boarded our trolley for the Soul of Music City Tour.  Our ticket taker and tour guide sang their way through instructions and the tour. Everyone sings in Nashville!  Our bus driver, the gentlemen on the left, sang very little but contributed to the fun.   We saw some areas in town that we had seen earlier and also some new places away from the downtown core.

We learned that different areas of town “featured” different styles of music – country, rock, gospel, soul and bluegrass based on where the artists lived and congregated. The highest grossing music in Nashville is gospel.

In addition to being Music City, Nashville is also called the Athens of the South.  As such they have their own Parthenon!   

It is a full-scale replica of the original in Athens. It was built in 1897 as part of the Tennessee Centennial Exposition.

We were having a fine time in Nashville so far!  The next post will be about the Grand Ole Opry!

About Serene

Former full time RVers, transitioned to homeowners and travelers. We've still got a map to finish! Home is the Phoenix area desert and a small cabin in the White Mountains of Arizona.
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2 Responses to Nashville: Food Tour and Soul in Music City Trolley

  1. Teri McClelland says:

    This sounds like a wonderful spur-of-the-moment trip! Was there a factory tour associated with the goo-goo cluster? What a great way to explore a city!

    • Serene says:

      Unfortunately, no factory tour but that would have been fun! I will have to remember to look for factory tours because I have enjoyed hearing about the ones you have done.

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