People are often torn about hipster culture; the iconic floppy hats, groomed beards, and epicurean elitism either rub you the wrong way… or the right one. But that said, there’s a lot to consider about how Nashville’s hipster culture helped to cultivate the amazing food-centered mecca that Nashville is becoming. It’s not hard to find amazing food in Nashville, and many of its finest chefs moved here from major metros to challenge themselves and experiment with their own unique styles.
And since a good part of hipster culture is all about trying and experimenting with new things, with pairing classics with modernity, I thought I’d try my hand at telling you my favorite small Nashville eateries, and designing what I think is the best ‘tour’ of ‘hipster’ restaurants in town!
J&J’s Coffee Shop
It’s at an awkward place just after 21st Ave becomes Broadway iin Midtown; and it’s iconic sign is a clarion call to coffee lovers and aficionados in Nashville. While many people will cite Bongo Java as Nashville’s coffee, and more discriminating tastes will call on Drew’s Brews, most who manage to find their way into J & J’s will agree that they’ve got the magic touch. The interior looks like a small convenience store at first, with a massive selection of craft brews and craft (or European) goods all crammed into a tight, homey space… but if you step past the shop, you enter a relic of the 90s: mismatched sofas, free internet, and amazing coffee in an eclectic atmosphere. It’s a haven for Vandy professors who are off-the-clock or between classes, as well as their cleverer pupils.
Only a few blocks away from some of Nashville’s best parks, and tucked away in the quiet Belmont neighborhood clost to 12 South and Hillsboro Village, Martin’s is oft-overlooked. It’s the best barbecue in town, especially if you don’t like the same-old fare; they put a special, high-end flair on every item in the menu, and you’ll be stunned that you got it for so cheap. They have plenty of seating, tv’s, and an in-house bar as well!
Epice in 12 South
I’m a true Southern girl, and at first wasn’t at all sure what to expect out of a Lebanese bistro: suffice to say, it’s good. Though there are dozens of other amazing restaurants in 12 South, if you want something off-the-beaten path but certain to be good, you’ve got to give it a try. Though a little expensive, it’s herb, spice, and green heavy. Think middle-eastern rack of lamb and spiced fish, lentils, pilaf, and roasted eggplant, and you’re on the right track.
Long-awaited is this hot spot, which was once just a pop-up restaurant. But if you love Japanese Ramen– the high-end stuff, not what you get at Kroger for a few quarters– or if you just enjoy good soups and foreign drinks, you’ve ot to give it a shot. The venue is a little retro and 70s looking, light, and airy, and serves some small plates that are just to die for. Otaku Ramen is located close to the Gulch area.
Bar Luca in East Nashville
Upscale casual sounds like an oxymoron, but they pull it off. The cocktail game at this neighborhood bar is the strongest in town, thanks to the fact that they have 2015’s Bartender of the Year Freddy Schwenk. If you want enough space t have elbow room, try heading there sometime during the beginning of the week!
Now, be warned: the Birdhouse is a quirky-looking shack in East Nashville. But staying true to our hipster theme, thes guys running this place are absolutely doing something different, and developed a hot new take on Nashville Hot Chicken by serving Korean fried chicken. It’s only open for lunch, only offers seating on a patio, and is BYOB.