While Nashville’s flourishing 12 South neighborhood may have a relatively small geographic footprint, it’s nonetheless one of the city’s busiest. Here’s The Culture Trip’s guide to the best things to see and do in a neighborhood that is thriving with opportunities to keep you satiated and entertained.
Drive down the stretch of 12th Avenue that encompasses 12 South and you’ll likely notice that nearly every other storefront seems to be a restaurant – and furthermore, that each looks as busy as the last. The sheer concentration of options may be overwhelming, but rest assured: because this neighborhood constitutes some of the most in-demand real estate in the city, virtually every single one of the restaurants and bars along 12 South offer consistently reliable and locally-beloved food and drink. If you’re searching for a fast and casual meal, try a spin on fresh Tex-Mex at Taqueria del Sol, grab a sandwich at Sloco, or stop by Edley’s Bar-B-Que (especially for their Saturday brunch). If you’re in the mood for something in the mid-range – in terms of price and speed, but still casual – check out 12 South newcomer Bartaco or the Nashville staple Burger Up (just prepare to wait a little bit to snag a table at either place, especially during peak weekend dinner hours).
12 South has you covered if you’re craving high-end cuisine, too; Epice, for example, has cultivated a robust local following for its fresh and high-quality takes on traditional Lebanese dishes, and Josephine is a fail-safe for contemporary American cuisine that manages to feel simultaneously upscale and homespun.
You’ll find numerous options for drinks and desserts, too. From the low-key neighborhood-style 12 South Taproom to the sumptuous Urban Grub, you’d be hard-pressed to find any area in Nashville with quite the range of options for places to grab a craft beer or cocktail. Jenis Splendid Ice Creams, the adored ice cream chain known for its spectrum of both eclectic and traditional flavors, also has a storefront on 12 South, and even locals often cite the shop as one of the best dessert spots in town. If the line happens to be a little too long at Jenis, however – or if you’re in the mood to try something new – Las Paletas is another can’t-miss; this gourmet popsicle retailer dispels the notion that popsicles are subpar juvenile treats. And if your ideal dessert is in pastry form, fear not: Sprinkles, the L.A.-based cupcake chain that sparked the nation’s obsession with the sugary confection, also recently opened a storefront complete with a cupcake ATM, and Five Daughter Bakery‘s ‘cronuts’ are some of the best (and biggest) pastry confections you can find in town.
Any list of food and drink options on 12 South would be incomplete without a mention of coffee. While Frothy Monkey is likely the first spot to jump to mind when it comes to 12 South coffee shops – and for good reason, as both the espresso and the food are some of the best of any coffee shop in Nashville – Portland Brew, a few doors down, is another can’t-miss, especially for caffeine addicts on a budget or for those tired of the constant crowd at Frothy.
While it may seem so at first glance, 12 South is not entirely populated by restaurants. In fact, interspersed among the countless options for food and drink are some of the best small boutiques and specialty stores in Nashville. From the wonderfully eclectic vintage clothing and goods at Savant to Corner Music, which offers one of the best selections of guitars and professional music equipment in Music City, to Halcyon Bike Shop, a new and used bicycle shop that also sells a number of non-bike local goods (in addition to regularly hosting local music artists for fantastic intimate performances; follow them on Instagram to stay up-to-date), to a denim boutique that is redefining the very definition of denim, you can find just about anything on 12 South. This neighborhood is even home to two speciality boutiques whose owners are steeped in fame: White’s Mercantile, which sells a charming combination of high-end clothing, accessories, and home goods, is owned by the granddaughter of music legend Hank Williams, and Reese Witherspoon recently opened her very own women’s clothing boutique, Draper James.
Perhaps you’ve exhausted your ability to shop or you’ve satisfied your appetite. If this is the case – or if you just want to take full advantage of all that 12 South has to offer – then rest assured that there’s still more to do on 12 South. Snap a photograph of the iconic ‘I Believe in Nashville’ mural right next door to Edley’s (and while you’re at it, check out some of the lesser-known wall art painted on the side wall of 12 South Taproom). 12 South even offers three different hair salons (Trim, Element, and Green Pea) as well as 12South Yoga, Nashville’s only certified Iyengar Yoga studio.
If you’re craving a little more time spent outdoors, cross Kirkwood Avenue and check out Sevier Park, one of the best – and most kid-friendly – parks in Nashville. In addition to the two different play sets, the spacious outdoor picnic area, and recently opened community center, this park is also home to a piece of history in the form of ‘Sunnyside,’ a home that once sat in the midst of Union and Confederate battle lines during the Battle of Nashville in 1864. And if you happen to be in Nashville between the months of May and October, head over to Sevier Park on a Tuesday afternoon from 3:30-6:30pm for the weekly 12 South Farmer’s Market, an event that consistently brings in countless local food and produce vendors in addition to some of the city’s best food trucks.
Lastly, on a nice day, be sure to spend a moment or two wandering the quiet residential streets around 12 South. You may even find a little free library or two.