Submerge Yourself in Nature at Shelby Bottoms Park
East Nashville may be full of some of the best restaurants, shops, and cafés that you’ll find anywhere in the city. And while all of these are certainly worth mentioning (and will be, in-depth, throughout the rest of this article), East Nashville is also home to one of the best natural respites in town: Shelby Bottoms Park. With over three miles of land bordering the Cumberland River and over five miles of paved inland trails for walking, biking, hiking, and running, Shelby Bottoms offers no shortage of space for you to clear your head and realign yourself with nature. The park is also home to a nature center, offering natural history exhibits and free public education programs, as well as a now-defunct airpark, Cornelia Fort.
Grab Breakfast at the Nashville Biscuit House
Sure, you could wait with the never-ending tide of tourists for a table at Loveless, or you could brave the mimosa-soaked brunch rush at Biscuit Love. And while both places are certainly worth a visit for their top-notch biscuits and Southern fare, the Nashville Biscuit House is a can’t-miss for those in East Nashville looking for a no-frills spot to sample some of the best flaky pastries in town. This tiny homestyle joint won’t offer you quite as many Instagram-worthy photo opportunities, but its menu of Southern food done right — including customizable biscuit sandwiches — is hard to beat (and affordable to boot).
Check Out One-of-a-Kind Art at the Art & Invention Gallery
Located in a refurbished garage on Woodland Street, the Art & Invention Gallery is one of the neighborhood’s — and perhaps one of the city’s, writ large — best hidden gems. Owners/artists Meg and Bret MacFayden have curated a rotating collection of paintings, ceramics, jewelry, and other art that is simultaneously eclectic and immensely charming. Browse the gallery to get a sense of the immense local talent filling Nashville to the brim or even take a piece or two home for yourself for a truly unforgettable gift.
Sip Cocktails in an Upscale Treehouse
Maybe you still harbor a fondness for your childhood treehouse, or maybe you simply enjoy a speciality craft cocktail. Either way, if you find yourself in East Nashville once the sun goes down, check out the Treehouse, a restaurant/bar serving top-notch appetizers, entrées, and drinks in a one-of-a-kind atmosphere. With its abundance of sleek wood paneling and airy lighting, this house-turned-restaurant feels simultaneously cozy and modern, and the restaurant is complete with a real treehouse in the backyard. Note that the food and drinks tend towards the higher end of the price range, but for a quality, locally sourced meal and a unique handcrafted cocktail, it’s one of the best spots in the neighborhood.
Browse the Shops at the IDEA Hatchery
Bret and Meg MacFadyen — founders of the aforementioned Art & Invention Gallery — established the IDEA Hatchery in the Five Points section of East Nashville in 2011. The concept is relatively straightforward: consisting of eight tiny local start-ups, the IDEA Hatchery is a retail/office development that fosters the development of local retail businesses. The current roster of shops includes Goodbuy Girls, one of the best spots for vintage women’s clothing and accessories in town; Algeria, a never-ending source of one-of-a-kind gifts (and handmade leather goods); and Haulin’ Oats, an artisanal oatmeal company selling gourmet oatmeal kits in mason jars that make both healthy breakfast staples and wonderful gifts.
Catch a Show (or a Cup of Coffee) at the Family Wash/Garage Coffee
Nashville is full of both live music venues and excellent coffee shops — and it should come as no surprise that East Nashville is no exception. In fact, one of the best spots in Nashville combines these very two attractions into one truly unique and locally beloved venue: The Family Wash/Garage Coffee. Drop by for one of the nightly live shows — featuring both local up-and-comers and established Music City veterans — and take advantage of the full all-day food menu offering contemporary twists on traditional southern staples, or grab a cappuccino from the full coffee bar nestled inside.
One article can barely scrape the surface of all that this bustling neighborhood has to offer. So if you have more than a day to explore, be sure to also check out:
- Mas Tacos Por Favor, a tiny joint offering tacos so good that they were featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.
- Dino’s, East Nashville’s oldest dive bar serving fantastic burgers (and without the astronomical wait times of the ever-popular Pharmacy).
- Grassy Knoll Movie Nights, outdoor movies screened at sundown on the third Sunday of each month from April through October.