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With 48 other states to write about, I threw the ball over the fence to my brother and asked him to “pick a state any state” and he did. Therefore, my next stop on my fifty state tour series travels down south to the land of Agriculture and Commerce, the 16th state to join the union and home to many country singer hopefuls, Tennessee.

Had you asked me years ago if I intended to go to Tennessee let alone spend as much time as I have in the state I would have laughed. It was just never on my radar as a destination. Before my mind opened for the better and my desire to see every state grew, I lumped Tennessee into the “flyover” states that you just wave at from the airplane on the way to more desirable locations. However, in 2018 when the call to see the country rang me up, my first big road trip through the middle of the USA included Tennessee.

I only ever expected to take this one trip through and see the highlights on my way up from Mississippi and onwards to Kentucky. But life had other plans and people began moving to Tennessee during the great North East diaspora of 2018-2019. Many friends and family members all moved away around the same time and a few of them took up residency down south. I’ve subsequently been back to Tennessee at least a half dozen times and often for a couple weeks or a couple months at a time.

Having my beloved sister and brother-in-law as well as a very dear friend move to the Nashville area around the same time, opened up new travel opportunities and I absolutely took advantage. Tennessee has quite a lot to offer. It may not have snow capped mountains or an ocean shoreline to meander along but it does have a lot of really fun places. It would require much more than this blog post and a lot more time for me to share all my experiences in the state. Instead, I’ve tried to capture some of the highlights.

Flipside 12s retro style diner was the first place I ever stopped in and my first meal in Tennessee. Sadly, the home of Jack’s Best Chicken (which I ordered and it was delicious) has closed. The good thing is there are many other similar eclectically styled restaurants in Nashville.

Having seen a profile on one of the many Food Network shows I watch I was excited to come to Loveless Café located about 30 minutes south of downtown Nashville. This place is definitely a destination complete with rooms to stay and a country store.

My first but not only visit to Loveless was a feast to behold. I ordered the two of everything plate with two meats, two sides, two biscuits and a hush puppy all washed down with some southern style sweet tea. It was DELCIOUS and I highly recommend a visit.

Nashville is full of creativity. Lots of entrepreneurs have come here and created unique businesses such as the Barista Parlor in East Nashville. Stopped in and grabbed some chocolate at what looks like an auto garage.

The inside of Barista Parlor. I love the creative reuse of an old industrial space.

One of the coolest speakeasy style cocktail bars in Nashville. It isn’t the easiest to find but when you do, it’s absolutely worth the visit. Incredibly creative cocktails, friendly staff and a cozy atmosphere that invites you to get comfy await. Not sure if they still do it, but you can take a free Fox Bar postcard and drop it in their outgoing mailbox and they will mail it for you.

The south makes great food like fried chicken, grits and collard greens but watch out for the super sized cinnamon rolls. Meridee’s in Franklin makes a darn good one but this plate size feast was found at Yeast in Nashville.

One of my absolutely favorite places located in Franklin is The Cork & Cow. I have been here more than any other bar or restaurant in Tennessee combined. I can’t say enough about the food, the cocktails, the whiskey selection and the generous hospitality. My first cocktail ever drunk here was a flip which is a cocktail containing a whole egg. It tasted like a French toast breakfast.

The interior lobby and restaurant of the Union Square hotel in Nashville. This is the view from our table while having brunch at Ergo.

A hot Saturday afternoon cooling off in the subterranean bar Old Glory. Got to try my first Rip Van Winkle 10 year for a surprising low price!

A stunning table scape at my friend Paula’s house. Going to visit her is a vacation to style. I love her decor, her garden and of course, our mutual love of a good meal!

I had visited High Wire Distillery in Charleston, SC and learned about an heirloom grain called Jimmy Red Corn used in their bourbon. I then saw a Chef’s Table episode featuring Sean Brock a local chef who was instrumental in bringing these grains back from near extinction. When I heard that he opened up a restaurant called Husk I knew I had to go. Granted he stepped down as the executive chef when I dined there but it was a tremendous meal. I’d happily go back!

While at the aforementioned distillery in Charleston, I met southern food writer Stephanie Burt who was working the tasting room that day. She told me to look out for Gertie’s Bar and so I did. Talk about a whiskey selection? Wow! I got to try many good pours here but this will forever be the place I had my very first George T. Stagg (2015 and 2016) courtesy of my brother-in-law.

The Natchez Trace is an old route that was used by settlers and homesteaders. This 444+ mile route connects Nashville with Natchez, Mississippi. I did not explore the entire route but I did drive along much of it stopping along the way to see ancient Native American burial grounds, Cyprus swamps and Meriwether Lewis’s house (or at least one of them). This photo, not too far south of Nashville, was taken during one of my walks through the woods.

Grays on Main in Franklin is another awesome spot. For a while my hosts had a membership to the top floor lounge of which we took advantage to sit in a private balcony enjoying dinner watching the evening’s musical entertainment. They just remodeled the downstairs bar which I was excited to visit during my last visit.

The Blockhouse is a bar turned barbershop in the Factory in Franklin I think ALL hair salons should have a bar. So great to get a pour while I have an artisan barber do their best to make me look stylish.

The industrial sculpture outside The Factory. I enjoyed coming here to get a donut, a taco or just relax on one of the couches. However, it may no longer be a destination any longer.

You can read my sister’s assessment here.

While in Chattanooga my sister and I stopped off at the old train station which features restored train cars now used as hotel rooms. All of the passenger cars have been transformed into guests rooms. I so want to stay here!

There are so many other wonderful experiences and places I’ve gone while visiting. The great distilleries alone, Leiper’s Fork, Corsair, Nearest Green, Jack Daniel’s…there are many amazing whiskey producers with lots of fun history and fantastic products. If I had to recount all the great whiskey and spirit experiences I’ve had it would take at least an entire other blog post. So, I end here and invite you to explore.

P.S. If you are wondering what the answer is to the question, “What did Tennessee”? The answer of course is, “The same thing Arkansas”.

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