Walk Eat Nashville: Eating our Way Through SoBro
“These are the three ‘Cs’ of Nashville: creativity, collaboration, and construction,” said Karen-Lee Ryan, guide and founder of Walk Eat Nashville. We all laughed as we took in the view of cars squeezing into tight spots alongside cranes and construction vehicles from our vantage on the pedestrian bridge. The twelve of us were gathered for the Sobro (South of Broadway) leg of the Walk Eat Nashville tour. We listened intently as Karen-Lee shared her thoughts and experiences on everything from the farm-to-table movement to the booming growth the city was experiencing. A firm believer that the food industry thrives where creative types thrive, we were set to see how her theory held up.
Though her former career in journalism was more than successful, Karen-Lee found her niche in sharing her love for good food in the city she calls home by starting Walk Eat Nashville. She started with an East Nashville tour, and when the demand grew and her business began to flourish, she added the Midtown/Vanderbilt tour, and most recently, the SoBro tour, naturally growing her business along with the growth of the Nashville food scene.
As we strolled through SoBro, the heat from the pavement and the beating sun made the cool and refreshing Southernaire Market— our first stop— that much more enjoyable. A more casual mercantile-style offshoot of the Southern, a Nashville staple, the Southernaire Market exudes charm and hospitality. It’s a perfect spot to grab a local craft beer as you peruse the shelves of local artisan wares. Homemade pottery, pasta, and hot sauces are just a few finds. A quick look over the deli counter and you’ll get a peek at some in-house made pasta salad or pimento cheese, both of which are addictive. If you’re not hungry during your visit, there’s always the option to take some cuts home to prepare yourself, or even have them delivered to your door.
The second stop on the tour was Bakersfield, a Cincinnati-born destination for authentic Mexican food that doesn’t mess around when it comes to tacos and tequila. With over 100 tequila options to choose from, a good time is guaranteed. We settled in to a long “community-style” table that fit in perfectly with the quirky light fixtures hanging from the ceiling and wooden walls and furniture. The fish taco, made with Mahi Mahi, was certainly a hit among our tour group. Topped with tabasco lime sauce, citrus slaw, and cilantro, If ound myself wanting more than just one. Don’t forget a watermelon rosemary margarita or a house margarita to kick off the fiesta.
Our mid-way point embodied farm-to-table in its truest form. The Farm House is an exquisite and unique culinary option in downtown Nashville. Everything on the menu is sourced from Tennessee or a state touching it, and the menu changes four to five times a week to keep up with what is in season. Chef Trey Cioccia, one of three native chefs in all of Nashville, personally visits each farm before partnering with it, and he deeply values those relationships. Everything about the restaurant is set up to make its guests feel at home and welcomed, whether it’s Trey’s gregarious nature, the cozy “farm house” pillows for guests to rest against as they wait to be seated, or the local menu. Trey served the group some shiny red heirloom sweet corn served over onion ash-crusted labneh cheese with heirloom tomatoes and walnut oil. Believe me when I say it was just as incredible as it sounds.
“If you’ve been to the Omni, then you’ve been to one Omni,” explained Karen-Lee as we sat down at stop number four, Omni Kitchen Notes. As each one is unique, this Nashville location stands out for its biscuit bar which features a different biscuit each day. Famous for its brunch, Kitchen Notes attracts just as many locals as out-of-town visitors. Their Tennessee Patty Melt won first place in the Battle of the Burgers this year, and after tasting it, I could see how judges fell in love with it. With toasted rye bread, Kentucky beef, pimento cheese, applewood smoked bacon, special sauce and caramelized Dickel No. 8 Whiskey Onions, this burger is easily a foodie favorite. On our way out of Kitchen Notes, we got soaked in the downpour, but Karen-Lee was with enough ponchos to take care of everyone. Nobody was about to let a little rain keep us from finishing up the tour.
We took cover from the elements at our fifth stop. A coffee powerhouse in Nashville, Steadfast Commons was just the refreshing pick-me-up we needed (full bellies and the sound of rain were starting to make us sleepy). Its interior has a minimal look with clean lines—its “not too stuffy” look and vibe gave me the sense that it’s a place I could take my MacBook to get some work done or have a nice chat with a friend over a latte. Serving innovative coffees by day and swanky cocktails by night, Steadfast Commons has really adapted to the downtown scene. After the success of the original location in Germantown, “Steadfast,” Steadfast Commons and the company’s roastery in Franklin have all been opened within the past year, making this brand the Nashville coffee rookie. They sure hide it well by creating some of the best drinks in town. We stopped in for some Matchless Coffee Soda, which is a refreshing combination of demerara, flash chilled coffee, and citric acid, complimented by the flavors of the orange peel garnish, only available at the Steadfast locations. They wanted to develop a product that recasts the vision for coffee as something that can be refreshing and rejuvenating, and they pulled it off flawlessly.
As the caffeine from Steadfast Commons kicked in, the smell of chocolate from Goo Goo Cluster was super welcome, the perfect sweet finish to our tour. An adorable space in downtown Nashville decked out with shiny white tile and classic retro accents creates a place where I certainly wanted to stay and linger (and maybe pretend I was a 1950s pinup). Home of America’s first “combination candy bar” back in 1912, Goo Goo Cluster sure knows how to do chocolate. We watched as cooks made “the original" before our eyes, trying to contain ourselves—milk chocolate, marshmallow nougat, caramel, and peanuts. Their recently opened dessert bar is worth a visit—get a Honky Tonk Blonde Sundae or a Goo Goo Brew Shake, and don’t forget to indulge and take home some fresh Goo Goos.
To find out more information or to book a tour, visit Walk Eat Nashville's website.
150 3rd Avenue
201 3rd Avenue South
The Farm House
210 Almond Street
Omni Kitchen Notes
250 5th Avenue South
299 Demonbreun Street
Goo Goo Cluster
113 3rd Avenue South