Ideally, you would go out for dinner or brunch in Nashville and then stroll home. The weather here would certainly allow for this three quarters of the year at worst. Currently, there are localized pockets of walkability in Nashville - the Gulch, 5 points, a couple blocks in 12th south, a 2 block long stretch of Hillsboro Village. Sylvan Park is working on it.
Eventually, Shade Parade Nashville and The Sidewalk Foundation's goal is to not just have pockets of walkability but true connectivity so that one can stroll to the local bistro and stroll back home afterwards from all points.
The Sidewalk Foundation has submitted its paperwork for non-profit status. The goal is to build high quality well designed sidewalks. This will change Nashville from a relatively unfriendly pedestrian city into having clearly designated Walking Districts that are lovely - places where you can really stretch your legs, see and be seen.
In preparation for this fundraising, I would like to launch a Kickstarter campaign. If you would like to aid in this - if you special skills or can volunteer some time - I am looking to create a team to make a great video over the winter months.
WALK EAT NASHVILLE
A bite-by-bite overview of a recent food tour by Walk Eat Nashville.
The "its" just keep coming.
Saturday afternoon and night, food lovers from across town and points way beyond will congregate for two sold-out walking tours hosted by Bon Appétit magazine's droll restaurant editor, Andrew Knowlton, and co-hosted by the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp.
Knowlton is no opportunistic carpetbagger, though. He grew up in Atlanta, suffered both brimstone and Nashville's summer heat at David Lipscomb basketball camps and even ate at a certain meat-and-three when ol' Jack Arnold was still carving up the roast beef.
More than that, Knowlton has come to know and appreciate our culinary landscape better than many outsiders and has been generous with the praise along the way. Using his magazine's vaunted pulpit, he toured Nashville with Dan Auerbach of Nashville-based rock outfit the Black Keys and chef Tandy Wilson of City House and lauded our scene in 2012. That same year he added the Catbird Seat at No. 5 to his list of best new restaurants, and in 2013, Rolf & Daughters made the cut at No. 3.
"Back to back, that says something," Knowlton acknowledges, recognizing that the fawning boon of Southern food has been spreading from city to city and that now seems to be Nashville's time.
So it stood to reason to add Music City to Bon Appétit's list of GrubCrawl locations to this year's itinerary. While Nashville joins New York, San Francisco and Park City, Utah, this year, we have the distinction of selling out the fastest since the crawl began three years ago. That's 240 tickets at $149 a pop in 48 hours.
"We wanted to include cities that people don't immediately think of. I've been pushing to go down South," says the writer, who also counts Springwater as one of his favorite stops, which is high cotton in my book. (Note: Springwater will not be on this tour.)
"For walking tours, we pick very carefully and really try to get people away from large hotel settings, where you're elbowing each other for the last bite of bad tuna," Knowlton says, adding that the participating restaurants take the tour seriously, so it's "not just deviled eggs at one place." Not there's anything wrong with that in a Sunday supper kind of way.
A way to catch up
While the Grub Crawl carries national attention along for the stroll, it joins a growing trend of food-themed walking tours in Nashville.
Former Tennessean staffer Karen-Lee Ryan, who moved away but recently returned to the East Nashville neighborhood she came to love, just launched a walking-noshing tour intuitively called Walk Eat Nashville.
Focusing on, but not limited to, East Nashville, the scene she knows best, Ryan says her tours include about 40 percent to 65 percent locals. There's so much new growth that people who like to keep up with the food scene now use the tours as a way to just catch up.
On a tour last week, Jo Anne and Bob Zmud, visiting from Florida, said they try to make walking food tours part of all their trips, having enjoyed them in Seattle and Chicago. At the final stop of six destinations, they proclaimed Walk Eat Nashville the best yet.
Other tours, such as those by large operator Gray Line and upstart Nashville Food Adventures, employ vans to shuttle diners so that themed tours like barbecue or global foods are possible. Nashville native Karen Sevier, whose family honestly claims the title of "settler," brings deep historical knowledge to her Music City Bites and Sites tours of downtown.
It all points to another growth peg in Nashville's maturation as a culinary destination, though it's hard to imagine Gray Line or Bon Appétit leading any kind of food tourism tours were there not already the high notes as a music epicenter as well. But that's changing.
Knowlton, who brings a national perspective and a long-standing familiarity with Nashville to the table, certainly sees and appreciates the evolution.
"People come to Nashville and they don't realize the cool stuff. Are they going to places like Arnold's, and do they realize they are taking part in a special place not just in Nashville, but in the country?"
Reach Jim Myers at 615-259-8367 and on Twitter @ReadJimMyers.
ON THE TOUR
My bite-by-bite overview of a recent Walk Eat Nashville tour:
» We meet: Five strangers and our happy, knowledgeable guide Karen-Lee Ryan meet in front of Margot in East Nashville. We don't go in but get a grounding on Margot McCormack, who broke ground in 5 Points with her fine dining destination. We then stroll to Margot's other outpost, Marché.
» Stop No. 1: Marche Artisan Foods: We are seated immediately and enjoy bites of tartine and a butternut squash and farro salad. A nice start.
» Stop No. 2: Five Points Pizza: A nice two-block stroll and we share slices of habanero-cream pizza with capicola and artichoke pizza with garlic and spinach. Owner Tanner Jacobs chats with us about their new pizza-by-the-slice window.
» Stop No. 3: Lockeland Table: After a leisurely five-block stroll we are greeted by partners Cara Graham and chef Hal Holden-Bache. Though the restaurant is not yet open, we enjoy a tasty tart Southern Girl cocktail (bourbon, mixed-berry and vinegar "shrub," and prosecco) at the bar, learn the history of the building and nosh on pork nachos and fresh-made mozzarella.
» Stop No. 4: Lynne Lorraine's: After more architectural viewing and tornadic history on the walk back toward Five Points, we enjoy a plastic shot glass of healthy-squeezed carrot-lemon-orange-kale-and-ginger juice from Lynne Lorraine's, which calls itself a juicery, which makes it fancy.
» Stop No. 5: Chocolate F/X (Shops on Fatherland): Nestled into this honeycomb of small shops, we are treated with truffles from owner Andrea Smith, who changed careers from special effects makeup in Atlanta to a life of cacao creations.
» Stop No. 6: High Garden Tea (Shops on Fatherland): At our final stop, we're offered a lesson from co-owner Leah Larabell, who gives a tour of this new apothecary-style tea room with herbs and garden-selected teas from around the world. We try an 11-ingredient yerba mate tea that's aromatic and well paired with desserts from Sweet 16th Bakery.
» We say goodbye: Full, but nicely sated, we leave comrades in food, with new (and renewed) appreciation for the excitement and depth of East Nashville food scene and history.
Nashville-based Food Tours
• Dabble Studios: Nashville Food Adventures
Contact: 615-678-8784 or firstname.lastname@example.org
• Gray Line: Taste of Nashville Food Tour
• Music City Bites & Sites
Contact: 800-979-3370 (ticket line only)
• Walk Eat Nashville
Contact: 615-587-6138 or email@example.com