Vegan Nashville highlights with Southern comfort food, charcuterie boards, pizza, and sandwiches. And of course, touristy stops at the honky tonks on Broadway, the Tennessee State Museum, and Hatch Show Print. What to see, do, and eat when you’ve got just two days in Music City.
While figuring out where to go on vacation, I found a great deal on a direct, one hour flight to Nashville.
It was an amazing price. But there was just one hitch – we’d only get two days in Music City.
We decided to grab the opportunity. It would be both David & my first time visiting Nashville. If we loved it, we could always hop on a plane another time (or make the 8 hour drive).
Spoilers: We had a great time and can’t wait to go back!
Tennessee borders eight other states – Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, and Virginia. (Tennessee ties with Missouri for having the most neighboring states.)
Nashville is the capital of Tennessee and one of the largest U.S. cities. It covers a distance of 526 square miles. (For comparison, Dallas has 386 square miles, and Los Angeles has 503 square miles.)
The Southern V
After getting off the plane, we made a quick stop to drop off our bags. Then we hightailed it to The Southern V.
They are open limited hours. And since our time in Nashville was on the brief side, I didn’t want anything to keep me from going there.
This was easily my favorite meal in Nashville. And I foresee myself going to the Southern V first every single time I go to Music City in the future.
I ordered the fried chicken-style seitan with turnip greens and vegan mac & cheese. The breading on the seitan was beautifully crisp and flavorful. This was the star of the show, and David was eager for as many bites of it as I would share with him.
I don’t often see turnip greens in restaurants. These were cooked in a similar fashion to the way I cook my easy collard greens. I could tell they’d been cooked low and slow for a long time. They basically fell apart in the mouth.
I always want to order vegan mac & cheese in restaurants, but it rarely lives up to the one I make at home. But the mac & cheese at Southern V delivered. I would 100% order it again.
Nashville is known for their hot chicken – a spicy chicken dish that’s in the same general sphere as buffalo chicken. So David ordered their hot chicken-style seitan on a sandwich.
They weren’t kidding about the heat. His lips were still tingling long after lunch was done. David got a side dish of green beans.
(By the way, if you want some of the flavor but aren’t entirely committed to the heat, they have homemade hot sauce on the condiment bar. You can get a little cup of it and add it as you go.)
If you’re there on the weekend, word on the street is their homemade vegan donuts are extraordinary.
The Fox Bar & Cocktail Club
David and I make a charcuterie board for dinner at least once a week. So I was very excited to read on Bianca’s blog, Vegan Crunk, about the vegan charcuterie boards on offer at The Fox Bar & Cocktail Club. It moved the Fox Bar way up my list of places to hit in Nashville.
(It’s not a vegan restaurant, though. And they also serve non-vegan charcuterie boards.)
We ordered seitan pastrami, pepperoni, chorizo, and pineapple jalapeño brat. For the cheeses, we went with smoked farmhouse and sun-dried tomato & garlic.
They filled out the rest of the board with jam, mustard, cornichons, grapes, nuts, and toasted baguette slices. (Not pictured here: two more helpings of bread to finish off everything on the platter.)
Everything was really lovely. I especially enjoyed the pepperoni and smoked farmhouse cheese.
Of course, since it’s a cocktail bar, a fancy drink was in order. David and I both had the Truth Serum.
The server gave a detailed explanation as to how it’s made. There are two different kinds of gin. One is “washed” with olive oil by freezing the gin with olive oil, and then removing the oil from the gin.
The drink is finished with a dab of balsamic vinegar. And then I watched the bartender use a medicinal vial to add a couple drops of lemon balm. This is some serious artisanal cocktail business.
I could see why it was called Truth Serum, because this was definitely a sipping drink. It was very boozy, and I couldn’t have more than one.
But the flavors of lemon, olive oil, and backdrop of balsamic vinegar lightened it. For someone who veers towards savory over sweet drinks, this was a winner.
The Wild Cow
The Wild Cow opened in 2009. But it feels like a very old school vegetarian restaurant in the most familiar, cozy way. Pictures of rescued animals adorn the green walls.
David got a BLT with thickly cut Be-hive seitan bacon, lettuce, tomato, and avocado on wheat bread.
The bacon could have been crispier around the edges and/or cut thinner. But all of the flavors were really nice.
I had a French dip made with seitan that had the flavors of Thanksgiving with thyme and rosemary. There were also big chunks of mushrooms. It was finished with melty vegan cheese that tasted like Daiya. It was served with a thin broth that had overlapping flavors with the seitan.
They were not fooling around with the size of this thing! There was no threat of leaving hungry.
(Want to make a vegan French dip at home? Check out my recipe with jackfruit as the filling.)
For my side, I ordered garlicky kale, which tasted lightly steamed.
I also picked up a Wild Cow t-shirt while I was there. Our server told me that you get 15% off your meal if you wear their shirt into the restaurant. I’ll have to remember to pack it next time!
Five Daughters Bakery
There are 5 locations of Five Daughters Bakery in Nashville, and two offshoots in Florida.
We went to Five Daughters, because they have vegan donuts. They have three vegan flavors that change monthly, in addition to selling non-vegan donuts.
By the time we got there, it was nearing closing time. So they only had one vegan flavor left – purist, which is a basic glazed.
Because it was late in the day, the donuts weren’t as fresh as I’m sure they would have been in the morning. However, after a few seconds in the microwave at breakfast the next morning, they regained their bounce.
312 Pizza Company
David called dibs on dinner on our last night in Nashville. And his vote was 312 Pizza Company.
It’s a non-vegan restaurant that has a separate vegan menu. They have all kinds of plant-based options like potato skins, soft baked pretzels, a veggie Chicago dog, and even a vegan reuben.
You know I was seriously considering a vegan reuben. But it felt like I should have the pizza at a pizza place.
We started with beer battered mushrooms.
When the generous pile of lightly coated mushrooms arrived, there was enough for a table of 4 to 6. The mushrooms were served with chipotle aioli for dipping.
The thin batter reminded me of a tempura. It was there, but didn’t draw a lot of focus.
For the main attraction, we got a 16 inch pie. On one half, vegan pepperoni & pineapple. On the other, seitan sausage, olives, and mushrooms.
They have Daiya on the menu, but we opted to go cheeseless.
The thin crust was very crisp and cracker-like. They were really generous with the toppings.
There was enough pizza that we still had half to take on the plane with us the next day. When we got home, I added some Miyoko’s mozzarella from the refrigerator, and popped it into the oven.
They also have Chicago-style deep dish. Although, it takes about 45 minutes to make. It looked incredible, though, and I’d like to try it next time.
The Turnip Truck
I love visiting grocery stores while on vacation – especially natural grocery stores & specialty markets. It’s a great place to get some local produce & buy their locally-made products.
So we went to both locations of the Turnip Truck.
The larger location is in East Nashville. And it wasn’t too far from where we were staying.
The other smaller location is in the Gulch, which is a nice place to walk around. (From there, you can also get a ride to the 12 South neighborhood, where there is a lot more shopping.)
At the Turnip Truck, I purchased some local seitan, smoked tofu, and white barbecue sauce, which tastes vaguely like creamy Italian dressing.
Nashville vegan & veg-friendly restaurants we didn’t get to visit:
- The Be-hive (Currently only open on weekends)
- Avo (Rumor has it their kale salad is top notch!)
- Graze (I’ve heard their brunch on the weekends is terrific!)
- Sunflower Cafe
- Vegan Vee gluten-free bakery
- Kokos Plant-Based Ice Cream
- Jeni’s Ice Cream (They have a few vegan flavors)
Nashville tourist sites
Our airplane pilot kept referring to Music City as Nash Vegas. When you get to Broadway, it’s easy to see why.
With music pouring onto the streets and people in partying spirits (even in the middle of the day on a Wednesday), the comparison is apt.
Many of the bars on Broadway have rooftop patios, where you can get a bird’s eye view of the action below. From Acme Feed & Seed you can see both the river and busy street. The top of Blake Shelton’s Ole Red also had a nice vibe, especially on the rooftop. I didn’t eat at either place, but they both have vegan options. At Ole Red they are clearly marked on the menu.
There’s no cover to get inside the honky tonks on Broadway. So you can go into bar after bar listening to music until you find a band that suits you. Even within one bar, like Tootsie’s, there are multiple floors with a different band on every one of them.
From Broadway (and many other places across Nashville), you can also see the city’s tallest building, the AT&T Tower. But almost no one calls it that. It’s known colloquially as the Batman Building. One look and you’ll know why!
Although, the architects of the building said the resemblance was an accident. When they were preparing small models for the project, they didn’t even notice the building’s likeness to that masked comic book hero.
The Nashville Arcade
Walking distance to Broadway is the Nashville Arcade. The feeling of the place takes you to Italy instead of Nashville. That makes sense, because it was modeled after a mall in Milan, Italy when it was built in 1903. This two-level glass covered mall looks like a block-long hallway.
We popped into the Peanut Shop, which has been in business since 1927. I sampled some of their boiled peanuts – regular and Cajun. (Regular was my favorite!)
You may remember my first time sampling boiled peanuts while exploring vegan Asheville, North Carolina. It’s an ongoing quest!
Hatch Show Print
Hatch Show Print is located in the same building as the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum.
They’re one of the oldest letterpress poster print shops in the country. They have been in business since 1879. They are best known for their posters of early Grand Ole Opry stars.
You can take a tour to see how the prints are made. Or you can simply browse their shop to purchase a print of your own, as I did. Now I’m just wondering how to frame a 13.5 x 22.25 sized print. If you have any tips, let me know!
Tennessee State Museum
While we were driving past the Tennessee State Museum, our driver recommended it to us. He said it’s popular on school trips, and it’s free!
Neither David nor I have a huge interest in country music. So spending about $50 as a couple to go to the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum wouldn’t make a lot of sense. But at the Tennessee State Museum, you still get to see some music history highlights by some of the more well known players in country music history.
Plus, it was plenty hot while we were in Nashville. So it was a great place to escape into the cool for a bit, while still taking in some local culture & history.
(Side note: After we got home, I noticed that they currently have an exhibit on the origins and evolutions of Tennessee food. I really would have liked to see that. If only I’d cracked open my museum guide while I was there!)
We saw a couple of Dolly Parton’s costumes and banjo, one of Johnny Cash’s black suits, and Minnie Pearl’s hat with tag still attached, of course.
Easily the most moving & depressing part of the museum was the section on slavery in Tennessee. I’d never gone to a state museum in the south. So seeing what slave quarters looked like, various shackles, and first person accounts was truly sobering.
Nashville Farmers’ Market
There’s a pathway outside of the Tennessee State Museum directing you to the Nashville Farmer’s Market. It’s open all year ’round, every day of the week. It’s busiest on the weekends.
We were there on a Wednesday afternoon. And it was pretty quiet in terms of fresh fruits, vegetables, and local sellers. Although, we did get some fresh peaches.
There’s also a section of the farmer’s market that’s basically a food court. We grabbed some sassafras & strawberry lemonade at Farm City Coffee, which was refreshing without being overly sweet. We also got some watermelon juice & CBD water at The Fountain of Juice.
More Nashville area attractions we didn’t get to see:
- Grand Ole Opry
- Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum
- Ryman Auditorium & Museum
- Frist Center for the Visual Arts
- The Parthenon
- Third Man Records, founded by musician Jack White (We visited their other location while checking out the vegan Detroit scene!)
- Antique Archaeology Nashville (from American Pickers fame)
- McKay’s Books
- Parnassus Books
Planning your trip to Nashville
Where to stay in Nashville?
Knowing that vegan dining was going to be a big part of our trip, we decided to stay in East Nashville, where there were lots of vegetarian & vegan restaurants in the general vicinity.
We walked a mile to the Turnip Truck one morning. And then after dropping our groceries off, we walked a mile and a half to lunch at Wild Cow.
If you aim for a location near Wild Cow, you’ll have Wild Cow, Graze, a coffee shop, and Five Daughters Bakery for vegan donuts all at your immediate disposal.
Do you need a rental car in Nashville?
Since this was our first time visiting Nashville, I did a lot of asking around before the trip to find out if I needed to reserve a rental car. In the end, we decided not to get a car and use a ride sharing app instead.
It never took more than a few minutes for a car to arrive. It was really nice being able to let someone else take the reins while we were visiting a new city. We could just look out the window, and sightsee while we rode.
Many of the drivers gave us some great tips on places to visit. Some of them had grown up in Nashville, so they knew the area well.
It was also nice when we hit traffic that it wasn’t our problem. We could just sit back without stressing about exits or changing lanes. When we got to our destination, we didn’t have to find parking. And on our last morning in Nashville, we didn’t have to spend extra time returning a rental car.
Cost-wise we didn’t save any money by using a ride sharing app. There were car rentals that were cheaper than what we spent on rides & tips. But once you add in the cost of gas & parking, the totals were probably about a wash.
On the downside, because we didn’t have our own car, every ride of any distance came with a cost. That meant we chose not to go see anything very far away, like Franklin, which I’ve heard is very charming.
Everywhere we went in and around Nashville was a $5-10 car ride. Obviously rates vary depending on time of day and distance. The most expensive rides were from & to the airport.
Maybe you’ll stay really close to everything you want to see, and you’ll mostly be able to walk. Or maybe you’ll want to go to one area and spend the whole day there. So your experience may be different than mine.
I can’t wait to spend more time exploring Nashville & beyond in Tennessee. Hopefully it will be sooner rather than later!