From Oxford, Mississippi, my final fun-stop on this trip was two nights in Nashville. On my way to Nashville, I stopped in Memphis and East Memphis for a few hours, to take the Gibson Guitar Factory tour, and to try “sweetbreads” at Hog and Hominy, as suggested by my new Oxford friends, Josh and Cheryl. I wrote about these stops in an earlier post, so I won’t repeat myself, here. Both stops were well-worth the time spent, but as a result, I didn’t arrive in Nashville until early evening, which was totally fine.
On this, only my third visit to Nashville, I had not yet experienced Lower Broadway…Music Row…at night…so, that was my first destination. This being a Friday, I was bound to see it in full party-glory.
I heard a playful Music Row motto that goes…Get drunk and make bad decisions. Although I took no photos…that pretty much sums up the scene that you are bombarded with, even just out on the streets at night on Music Row. You don’t even have to enter a bar. Actually…allow me to rephrase… I did not see anyone stumbling around, raving drunk. Everyone seemed very civil. It was just very loud…very crowded…and there was no shortage of drinking going on. But, the night was young.
The sidewalks were jammed with throngs of people…loud music was spilling out from pretty much every doorway…and from many rooftop bars. Party bicycles (have you seen these? An elevated mobile party-bar, powered by about ten seated party-revelers surrounding the bar, most revelers equipped with bicycle pedals) were casually pedaling their way down streets packed with people, cars and horse-drawn carriages. The revelers tend to be loud, playful, getting drunk and interacting with pedestrians as they cheer and sing songs. I could see how that would be fun.
On Music Row, open-carry of alcoholic drinks is legal, so people can honky-tonk-hop, carrying a drink (limited to plastic cups, I believe). I know this is not the right term, but there are bouncers at almost every doorway, checking IDs, taking cover charges (if there is one), and generally keeping an eye on things. Maybe “bouncer” is the right term!
So, whether you are inside a bar, a honky-tonk or out on the street, there is no escape from the party-zone cacophony. Lower Broadway is loud. The side streets are loud. You are immersed in it. I am not saying that this is a bad thing. I am only saying that this is what you should be prepared to encounter if you go.
In general terms, I am not a loud, party-person. Yes…I will still hoot ‘n holler for a great band, but for better or worse, I should not be anyone’s first choice for “designated reveler”. Come to think of it, I may have only arrived at this revelation as a result of having my senses bombarded from all sides on Music Row, and realized in that moment that, on this particular night, it was a little too much for me. So, after maybe a half-hour of wandering the streets (I didn’t even dare enter a honky tonk), I was ready for a much quieter scene. So, I got in my car…pointed my GPS to Dino’s, the oldest dive bar in Nashville (East Nashville, actually)…and headed just across the Cumberland River from Music Row…only minutes away.
This is actually the only photo I took that night, and it’s not particularly good, even for a cellphone snapshot. But, this is Dino’s. It was featured on the Nashville episode of Parts Unknown, so it counts as yet another by-product of the Bourdain Effect (I believe this is #5, if we include the Mississippi Delta, itself, for anyone keeping track).
I really liked Dino’s the moment I walked in. It’s small. It’s cramped. It’s a greasy-spoon. It’s an old diner, dripping with history. Except for the laid-back, hip crowd and all of the cellphones, you could almost swear you had just walked into a film-noire mystery thriller to hand over the goods to a guy named Jake.
There are only a handful of tables and a similar handful of seats at a short counter, where you should be prepared to sit cozily hip-to-hip with your neighbor. At the counter, you are so close to the griddle that you could practically help out flipping burgers. This is where I ended up. Suffice it to say…this was my kind of place.
Everyone was friendly. I ended up chatting with a couple of the twenty-something (maybe they were early-thirty-something? Hard to tell) staff. I told the young man who took my order, about my trip, and that I was thinking about checking out the Family Wash (nearby) for some live music. He said the Shepherd’s pie at the Family Wash was amazing, but that I should really check out The 5 Spot for music (also nearby). So, I tucked those thoughts away.
When I wasn’t chatting, I was enjoying just listening to the staff chat among themselves. They all seemed so care-free. I wasn’t jealous, or anything. It was more a matter of thinking how far back I had to look to remember the last time my life seemed that simple.
At the counter, I had a burger…a great burger…fries and an IPA. Comfort food. I was a happy man. The short, chalkboard menu on the wall also lists more-trendy comfort food selections. It was just right.
Dino’s is open until 3:00 a.m., and I think, as a result of its closing time, it had/has a reputation of being somewhere that musicians would turn up after their sets…but, you’ll have to fact-check me.
By this point, I had already had a long day, with my tour of the Ole Miss campus in Oxford, my time spent in Memphis, and all of the driving to get to Nashville. So instead of seeking out some live music, I headed to my hotel, which was maybe fifteen minutes away.
But, if you find yourself in Nashville, I would definitely check out Dino’s. I’m sure I’ll be back.