Big doses of music and culture at the astoundingly fascinating Country Music Hall of Fame, and then consuming INSANE amounts of calories per sitting got us in the right state of mind. The posh and not at all creepy historic Hotel Hermitage was the best staging ground for a busy few days, too. PLUS all you can eat Christmas cookies and mulled cider in the lobby.
Encroaching suburban sprawl and new ownership have changed the character of the Loveless Cafe. No longer a rural outpost with a filthy filthy kitchen and modest accommodations at the edge of the Natchez Trace Parkway, crowds still gather for the famous biscuits, jams, country ham, and fried chicken. Some Chowhounders on the Southern board fear the theme parkish direction of the Loveless complex, which would be a pity. We still bought our share of aprons and magnets. (My sister had brought me a shirt from her visit a couple years ago.)
Maybe it's not the best Nashville has to offer, but the fried chicken was crispy, the pulled pork succulent, and the biscuits plenty fluffy. I cannot imagine a single plate of food I've ever seen with more transfats and calories than the Loveless Sampler. They should give out Lipitor next to the toothpicks and business cards.
Unfortunately for me, black pepper seemed to be a dominant flavoring agent in all the traditional food we ate in Nashville. It's something I use lightly and don't have much tolerance for.
Regardless of seasoning or technique, atmosphere and setting triumph above all. It takes a cold, hard heart not to enjoy boiled turnip greens and unremarkable mashed potatoes eaten outdoors under florescent lights in a chicken wire and wood shed. That's what you do at Hog Heaven, where four people eat for 20 bucks.
Best of all, the BBQ joint is sandwiched between a honky tonk joint and McDonald's, all along side Centennial Park, home of Nashville's very own Parthenon replica. Again, too much pepper in the veggies; the pulled pork sandwich was the way to go. But when a kindly drunk woman stumbled out of the bar next door to gush about our son's cuteness and bestow blessings, leaving a sonic trail of country twang in her wake, I was fully won over.