Vandy grad Taylor Bruce tells why the twangy town of meat 'n' threes and Music Row has the most soul in the South.

Travel: Nashville Vacation: Hatch Show Print
Writer Taylor Bruce at Hatch Show Print in Nashville
| Credit: Robbie Caponetto

Restaurant Revival
If Nashville had a superstar chef, it'd be Margot McCormack, the gourmand behind the Eastside restaurant revival. Her Café Margot has won all the local awards, but her second spot, Marché Artisan Foods, a Euro-style market and cafe, whips up a brunch like no other. I'll gladly wait in line for the sunny eggs, sausage polenta, and a pomegranate mimosa.

You want color? How about Imogene + Willie, a house of blue jeans in the 12South neighborhood. Opened last year by Carrie and Matt Eddmenson—who model the store's heritage style every day—the shop sells its own denim brand measured and sewn on-site in a retooled gas station. Carrie and Matt will even tailor your new jeans for a custom-made feel. "Nashville digs the not-trying-hard look," Matt says.

Local Drinks
Out-of-towners hit Broadway's honky-tonks, but Nashville locals belly up to the speakeasy hangout The Patterson House. I follow them. This 30-stool bar retains a hush-hush, Gatsby-and-Governor sophistication. Savvy bartenders mix the Juliet and Romeo cocktail (and dozens more) for slow-slipping beneath vintage chandeliers.

Local Artisans
At Roadhouse Relics, Austin neon artist Todd Sanders makes the new old again. Owners of barbecue joints, bars, pizza parlors, hotels—and pretty much anybody else who wants the vintage hum of a neon sign—come to Todd's south Austin shop at 1720 South First Street.

Hand-Set Posters
Every city has neon, but only Nashville has Hatch Show Print. Started in 1879, the iconic printers still hand-set orders on 60-year-old letterpresses. Musicians consider Hatch concert posters a rite of passage. The shop at 316 Broadway is open to visitors. Best $15 souvenir ever.

Farmers' Market
Our version of food trucks drives every day to The Nashville Farmers' Market with truck beds full of homegrown watermelons, pattypan squash, and the like. In the shadow of the capitol building, the sprawling outdoor market is open seven days a week with growers like Bellevue tomato guru Johnny Howell.

Cool Neighborhoods
Get happily lost in Hillsboro Village between Vanderbilt and Belmont Universities. Hillsboro is home to a cafe, darts saloon, jewelry shop, coffeehouse, and indie movie house. And don't miss Nashville's Smallest Art Gallery, a 37-inch, solar panel-rigged display case next to Peabody Shoe Repair. Seriously.

Local Music
Best Classic Venue: The Bluebird Café still delivers the nightly "aah-so-that's-who-wrote-that-song" experience in a 100-seat room. Stars such as Kathy Mattea and Garth Brooks got their starts here.

Best New Voice: Songwriter Sarah Siskind has penned hit songs for Alison Krauss. Download: "Falling Stars"

Best Festival: Americana Music Festival. The big secret is that the best music in Nashville isn't country—it's Americana. This festival proves that point by featuring lesser-known artists in September.

Best Recording Shop: Grimey's New & Preloved Music on Eighth Avenue. It's the only place we know that offers CDs by Old Crow Medicine Show as well as Cut Chemist. Check out the live music in the store's basement.