An at-a-glance key to the city for Nashville's incoming college students 

Cheat Sheet

Cheat Sheet

We at the Scene remember our college days well — the raccoon coats, the Hupmobile joyrides, the late-night "bull sessions" and lusty ukulele-powered renditions of "Freddy the Freshman" and "I Love My Wife, But Oh You Kid." But if someone had only shared with us their hard-won knowledge of our new surroundings, with a little luck we probably wouldn't remember them at all. Youth of today, feel free to clip and tuck away this page, as we've tried to anticipate and answer some of your needs.

It's late at night: what's there to eat in this town?

First, at some point in your Nashville tenure, you'll need to acquaint yourself with our native delicacy, hot chicken — fried chicken with a peppery crust the heat and color of hellfire, toothpicked atop two pieces of grease-soaked white bread with pickle. That means a trip some Friday or Saturday night around 2 a.m. to the legendary Prince's Hot Chicken Shack (123 Ewing Drive), where the medium alone serves multiple duties as a hangover cure, a sinus clearer, an atomic colonic, a rite of passage and a triple-dog dare for the unwary. Don't chase it down with a soda — carbonation just pisses it off.

Then there's — well, everything else. Wings your thing? Knock-Out Wings (1300 Jefferson St.) serves dynamite drummies near Fisk until 2 a.m. weekend nights: don't cheat yourself of a honey biscuit. Pizza? MafiaOza's (2400 12th Ave. S.) cranks out slices and Italian fare with goofy Godfather-style names until 3 a.m. every night but Monday. Breakfast? If the prospect of the Awful Waffle doesn't sizzle your bacon, join the cops and late-night denizens at Athens Family Restaurant (2526 Franklin Pike), slinging Greek fare and American blue-plate chow 'round the clock Wednesday through Saturday, or the super-cheap Hermitage Cafe (71 Hermitage Ave.), where you can greet dawn's rosy fingers with a two-dollar grilled-cheese gutbomb. And Top Chef contestant Arnold Myint's awesome PM (2017 Belmont Blvd.) can reward a night of cramming with one of the city's best burgers and excellent sweet-potato fries — and sushi, too.

Or if you prefer to chase your meals, watch the Twitter feeds for Nashville's newest craze: mobile food trucks dispensing everything from tacos (Mas Tacos Por Favor), grilled cheese (The Grilled Cheeserie) and pizza (Pizza Buds) to Japanese (Happy Eating), Caribbean (Riffs Food Truck) and authentic Philly cheesesteaks (Labor of Love). Some have late-night hours, some don't; all are worth investigating.

How do I get my drink on?

If you're new to Nashville, new to drinking or new to drinking in Nashville, you should know a few things: You can't buy wine at the grocery store, and liquor stores are special, separate booze and wine palaces. That's why Frugal MacDoogal (701 Division St., and not a bad choice for stocking the fridge/bathtub) has different entrances for the beer part and the liquor part. Our laws are weird that way.

Every school has its favorite campus bars, but if you want to get down on Friday without running into that guy who looks at you weird in class, you need to embiggen your drinking map. Ready to move past the Remembrance of Things Pabst and on to swankier libations? Swing over to Patterson House (1711 Division St.), where they serve a drink that involves whiskey and bacon. That too fancy for you? Slip down the street to Red Door (1816 Division St.). Or if that all sounds a bit too uppity, there's always The Villager (1719 21st Ave. S.), where you can vicariously smoke a pack of cigarettes in about an hour while throwing darts and knocking back a few cold ones.

Where do I go to see live music?

You're cheating yourself out of an education if at some point you don't catch a show at the world-famous Ryman Auditorium, quintessential honky-tonk Robert's Western World or Jack White's Willy Wonka-esque Third Man Records — truly only-in-Nashville experiences — but the essential lesson here is that you must break outside the campus bubble and check out some of the city's many established, up-and-coming and variously awesome bands, DJs and MCs. The Rock Block — that's Elliston Place between 21st Avenue and Louise, for you newbs — is a great place to start, with the storied rock club Exit/In on one side and the gritty confines of The End on the other. Both book a mix of touring and local acts. The Mercy Lounge/Cannery Ballroom complex (1 Cannery Row, off Eighth Avenue) is another lively nexus of road warriors and hungry up-and-comers. Meanwhile, The Basement sits below the world-renowned Grimey's record shop (1604 Eighth Ave. S.) — and both are places you shouldn't graduate without visiting. If you want something a bit more slick, try hip-hop hangout Mai (125 12th Ave. N.) and nearby 12th & Porter, or check out the thriving GLBT club district on Church Street, anchored by state-of-the-art dance clubs Play (1519 Church St.) and Tribe Nashville (1517 Church St.). Not of age? Many shows are 18-plus, and if you're feeling adventurous, there are, shall we say, less formal venues about, too — ask around and you'll figure it out.

Where do I buy books?

Memphis. Just kidding — sort of. A contagion of closings last year deprived the city of its largest bookstores, leaving mom-and-pop operations like Hillsboro Village's used-volume emporium Bookman/Bookwoman (1713 21st Ave. S.) to soldier on. But the city eagerly awaits the opening of novelist Ann Patchett's Parnassus Books this fall in Green Hills, and Barnes & Noble will soon team with Vanderbilt to provide an outpost of the campus bookstore on West End. In the meantime, there's always the labyrinthine McKay's Used Books, CDs, DVDs and More (5714 Charlotte Pike) — which doubles as a handy place to sell stuff when you're short on funds.

How about groceries?

You won't beat the prices at area ALDIs or the Apple Market (2900 West End Ave.), which is within walking distance of Vanderbilt. Dominant chains include Kroger, Publix and Harris Teeter, but the cargo-cultish Trader Joe's (3909 Hillsboro Pike) is a must for weird snack mixes, chips, desserts and other munchies. As for eating healthy, you can visit Whole Foods at its Green Hills outpost (4021 Hillsboro Pike), or dine like a locavore at one of the many burgeoning farmers markets scattered around the city — of which the largest remains the must-visit Nashville Farmers Market (900 Rosa L. Parks Blvd.).

What's this I hear about East Nashville?

There are no major universities in East Nashville, so many undergrads take their sweet time crossing over to explore the 37206. What's over there, beside bars with awesome two-for-ones, a bustling arts and music scene, and some of the city's best restaurants? Oh, not much. Three Crow Bar (1024 Woodland St.) or Red Door East (1010 Forrest Ave.) anchor the Five Points drinking zone. (Pro tip: Hold on to that wood token.) Nuvo Burrito (1000 Main St. #103), Batter'd and Fried (1008 Woodland St. #A) and Marche (1000 Main St. #101) offer a range of grub options from fried-and-true to affordably gourmet. The 5 Spot (1006 Forrest Ave.) features live music and the occasional dance party. Go east on Eastland Avenue long enough and you'll run into a corridor of fun stops, including Rosepepper (1907 Eastland Ave.) and its delectable margaritas, Wild Cow (1896 Eastland Ave.) with its creative vegetarian and The Silly Goose (1888 Eastland Ave.) with its organic, locally sourced dishes. Oh, and Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams (1892 Eastland Ave.) will change your life. North a bit, the Riverside Village area (at Riverside Drive and McGavock Avenue) is home to the excellent Mitchell Delicatessen, the relaxing Village Pub and the stylish shop Old Made Good. If you want to chow down on a massive fried fish sandwich — and why wouldn't you? — head up to Eastside Fish (2617 Gallatin Pike). They've got "the crunkest fish in town."

Hey, how do I get to these places?

Alas, Nashville is just awakening to the glories of public transportation. (If anyone offers to direct you to the subway, run.) The city's MTA bus lines (nashvillemta.org), though still frustratingly limited in late-night service (and where are all the shelters?), have come a long way. Take the free Green Line circling daily through downtown to explore the center of the city. Cabs are difficult to find unless you call for them: Providers include Nashville Cab Co. (883-2323) and Music City Taxi (262-0451). To take advantage of Nashville's 94 miles of bike lanes and routes and 40 miles of greenways, try out Metro's bike-share program GreenBikes (nashvillerideshare.org), where a valid driver's license allows you to check out a bike free at one of six locations, including Riverfront Park's train station and East Nashville's Shelby Bottoms.

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