Places - Our Choices 

What we chose

What we chose

Best Bohemian Hangout:

Bongo Java

Where computer geeks rub elbows with neo-Luddite poets; where playwrights, magazine editors and filmmakers argue movies and politics; where daredevil smokers brazenly puff away. After five straight double espressos, the conversations all blur into a single mile-long caffeine-fueled rant. The East Bank in West Nashville. (JR)

Best Hotel for an Overnight Stay:

The Hermitage Suite Hotel

Located at Sixth and Union, near TPAC, the Ryman, Second Avenue and Lower Broad, the old gal looks gorgeous, thanks to a recent renovation that has the brass gleaming and the marble buffed. Rooms start at $139, so lodgings are pricey. But for historical value, nothing beats a stay in the same quarters that once hosted everyone from W.B. Yeats to John F. Kennedy to Minnesota Fats. (JR)

Best Successor to Cummins Station Once It’s Full:

Werthan Mills

Cummins Station proved that Nashvillians are hungry for a taste of Soho. The Werthan Mills are next on the menu. Financing limits have caused Atlanta’s Urban Partnership to scale back its plans for loft living from two mills to one. That’s OK, because a private investor is reportedly interested in the cotton mill for a combination of offices and retail. The mills have an amenity Cummins Station lacks: great sightlines to the Tennessee Capitol. (CK)

Best Bowling Alley:

Inglewood Bowling Center

Built in the 1950s, Inglewood Bowl remains a favorite of local church leagues, both for its convenient location (just across the lot from Inglewood Methodist) and because of its no-booze restrictions. Families keep coming back to Inglewood Bowl’s 24 lanes, just for the chance to belly up to a snack bar that dishes out burgers, fries, shakes and other bowler-positive fare. For purists, there’s none of that newfangled electronic-scoring guff; for kids, there’s “bumper bowling” on lanes with inflatable gutter guards that allow even the clumsiest toddler to tag a pin or two. A shrine to the elusive 7-10 split. (JR)

Best Place to People-Watch:

The Farmer’s Market

The Farmer’s Market has always been a great place to watch people, but, with the new buildings, it’s better than ever—because now there are more people. The best time to go is Saturday. That’s when hordes of hungry Nashvillians from a variety of backgrounds descend on the market to buy fresh seafood, Korean groceries, Middle-Eastern delicacies, and garlic in every form known to humankind. (GG)

Best Place to Pick Up a Prostitute:

Dickerson Road

While neighborhood crackdowns are starting to clean up former all-night reliables such as Murfreesboro Road, Dickerson remains a veritable bag of tricks—even though the parade of gawking locals hoping to see real-live ’hos can only be hurting the trade. Still, where there’s a will.... (JR)

Best Cathouse:

The Cat Shoppe, Green Hills

You people and your dirty minds. At a concert last winter, classical composer Lee Gannon described the Cat Shoppe’s Chris Achord as “the Mother Teresa of cats,” and with good reason. In three years of business, Achord’s adoption notebook has helped some 500 cats find new homes, and regulars often drop by to visit kitties of all colors, sizes and temperaments. If you can tolerate the sound of grown people going, “Aww-w-w,” you’ll want to drop by. (JR)

Best Shortcut:

Ellington Parkway

Here’s the best advice for getting downtown from the Rivergate area during rush hour: Avoid I-65 altogether. Instead, hop over to Ellington Parkway, which runs almost parallel to the interstate and avoids the Trinity Lane pileups. Ninety percent of the time, Ellington is a forgotten road, and it’s the fastest way to get from here to there. (GG)

Best Place for an Illicit Rendezvous:

Lea’s Summit

The highest point in Nashville, Lea’s Summit in Percy Warner Park is the perfect place for a tryst. The views are great, but the trees come in especially handy when privacy is a priority. Just remember—the park closes at 11 p.m. (GG)

Best City Region Desperately Seeking Hipness:

Germantown

The Mad Platter and Monell’s are currently attracting the downtown crowd, but otherwise this neighborhood is treading water. The new Farmer’s Market is gradually evolving into the city’s green grocer, and the completion of the Bicentennial Mall will add some much-needed greenspace. Mixed-use development of the historic Werthan Mills—loft apartments, some offices, some shops—could push this area into the urban cool zone. (CK)

Best Revitalization of an Old Building:

The offices of Tuck-Hinton Architects

Taking time off from designing the Farmer’s Market and the Bicentennial Mall, the bad-boy architects added their trademark touch to historic Elm Street Methodist Church. They left the 1860 exterior pretty much as it was, but inside the partners look down from their choir-loft office into a cool-white nave where the worshipped deity is the god of design. The unsolved mystery of the space is how they light the candelabra. (CK)

Best View of Nashville:

From the Shelby Bridge

From this angle, the city actually makes sense; it even looks like somebody planned it. The urban profile rises from the river’s edge to the warehouses on First Avenue, and then steps up to a backdrop of skyscrapers, with the Ryman’s gable and the arena’s flying saucer standing as symbols for our past and our future. If the bridge is saved for pedestrians and bicyclers, Nashvillians might actually get to savor the view. It deserves more than a quick glimpse through a car window. (CK)

Best Jogging Route:

Shelby Bottoms

This public greenspace won’t officially open until September, but, once the weather clears, Metro Parks plans to finish the mulching and add paved paths and bridges. This is a place for those who like to mix the natural with the distinctly manmade—a little snake here or there, a red-tailed hawk making lazy circles in the sky, the river taxis ravaging the banks of the Cumberland, and trains laboring over the long bridge from Omohundro to Shelby Park. (CK)

Best Street:

Richland Avenue

This street has everything: sidewalks under a canopy of trees, a grassy median, and the kind of architecture Nashville does best—the single family home, from four-squares to bungalows. The north side of the avenue has the lagniappe of a service alley, so driveways and garbage cans don’t mar the curbside appeal. (CK)

Best Neighborhood for a Renewal:

Eastwood

Eastwood is right across the road from Lockeland Springs. It is also just a quick walk away from the Radio Cafe, which serves up fresh bread and strong coffee, the Sunday New York Times and a great meat-loaf sandwich. Redistricting has provided this neighborhood with its first good Council rep, Eileen Beehan, after years of suffering under the embarrassing antics of Fermo DePasquo. The area has affordable historic architecture and a newly formed neighborhood association that’s pushing for conservation zoning to save it. What’s not to like? (CK)

Best Fishing Hole:

Marrowbone Lake, Joelton

The banks are too steep for strolling, so only hard-core anglers muddy the waters. In the summer, the water cools the air; in the fall, the colors flame. The fish in the shady coves must be as happy as the pickerel Thoreau worshiped at Walden Pond. (CK)

Best Building to Demolish and Start Over:

BMI

The addition looks like it’s eating the original BMI headquarters. This brutal concrete structure, with its jaunty flags, totally annihilates the low-slung brick building that once made such a discreet statement on Music Row. Discretion is not the better part of valor for the folks who brought you Batman: The BMI colossus is clearly visible from all over town. (CK)

Best Place for a New Baseball Stadium:

The East Bank

Take out a truck stop or two north of Main Street, and homers start plopping into the Cumberland, with a prize from the Tennessee Environmental Council for every slugger who draws attention to the waterway. Cincinnati is building two sports palaces on the Ohio, to share parking, access ramps and skyline sightings. Nashville could have its own corridor-o-jocks. (CK)

Best Cemetery to Take a Walk In:

City Cemetery

Here lies almost as much local history as the Nashville Room of the Ben West Public Library: “First Lady Schoolteacher” and “First White Male Child” and others who shuffled off this mortal coil and left their names on our streets and public buildings. The memorial of one dearly departed needed Spell-Check: a guy born in “Ithica,” N.Y., died here only to rest in peace under an eternal [sic]. (CK)

Best Place to Overhear Political Gossip:

The hallway outside the cafeteria, Legislative Plaza, from January through May

It’s as if three or four rivers had come together in one spot. Lots of mud. Whirlpools. Whirling, roiling water. Legislators and sycophants stream out of Lt. Gov. John Wilder’s office, folks glide down the Capitol escalators, reporters head up from the press room and meeting rooms, and lobbyists emerge from the cafeteria, always headed somewhere VERY IMPORTANT. After sitting in the hall outside the Legislative Plaza cafeteria for a while, any idiot could write tomorrow’s front page using only his, or her, left hand. (BD)

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