A rapidly changing section of Music City, East Nashville may be recognized for its "hipster" vibes, ample new restaurants, and quaint aesthetic for those just passing through. But if you look a little further you’ll see something truly special — a neighborhood bonded by uniting time and time again to face tragedy and support each other.
East Nashville has many parts to its whole: with Historic Edgefield, Lockeland Springs, East End, and Greater East Nashville (including Highland Heights, Cleveland Park, McFerrin Park and Inglewood).
East Nashville is no stranger to tragedy. The Great Fire of 1916 destroyed over 500 houses and left over 2,500 people homeless. In 1933, a tornado made a rampage through town, tearing through three miles of homes, churches, schools, and stores. And sadly, that wasn’t the end of tornadoes for the neighborhood, as 1998 and 2020 also saw significant damage and loss of life.
Needless to say, the neighborhood has bonded and rebuilt despite getting knocked down more than once. There’s so much to explore about the East side of town, let’s start scratching the surface with a few local favorites, old and new.
Where to stay:
Even better than visiting for the day? Take a little staycation and fully immerse yourself in all things East Nashville.
New in town, Waymore's Guest House & Casual Club is a pet-friendly 93-room boutique hotel located in the former Field House Jones building which was damaged in the 2020 tornado. Here, find fifteen stylish suite offerings alongside a slew of bunk rooms — all with floor-to-ceiling windows, walk-in showers, and workspace with complimentary high-speed internet. There’s a ground-floor bar, cafe, restaurant, and retail plus a rooftop bar with views of the Nashville skyline. “Obscure and inventive, Waymore’s Guest House and Casual Club is an inviting space for all that will tie our love for hospitality with the principal culture of East Nashville,” said Waymore’s General Manager, Ousmane Diop. “Our primary goal is to embrace the history of what this neighborhood has represented for decades, while providing a home away from home for locals and out-of-towners alike to relax, gather and collaborate.”
An extremely quirky overnight option in East Nashville is the 20+ room Dive Motel & Swim Club. The newest brainchild from the minds behind Urban Cowboy, who design, own, and operate multifaceted hospitality brands in Brooklyn and Music City, and is a hybrid motel, swim club, and dive bar. The renovation pulls out all the stops, a fun modern day interpretation of the rundown 1956 Key Motor Inn decked out in vintage 70’s wallpaper and throwback wood paneling. Find "Dive Radio" in rooms with 4 channels: sex, drugs, rock n roll, and sleep.
Ever wanted to sleep inside a 115-year-old historic church? Enter The Russell, an all-brick stunner built in 1904 that’s survived its share of poverty, illness, and natural disaster — but also has seen the East Nashville community rally and rebuild in the midst of hardship. With just 23 rooms unlike any other in a town popping with new hotel options, The Russell’s owners kept many of the church’s original features like stained glass windows, original brick walls, pews reimagined as headboards, and more. Most importantly, The Russell uses a portion of every night’s stay to support local homeless ministries. An average stay at the Russell provides 16 beds and warm meals at a local homeless shelter.
Where to sip:
Lucky for East Nashvillians, the neighborhood has some of the best bars in the country, literally. Four top haunts for alcoholic beverages on the East side are Attaboy, Chopper Tiki, The Fox, and Pearl Diver. For beer aficionados, check out Southern Grist, Smith & Lentz (the pizza!), and Living Waters Brewing. For caffeine stimulation, East Nashville has a wide array of options. Retrograde, Elegy, Slow Hand, Flora & Fauna, Barista Parlor, and Bongo East are just a few.
Where to eat:
East Nashville is one of the best districts in the city for dining out, and that’s not a new trait. From the original location of Prince’s (now flocked south) to still-standing Bolton’s Spicy Chicken & Fish to newer staples like Sean Brock’s stunning flagship restaurants, Audrey and June, these dining destinations have helped put Music City on the culinary map, worldwide. In the morning hours, locals have long gathered at Nashville Biscuit House for classic breakfasts, while those in search of breakfast tacos (and a stellar burger) find happiness at Redheaded Stranger. Find Tex-Czech kolaches at strip-mall spot Yeast Nashville or hip (and tasty) cookies at HiFi Cookies. Only open on Friday through Sunday from 9am to 2pm, Shugga Hi Cafe is a black-owned, women-owned restaurant serving up homestyle vibes and comfort food (think juicy chicken and waffles alongside a standout Sunday brunch buffet) with unmatched Southern hospitality. Meanwhile, a few of my favorite spots for dinner: Butcher & Bee, Pelican & Pig, Xiao Bao, Peninsula, and the Maiz de la Vida truck at Chopper Tiki. Late night prowlers love long-time watering hole Dino's for a proper diner burger.
What to do:
Music, of course, might be top of mind when exploring any part of Nashville. Longstanding local destination The Basement East is yet another shining example of strength and rebuilding — its iconic “I believe in Nashville” mural damaged from the tornado is top of mine for many remembering the storms of 2020. You can also catch a show at the 5 Spot or Jane’s Hideaway — which recently relocated to the East Side. There are also several local parks and a great Farmers Market, plus arcade/bar options for gamers.
Those looking for small boutique shopping will find plenty in East Nashville. Apple and Oak, the East Nashville Crystal Store, and Nelson’s Drum Shop offer a little something for everyone looking for a unique find or even a Nashville souvenir for a visiting friend. Abode Mercantile, Jerry's Artarama, Tabla Rosa Toys, Bookshop, Welcome Home, and Gift Horse are a few other local favorites, ripe for exploring.