A once off-the-beaten-path pocket neighborhood, Germantown is more than meets the eye. Brimming with both historic sites and high-end establishments, it’s now one of the most well-traversed destinations in Music City. Boutiques with thoughtfully curated wares sit cheek to cheek with local restaurants helmed by James Beard Award-winning chefs. The area is as charming as it is exciting, with everything from quaint shops and co-op spaces to nostalgic inns and nightlife. And while the March 2020 tornado ravaged many of the local homes and businesses, Germantown has proven itself to be as resilient as it is beautiful.
Germantown was established by European immigrants as early as the 1850s, and it holds bragging rights as the city’s first suburb (courtesy of its proximity to downtown). Still, the area’s transformation into the bustling place we know today didn’t happen until much later. The 18-block span was always billed as a mixed-use neighborhood, something the district did — and continues to do — well. Much like other areas of the city, Germantown saw a decline in growth after its initial burst. However, it experienced a revitalization in the 1970s, and it was named a Registered Historic District in 1979. From there, a slow-but-steady pattern of growth began.
Growth has given way to some of Nashville’s most beloved food spots, making Germantown a dining mecca. In fact, Germantown first made a serious splash on the culinary scene back in 2016 when City House was won a James Beard award, and again in 2019, when Tailor Nashville landed on Bon Appétit‘s Top 10 list. These days, Tailor continues to wow with pop-ups as it awaits its new location — don’t fret, it will still be in Germantown! But these aren’t the only dining experiences worth venturing to Germantown for.
Other culinary destinations include Henrietta Red, for exquisite oysters and one of the best brunches in town, Rolf & Daughters for housemade pasta and craft cocktails on their patio, Monell’s for southern family-style dishes, and unpretentious burgers at Jack Brown’s. You’ll also find platters of Texas-style barbecue (and an extensive mezcal menu) at Butchertown Hall, cups of carefully brewed coffee at Steadfast Coffee and Barista Parlor, and stunning Italian sandwiches and fresh pasta abound at newcomer Little Hats Market.
As far as restaurants go, the now-shuttered Mad Platter was the first wave-making eatery to join the neighborhood in 1989, setting the stage for the vibrant food scene of today. Just shy of three decades in business, the restaurant closed its doors in 2016, much to the dismay of local diners. Thankfully, Mother’s Ruin, a New York City transplant that is part bar, part restaurant, opened in the space in early 2020. Open daily until 2 a.m., it’s the neighborhood hotspot, drawing a hip crowd in search of great food, great cocktails, and loud music. Alternatively, you can get your game on at Sonny’s Patio Pub and Refuge, where you can indulge in bar games and libations galore without ever leaving Germantown proper.
Germantown Café joined the neighborhood in 2003 (the March 2020 tornado caused it to close its doors for a bit, but it’s back and better than ever!), and Tandy Wilson’s City House followed suit four years later. Christie Cookie Co. invested in Germantown two decades ago by locating its corporate headquarters there and treating the neighborhood to the smell of freshly baked cookies, and a recent remodel gives way to a space that’s double the size with expanded retail offerings. In 2012, beloved Rolf & Daughters arrived as an additional reason to visit Germantown, along with former favorite Silo, which we sorely miss! (Emmy Squared has since moved into the space once occupied by Silo and has become a fast favorite among Germantown residents.)
One of Germantown’s most recent standouts is undoubtedly The Optimist from restaurateur Ford Fry, who brought his famed Atlanta restaurant to town. If you’re looking to indulge in all of Ford’s fine seafood-centric fare (and we recommend that you do), you can also check out his outdoor shaved ice cocktail bar Jacqueline, and his newly opened classic cocktail joint Le Loup. Both are attached to The Optimist, along with Star Rover Sound, a future oasis for tacos and live music. Across the street is some of the best sushi in all of Nashville, at O-Ku.
Before you leave the neighborhood, check off a few more spots from your list: Dinner and cocktails in a stunning atmosphere at 5th & Taylor, something sweet at local favorite The Cupcake Collection, champagne in the garden at Geist, sports watch parties at The Goat, chocolate at Tempered, authentic dumplings at fast-casual SteamBoys, yummy burgers and wings (try the Nashville Hot rub!) at Grillshack, sitting fireside on the patio at Sedona Taphouse, a lively sports bar atmosphere at Neighbors, Korean fare at Samurai Sushi and Korean Pub, a modern American meal (and amazing happy hour) at Saint Stephen, casual dining at Waldo’s Chicken and Beer, local tacos and tequila at Tomacco, and coma-inducing deep dish pizza at 312 Pizza. If you’re in the mood for a loaded potato with some serious sass, One Spunky Spud ought to do the trick, and if it’s your sweet tooth that’s in need of some goodies, Rolled4Ever offers Instagram-worthy rolled ice cream. For everything from breakfast tacos to a mid-afternoon coffee treat, be sure to hit up Red Bicycle.
Germantown’s food culture is alive and well, but the neighborhood also beckons visitors with brick sidewalks, homes dating back to the 19th century, a vast history worth diving into, and a community of neighbors who care deeply about the place they call home.
Former Historic Germantown Neighborhood Association President Richard Audet paints a picture of the neighborhood when he first arrived as a resident nearly 15 years ago. “The most striking difference is in the number of people you see in the neighborhood. Before, you’d rarely see someone when you looked out the window,” he explains. “Now, there is a steady procession of people walking through the streets thanks to the influx of small businesses.”
Richard highlights the fact that Germantown has always been a tight-knit community with historic charm, crediting its community members with preserving its story during times of growth. Look to the Elliott School for a success story of neighborhood activists, who purchased the building after years of neglect from a development firm in 1989 with the goal of preserving it. Today, the former educational facility is home to 44 custom residences that merge historic elements with urban living. The three-story building built in 1916 celebrates 20th-century design and craftsmanship that remains on full display despite its reimagined purpose. Elliott Germantown joins the long list of more than a dozen other residential buildings in the neighborhood, including the Werthan Lofts and the Flats at Taylor Place. Additionally, historic homes have even been transformed into intimate venues and businesses, such as Alabaster Collective, which was built in the 1800s and now serves as a women’s co-op and event space.
Other neighborhood projects on the horizon include a large mixed-use complex on Jefferson Street that’s slated to house office, retail, and residential space, and the Neuhoff Project, a revival of riverfront property that was once a meat-packing plant. Meanwhile, the neighborhood association continues to focus its attention on infrastructure and making the area an even better place to live, work, and play.
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Fully experiencing the neighborhood requires walking with your eyes wide open. In doing so, you’ll notice the many stores, including Wilder, where you can find sleek and modern décor; Mayker Interiors, which offers stylish wares for the home; Alexis + Bolt for women’s clothing, decor, and accessories; The Golden Slipper for a thoughtfully curated collection of goods from local artisans, CBD-centric wellness from Urban Roots Market; and Abednego for clothing, accessories, and gifts. Truman Grey Market offers home goods and candles the owners pout themselves!
Health and beauty fans will be delighted to discover Truman Grey Salon, Steadfast and True Yoga, Provita Fitness, and Poppy & Monroe. For a display of local artists, check out Gallery 100 Taylor Arts. But beyond the storefronts and small businesses, the evolution of Germantown’s neighborhood culture is equally interesting. For example, did you know that by 1865 Germantown was home to four breweries? A historical marker recognizes its original inhabitants for their skills. These days, it’s still home to a few notable breweries, including Monday Night Brewing Co (part of the Neuhoff Project) and Bearded Iris, where you can grab a beer and sit outside to sip.
The Church of the Assumption was fashioned in 1895 using bricks from Nashville’s first Catholic church, and the land it occupies was deeded to the diocese by Dr. McGavock for only $5. Most people also don’t know that the church held the neighborhood’s first Oktoberfest, which has been a neighborhood affair for over 40 years. Sadly, the church underwent catastrophic damage in the 2020 tornado, even losing its landmark steeple. Thankfully, the church has been restored, and the steeple was finally replaced in December 2021.
If you hang your hat at Germantown Inn, you’ll find it interesting that the building dates back to 1865, and its original owner was a shoemaker by the name of H.H. Wallmann. Inside the boutique hotel, each room is inspired by a notable U.S. president or history-making woman. “The physical structure of Germantown is changing, but it is the story of the neighborhood that we need to preserve,” Richard reiterates. Additionally, Germantown boasts significant cultural history, with efforts to highlight Jefferson Street’s origins such as the Jefferson Street Sound Museum and J.U.M.P. (Jefferson Street United Merchants Partnership).
Just outside of the neighborhood’s small footprint, more restaurants, parks, and cultural destinations contribute to Germantown’s appeal. The Nashville Farmers Market is a year-round market with an indoor food hall worth exploring, including popular spots like The Picnic Tap and Jeni’s Ice Cream. The Bicentennial Mall provides space to stretch your legs and take in views of the capitol. First Horizon Park is home to the Nashville Sounds and hosts a variety of fun events in the off-season. (Von Elrod’s Beer Hall and Kitchen is across the street from the entrance, where you can indulge in a little post-game revelry or weekly trivia nights!)
If you’re a bowling fan, Brooklyn Bowl is a big dose of fun with live music shows, libations, nibbles, and, of course, bowling. Just over the river (but visible from the streets of Germantown), Top Golf offers a haven for practice, lessons, leagues, and even events. And if you’re eager to experience the frenzy of downtown Nashville, you’re only a few minutes away from Broadway.
Stroll the streets of Germantown to discover all of this and so much more!
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