500,000 and counting.
That’s how many small businesses call Tennessee home, and many are based in Nashville.
It says a lot about our booming economy, but also about who we are: creative people making a living doing what we love.
To that end, we at Unsung Nashville are doing what we love: making a list.
Specifically, we’re spotlighting the small businesses in our neighborhoods that make our days tastier, happier or more interesting.
(Full disclosure: it’s mostly food and drink because obviously it is.)
Inglewood (East Nashville)
Mike’s Ice Cream Sip Cafe
This outpost of Mike’s flagship ice cream shop downtown serves terrific coffee and homemade ice cream in amazing flavors. It’s a neat rehab of a former bank; the ice cream is even made behind the old teller windows.
High Garden Tea
Amazing tea shop. Buy it to take home and brew, or drink some there. Local artists sell pottery and the like as well. Great community vibe.
Tower Market and Deli
First, they took a nasty old gas station and built something much nicer. Second, they have terrific sandwiches and serve breakfast items all day.
Gunner’s Glass Recycling
Gunner’s is a small family business started by a father and son team when the kid was 5. For $9/month, they give you a bin to use and pick up your glass once a month to recycle it, and will come more often with a simple call.
It’s a great service, especially since Nashville doesn’t currently offer glass recycling.
The Filling Station
Two friends opened this craft beer-to-go place in the old Halcyon bike shop. They sort the beers by type on the board for you, too, so it’s easy to pick a growler you’ll like.
Rice’s Country Hams
Even though I live in 12 South, I couldn’t let a small business list go without a shout-out to Mount Juliet where my parents live, specifically Rice’s Country Hams.
It’s a 6o-year-old third generation ham business, and they’ve been in the same white barn at the corner of Lebanon and Saundersville for years. They’re only open October-February, or until they sell out of that year’s hams.
Karma on Church Street
Terri, the owner, makes a lot of the clothes and jewelry on sale, but mixes in cool vintage and vintage-type stuff, as well as artwork from local artists.
There is no doubt that everything in the store reflects her personal aesthetic. It’s the definition of eclectic, including her hours, but when you want something different for yourself or for a gift, it’s the place to go.
And if you catch Terri there, you can hear some fascinating stories about her rock and roll life.
The Peanut Shop in the Arcade
It’s like stepping into a time machine. It has been around for decades and looks like few changes have been made. And the candy!
Fun fact: It was originally a Planter’s Peanut Shoppe and is one of only four original Planter Peanut stores still open and operating. It has been owned by Kathy and Olivia, a couple of sisters, since 1989.
Fleet Street Pub
I have a hard time not recommending Fleet Street Pub in Printers Alley (and not just because I own it with my husband Glenn) but because it is such a neighborhood hang.
No bands, no karaoke, no country music on the jukebox — it is designed to be not-touristy, and that can be hard to find downtown these days. It’s also the best place to watch football (i.e. soccer) in town.
Taquería la Juquilita
The best, most authentic, cheapest Mexican food in town. (Sorry, Cinco – I still love you!)
Everything on the menu is excellent — tacos, empanadas, pupusas — but whatever you do, get something with mole.
They aren’t open every day (and are closed most Friday nights) and they only take cash, but you can BYOB, and even if you don’t know what you’re ordering, know it will be delicious.
Excellent neighborhood dive bar that’s more than a dive.
Justin, the bartender/owner, reopened the old Centennial Bar & Grill as just “The Centennial” in 2015 but kept the list of banned patrons from the bar’s original run on the wall. And he’s just the Sam Malone-type you’re looking for: personable, interesting but will gladly leave you alone to drink your Coors Banquet (or a local draft) if you like.
The food is also head-and-shoulders above typical bar food. Try the spicy chicken sandwich or wings with Centennial sauce.
(Justin won’t say what’s in the sauce, but I have determined the secret ingredients must be crack and MSG based on its addictive properties. Fine by me.)
Corner Pub Green Hills
My home not far away from home.
Great food. Friendly atmosphere. Steamed sammies.
Try the meatball sub.
One of my favorite lunch stops.
I order the grilled chicken pita so frequently that they start making it before I get to the counter.
Cozy, casual spot with top-notch menu.
True neighborhood restaurant run by the same folks for 15 years.
Poppy & Monroe
This nail/beauty salon, co-owned by friends Karen and Sherri, focuses on the value of all natural living.
They provide quality full-service beauty care with a commitment to non-toxic and environmentally friendly products and services.
They have great gifts (candles, accessories, beauty products), and they also carry purses, nail polish and jewelry created by local entrepreneurs.
Craig and Marcia Jervis opened their quirky little restaurant in 1989, long before Germantown became a neighborhood hotspot in Nashville.
It’s great for a business lunch or a romantic dinner.
I hesitate to share this because it’s an unintentional neighborhood secret, but their Thirsty Thursday happy hour is one of the best in town.
Tempered Cafe & Chocolates / The Green Hour
By day, Tempered is an inviting little chocolate shop. All the delicious sweet treats are made in-house and are accompanied by coffee and tea.
By night, Thursday through Saturday, when the green light illuminates the window, the space becomes an absinthe bar.
Craft cocktails are also served, as is the cafe fare available during daylight hours.
Eighth and Roast
Great little spot right on 8th Ave. that has amazing coffee. It’s on the strong side, but not at all bitter.
I love walking down here on Saturday mornings for a latte. The employees are always super nice.
I first visited Kore on Small Business Saturday a couple years ago to find gifts for friends.
Jenelle, the owner, remembered me the next time I came in to buy some beard shampoo, which really left an impression on me.
It’s a great place for small gifts or stuff for your home.
The Produce Place
The Produce Place is a locally owned natural food grocery store right in the middle of Sylvan Park.
Opened in 1988, the store has a relationship with local farmers and produce growers, so it has the freshest fruits and vegetables in town, as well as some great prepared foods from local vendors.
Pizza Perfect and Kay Bob’s
Both of these restaurants are owned by Amir Arab, who came to Nashville in 1978 from Iran.
Everyone at both restaurants is friendly, and the pizza at Pizza Perfect is great.
I used to eat at Kay Bob’s four times a week when it was halfway between my office at Vandy and my apartment.
Music City Tea
Very well-hidden tea shop in Williamson Square shopping center that is owned and operated by a lovely women named Jinlan (Jenny).
She is from the area around Wuyishan in Fujian Province in China, which is known as a prominent source of green, white, black, and oolong tea grown locally.
Three generations of Jenny’s family have grown black and oolong tea, and she is an absolute expert on all things Chinese loose leaf tea.
Red Dog Wine & Spirits
My wife and I go in here more often than we probably should, and have the fortunate claim of knowing their people pretty well.
In addition to having a huge selection (1,700 wines, 300 whiskeys, a 20-tap growler station and regular tasting with their expert staff), they’re fantastically warm and friendly people who have been in the Franklin community for years.
Hip Donelson Farmer’s Market
Every Friday night throughout the summer there is a farmer’s market in the ACE Hardware Parking lot.
You can find great produce, cheeses, meats and heavenly cheesecakes with live music.
Homegrown Taproom & Marketplace
This relatively new restaurant features an wide selection of craft brews and a cozy atmosphere.
It’s not your typical bar, they have plenty of seating, and the craft brews are definitely their focus.
Peter’s Sushi and Thai
One of the best sushi restaurants in the Nashville area, and you never know who you might see there, including stars of the screen and stage.
The Flour Shop
Local bakery run like your grandmother’s kitchen.
Fresh ingredients and handmade southern delicacies are sure to satisfy your sweet tooth, but bring cash or your checkbook when you check out. They run the register old school: no cards.