Coffeehouses in Nashville go by many names. Breakfast spot. Reading place. Study corner. Freelance headquarters. Depending on the time of day, you’ll see bed-head musician, traveling salesperson, and college student all standing in line at various beaneries in every pocket of the Tennessee capitol. As a former resident, I took some time to pass out some faux hardware for what makes each shop pretty special.
Best counter display
In honor of the Pope’s stateside trip, we begin these inaugural awards at the holy of holies in Nashville – Bongo Java near Belmont. Yesterday, around 11 a.m., the line ran 10 deep for lattes and espressos. So, I put my bag down to save a window table (I do this after getting someone nearby – usually a woman for some reason – to agree to watch my stuff) and stood my turn. While waiting, I set my eyes on what’s known at Bongo as the "Nun Bun," a 1996 cinnamon roll that looks – no kidding – like Mother Teresa. The folks at Bongo display the once-stolen saintly sweetthing in a makeshift shrine. Media like the Washington Post, CNN, BBC, Paul Harvey, and David Letterman have covered this bakery miracle.
You’re having…an apple pie (drink). Ciderific hot stuff on the porch.
Best previous life
I don’t believe the website when it tells me they named the place after the sixth century goat herder’s dog who discovered coffee. Oh. They were kidding. Ah. Fido though, no joke, is a serious gathering spot in Hillsboro Village.
A former pet shop (just see the neon sign out front), the two rooms stay full pretty much all day every day. Fido is the intersection of Vandy, music row, and normal Nash folk. I once sat outside studying for an exam around 9 pm and Dolly Parton walked by me. She’s even prettier in person. Seriously.
You’re having…"simply eggs" and cheese grits with straight coffee. Breakfast here is incredible. Great alternative to long lines at famous Pancake Pantry down the block.
Portland Brew, the location on 12th Ave S, does a good job of looking like a hurtin’ coffeeshop. Cinderblock simplicity, sometimes questionable art work, construction on-going. But, the place is nearly always full. And loyalty is not something you can buy. Friendliness and seriously good coffee makes PB my go-to spot for on-the-road emailing and writing. Those sheeny yellow chairs are heaven. And their cubbies (currently closed off for some renovations) make for excellent secret meeting spots and deal-making, so it seems.
You’re having…an Irish Creme brew if it’s available. And a scone.
Sam and Zoe’s near 100 Oaks sits back off Thompson Lane (which is the same thing as Woodmont eastbound) right next to the best burrito place in Nashville (Baja). If I could live upstairs in the little coffeehouse bungalow S&Z’s, I would, because I could have granola and coffee for breakfast at home and a fantastic burrito for lunch. Then, I’d go grab an iced coffee and sit on my sweet front porch and watch all the cars drive up to my side-window for a to-go cup of joe. All while I check email on free WiFi. Doesn’t that sound perfect? (Though I do close at 7 p.m.)
You’re having…an apple-berry tea.
Starbucks, the great demise of the Mom&Pop. Actually, I kind of like the ‘buck, as my friend Abby who worked there called it. I love Starbucks because they give health coverage to part-time employees (honorable) and they rock a solid jukebox (cool). Plus, I always feel comfortable when I go to an out-of-town Starbucks. I recognize the lay. Nashville’s best is on West End Ave, near Belle Meade, where White Bridge crosses. This ‘buck is spacious, offers a covered patio, and seems free of college-kid overflow.
You’re having…a grande 180 degree 1 centimeter foam 1% soy latte in a venti cup. Or just a coffee.
On the map…