Hot dogs are like some weird trigger smell for me. There have been many times when I have walked out of a gourmet restaurant in Manhattan, full on the rich and decadent food of one of the city’s top chefs, only to smell the hot dog vendor on the street and feel hungry again. Good thing that works for me because when we strolled up to “I Dream of Weenie” in East Nashville, the fifth stop on our Nashville food tour with Walk. Eat. Nashville., I didn’t think I could eat a bite. But then I smelled those hot dogs and I was ready to sample my trio of hot dogs with a range of southern toppings.
For those that have complained about taking a food tour and leaving hungry, you can be guaranteed that won’t happen on a Walk. Eat. Nashville food tour. Founder and owner Karen-Lee Ryan offers three different food tours in Nashville, each with a maximum of 12 people on each. Since I love using food tours to explore neighborhoods I may not visit on my own, we picked the East Nashville tour on our recent Nashville trip.
You would be mistaken to describe the East End of Nashville as an “up and coming neighborhood” because, as I have been told, it has “arrived.” Property values here sure seem to say so and I was charmed by the cute bungalows and progressive arts and food scene in this part of town. We would be unlikely to cross the river and explore on our own so the Walk Eat Nashville food tour was the perfect way to see this part of town.
Walk Eat Nashville Food Tour
Our tour kicked off at Margot Cafe in Five Points. It was an appropriate starting place since Margot, a Nashville native who returned from NYC 16 years ago to pioneer the East Nashville food scene. Although usually only open for dinner, we stepped inside to sample some delicious Pimento cheese biscuits and get to know one another.
Five Points Pizza
From Margot’s, we stepped across the street to Five Points Pizza to learn about the crazy journey that took the three owners, who had never made pizza before deciding to open a pizza place, to the point where they now make 1,000 pounds of dough a day. They clearly figured it out because people line up at night for pizza slices and I could taste why. We had a choice between three flavors (the menu changes daily) and I can confidently say that it is better than most of the pizza we have here in Rhode Island. I can see why they have won Best Pizza awards multiple times over and are #2 in the top 30 things to do in Nashville (according to Airbnb.)
Marché Artisan Foods
From Five Points Pizza, we walked past Woodland Studios, where rock legends like Robert Plant have recorded, to Marché Artisan Foods. Marché is a European-style cafe and market, with an emphasis on fresh ingredients. We sat down and sampled a nectarine tartine with fresh ricotta and a delicious salad. The flavors may change with the season but if all are this good, I’d say that Marché should be on your list for fresh, flavorful, healthy eating — and a nice break from the fried chicken and biscuits we had been consuming in Nashville!
After Marché, it was a bit of a walk through the East End to the Lockeland district, but Karen-Lee kept us entertained with tidbits about the neighborhood along the way. This artsy district really shines during the annual Tomato Art Festival in August (we just missed it!), which Nat Geo Travel named in its Best Summer Trips of 2017. This area is also home to some really innovative retail incubator spaces, which makes it a fun spot to explore, shop, and dine.
When we arrived at Lockeland Table, we were happy to sit down and sip a cool “Southern Girl” cocktail, made with Belle Mead bourbon, peach and ginger shrub, and cava (non-drinkers can have a mocktail.) Though usually only open for dinner, sous chef Jason welcomed us with a summer succotash of corn, micro basil, eggplant, squash, and some crispy pork belly. Lockeland should be on your radar if you visit Nashville because the night that we visited, Chef Hal Holden-Bache was appearing on an episode of Beat Bobby Flay.
I Dream of Weenie
It was a good thing we had to walk back, because by this time, we were starting to fill up. But like I said, hot dogs always make my mouth water. And along the way, Karen-Lee told us more about the history of the area and its battles with weather disasters, poverty, and more (it is doing just fine now.)
I Dream of Weenie was our next spot and this gourmet hot dog food truck is listed as one of the most photographed spots in Nashville. Between the kitsch, the name, and the darn good food, it is no wonder that I Dream of Weenie has been featured on the Travel Channel. Its hot dogs come with all sorts of toppings and they even have “brunch dogs” with French Toast and eggs, and seasonal, holiday-themed dogs.
The Soda Parlor
Our final stop was yet another surprise. The Soda Parlor is owned by YouTube star Olan Rogers and it started off as an idea of having a place to meet fans and sell merchandise. Now they have expanded into a hip soda parlor featuring ice cream soda floats, milkshakes, and Waffle “Mondays” (basically a fresh waffle with an ice cream sundae on top.) The ice cream is custom made by local creamery Pied Piper.
It was only fitting to finish off our Nashville food tour with a sweet dessert. Karen-Lee made sure that we went home full of great info and delicious food. It is easy to see why her tours books up in advance. So if you are visiting Nashville soon, definitely book a food tour with Walk Eat Nashville, but if you will be there on the weekend, keep in mind that Saturdays sell out one to two-months in advance, especially during the summer.
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Note: I received a media package for purposes of this review. All opinions are my own. Thanks to Karen-Lee for her hospitality and for answering my many questions!