Welcome to our first installment of Sports & Entertainment Nashville’s newest regular feature entitled “Neighborhood Spotlight!” We hope to feature all of the neighborhoods that make Nashville unique – because, after all, Nashville is more than a city and a downtown. It is a harmonious blend of small neighborhoods that together make up the great city we know and love!
For the first neighborhood to spotlight, we chose the trendy yet historical, learned but boisterous, homey while citified Hillsboro Village. Home to both books and pancakes, you can’t go wrong with a visit to Hillsboro Village!
What once began as a wide spot in the road on 21st Avenue leading out of downtown, Hillsboro Village began to grow in the 1920s due to its placement as a spoke in the wheel of the streetcar system that once wove its way through Nashville. Isn’t that a wonderful image in your mind? Streetcars in downtown Nashville. Wish I could have been there to see the sight.
Homes and small businesses grew in the area now known as Hillsboro Village from the 1920s forward, with many homes built between 1910 and the 1940s. This is evident today in the businesses located in the former homes, with all their post-war architecture charm.
One of my very favorite places to go in Hillsboro Village – and I’m certainly not alone in my enthusiasm – is Pancake Pantry. You can’t go to Hillsboro Village without stopping here. They have the market cornered on pancakes, no pun intended. At the corner of 21st and Belcourt, this restaurant has served up what has to be millions of pancakes since it first opened in 1961.
Raise your hand if you can remember standing in Fido when it was still Jones Pet Shop! If you wheedled your parents for a puppy or a kitten from the windows of the venerable store, you win the “Nashville Native” gold star! Now a trendy pitstop for coffee and more, Fido is part of the Bongo family of cafes and restaurants, which also includes Grins, Hot & Cold and Bongo Java, which happens to be the best place on earth for a fabulous cup of coffee. Hair of the Dog, anyone?!
While you’re strolling down the sidewalk, shopping and perusing the shop windows, you must stop in to my favorite haunt for books in town, at BookManBookWoman, our city’s most beloved bookstore. I hope they have a birthday party soon, because it looks to me as if BookManBookWoman is in its 20th year of business! I will certainly be one to raise my glass (of Bongo Java’s Hair of the Dog coffee, I must say) and say, “Cheers!” to the Woods and their enduring shelves lined with books upon books. Stop in and visit a locally-owned treasure. And leave with a good, solid book made of paper and ink.
Another homage to a traditional artistic format can be found in Hillsboro Village at the Belcourt Theatre, an old-fashioned movie house that was saved from the clutches of commercial development and continues to show films during its now-90 year old history. The Belcourt, which opened in 1925, is continuing its mission of “presenting the best of independent, documentary, world, repertory and classic cinema.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Davis Cookware, is also a fabulous place to shop. Located in Hillsboro Village for as long as I can remember, carries any restaurant supply and kitchenware that you can dream of. Also an exceptional place for coffee, Davis Cookware is one of Hillsboro Village’s best mixtures of practical and creative goods. Where else can you get a great kitchen knife, a set of cookware and expert advice on coffee all at the same place? Nowhere but at Davis Cookware.
The restaurant Cabana is one that is not to be missed, either. Randy Rayburn’s restaurant boasts the best food and the best porch in town, hands down. If you’re in the mood for an intriguing, upscale twist on classic Southern dishes, head over to Cabana. Dishes such as Spicy Shrimp & Cheddar Grits or Sweet Tea Smoked Half Chicken are ready for you!
The final two stops on my nostalgic trip through Hillsboro Village would have to be the Hillsboro Hardware store and Friedman’s, Nashville’s place for sturdy camping and military surplus goods for decades. Opened in 1972, Friedman’s has every sort of camping, outdoor or military gadget you can think of. From tents to Navy t-shirts, Friedman’s has it all! And Hillsboro Hardware, one of Nashville’s oldest family-owned businesses, is the very best spot for all things fix-it in Nashville. It’s not often that you can find a place that has survived as an independently, locally-owned and family-run business in the face of today’s mega-chain corporations, and this is your chance to support two! Hillsboro Hardware and Friedman’s are both Nashville institutions, and you’re not truly Nashville if you aren’t able to say you’re a customer of both!
I could wax poetic on Hillsboro Village for much longer, but I will stop here, saying simply that Nashville would not be Nashville if it weren’t for Hillsboro Village. It has held onto its neighborhood feel while embracing diversity and change and, at the same time, heralding its history and roots. Stop in to one – heck, all! – of the stops in Hillsboro Village. Spend a day there, getting to know this uniquely Nashville neighborhood!