Entertainment, On A High Note

Uniquely Nashville Neighborhood spotlight: The Gulch

Nashville is a city with many small nooks and crannies that make it the remarkable city it is today. Like a patchwork quilt, we are made up of many neighborhoods and communities that all work together to keep Nashville unique. From Germantown to Melrose, from Bellevue to East Nashville and all the communities in between, the variety and individuality are what keeps our city uniquely Nashville – the town where everyone’s your neighbor.

This month’s focus is on the part of town that has everyone abuzz – the Gulch. From its humble beginnings as an industrial part of town dating back to the 1800s, the Gulch has its roots in the railroad industry as the Nashville corridor of the Louisville & Nashville railroad line. In the southwest corner just below downtown, the Gulch played an important role during the Civil War. It is an ironic twist to the tale that this part of town, now trendy with hip restaurants and shops, was once the gritty, industrial part of town with rows upon rows of railroad tracks as part of the hub of Nashville’s then-primary means of transportation.

Union Station in the heart of The Gulch. PHOTO BY KATHLEEN CONKLIN.

Union Station in the heart of The Gulch. PHOTO BY KATHLEEN CONKLIN.

It is not surprising, then, that the Gulch is bordered on one side by the Union Station Hotel, once Nashville’s primary railway stop on the L&N line. As people began to use railroad transportation less and less beginning in the 1960s as interstate travel increased, the Gulch became the industrial part of town no one quite knew what to do with. It sat with decreasing use through the 1990s and beyond, when it saw the historic landmark train shed of the Union Station demolished in 2001.

New life has been breathed into the Gulch, beginning as far back as that same time period when the train shed was destroyed. Many now consider that the real estate developers of MarketStreet Enterprises, namely Steve Turner, his son Jay Turner and Joe Barker to be the individuals who have successfully accomplished the largest efforts to revitalize this part of town. While many civic leaders and historic preservationists had attempted to breathe new life into this district through the years, it is now by and large agreed that MarketStreet Enterprises is the one to thank.

The Gulch is now considered by many to be the most thriving, innovative and desirable part to Nashville –to live, to work, to shop, to visit. Instead of attempting to rid itself of its industrial feel, the Gulch has embraced it. Former warehouses and industrial locales have been restored and converted to shops, restaurants and workplaces. One of the biggest feathers in the Gulch’s hat is its designation as a LEED-certified green neighborhood, one of only a handful in the entire world.

Some of the most desirable apartment complexes, such as the ICON and Pine Street Flats, are located in the heart of the Gulch. In fact, the newest development in the area is the TwelveTwelve, the beautiful, citified condominium complex developed by the same company that brought us the Adelicia in Midtown.

Dinner at Sambuca is a must when visiting The Gulch. PHOTO COURTESY SAMBUCA

Dinner at Sambuca is a must when visiting The Gulch. PHOTO COURTESY SAMBUCA

While the Gulch is undeniably one of the hottest places to live in Nashville, it is certainly one of the best places to eat. Some of Nashville’s most notable restaurants are located in this area, and they have received quite the attention from the national food scene in the past few years. One of our favorites and a refreshing old-timer in the rash of new restaurants on the scene is Arnold’s Country Kitchen. A winner of the James Beard “America’s Classic” Award, this restaurant is one not to be missed. It is refreshingly sincere and authentic, serving up country-style meals in a buffet line. Don’t be mistaken, however. It is undeniably good, no matter how you slice it, as evidenced by the daily lines out the door. We also doff our hats to the phenom Biscuit Love Truck, one of Nashville’s most beloved food trucks, who has put down roots and grown an additional brick-and-mortar home in the Gulch as Biscuit Love Brunch.

From hometown to downtown, the Gulch also offers the trendiest of nightlife and fine dining. It is home to Sambuca, one of Texas’ trendiest transplants to Nashville. With a smattering of locations throughout Texas, Sambuca has been one of Nashville’s most sought after restaurants since its arrival. A trip to the Gulch must also take in Kayne Prime, Nashville’s most posh steakhouse. One of the many impressive creations of MStreet, Kayne Prime is part of the restaurant group that includes Virago, Whiskey Kitchen and Saint Añejo.

If upscale living and fine dining weren’t enough, the Gulch is also a shopper’s and music lover’s dream. The Gulch is home to some impressively trendy shops, including Urban Outfitters. (Shout out to Urban Outfitters! I never thought I’d live to see the day that it would ever come to Nashville after I fell in love with it at the corner of Chicago’s Oak and Rush…)

Mitchell Binder's King Baby South is located in The Gulch. PHOTO COURTESY KING BABY.

Mitchell Binder’s King Baby South is located in The Gulch. PHOTO COURTESY KING BABY.

Shopping in the Gulch is more than the wacky yet humorously hip items you might find at Urban Outfitters. It is also the place to find jewelry and clothing that rival the best of anywhere in the world. Noted jewelry designer Mitchell Binder chose Nashville as one of the few locations in the world for his handmade jewelry, found at his King Baby Studio in the Gulch. Lucchese, the Nashville branch of the famed Texas bootmakers, can also be found in, you guessed it…the Gulch.

While the Gulch has seen remarkable change in the past 15 years, it still holds on to its roots as a gritty part of town, which is most evident in the continued presence of the Station Inn, one of Nashville’s most celebrated live music venues. Unassuming in appearance, the Station Inn continues to be one of the most authentic yet enterprising places to both grow new acts and herald current hitmakers.  The “it” place to hear bluegrass and roots music in town, the Station Inn has been in its current location for nearly 40 years, bringing a healthy dose of authenticity to the Gulch.

One of Nashville’s few neighborhoods that can boast the fact that it is one of the oldest parts of town with the newest urban development projects, the Gulch continues to draw both locals and visitors alike to its unique blend of old and new. Come on down to this celebrated part of town. It’s worth the trip!