When the Line’s Too Long at Pancake Pantry…

If you were standing under the Pancake Pantry sign pictured above, you’d be waiting about an hour for a table, according to a PP waitress. Your wait would be shorter if you visited Monday-Thursday or after 10:30 a.m. almost any day.

Pancake Pantry hash browns
Love the hash browns

Long a favorite of Music Row types, Pancake Pantry gained national exposure umpteen years ago when Betty the Beloved Waitress appeared on “The Tonight Show” and dished that Garth Brooks was a regular customer. Since then, tourists have flocked in and most stars are eating breakfast elsewhere.

If you hit it at the right time, by all means, order a stack. Buttermilk and chocolate chip are big-sellers but I always go with buckwheats (the short stack is plenty for most folks) and a side of amazing soft-and-crunchy hash browns.

If the wait’s too long at Pancake Pantry,¬† you have nearby alternatives.

I Love Juice Bar–Care to drink your breakfast? Probably the healthiest spot on the block, you could throw a kiwi to it from Jackson’s parking lot.

Pancake Pantry alternativeBiscuit LoveTheir food truck garnered so much press that they’ve gone bricks and mortar. The Hillsboro Village location shares a roof with Juice Bar while their original outpost is in the Gulch. It’s a bit faster than Pantry but it’s almost as popular. Pictured: the East Nasty, a fried chicken breast smothered in sausage gravy. Alert your cardiologist before eating.

Fido-A few doors down from Jackson’s is one of the most buzzed-about coffeeshops in town. Both the baked goods and sophisticated entrees are much-celebrated. Order at the counter and they’ll bring your order to you. Warning: the line trailing out the back door for weekend brunch can result in a 30-minute wait or longer.

Revelator Coffee–Also in Hillsboro Village down the street from Provence, coffee is king here for this chain that’s based in Birmingham but sourcing its limited food items locally. In a hurry? I’ve never seen Revelator crowded.

Bare Nak3d Bagel–Disclosure: the actual spelling is –ked but I didn’t want to get zapped erroneously for inappropriate content. Located at 2123 Belcourt–a block from the Pantry, this popular food truck has gone bricks-and-mortar with a home base for its old-school approach to bagel-making. Handroll ’em, boil ’em, then bake ’em. Your basic bagel with cream cheese, butter or peanut butter will set you back $4.

Dog + Donut–Yep, they serve hot dogs and, for lack of a better term, designer doughnuts with names like Dirty Churro and Bluegrass Mule. There’s a barista on duty to meet your exotic coffee needs. And just to round things out, they serve beer, fries and pretzel bites.

J. Christopher’s-About four blocks south of Hillsboro Village (just beyond the scope of this map), you’ll find this breakfast-and-lunch-only spot with–gasp–free parking. They’ll plop a carafe of coffee on the table and serve you something tasty like my wife’s favorite–blueberry crunch pancakes. (Sorry, Pancake Pantry.) Yes, it’s also part of a chain but the owner says they make their sausage gravy from scratch because Nashvillians won’t stand for the chain’s precooked version.

Dunkin Donuts–Surrounded by the Vanderbilt campus, this location seems inevitable. Two blocks north of Pancake Pantry on 21st Avenue, it’s hidden in a combo retail/office building¬† across the street from Mapco. There’s free parking behind the building. If you want true Nashville doughnuts, head south 2.4 miles to the perennial (almost cult-like) favorite, Donut Den.

Urban Juicer–A few steps closer than Dunkin Donut, the locally owned Urban Juicer has five other locations in the midstate. In addition to juices, they’ll set you up with a smoothie and shots of protein along with a succinct menu of salads, bowls and soups.

Over by Belmont University on Belmont Boulevard

Just south of the Museum of Iconic Guitars, you’ll find a few other places but note: parking can become an issue during morning hours when school is in session.

Bongo Java–Local owned but with several outposts are town including the first floor of the Omni Hotel, they’ve got a concise menu, a variety of drinks and hot apple cider as good as any cobbler I’ve ever eaten.

Proper Bagel–Slick little upscale bagel shop and market that hails from New York. A variety os salads and sandwiches inside a cottage.

Chick-Fil-a–Across the street from Proper Bagel and Bongo, this limited menu location is one of the shops at the base of Curb Entertainment Center on the Belmont campus.

Other very-Nashville stops for breakfast:

  • Monell’s. Come with a lumberjack-sized appetite at their two all-you-can-eat locations (Germantown or near the airport) or order cafeteria-style at Cafe’ Monell near 100 Oaks.
  • Loveless Cafe’. The timeless gold(en) standard in Nashville biscuitry, it’s a bit of a drive out west but they’ll feed you good. Got a hankering for country ham? They can help. And the peach preserves–heavenly.
  • Hermitage Cafe’. The opposite of upscale, it’s a working-class restaurant that’s been invaded by new city dwellers. Good grub.

Eat at the airport? You’ll find a surprising number of homegrown restaurants offering a taste of Nashville.

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