Places I Like, People I Can Vouch For

I don’t make recommendations lightly. I can be picky and I’m frugal to a fault. With those disclaimers, let me tell you about some businesses I’ve grown to love over the years.

I’m a big fan of the little guy. I like homegrown companies run by people who are great at what they do and have a give-back-to-the-community attitude. Here are a few businesses that would be great even if they weren’t run by folks I know and like.


Markee Automotive Repair

Mark and Stevie have been taking care of our cars for more than a dozen years. They’re straight-shooters who do good work and have 50+ years of combined experience. Honestly I don’t trust the pit crews at most of the chain auto centers to: a) know what they’re talking about, and b) know how to get the job done right. Not so with these guys. They won’t fawn over you, make you designer coffee or provide free WiFi but they will fix your car.

Hillsboro Hardware

(Okay, technically HH belongs under Retail but service is what sets them apart.) It’s one of my favorite places in town because of the personal attention and great how-to advice from Dwight, his sons and the other helpful folks. The guys are geniuses and their little store stocks many hard-to-find items, especially for older homes. Dorm stuff too. They’ll also make you a custom shelf, repair your lamp, engineer your child’s science project and sharpen your mower blade. On 21st Avenue South, about 5 blocks south of Hillsboro Village.

MidState Heating and Air

After being outright lied to by a rep from another HVAC company about carbon monoxide in our house, I called MidState for a second opinion. The owner came out on a Friday night, explained why what Guy #1 said was wrong and didn’t charge overtime. That’s more than ten years ago. The company’s grown and added plumbing to the mix but every interaction I’ve had with MidState has been positive. They’re nice on the phone, they arrive on time and they don’t push additional services on you.

Historic Tours of Nashville

My friend Jim Hardaway is a wooly, wonderful guide if you’re interested in local history, Civil War history, the Civil Rights movement, trains or our musical legacy, hop aboard his mini-van. He is also the only person I know who sat down to breakfast with June and Johnny Cash in their home.


Designer Renaissance

Not your average upscale/hip/funky women’s consignment store. Yes, they’ve got designer names but they also have a down-to-earth attitude (and prices to match). Co-owner Jodi Miller won’t let you buy it if it’s not going to look great on you; ask my wife. While there, visit her co-owner/husband Brad’s coffee shop in front.┬áLocated in Berry Hill.

Cumberland Transit

If you’re into the outdoors, visit these guys a block from Centennial Park. Whether you bike, hike, paddle, climb, camp or fish, they can set you up with competitive prices on serious gear. They’re also a fountain of knowledge–whether you’re looking for new places to explore or need to know how to solve a problem.

Dining Recommendations

Best recommendation for chicken fingers--McDougal's
Photo: McDougal’s website










Family-friendly, serving maybe the best chicken tenders you’ll ever eat. Tommy and the gang serve up a variety of dipping sauces but I’m partial to the McDougal’s house sauce (pictured above). Two locations: in Hillsboro Village across the street from the marvelous Belcourt Theatre and on White Bridge Road in West Nashville. The former has beer on tap; it’s bottles at the latter. Free soft-serve ice cream if you clean your plate. FYI, they serve a plenty-hot dipping sauce but don’t crank out hot chicken, per se.)

Fox’s Donut Den

Even if you don’t like doughnuts, go gaze at the neon sign in Green Hills. We like the apple and cherry fritters (okay, and the old-fashioneds and the chocolate iced ones too) but you can’t go wrong at this Nashville icon. Looking for a way to make a wow for a birthday or tailgating? Check out their humongous doughnut. In addition to primo baking, Dr. Fox is among Nashville’s most generous souls.

Baja Burrito

Troy and Jeannie Smith started this place long, long before burritos became trendy. Lots of good choices here and a ton of food for the price. Personal favorites: fish tacos and the burrito with la tinga (that’s spicy chicken, y’all). Pretend you’re in Cali and order the spinach tortilla instead of the standard flour version. Across from 100 Oaks, near Melrose. They’ve also spun off a mini-chain called Blue Coast Burrito–basically the same food but Baja feels more like home to me.

Park Cafe’

Truth be told, we usually go for the happy hour’s specials on drinks and appetizers. But if you have the discretionary dollars, dinner is amazing. We love the quiet, low-key environment of Intimate little rooms as well as the friendly bar and lovely patio featuring an fascinating assortment of local patrons. Reba visits frequently and Dolly is a big fan of their jalapeno mac’n’cheese. In Sylvan Park. Reservations accepted.

Among our top restaurant recommendations: Tin Angel
Photo: Tin Angel website

Tin Angel

If the devil is in the details, he must work in the kitchen of Tin Angel. I would go there just for the astonishing assortment of flavors in their sauces and dressings. Owned with loving care by Vicki and Rick Bolsom, it’s an institution since 1993 in the Vanderbilt/West End area, The menu shifts a bit seasonally but they’ve serve some long-standing favorites (love the Chicken DaVinci) that would cause a revolt among regulars if they took them off the menu.

Green Hills Grille

Everybody loves a good comeback story. GHG went out of business a few years ago amid much mourning over the loss of top recommendations including the tortilla club, lemon artichoke chicken, fruit tea and Heath Bar Crunch pie. To our delight, it’s back with its greatest hits along with new additions including the hot chicken salad (I was skeptical but it won me over). Pastors Jim and Kim make a meal out of happy hour specials (2:30-6:30 pm daily) including small salads for $4, and $6 bites of mini-burgers, tacos, coconut chicken tenders and chicken quesadillas. Also, bottles of wine are half-price all day.

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