Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Taco Tuesday: 13 Places to Get Tacos in Nashville

Everyone who knows me knows that my top three favorite foods are potatoes, pizza, and TACOS.  Lucky for me, tacos have definitely become a "trend," so there are taco places EVERYWHERE, especially in the food capital of Tennessee- Nashville. (That's not an actual thing, but it should be, because there are an infinite amazing places to eat in Nash). Anyway, I still have a pretty extensive list of taco places to get to, but here are some of my favorites so far!






1. Mas Tacos Por Favor 5/5 ★

I would have to say this has been my favorite place so far.  Mas Tacos is cash only (they have an ATM, but come prepared!)  There is ALWAYS a line out the door and parking is a pain but it is totally worth it.  This is my go-to taco place every time someone new comes to town. Tacos cost $3 each and are decent sized for corn tortillas.  They have a few different side and drink options, though my goal is always to stuff my face with as many tacos as possible, so outside of the street corn, I've never tried the sides.


2. Bajo Sexto Tacos 3/5 ★

Baja Sexto is located in the Country Music Hall of Fame building (though I believe there is at least one other location in Nash).  Tacos are $5 a piece, which is spendy in my opinion, and weren't that great.  They were good (just not great), and I would eat there again if I was seriously craving tacos and was downtown, but I wouldn't choose to go if I had other options.





 3. Bartaco in 12 South 4/5 ★

I've been to Bartaco a couple of times now.  The tacos are pretty small, but they only cost $2.50 a pop. That being said, you can easily eat six of these!  There is a vast variety of taco choices, sides, and other sustenance.  I was not a fan of the margaritas.  I've only had one once, but it was not very strong, and fairly small for being $10.  The ambiance of Bartaco is incredible.  You can be seated inside or outside.  I always opt for outside, where there is cushioned seating on benches with low tables, perfect for conversation with friends.



4. Taco Mamacita 4/5 ★

Taco Mamacita is located on Edgehill Ave. I recommend ordering an appetizer of chips and the seasonal salsa.  When we went, teh seasonal salsa was pineapple and habanero, which sounds strange, but it was the perfect mix of sweet and spicy!  Taco Mamacita has an extensive menu, with many taco options.  They also have a specific gluten free/vegan menu with ample options.  Tacos come on flour tortillas, but you can ask for corn.



5. ACME Feed and Seed 1/5 ★

ACME is not a Mexican restaurant, but they do have one type of tacos. I'm going to tell you right now, if you want to eat tacos, DO NOT GO HERE.  In fact, if you want good food, DO NOT GO HERE.  ACME is gushed about all over the internet, but y'all, I've eaten here twice and both times have been a total bust.  The food wasn't bad, per se, but it wasn't good.  The second time I went, I saw tacos on the menu, so  I had to get them.  The tacos are pulled pork and are served with Mexican street corn and black beans. The meat was so dry and lacked flavor.  Adding the Texas ketchup (aka BBQ sauce) helped a lot, but I still would never order them again.



6. Music City Brisket Food Truck 5/5 ★

The Music City Brisket food truck was at CMA Fest 2017 and I went there twice because their food was SO GOOD. Despite being flour tortillas, they were delicious! Definitely not your average street taco, but it had the great flavor of southern brisket!







7. San Antonio Taco Co. 2/5 ★

SATC is a step up from Taco Bell in that it doesn't make you spend the night in the bathroom, but I wouldn't recommend eating there unless its after a night of drinking or you're desperate for queso and too broke to afford real tacos. They're pretty average for tex-mex tacos, but no substitute for the real thing.






8. Nada 4/5 ★

The price is a little steep for tacos here, but they're worth trying at least once.  I had the carne asada taco and the baja fish taco and both were delicious! They advertise as street taco size, but they are much smaller than an average corn tortilla street taco and they cost $3.75 a pop (which is why they received 4 stars instead of 5).  I did appreciate that I could get sweet chili glazed potatoes as a side and the chips and queso were mouth watering.




9. Taco Mama 3.5/5 ★

The great thing about taco mama is that they have a ton of options when it comes to tacos.  They're pretty good, but lack the overwhelming flavor that a lot of the other tacos places in Nashville have mastered.








10. Smoke Et Al 4/5 ★

I found the Smoke Et Al taco truck at CMA Fest and YUM was their noble brisket taco good!! The only downside was that for $7 you only get one taco.  It was enough to fill me up but too spendy in my opinion.






11. Chuy’s 3/5 ★

Chuy's is a chain, but I still wanted to share because the fish tacos were delicious! This one is located in the Opry Mills mall.  It's also hard to find good rice at Mexican restaurants, but I was impressed with the rice here.  Caitlin had the nachos when we went and they were not good at all, hence the three stars.







12. Taqueria del Sol 4/5 ★

Taqueria del Sol has two locations in Nashville, one in 12 South and one on Charlotte Ave.  It is a cute little restaurant with ample menu options to choose from.  I had the fish taco (YUM) and either a carnitas taco (which was a little dry but still good!)







13. Muay Thai Tacos 5/5 ★

Yall. These tacos were AMAZING! The Muay Thai Tacos food truck was at the Nashville 4th of July celebration and I just could not pass by and not order something. I am so glad I did because these were some of the best tacos I have ever eaten! I ordered the Cap N Crunch Tilapia tacos, but they also offer chicken and steak tacos as well as burritos and quesidillas.




Stay tuned for another post detailing more tacos outta Nashville coming soon!

Thursday, July 12, 2018

A Very Nashville 4th of July





I finally got to spend the 4th in Nashville this summer for the first time and it was everything I expected it to be- full of music, energy, fireworks, and lots and lots of sweat! As soon as I saw Lady Antebellum was headlining the evening, I knew I would be staying downtown for the night.  The only thing better than a Lady A concert is a FREE Lady A concert!

My brother and sister-in-law came down to visit, so it was great to be able to spend the holiday with them. (I guess they didn't get the memo that July/August are the WORST times to visit Tennessee).

My friends and I made it to Broadway around 6PM, though the festivities started around noon.  There was live music and a DJ playing all afternoon on 5th avenue and Broadway.  I was pleasantly surprised to see the security they had set up to get into the area.  All the roads around the "event" were blocked off, and you had to go through metal detectors and be wanded (is that a word??) prior to entering Broadway and the surrounding area.


All the honky tonks were jam-packed full of people, natives and tourists alike.  I was already having a good time, but then I found the best taco truck I have found thus far in Nash. I will fully admit when I am being dramatic, but this time I am not.  Seriously, it is two days later and I am still thinking about these Cap N Crunch tilapia tacos from Muay Thai Tacos.



The only artists we were downtown to see perform were Chris Janson and Lady A.  Chris was fun as always- he even played a few cover songs from LOCASH!  Lady A put on an awesome show as well.

But the real show started at 9:30 PM- the largest firework show in the US of A!  If I were to rate it, I would say it was a solid 9/10.  To be front row to the show you have to walk down to Riverfront Park, which is much easier said than done considering that over 250,000 people attended.  However, you can easily see the show if you choose to stay and hangout on Broadway (or anywhere downtown really).  I walked with Sam and Sarah down to the river.  They shot off fireworks for a good half hour, no breaks.  It was like it was a grand finale of fireworks all 30 minutes! The downside was that the river isn't that wide and the crowd was continuously being showered in firework debris.  I couldn't look directly up or it would get into my eyes.  One firework even landed about 20 feet from us and exploded!

When the fireworks were over, we met back up with my friends for some pizza at the Mello Mushroom. Y'all, those slices were the size of my face and were just what we needed.  I was shocked to see how empty all of the bars got once the fireworks were over.  I was sure there would be way more people staying out, but I guess people had to go back to work on Thursday (what's that like??).  The people we did meet out were all from outside of Tennessee and just visiting on vacation.

I definitely had a blast at my first Nashville 4th of July and I definitely plan on returning to the celebration next year!!

Friday, July 6, 2018

#gretchensbooks2018 - June





Summer is so perfect for outdoor reading, especially when you've got a pool to read by! Even so, it has been such a fun and busy month that I haven't gotten nearly as much reading in as I would have liked. That being said, the few books I did manage to squeeze in this month were pretty good!!

*This post contains affiliate links, which means when you purchase something through that link, you're helping support this blog at no additional cost to you!*

(Summaries are from Amazon, but all reviews are my own!)


48. her pretty face by Robyn Harding (4/5★)

Frances Metcalfe is struggling to stay afloat.
A stay-at-home mom whose troubled son is her full-time job, she thought that the day he got accepted into the elite Forrester Academy would be the day she started living her life. Overweight, insecure, and lonely, she is desperate to fit into Forrester’s world. But after a disturbing incident at the school leads the other children and their families to ostracize the Metcalfes, she feels more alone than ever before.
Until she meets Kate Randolph.
Kate is everything Frances is not: beautiful, wealthy, powerful, and confident. And for some reason, she’s not interested in being friends with any of the other Forrester moms—only Frances. As the two bond over their disdain of the Forrester snobs and the fierce love they have for their sons, a startling secret threatens to tear them apart. Because one of these women is not who she seems. Her real name is Amber Kunik. And she’s a murderer.

I received an advanced copy of this book to read, but the official publishing date is July 10th, so it will be available soon! The author was new to me, but I enjoyed the suspense and mystery that took place throughout the whole book.  Even when I had some of the important details figured out before they were actually explicitly stated, there were still things I was questioning until the very end. 


49. The Real Michael Swann by Bryan Reardon (4/5★)

On a typical late summer day, Julia Swann is on the phone with her husband, Michael, when the call abruptly goes dead. Then the news rolls in: A bomb has gone off at Penn Station, where Michael was waiting for a train home. New York City is in a state of chaos.

A frantic Julia races to the city to look for Michael, her panic interwoven with memories of meeting and falling in love with the husband she's now desperate to find. When someone finds a flier she's posted and tells her they may have seen her husband, her dreams seem to be answered. Yet as she tries to find him, her calls go unanswered. 

Weaving between the aftermath of the explosion and Julia's memories of her life with Michael, new developments raise troubling questions. Did Michael survive the explosion? Why hasn't he contacted her? What was he doing when their last call was cut off? Was he--or is he still--the man she fell in love with?

Part family drama, part tragic love story, and part disaster narrative that hits terrifyingly close to home, The Real Michael Swann is a deftly plotted suspense novel with an unflinching portrait of a marriage at its heart, challenging us to confront the unthinkable--both in our country and in our own homes.


This was another book that I had received an early release edition of, but it will be for sale at the time of the publication of this post. My book theme this month was definitely suspense, and this story held plenty of it! At first I was confused, because there didn't seem to be much of a plot line outside of 'man-is-lost-after-explosion-and-wife-is-looking-for-him' which I thought was lame, but then that changed into crazy drama! I am definitely going to have to check out more books by this author.


50. Twist of Faith by Ellen J. Green (3.5/5 ★)


When family secrets are unearthed, a woman’s past can become a dangerous place to hide…
After the death of her adoptive mother, Ava Saunders comes upon a peculiar photograph, sealed and hidden away in a crawl space. The photo shows a shuttered, ramshackle house on top of a steep hill. On the back, a puzzling inscription: Destiny calls us.
Ava is certain that it’s a clue to her elusive past. Twenty-three years ago, she’d been found wrapped in a yellow blanket in the narthex of the Holy Saviour Catholic Church—and rescued—or so she’d been told. Her mother claimed there was no more to the story, so the questions of her abandonment were left unanswered. For Ava, now is the time to find the roots of her mother’s lies. It begins with the house itself—once the scene of a brutal double murder.
When Ava enlists the help of the two people closest to her, a police detective and her best friend, she fears that investigating her past could be a fatal mistake. Someone is following them there. And what’s been buried in Ava’s nightmares isn’t just a crime. It’s a holy conspiracy.


I listened to this book via audible (hey free audiobooks via Kindle Unlimited!) during my twelve hundred drives between Alabama and Tennessee this month and really enjoyed it! There were definitely a lot of plot twists and it was full of suspense the whole way through.  The mystery was unlike any that I had read before which was great, because I feel like a lot of suspense stories are similar to each other.


51. The Sometimes Sisters by Carolyn Brown (4/5 ★)


When they were growing up, Dana, Harper, and Tawny thought of themselves as “sometimes sisters.” They connected only during the summer month they’d all spend at their grandmother’s rustic lakeside resort in north Texas. But secrets started building, and ten years have passed since they’ve all been together—in fact, they’ve rarely spoken, and it broke their grandmother’s heart.
Now she’s gone, leaving Annie’s Place to her granddaughters—twelve cabins, a small house, a cafĂ©, a convenience store, and a lot of family memories. It’s where Dana, Harper, and Tawny once shared so many good times. They’ve returned, sharing only hidden regrets, a guarded mistrust, and haunting guilt. But now, in this healing summer place, the secrets that once drove them apart could bring them back together—especially when they discover that their grandmother may have been hiding something, too…
To overcome the past and find future happiness, these “sometimes sisters” have one more chance to realize they are always family.

This was another audible read thanks to Kindle Unlimited.  I had seen this book pop up on goodreads a few times, so I figured I would give it a go. I loved the narrator and how she used different voices for each character. It was a really sweet storyline, and very family drama focused with a little bit of romance mixed in. Even though it was slightly predictable, I was engrossed in this story my whole drive back to Tennessee from Minnesota!



Reading Challenge: 51/52 books read in 2018

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Taco Tuesday: 9 Places to Get Tacos in Huntsville, Alabama

Y'all know how much I love tacos, but let me give you a back story. Growing up, I was the pickiest eater in the world.  Tacos were my LEAST favorite food. I HATED them. Like, would-have-went-to-bed-starving-before-I-ate-them hated them.  At some point I loosened up a little and began to love tacos.  But, my kind of tacos were hard shell only (no soft tortillas, EVER), with a little cheese on the bottom, some meat on top of that to melt it, a little more cheese on top of the meat to melt, and taco sauce. That was it. And I thought they were the greatest thing ever! (Typing that out, I am slightly embarrassed).

Anyway, I moved to the Nashville area and began exploring the REAL world of tacos, and boy was I missing out! Y'all know how much I love a good street taco now. I once wondered what reminded people of me, and when four people shared taco-related links with me on Facebook all within less than a week, I figured it out! Tacos!

During my time in Huntsville, I made it a point to seek out some great taco places that I wanted to share!







1. Local Taco 4/5 ★

They also have this in Nashville!  I love the taco toppings here.  They're definitely a far cry from authentic tacos, but good nonetheless. Pictured is the Alabama white taco (smoked chicken, cole slaw, Alabama white sauce) and the Local Brisket taco (brisket, lettuce, pico).








2. Taqueria El Cazador 5/5 ★

I was really excited to find that El Cazador has a food truck pretty close to our house! The tacos are delicious AND inexpensive!  I always get the #1, which is four tacos for $5.  Thus far, I've tried the chicken, steak, and spicy pork and absolutely loved them all.  El Cazador also offers other Mexican entrees, but I can never stray away from the tacos! They also have like 4-5 different locations!





3. Straight to Ale Brewing 5/5 ★

Y'all, these are not "authentic" tacos AT ALL, but they're SO GOOD!  The tacos pictured are Jerk Chicken Tacos (chicken, cabbage slaw, queso blanco, avacado sauce, jerk sauce, cilantro), but they also have Kimche Pork tacos.  Straight to Ale is NOT a Mexican restaurant; it is a local brewery that offers a variety of beers brewed on site, as well as whiskey, gin, rum, and vodka that is distilled in-house.



4. Soho's Kitchen 4/5 ★

Soho's Kitchen expanded recently from a Mexican restaurant into a Mexican/Asian restaurant, which sounds kind of odd, but it totally works. They have three different types of tacos: street tacos (corn tortilla, meat, cilantro, cabbage, onion), SoHo tacos (corn tortilla, meat, carmelized onion, roasted poblano, queso, cilantro, secret sauce, chives) and fish tacos (fish or shrimp, spicy slaw, cilantro, mayo sriracha, corn tortilla), with a variety of meat choices including ham, chorizo, spicy pork, chicken, steak and mushrooms for the non-meateater.  They also offer wraps, soups, burritos, and specialty plates.  Its this tiny little drive through with a small picnic table out front, so while you can't get a sit-down meal here, its great for pick up on your way somewhere.  I tried the chipotle chicken street taco and the spicy pork SoHo taco, both of which were good!  The pork wasn't nearly as spicy as I would like, and it lacked a little in flavor, but the chipotle chicken was delicious!

(Edit: This business recently closed and is being opened up as another Taqueria El Cazador, but I wanted to share the review in case they do re-open as the same business elsewhere in Huntsville in the future.)


5. Fire & Spice 4/5 ★

Fire & Spice started out as a food truck, but now has a brick and mortar location in southeast Huntsville as well. A Tex-Mex restaurant, they serve a variety of tacos, burritos, and other entrees that combined Mexican style foods with Texan style flavors.  Since I went on National Taco Day, they offered a Taco Tuesday special of three mix-n-match tacos (which is also offered on Tuesdays).  I chose The Texan (pulled pork, hot sauce, cheesy, spicy slaw, and BBQ sour cream), an Original Gangsta (pulled pork, hot sauce, cheese, pico, and sour cream), and a Santa Fe (chicken, cheese, roasted corn salsa, roasted poblanos, red onions, and chipotle sauce).  Served with chips and verde salsa, and a Mexican coke, they were all delicious! I loved the spiciness of The Texan and the freshness of the corn salsa.  

6. Azteca Mexicana 2/5 ★

The food here was okay, but the service was not good. I tried three different tacos: chicken, steak, and chorizo. The steak one was good, but the other two were super dry, despite the amount of lime juice I squeezed on them. As we sat eating, we watched the waitresses take turns sitting in a booth with other people (not sure if they were friends or family or what) and play around on their phones, eat, and count tips. Our food was brought out individually over a period of roughly five minutes. I highly doubt I will ever return here.




7. Cantina Laredo 5/5 ★

Though it is a chain, this was my first time at a Cantina Laredo, and it is definitely a place that I will go back to!  I ordered the fajita taco with chicken, pico, cilantro, and an avacado sauce. Y'all these tortillas are amazing.  They're corn tortillas, but THEY DON'T FALL APART! Which means you only need one! There is nothing worse than a restaurant who doesn't double up their corn tortillas so you end up with a plate full of taco toppings because your taco fell apart. Tacos and tortillas aside, the rice was delicious too.  It is rare that I find a Mexican restaurant that doesn't have bland Spanish rice.  It was so good that I was super disappointed when my waiter brought me beans after I ordered extra rice instead.



8. Humphrey's Bar & Grill 4/5 ★

Though we were not impressed with the service here, the tacos were good!  Humphrey's offers a baja taco, containing either blackened fish (tilapia), chicken, shrimp, or pulled pork, with pico, sour cream, lettuce, queso, jalapenos, and pickled red onion.  The only downside with these tacos was that they're on flour tortillas, but that definitely comes down to personal preference.





9. Bandito Burrito 3/5 ★

The street tacos here were pretty average, and though I ordered four, two was plenty for me.  The price was on point, I think it was less than $5 for my four tacos and lemonade. They're located in an area that I probably wouldn't frequent during the night time, which made it even funnier that they had "Ghetto Grape Drank" as a drink option, and a photo of Ice Cube on their ice cube dispenser!




Monday, June 11, 2018

CMA Fest 2018




There is always so much going on during CMA Fest that I never come close to seeing and doing everything on my list!  I always try to make it a priority to see/meet artists that I haven't yet before, but I do have some favorites that I will skip everything for without a second thought.

CMA FEST PREGAMING

Though CMA Fest doesn't officially start until the Thursday after the CMA Awards, there is plenty going on all week to get you in the country music mood.  From pop up concerts to corn hole challenges, you can keep busy all week long.

I chose to ease my way into the week with a free show at Marathon Music Works. Presented by the Pandora Backroads station, the concert featured Morgan Evans, Carly Pearce, and Brad Paisley.  Other sponsors were Ashley HomeStore®, Ball Park® Brand, Kingsford® Charcoal, Maytag®, Shutterfly, Inc and Twisted Tea®. Lady Antebellum was originally suppose to be there instead of Brad, but because of unforeseen circumstances they had a last minute change. Lady A is my favorite, so I was pretty bummed, but I will never complain about free drinks, free food, and free music! Especially when we were darn near close enough to touch the artists!

One piece of advice is to do your research before you show up.  For example, for this show you had to have your name on the RSVP list to get in, it wasn't just something you could show up to. Other events may include a ticket that you have to pay for.



MEET AND GREETS

To attend meet and greet sessions, you have to purchase one of the CMA Fest tickets so you can get into the Fan Fair where the meet and greets occur.  Some you have to enter a drawing to get into, but others are first come, first serve in the venue.

This year I got to meet a couple artists I hadn't met before...



...and some of my old favorites that I enjoy meeting time and time again!




CONCERTS

Waiting in the hot sun is always worth it to see energetic performances in the country music capital during the biggest country music week of the year. That being said, I wasn't super thrilled with the line up this year.  I think part of it is that I'm getting to the point that I've seen most artists in concert, so its not as new and exciting and I wish it were (such problems, I know).  I ended up deciding not to attend on Saturday and Sunday for this reason. Since the free concerts run all day (roughly 10A-10P), it can be a really long day if you choose to attend for the full time.  I prefer just going during the morning/day so I can get front row to the artists at the Chevy Riverside and Breakout stages.  The nighttime concerts are either at the Ascend Amphitheater (free) or Nissan stadium (paid ticket) where you can't get all up close and personal.





Little Texas


FOOD

I know CMA Fest is all about the music, but I'm a big fan of the food trucks as well! In fact, that was what I missed most on the days I didn't go (I made sure to go to the taco truck down the road instead!) Some of the food trucks are local to Nashville, but others come from all over the United States!

  
       Noble Brisket Taco (Smoke Et Al)                    Nashvegas Ice Cream (Fission)                        Fish Tacos (Bob's Fish Fry)


Now that CMA Fest is officially over, planning for next year begins! Have you been do CMA Fest before?