A VIOLIN screeches loudly from the speaker next to my ear as the band on stage intones another frantic violin solo.
The piercing scream startles me enough that I drop my fried bologna sandwich – something the locals had insisted I try.
It’s greasy and salty, with crunchy lettuce and a tangy hint of hot sauce.
Here’s how they eat one night in Nashville, Tennessee.
A fried meat treat in a crowded bar accompanied by an endless playlist of country classics.
It’s a real assault on the senses, but far from uncomfortable.
On the contrary, I’m having a great time.
Ask any Nashvillian with anything where to land after a day of sightseeing and they’ll almost certainly say the same thing: “Go to Robert’s.”
That’s where I was. It’s a bar on the city’s famed Broadway, an area of neon-lit honky-ton bars that mainly sell liquor and bluegrass to tourists.
However, Robert’s has also earned a good reputation with local residents, who drop by every night to sample the city’s most famous export: music.
In fact, Nashville is so famous for its musical heritage that it’s dubbed the Music City.
This used to be Music City in the US, but now they see their reach stretching far beyond the borders of their own country.
And it’s a well-deserved nickname, too, as every square inch bears a reminder of the wealth of talent that has roamed its streets.
The Country Music Hall of Fame and the Grand Ole Opry Theater are just two of hundreds of sanctuaries of the city’s most popular genre.
While places like RCA Studio B, where Elvis recorded Are You Lonesome Tonight in complete darkness, or The Bluebird Cafe, where Taylor Swift and Kings Of Leon were discovered, remind us that this place produced much more than just a few ditties, banjos and violins.
The rest of the city is similarly diverse.
Of course there are plenty of skewer and sawdust saloons to attract bachelor and bachelorette parties and those looking for a drunken night out and definitely worth a visit.
But beyond the debauchery of the Broadway flick, there’s a lot more.
In Nashville, for example, sports are big, and if the time is right, visitors can attend three different events on the same weekend, all within a five-mile radius.
The NFL’s Tennessee Titansthe newly formed Nashville Soccer Club and the hockey stars the Nashville Predators are all so close together they could be caught with the same lasso throw.
Menu printed in Wingdings
Although I knew little about hockey prior to my visit, a Predators game was my experience of choice.
I quickly became swept up in the drama of the game, yelling Americanisms like “You suck!” or getting high hopes for the chance of a fistfight breaking out on the ice.
I originally went to the game for the spectacle, but the contagious atmosphere had me screaming for the blood of the visiting team, the LA Kings.
Nashville – or Smashville as they are affectionately known – won, which of course meant a return to Robert’s to celebrate.
However, Nashville’s nightlife isn’t just limited to beer, sandwiches and music.
In fact, the sheer range of food and drink on offer in a city of less than 700,000 people is extremely impressive.
I experienced the full gamut of things there, from cheap but cheerful tacos at spots like Red Headed Stranger to wonderfully complicated but pricier Asian-inspired fare at Sunda, demonstrating Nashville’s appeal to every palate.
Though visitors of all stripes will find few dishes they love better than Tennessee specialty hot chicken.
Hundreds of places stock it, but Prince’s and Hattie B’s are the two suppliers most locals swear allegiance to.
Good food isn’t just limited to the evening either.
Restaurants like Buttermilk Ranch and Edley’s Barbecue are famous for their handmade breakfast pastries and catfish sandwiches, respectively—both were so delicious the mere memory tempts me to hop on the next return flight.
However, it was one of Tennessee’s more well-known creations that got me thinking about a permanent move to Music City — the bourbon.
While most restaurants offer well-crafted bourbon-based drinks to try, the city’s cocktail bars and lounges rival the choices I’ve seen almost anywhere else, including London, New York, and Tokyo.
Each of them eclipsed the hackneyed Jack ‘n’ Coke with unparalleled variety and highlighted just how big my blind spot was to American whiskey.
Justin Timberlake’s Twelve Thirty Club and Pushing Daisies were among the standouts, while Fox Cocktail Club’s sophisticated offerings delivered new and exciting flavors with every sip.
Most of the time I had no idea what I was drinking and would have understood the menu just as well if it had been printed in Wingdings.
But if you step inside and trust the experts with your choices, your taste buds will thank you, I promise.
In fact, trust anyone in Nashville with their recommendations because pretty much everything they have to offer is worth trying.