The Unbearable Hipness of Being East Nashville: NY Times Discovers Our Food, Bikes



Excuse me, waiter, but theres a beard in my soup.
  • Excuse me, waiter, but there's a beard in my soup.
Groan. I get it, we have a lot of beards around here. But don't you think there's a better angle for covering the Nashville food scene than “hipster this, hipster that,” New York Times?

Maybe something about, oh, I don't know, the fact that this city is really just a big bunch of nerds — music-nerds, food-nerds, word-nerds, ag-nerds, booze-nerds, Jesus-nerds. It might be my view from inside, but I'd say this town isn't really a hipster magnet so much as it is Nerd Central. Take anyone of these so-called hipsters and drop them into a small town, and I bet you would hear the entire population of Podunk, USA scream like Ogre in the locker room. I can guarantee that all the “hipsters” Times reporter Kim Severson saw walking about were the least cool kids in their hometown. And I feel confident in saying that because I know a great deal of them.

Don't get me wrong, I'm very happy to see all of the establishments mentioned get some shine on the national circuit, but it seems like there's a better way to describe the city than “hipster hipster hipster.” Is it some sort of coded language to tell the outside world, “Don't worry, it's safe; you won't be eaten by moonshine-and-meth-crazed hillbillies”? I mean, we're a city like any other — people ride bicycles, get tattoos and eat food. Maybe it's been so long since I left the city limits that this has changed in the rest of the country, but I'm pretty sure it's typical of urban living in the 21st century. That there is a strong community of people who like to make things and other people that enjoy the things they make shouldn't be a surprise. Is civic pride and community support in such short supply in modern America, that we're notable just for having it?

And what's up with asking the self-proclaimed squares about Jack White?

“He’s kind of a god around here,” Mr. Scott said. “Where he goes, the hipsters follow.”

That's some bullshit.

No offense to Mr. White — he's a cool dude who does cool things — but the city's food and music scenes were doing their thing before he got here, and will continue to do so whether he's here or not. I understand that modern journalism is uncomfortably close to just being nonstop celebrity tongue-bathing — I'm guilty of it, too — but the man has made a point of staying relatively hands-off. In my eyes he's not much different than any other business owner in town. That, and he has fuck-all to do with the local food scene. Hell, I'd say that none of our local hitmakers have much effect on the city's food scene, other than the fact that they support it by eating and (usually) tipping pretty well.

We're not a city that takes much stock in celebrity sightings — if we did we wouldn't get anything done — and that some outsider would paint us that way gets me riled up. If anything, Mr. White and his more famous peers follow the locals rather than the other way around. Raise your hand if you've gone to Brown's because you heard that the Black Keys like it, or Local Taco because you heard Jack White goes there? That's what I thought: none of you. You don't go out to local businesses because you're a “hipster” or because somebody with a brand name goes there, you go because you take pride in your city and enjoy seeing what your neighbors and friends can do in the kitchen. You also go because you're a nerd and have that nerdy compulsion to know everything that's going on in the place you call home. As East Nashville chef Margot McCormack put it in the article: “We just feel a certain sense of responsibility .”

And don't think for a second that I'm one of those East Nashvillians who just wants to keep my cool little enclave all to myself. I may be sitting at home listening to South African rap and reading '70s comic books while stroking my unshaven chin, but I'm from Nashville's south side. I live in an “uncool” neighborhood that has arguably the best food in the entire city. (Though truth be told, I live in between a novelist, a psych-rock band's practice space and a rather adventurous norteño DJ, so maybe I'm not giving my cul-de-sac the credit it deserves.)

And that's my big issue with this piece (written, incidentally, by the Times' bureau chief in Atlanta):

It takes an expansive, vibrant food scene and reduces to a bunch of asshats on bikes. Granted, those asshats on bikes are probably friends of mine, but seriously, there's a hell of a lot more going on here than hipsters. The reality is that, well, it's really just a big bunch of nerds who like to do nerdy things together. Any hipster could tell you that.

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