By Abbey Foucart, 2017
To say that the downtown strip of Nashville is slow on weekends would be an understatement. When my group visited in late October, there were hardly any cars to be seen, besides a few odd ones parked outside shops. Hungry, we walked into the first restaurant that was open: The Nashville Exchange Steakhouse & Café. The whole front half of the place was empty of people, just rows of tables in the center and bookshelves lining the walls. Beyond that was a cashier standing behind a glass case full of desserts. Brownies, cookies, assorted pastries: the Nashville Exchange had it all. We learned that the restaurant also served sandwiches and had a salad bar, although neither were out at the time.
Noticing that Portuguese bread was listed as an option for sandwiches, I asked the cashier about it. In my four years of living in North Carolina, I had never seen any Portuguese products sold, like they were in my Massachusetts hometown. Not very talkative, the cashier told me that he did not know the reason they carried it. He seemed reluctant to answer any other inquiries we made, so I paid for a giant brownie drenched in hot fudge and we perused the books on the shelves. Although there was a variety, there seemed to be a religious theme to most of them: religious detective work, religious poems, religious suspense thrillers, etc.
In short, is Nashville Exchange worth the visit? Certainly anything lacking in atmosphere and service can be explained by the absence of customers when we visited, perhaps typical for a Saturday. The books were charming. And the brownie was gooey, delicious, and almost as big as my hand for only a couple of dollars. In the future, I hope to come back to the small town of Nashville to experience the Exchange on a good day, to make a more informed judgement.