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Eating your Way to Bonnaroo

In two days, some 85,000 or so music fans will find their way to a field in Manchester, TN, a town of only 10,000, for the 12th annual Bonnaroo Music Festival. With acts ranging from Paul McCartney, R. Kelly and Björk to “Weird Al” Yankovic and DJ Jazzy Jeff, this year’s lineup is drawing rave reviews. Of course, there is the all-important issue of getting there, and with the road trip, there are ample opportunities for food adventures along the way. Let us provide a few resources and recommendations for your trip.

Most routes to Bonnaroo involve long stretches on I-24, which means northerly visitors will be travelling through Nashville. If you’re up for a pit stop, here’s out list of Nashville’s best locally owned restaurants. The interstate will take you around downtown Nashville, which boasts plenty of great dining options. If you’re looking to try Nashville’s most famed indigenous food, hot chicken, Bolton’s Spicy Chicken and Fish in East Nashville is only a few blocks from I-24. If you’d rather not get bogged down in Nashville proper, the southern suburb of Antioch offers some fantastic Asian eateries with easy interstate access, most notably P.S. Noodle Pot, King Market and Hai Woon Dai

malay noodles

Malaysian noodles from King Market 

Further south on I-24 and along Highway 96, there are a healthy number of Murfreesboro restaurants worth a visit. For quality down-home southern fare, there's Kleer-Vu Lunchroom and the longstanding City Cafe for breakfast, burgers and other diner standards. Five Senses remains Murfreesboro's torch-bearer for chef-driven, upscale contemporary cuisine. 

For those travelling north to Bonnaroo, I-24 will take you through Chattanooga. Here's our list of great locally owned Chattanooga restaurants. Some of our favorites that aren't too far off the highway include Blacksmith's Gastropub, Mt VernonRib & Loin Bar-B-Que, Champy's (for fried chicken, tamales and cold beer) and The Terminal Brewhouse, which sports a great rooftop garden patio. 

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For local color and small town charm (and by small, we mean tiny), there's the Bell Buckle Cafe in historic "downtown" Bell Buckle, just about 15 miles outside of Manchester. Those who take a detour to visit the Jack Daniel's distillery in Lynchburg shouldn't pass up a southern family-style feast at Miss Mary Bobo's Boarding House Restaurant

As for food at the festival itself, it's worth mentioning that BBQ all-star team The Fatback Collective will be dishing up choice smoked meats to fortunate festival goers. Among team members are some of the nation's premiere pitmasters, including Rodney Scott of Scott's Bar-B-Q (Hemingway, SC) — one of our 20 Best BBQ Restaurants in America — and Pat Martin of Martin's Bar-B-Que Joint in Nolensville, TN. Safe travels! Drink lots of water. Peace, love and barbecue. 

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