Nashville's hottest new coffee shop is Barista Parlor Golden Sound. Located in the alley behind Taylor Swift's alleged loft,* this shop has everything. Pickled preserves, science experiments, Moonshine jugs, Nashville-Filter-Hashtag-Vinyl (it's that thing where you have a wall full of vinyl records so it looks cool but you're actually playing music through an iPod).
Founded by Nashville's own coffee scientists, Barista Parlor, Golden Sound is located in the Gulch (but, like, behind the Gulch so as not to get too trendy). This shop is like a cousin to the East Nashville counterpart. The outside has the similar concrete-block exterior with a hidden concrete courtyard surrounded by high concrete walls, not unlike an elementary school in Mexico. The entrance is off the courtyard, not on the side of the building with the large sign saying "GOLDEN SOUND," as one might expect. The courtyard is actually the parking lot, which is good, because at first we thought it might just be their thing to have no parking. Something like a Survival of the Fittest, but for bike-riding bearded people.
Golden Sound has a similar industrial feel, but it's a little cozier and has a dash of retro-mod vibe thrown in. The logo is a space ship and the counters are white with red and blue stripes that make them look like sneakers from the 80s in the best way.
The shop sells vintage-looking Barista Parlor baseball shirts, for which we wonder who is the target market, seeing as most locals wouldn't wear a local coffee shop name emblazoned across their chest. It's not cool to be enthusiastic, you guys. That's rule number one. There was what we're calling "science corner" near one of the doors. We assume if you bring your own coffee you can make your own science experiments or something. But we've assumed wrong before.
There was also an "idea wall" (our name, not theirs) where we assume there might be plans for a table, but now is just a blank wall with a lot of light bulbs.
There were a variety of people in the shop. Hipsters weren't even in the majority. There were a lot of professionals, some tourists, a couple of freelancers, and groups of music business professionals (educated guess). This helped make it less intimidating than some other shops. We didn't worry about having left our scarves at home.
There are two long wooden community tables—one on each side of the bar/coffee lab. There are stools on both sides of the table, so there are probably about 60 seats total (an estimate). Word to the wise: TAKE CAUTION when sitting on the three-legged stools. Well, if you're clumsy like Laura. Elizabeth seemed to have no problem balancing.
There was also a separate room toward the front of the shop that was marked "Restricted Access" from the outside. One side of it was clearly the office, but the other side? Unknown. Maybe like an instagram portrait studio? A latte art training facility? A lab for growing disheveled beards and ironic mustaches? The possibilities are endless.
L: I got the Mast Brothers Mocha, which I assume uses the fancy chocolate they sell by this company called Mast Brothers. I also assume this because it was $6. It was fine, but neither the coffee nor the chocolate flavors were very strong. Overall it was a little underwhelming for $6 coffee.
Latte taste rating: 5
E: I got the Iron Goddess of Mercy Oolong Tea. Yep.
Immediately I noticed the baristas were not judging me for walking over to the tea corner. While at Barista Parlor, it felt like I was being sent to the principal's office, at Golden Sound, a barista met me at the tins and offered his assistance.
The tea was $4, which I still think is a lot to pay for what is essentially grass boiled in hot water, but it made a little over two cups.
It tasted very fresh. It had tones of freshly cut grass and honey. You wouldn't think those would be pleasant, but they were. I thought a better name for the tea would be the Walt Whitman (Leaves of Grass anyone? English majors? ahem.). It was sweet and light.
Tea Taste Rating: 9
On the bright side, Barista Parlor's latte art game is always on. point.
Latte art rating: 9
The tea is also presented nicely:
The baristas at BP Golden Sound were surprisingly super friendly and helpful. The people at the flagship location aren't mean, but in our experience they don't usually go out of their way to address you by name after you give it to them or welcome you to the shop when you walk in. One guy at Golden Sound even walked over to a woman looking lost upon arrival to help her out. The barista taking Elizabeth's order told her a personal anecdote about the tea she was buying and joked with her as she paid. And when Laura asked for the wifi password (the dreaded question), the barista made eye contact and smiled as he told her. Gold stars for BP Golden Sound when it comes to customer service.
Fedora/newsboy hat/bowler hat count: zero. NO HATS. What is happening?
Level of Uncomfortableness Upon Walking In: 6.5. We were taking pictures, so that always makes us feel uncomfortable, and there were only a few people in there, and it's Barista Parlor (basically). So we were understandably a little uncomfortable. Again, the baristas were great, though, and welcomed us in, so 6.5 it is.
Parking: 7. Once we found it the lot/entrance, we had no trouble parking, but we can see how the it would fill up quickly during peak hours.
Disheveled Facial Hair Count: 7
Jesus(es) in Plaid: 1
Location: 7. The Gulch is a great location. The alley is not. Plus it's like literally a block from Bond, a shop we really liked, so it seems a little lame to set up camp so close to another local coffee house. But it happens. To each his own.
Slouchy knit beanies: 2
Sets of baby boomer ladies in matching white vests and black tees: 1 (They were adorable. One was holding a Starbucks cup when they came in -- we were on the edge of our seats -- and she said, 'Where can I pour this out? I'm embarrassed to bring this in..." At least she knew.)
Level of Pretentiousness: 8. All the elements are there: seating facing the bar in the center, coffee that looks like it's being made via science experiments, no menu hanging above the register, old timey mustaches, pricey espresso and fancy chocolate -- but the baristas' attitudes and varied clientele bring it down a notch.
Have you been to Barista Parlor Golden Sound yet? Would you ever dare to take a Starbucks cup into a local coffee shop? Would you wear a Barista Parlor t-shirt?
Bonus question: HOW great is Stefon?
*the Icon building in the Gulch