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Walden in East Nashville

Inside the garden-inspired Walden, affordable drinks, simple food, and business innovation merge.

Written By:  Nancy Vienneau

Photographers:  Sam Angel Photography

Opened early this spring in the East Hill Row development on Gallatin Pike, Walden is a super-chill bar based on simplicity: a casual interior done in soothing tones of greens and hues of blues in earth, sea, and sky. There’s a dog-friendly patio out front. Craft cocktails are all under $10. You can find a respectable glass of red for $7 and a local brew for $3. There’s even a small menu of noshes, like white cheddar-gruyere grilled cheese, with a cup of tomato bisque for dunking.

Sounds idyllic, doesn’t it?

Walden is the brainchild of owners Katie MacLachlan and Robyn Donnelly, both transplants from New York. The duo also runs their own business coaching company, Crush It Harder.

“We both love spending time in nature and wanted to offer a place that is comfortable and gives guests a chance to escape the daily bombardment of technology,” MacLachlan says. “Walden Pond by Henry David Thoreau seemed like the perfect source of inspiration to draw from for our concept.” 

Coming from New York, the women bring their perspective on what they see as lacking: a laidback hang that offers hospitable service and affordability. 

“We both live in East Nashville, and it’s a great community. Our dream was to create our ideal neighborhood bar close to home. We love a lot of the spots that are already in the neighborhood and know Walden is a great fit for the area,” Donnelly says.

MacLachlan adds, “We want to be the place guests can come again and again to talk with their favorite bartender, meet new people, imbibe affordably, and enjoy an experience.”

With 36 beverages—including cocktails—on tap, affordable choices abound. A few of our favorite cooling summer sips include the Rosé Sangria, the wine bolstered with Malfy con Limone gin, rose liqueur, clover honey, and grapefruit juice; the Summer Breeze, a soft blend of Luna Azul tequila, St. Germain, pamplemousse juice, lime, and soda; and Honeysuckle Lemonade, a not-too-sweet adult version, with Cathead vodka, lemon, and a splash of soda.

Food is not the focus, but the simple offerings are tasty—enough to give you ballast while imbibing. We mentioned the classic grilled cheese, but also recommend the brie and fig jam on sourdough.

Something new the women have launched at Walden combines both of their businesses: Meet//Learn//Mingle. One part networking, one part education, and one part inspiration, it features a guest speaker from a specific entrepreneurial endeavor, a Q&A, and a specialty cocktail, inspired by the speaker. Two dollars of each ticket goes to a local charity.

MacLachlan and Donnelly encourage people to build their network—one of the most powerful tools for business success. Nashville offers more opportunity to all younger entrepreneurs who have the right motivation to take advantage of the city's growth and financial accessibility. 

“We would have needed several investors back in Manhattan to open a small bar, here it’s possible to do it by ourselves—an empowering feeling,” Donnelly says. “The overwhelming support we’ve felt is a huge plus, so even though it’s just the two of us, in Nashville it never seems like you are doing it alone.”

2909B Gallatin Pk, 615-760-5808; waldenbar.com


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