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Von Elrod's Beer Hall & Kitchen, Nashville, Tennessee
Photograph: Von Elrod's Beer Hall & Kitchen

The best bars in Nashville

Nashville's rich music culture lends itself to a buzzing nightlife scene. Here are the city's essential bars for hopping

Written by
Colby Wilson

It’s likely you’re headed to Nashville for its music scene (they don’t call it Music City for nothing, after all). And it won’t disappoint – the city is alive with buzzing music venues, live bands and line dancing, and a whole load of culture spots celebrating all things musical about the city. But of course, you may not be surprised to hear that this rich musical culture lends itself to a fantastic nightlife scene. 

In Nashville, there’s a whole load of great bars on offer, from honky tonks to speakeasies and craft beer joints to karaoke. Nashville’s bar scene leaves no stone unturned, but the vibes vary from area to area. So we’ve formulated the essential guide, so you can tour the city’s best nightlife offerings from borough to borough. Kick off those dancing shoes and get ready for the Nashville night of dreams with these fantastic bars. 

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Best bars in Nashville

This intimate cocktail bar will have you dreaming of its beverages for weeks on end. They do things very, very differently here. Take the pina colada, for example, which is flavoured with miso honey, sweet corn and pineapple, served in a tiny statue of a fox. The cocktails here are inventive, delicious and totally unique, and manages not to feel touristy in the slightest. A great start to your night out. 

Rum bars and Nashville might not be an immediately obvious pairing, but that only makes discovering this place all the more exciting. This East Nashville spot will transport you to a Caribbean island, so you can enjoy one of its many rum and pineapple cocktails against a backdrop of huge plants, tropical wallpaper and pineapples on every shelf. Plus there’s a back garden with cosy booths and an open patio. 


Not sure what you’re looking for? The fine folks at Attaboy will figure it out for you. Tell them what you want and they’ll craft a drink just for you. No formal menu is needed; just tell your server what you like and let them sort it out. Be patient, though; you’ll knock on the door at Attaboy and wait to be let in until there is a seat available for you and your party. In this case, patience is most definitely a virtue.

Known more for its hot chicken than its drinks, Party Fowl stands out for two reasons: a buckwild weekend Brunch for Two featuring a 55-ounce Bloody Mary topped with two whole Cornish game hens, two scotch eggs, eight fried okra and a whole avocado, and a rumored (I’ve had it, but still, one never knows for sure) Pappy Van Winkle flight offering around the holidays.


You didn’t really think this list could exist without a mention of Tootsie’s, a venerable Nashville institution, did you? If you’ve ever watched anything about the city—a documentary, a sporting event taking place here, any of the various country music awards shows or events like the NFL Draft that have taken place here—then you know the FCC requires, by law, a shot of Tootsie’s iconic pink façade. The place oozes Nashville history, and now offers one of Broadway’s hottest rooftop bars to boot.


Acme isn’t only a three-story bar and restaurant offering Nashville’s best eats and a large collection of its top booze. It also boasts one of the top rooftop bars in the city, with a beautiful scene encompassing both the river and the rest of Broadway, and occasionally plays host to pop-up acts passing through town just because.

If you’re only going to make one stop in Printer’s Alley, make it Skulls. A Nashville institution for those who’d rather have smooth jazz than the wailing guitars on Broadway, Skulls has burlesque dancers accompanying the music on weekends and a lively scene every night. For the bourbon drinkers, order The Duke with Four Roses, sage, and tobacco bitters for a great smoky feel.


On the far side of The Nation’s, seven blocks from its 51st Avenue corridor, sits Fat Bottom Brewing, arguably the spot that began in earnest Music City’s great brewery boom. The Hop Yard is a massive 33,000-square foot facility with a sprawling outdoor patio perfect for dogs, kids or both. Fat Bottom beers are bold, aggressive brews fitting all manner of palates; the Hop Yard is perfect for an afternoon drink on a sunny day.

The sign outside just reads, 'BAR.' Short on promises but long on charm, Never Never offers a patio, live music, tequila sangria (a must) and no TVs, forcing you and your companions into amiable conversation whether you like it or not. $4 for Coors Banquet? You won’t find many better beer deals in Nashville, even if you’d rather not talk to those you’re with.


Picture it: you’re driving down West End Avenue, then decide you need to get over to 21st Avenue and so you cut down 21st South, an annex connecting the two. At the stop light, you see it, a beacon, a siren call—a window full of libations, beckoning for you to come in. Who are you, really, to refuse the overtures of this Aertson Hotel-adjacent watering hole that is the bar at Nada? Whatever you felt you needed to get on 21st for, it can wait (unless you were going down the street to Vanderbilt Medical Center; do that first, if that was your destination).

It’s what’s in the name, here; Santa’s Pub is so named due to owner Denzel Irwin’s long white beard, reminiscent of the jolly old Saint Nick. Cheap beer and karaoke are the attractions at this double-wide on Bransford Avenue, adorned year-round with Christmas lights on the outside. Santa’s is a cash-only establishment, but more than worth the trip to the ATM ahead of time.


Nashville’s greatest dive bar. Perfect dive bar food; perfect dive bar ambience; perfect dive bar clientele. And yet, study the taps, which offer some Nashville gems in addition to the domestic all-stars. Study the bar, with Weller and Willet hiding among the Tennessee staple that is Jack Daniels. Patrick Swayze is The Centennial’s patron saint; join them every August for Swayze Day, celebrating the life and career of the Road House icon.


Tennessee whiskey means different things to different people; for many in Music City, it means sipping on a revived recipe nearly lost to Prohibition. Nelson’s Green Brier originated in nearby Greenbrier, Tennessee—on a road that, to this day, is called Distillery Road—but now calls Clinton Street’s Marathon Village home. Weekends offer an opportunity to tour the distillery, with owners Andy and Charlie Nelson—great-great-great-grand sons of original founder Charles Nelson—occasionally leading groups through the facility.

There is not a Nashville bar recommendation you can take seriously without including HTC. Everyone has their reason for going there; it’s their after-work spot to blow off steam on a Friday, or their pre-game watering hole before a Predators game, or where they take out-of-towners for the unique honky-tonking experience. With three floors of live music and cheap drinks, Honky Tonk Central is now something it could never have expected—a tenured and venerable downtown institution.


Sometimes things are what they sound like: Greenhouse Bar is a bar inside a greenhouse, located off the beaten path in Green Hills. Not for your night of getting dressed up; the gravel inside the bar would not be kind to those in heels. But for ambience and a chill evening away from the bustle of downtown, there’s no better spot.


Southern Grist offers no frills, just great beer in East Nashville, The Nations and its new high-concept Lauter location off Douglas Avenue. Southern Grist isn’t shy about experimenting, and the result can often be fascinating, like Pineapple Upside Down Cake (a New England Milkshake IPA), Key Lime Pie Sour Ale, and Dancing On Barrels, a monster 10.1% ABV Scottish Wee Heavy aged 17 months in whiskey barrels.

Upper Demonbreun needs more recognition on this list; there is too much action, in too many interesting bars and restaurants, in this oft-disrespected stretch of pavement that gets lost among The Gulch, Broadway, Division Street and other familiar Nashville nightlife hotspots. Tin Roof is what you want as a local bar—local hangs, local music, local beer and local vibes. You want to hang with the locals? Tin Roof is where you’re headed.


The Bobby’s rooftop changes with the season. In the summer, there’s the pool for lounging; in the winter, those sun-soaked vibes give way to igloos for keeping warm against the Nashville chill. Omnipresent: the retrofitted 1956 Scenicruiser Greyhound, where patrons can sit in order to enjoy a leisurely drink out of the elements.

Atop the JW Marriott is one of Nashville’s brightest new stars. Pricey but worth it, Bourbon Steak not only offers a tremendous meal; and not only offers one of Nashville’s most robust whiskey menus; and not only offers a breathtaking bar overlooking Broadway from 34 floors above the street. It offers one of Nashville’s most unique drinking experiences—the Wagyu Old Fashioned, prepared at your table with fat-washed Blanton’s and hickory smoke.


Cider may not be your jam; that’s more than alright. The fine folks at Diskin can whip up a mean cocktail with house-made syrups, hand-squeezed juices, the freshest ingredients, and local spirits. The pet-and-kid-friendly tasting room has a comfortable indoor seating area and spacious patio, with games for all ages all over the property.


As far as Nashville is concerned, 12 South Taproom might be the original craft bar. 12 South was doing craft beer long before it was trendy and now boasts a collection of constantly-changing craft beers catering to everyone from hop-heads to those who swill the Trappist specialties at high ABV. Long on selection and short on pretension, 12 South is what you want in a bar that encourages you to branch out and experiment.

The sister-spot of 12 South, 51 North embraces elegance in the same way its predecessor embraces its high-end dive mantra. 51 North specializes in beer just the same as 12 South, but does so in an upscale mixed-use spot right on 51st Avenue, serving as the welcome wagon to The Nations—perhaps more even than The Nations Bar and Grill across the street.


Clyde’s on Church Street is a brief Bird scooter ride away from downtown, but worth the journey. Part dive bar, part sports bar, all welcoming, Clyde’s has bar games loved by all, high-backed booths for those looking for a more intimate setting and Cotton Candy, Skittles, Warhead and Lifesaver shots that must be experienced to be understood. Bonus: Beloved Nashville taco spot Taco Mamacita, whose brick-and-mortar in Hillsboro Village was a Covid casualty, is now operating out of Clyde’s.

Nudie’s likes to brag about its 100-foot bar—longest in the city, if you believe their billboards (I confess I haven’t done the required legwork to confirm or deny). That might get you in the door, but the clothing made by Nudie Cohn, who dressed country stars from Hank Williams to Elvis Presley, will keep you there for hours, immersed in country music history.


Go to Tailgate HQ in West Nashville, take the tour and enjoy the tasting bar that offers all Tailgate’s sudsy choices, including hard-to-find beers rarely seen in the wild and never better than when enjoyed right where it was brewed. Or better yet, hit up the Music Row spot for Nashville’s first craft cidery. Or maybe the East Nashville spot to learn about the fermentation program for the creation-curious. Or Germantown and its craft seltzer. If all else fails, enjoy a pre-flight drink on C Concourse at Nashville International Airport on the way out of town. The point is, Tailgate is omnipresent, for good reason—its damn good beer (and cider, and seltzer).

A speakeasy in name only—it’s sort of obvious something is going on in this rather non-descript blue building at the end of Division Street, even if there’s no sign indicating what. But while Patterson House’s secret may not be as closely held as it once was, its ambience and service remains second-to-none. Let the bartenders take you on a journey; tell them what you like, ask to be surprised and prepare to be amazed.

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