The 12 best bars in Nashville

Here's a taste of the best bars in Nashville spanning old school dive bars, swanky cocktail dens and beer havens.
There's an old (clichéd) saying that Nashville is a music town with a drinking problem. Indeed, it is hard to write songs about crying in your beer without access to beer—so as Music City's restaurant scene as evolved so, too, has the bar scene. In addition to places where a beer can drown your sorrows, there are plenty of stops for a whiskey (it is Tennessee after all), and craft cocktails are now as common as cowboy hats. (And even establishments that aren't strictly bars serve up the good stuff–you'll find plenty of boozy brunch restaurants in this town.) There's a beverage for every budget, from the pricy (with hand-shaped ice cubes) to happy hour specials with beers for a bargain.
1
Walden
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Yvonne C.
Walden
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What is it? This East Nashville bar has 36 drinks on tap (12 beer, 12 wine and 12 cocktails) and they all cost $10 or less, which in a rapidly expanding city is a rarity.
Why go? Did we mention the affordable cocktails? Also, there's a dog-friendly patio outside and a swing and lots of flowers for a nature-brought indoor vibe. The bar menu includes flatbreads, grilled cheese, and those dishes made with fresh ingredients the likes of which you don't normally see in a bar.
2
The Fox Bar & Cocktail Club
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Bryan R.
The Fox Bar & Cocktail Club
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What is it? The location, tucked in a basement, off an alley, hides a well-designed interior of velvet armchairs and custom woodwork. Belly up to the bar or choose a comfy booth.
Why go? the clubby space is home to craft cocktails on tap change monthly, a menu of vegan- and vegetarian-friendly bar snacks that satisfy, such as a twist on Nashville's signature hot chicken: hot chicken hummus.
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3
No. 308
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Kassidy C.
No. 308
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What is it? Imagine a sleek, almost mid-century modern hangout with handcrafted drinks and you'll imagine a big bar tab, too. But during happy hour these custom cocktails are more budget-friendly.
Why go? This spot is the definition of a hipster hangout, with its unassuming entrance nestled next to a paint store. But for all the retro furniture and skinny jeans, No. 308 is a friendly neighborhood bar that happens to be better looking and serves better drinks. The vibe changes as the night goes on; Friday and Saturday late nights morph into a loud, dance party with a DJ.
4
Bar Sovereign
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Stephen C.
Bar Sovereign
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What is it? On an off-the-beaten block, Bar Sovereign is definitely the kind of place you'd walk right by if you weren't looking for it.
Why go? The outside belies the inside: which is designed within an inch of its life. Ask to see the three-ring binder that details information about all the amazing works of art on the walls. Crafted cocktails are delicious and likely served to you by a bartender wearing a mechanic's shirt, as is fitting the hipster aesthetic.
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5
Patterson House
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Stephanie P.
Patterson House
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What is it? There’s no sign on the exterior, but that hasn’t kept people from across the country from discovering Patterson House.
Why go? Cocktails here are crafted with care, and there’s no standing room: You must have a seat in order to be served. This contributes to a civilized cocktail hour, but you might have to wait a minute. This is not a pickup scene, but a place to savor your cocktail, from its creation to its last drop.
6
Pinewood
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/MaiLinh H.
Pinewood
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What is it? Pinewood is a little bit of a lot of things: a coffee shop, a restaurant, a bowling alley, and co-working space.
Why go? But at the center of it all (both literally and figuratively) is an impressive bar, a place where craft cocktails are conceived and made, and friendships toasted over them. In season, head outside where you can cool off with frozen cocktails poolside (served from a retrofit Airstream trailer).
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7
Oak Bar
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Alexis B.
Oak Bar
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What is it? The basement of the century-old Hermitage Hotel is home to the swanky Oak Bar, a practically perfect place to have a drink before going out on the town, to the theater at, or just for something to do downtown.
Why go? The cocktails are well crafted but not overly complicated (think of the classic old-fashioned) and the service attentive. Check out the historic men's bathroom (seriously, even women take a peek).
8
The Gold Rush
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/The Gold Rush
Gold Rush
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What is it? Since 1974 The Gold Rush has been the place to go for a beer near the Vanderbilt campus and even today remains a beloved late-night mellow hangout.
Why go? The barbecue is better than you might expect in what is essentially a multi-story dive bar, and the beer is cheap. Billiards, darts, and football on the TV round out the classic amenities.
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9
Henley
Photograph: Courtesy Catie B.
Henley
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What is it? A hotel bar doesn't seem like it would be a place that locals would want to hang out (or find a bargain).
Why go? But Henley's eight Manhattans, each for $8, is the happy hour that shakes things up. These aren't made from cheap rock-gut spirits either. The aim is for the bar to be known nationally as the place to sip a Manhattan, with options such as chocolate Manhattan with Woodford Reserve; and the City Swizzle, made with Old Forrester 1870 and Clear Creek Kirschwasser Brandy.
10
Dino's
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Alex W.
Dino's
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What is it? This East Nashville watering hole bills itself as Nashville's oldest dive bar.
Why go? Locals love the cheeseburgers, the fish and chips, and the affordable beer menu, with most drinks around $3. But more so they like that they'll find a reliable crowd of locals, particularly given that Dino's is open late every single day.
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11
Old Glory
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Vanetta G.
Old Glory
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What is it? You won’t find a flashy entrance or even a sign at all at this style-heavy speakeasy. Get to the entrance (marked by a single gold triangle painted over the brick exterior) in the alley behind nearby restaurant Taco Mamacita. Prepare to be dazzled by the staircase as you descend.
Why go? A variety of things bring Nashvillians to this Edgehill Village bar, whether it be the airy, industrial interior (it was a former boiler room in the 1920s), the seasonal cocktails, or the DJ sets.
12
3 Crow Bar
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Jeff S.
3 Crow Bar
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What is it? Friendly and eclectic, with local eccentrics and possibly rock stars (and definitely wannabe rock stars, 3 Crow Bar is the epitome of East Nashville. It is a particularly nice place to be on a sunny day when the garage door goes up and East Nashville in all its quirkiness walks by.
Why go? Need a place to lubricate work with a little lunch beer (doors open at 11am) and wireless Internet? You won’t be alone.
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