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The Fox Bar & Cocktail Club
Photograph: Lindsey Grace

The best bars in Nashville right now

The best bars in Nashville compete with the city’s top music venues as must-see and must-drink destinations

Written by
Margaret Littman
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Whether you want to sample some Tennessee whiskey or just grab a cold beer while you listen to the live music that made this city famous, the best bars in Nashville always deliver. 

Music City’s imbibing lives up to its reputation in song: Country songs mention whiskey and beer as often (or more!) as they name-check Chevy and Ford. Just as the local restaurant (and hot chicken) and music scenes are beyond compare, the Nashville bar scene has a drink (or two) for everyone, be it karaoke for bachelorette parties, cheap beers for budget travelers, or selective wine pairings. Many of the mixologists behind these bars are experts in mocktails, too.

East Nashville, in particular, is a hotbed for locals and tourists, brimming with stylish, low-key hangouts that serve really good crafted cocktails. But notable spots have opened up all over town, from the fast-developing Wedgewood-Houston neighborhood to Lower Broadway and rooftops downtown.

We’ve rounded up the best of this Southern city’s distilleries, taprooms, rooftop lounges, and dive bars below. All you have to do is get there before last call. 

RECOMMENDED: The best nightlife spots in Nashville

Best bars in Nashville

Never Never (also referred to as NVR NVR) is a relatively new Wedgewood Houston bar, but it has that old-time charm. You’ll hear the railroad rumble by as you sit on the patio, listen to music (sometimes live shows), talk with friends, and drink reasonably priced drinks (say “yes” to the tequila sangria). There are no TVs, so you get to focus on your drinks and your companions. Time Out tip: The sign outside simply reads, “BAR.”

With its welcoming patio cabanas and selection of rum-based drinks, this island-inspired East Nashville bar is tropical in look and spirit. From the palm frond-wallpaper in the entryway to the porthole-style windows, Pearl Diver will make you forget Nashville is landlocked. The spacious lounge opens to a patio in the back, complete with cabanas and torch lights. The drink menu is extensive, and delicious.

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Imagine hanging out in your living room with all your favorite people, all your favorite vinyl playing on the turntable, and eating your favorite sandwich. That’s basically what happens at Duke’s, an East Nashville neighborhood bar with good drinks, great DJs and even better sandwiches. The bar even stocks hard kombucha. Happy hour runs 'til 8pm Monday through Friday; the bar is open 'til 2am.

Located in the basement behind East Nashville’s Nicoletto’s Italian Kitchen, this cozy spot sports booths lined in plush blue velvet and a reclaimed wooden bar—embossed with gold foxes, no less; The space is as elegant as the drinks are. The bar is owned by Andrew Cook, drummer for Dan + Shay, but folks come here for the cocktail menu, which changes often, the special Old Fashioned menu, and the neighborhood vibe, not the music-industry connection.

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As long as you know what you like, the fine folks at Attaboy will craft a cocktail just for you. There’s no formal menu. Instead, you’ll talk to your server about your tastes and preferences, and then something will be crafted just for you. As you wait, you’ll enjoy the cozy, hip décor and the positive vibes. You’ll knock on the door to be let in, and you’ll have to wait until there is a table: good cocktails are made to be savored, not rushed.

Located in a century-old yellow house near Five Points in East Nashville, RBQ is homey, complete with built-in bookshelves and antique furniture. The drinks are affordable—most range between $8-$12—and local DJs man the playlists. There’s a vegan-friendly food menu, which is a favorite of locals who love to come here and hang out in the spacious backyard.

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It can be confusing, but it's worth figuring out Bastion. The Wedgewood Houston bar is essentially two businesses. To the right is one of the best fine-dining restaurants in the city, if not the country (make a reso and go). To the left is the bar, a happy, open space with excellent cocktails, tiered seating for taking in the room, crafted cocktails, and two banging varieties of nachos.

Lower Broad is what made Nashville famous. Its honky-tonks playing Western swing music, and entertaining musicians waiting to take the stage elsewhere, are the city’s must-visit establishments. While some of its neon-bedecked neighbors have strayed from the country-music formula that has worked for more than a century, Robert’s sticks to its roots. This is where you should come for legit country music, cheap beer, fried bologna sandwiches, and a Nashville-style good time.

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Since 1948 Skull’s has been the place to drink in Printers Alley. It’s current incarnation pays homage to its historic roots: jazz musicians play live music daily, including as an accompaniment to burlesque dancers on weekends. There’s a full food menu and full bar, with seasonal cocktails themed to fit with the burlesque vibe. You won’t pay a burlesque show cover charge if you make a dinner reservation after 9pm.

Live out all your Broadway star fantasies at this swanky east side bar. You can sing karaoke while being accompanied on piano by one of the city’s best musicians. If you can’t snag a reservation, or don’t want to be in the thick of the tourist crowd, check out Inglewood’s Sid Gold’s Request Room Nashville, a karaoke bar that features live piano accompaniments and a swanky interior.

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No, you won’t have to sit on anyone’s lap (unless you want to). This bar is named Santa’s Pub because the owner (Denzel Irwin) has a long white beard. You’ll know you are in the right place when you see the double-side that has some holiday themed decor and Christmas lights outside. That’s the only sparkle you’ll find. This dive bar is on locals’ lists because it offers cheap beer and fun karaoke. Santa’s Pub doesn’t accept credit cards, so bring cash for your beer. The real rules are: don’t bring your cigarettes and beer on stage with you. Otherwise, have a good time.

Yes, lots of Nashville hotels have rooftop bars. But only one of them has a legit 1956 Scenicruiser bus sitting up in the sky. Come up here and grab one of its seats, and eat and drink while looking out the bus windows. In summer there’s a pool for lounging and sipping, in winter, climate controlled igloos, and live music and strong pours year-round.

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Despite the name, this is neither a supper club nor a lounge. Springwater is simply a dive bar. Possibly the oldest bar in continuous operation in the state of Tennessee (it was established in 1896). Come here to play pool or darts and drink cheap beer. There are some decent IPAs on tap and a limited food menu. The small stage has attracted big names over the years (both The Black Keys and Taylor Swift), but you’re more likely to see solid local musicians without the name recognition (yet). Bring cash, both to pay for your beer and to tip the band.

The Nations neighborhood is one of the city’s pockets of good beer drinking, with a number of local taprooms within walking distance from each other. The 33,000-square-foot Fat Bottom should be your first stop. Its Hop Yard, is an outdoor oasis with kids, dogs, board games, and, yes, lots of local beers. There’s a full menu, too, so there’s no excuse for not sticking around a while. And if you love the beer you’ll have an opportunity to grab one more before you leave town: There’s a Fat Bottom at Nashville International Airport, too.

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Tennessee’s whiskey history runs deep. Like some better known-brands (hey, Jack Daniel’s), Nelson’s Green Brier was founded in the late 1880s, but unlike those, closed its doors during Prohibition. More than a century later the founder’s great-great-great grandsons re-opened the family business. Head to Marathon Village to learn about the distilling process on a tour and indulge in tasting flights of some of their whiskeys.  

Got the little ones in tow?

The 15 best things to do in Nashville with kids
  • Things to do

While the city screams country and might inspire a Johnny Cash jam session or two, you don't necessarily have to embrace its musical roots (though of course we're all for a trip to the Grand Ole Opry). Take a look at our list to get inspired.

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