The Best Nashville Bars On & Off Broadway guide image


The Best Nashville Bars On & Off Broadway

When you're looking to party in Nashville, hit up any of these bars, honky-tonks, and live music venues.

When most people think of Nashville, they picture Broadway—downtown’s main street where raucous honky-tonks, peddle taverns, and tractor trailers reign supreme. Over 16 million people visit Nashville every year, and a lot of them come for the combo of big-city party energy and small-town Southern charm.

But to reduce Nashville to its “NashVegas” alter ego (and the bachelor/bachelorette party capital of the US) would do the city a grave disservice. It’s Music City for a reason, and one that goes beyond country tunes. On any given night, you can find a budding singer-songwriter belting out blues tunes, a killer jam band fusing hip-hop with bluegrass, and drinks so good they nearly steal the spotlight from the artists on stage. You just need to know where to find them, and that’s where we come in.

Here’s a list of the best spots for a night out in Nashville, including every place on Broadway that isn’t a total mess along with some of the city’s best bars and live music spots.

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Layer Cake

There are plenty of honky-tonks on Broadway, but Layer Cake stands out like a sweet slice of buttermilk pie in a box of beer-battered chicken. There are pink-tufted thrones, golden monkeys hanging from the ceiling lights, and sparkler-topped bottles of booze, so don’t expect anything subtle. The name has nothing to do with dessert, but rather refers to the multiple experiences offered on each floor—lounge-y cocktails on the first, bourbon sriracha-glazed salmon and ribeye dinners on the second, DJ-fueled dance parties on the rooftop, and martinis in the intimate basement speakeasy. It’s a choose-your-own-adventure that offers a nice change from a lot of other Broadway spots. 

Acme is a farm and feed-themed restaurant and bar on the far end of Broadway, right up against the river. You can’t actually pick up livestock supplies here anymore, but there’s daily live music and better entertainment than watching a bunch of pigs go to town on a mixture of soybeans and corn. The music is always something different—a little country, a little rock, a bit of soul—but the room isn’t always packed and they have some of the better food you’ll find on Broadway (their hot chicken sandwich and curried chickpea bowl are standouts).

You can usually find classic country music at Legends, which makes this honky-tonk a bit of a Broadway anomaly considering all the '90s and 2000s bangers blaring from just about everywhere else. It’s a quintessential, old-school Nashville bar with a solid rotating roster of musicians playing all day every day. It’s also home to one of the most famous murals in town featuring a who’s who of Nashville country stars. Despite the Broadway location, Legends is pretty calm and is somewhere you can rely on for a night of good music, drinks, and a crowd that’s always singing along.

Robert’s Western World feels like it’s been around forever. And in Nashville years, where new concepts open and close at the drop of a hat, it kind of has. The building’s lived many lives (as a warehouse, steel guitar factory, boot shop), but the old-Nashville feel—less Kid Rock, more Johnny Cash—is still there. During the day, you’ll find people of all ages listening to some bluegrass and filling up on Robert’s recession special: a fried bologna sandwich, Moon Pie, Lays potato chips, and a PBR, all for $6. But at night, it’s adults-only and a perfect place to listen to some tunes, down that PBR (don’t even try to order a cocktail here), and get a glimpse of what Nashville used to be like.

Part-supper club, part-rooftop bar, part-honky-tonk, you can get into a little bit of everything at this spot owned by Mr. Tennessee himself: Justin Timberlake. Make reservations for the supper club, find your suit and tie, and prepare to feel like you could run into Dean Martin at any moment. Fried bologna sandwiches are nice and all, but if you’re heading to the supper club it’s all about decadence—think steak tartare, seafood towers, well-dressed diners, and big band energy. After dinner and the show, head downstairs to the venue’s honky-tonk for a more traditional Broadway experience (see: rambunctious crowd, rollicking bands that play a little bit of everything, and lots of cheap beer).

Tootsies is a Nashville institution and a Broadway honky-tonk that’s been shining a light on country artists since the ‘60s. It’s about as old-school as they come, with photos on the walls of all the famous acts that have played there throughout the years. When you’re here, grab a few beers, take in the live music, and make your way to the rooftop bar when you need to get some air or just want to observe the Broadway circus below. The place is small, and it can get really packed, but that’s a fair exchange to drink at the same place where Willie Nelson and Patsy Cline used to hang out.

Here’s an easy and fool-proof recipe for a night out in Nashville: Start with drinks at Le Loup, head downstairs for a seafood-forward dinner at The Optimist, and then shut down the night at the neighboring Star Rover Sound, a live music hall that serves tacos, tequila, and fried bologna sandwiches. It feels like a honky-tonk, but not the kind you’d find on Broadway. There’s some midcentury modern energy here, and you can actually have a conversation without screaming while you watch local acts perform every Thursday through Saturday night. Grab a tufted vinyl booth and a margarita from the neon-lit bar, and enjoy the jazz, bluegrass, country, and Americana—with nary a neon-colored phallic sippy cup in sight.

Analog is a cozy live music hall situated on the second floor of the Hutton Hotel, but it feels more like the living room of your aunt who’s all about the boho life—you’ll find lots of velvet, patterned upholstery, random throw rugs, and a funky mural on the wall. The couches and communal table all have a great view of the stage, and the acoustics are some of the best in the city. They have a decent selection of cocktails to choose from, but no food, so be sure you fill up beforehand at Jasper’s or The Stillery.

Most music venues only have soggy nachos or greasy wings to snack on, but that's not the case at The Listening Room Cafe. The food is outstanding, especially for being a music hall, with an over-the-top BBQ sundae and a delicious smoked half chicken. But you’re not just coming here to eat—you’re here to bear witness to some of the best singer-songwriter acts in the city. On any given night (except Sundays when they’re closed), you’ll find a stellar roster of songwriters who helped make some of the songs on your Spotify “more of what you like” playlist. Just don’t forget to snag your tickets to the show ahead of time.

This iconic Printer’s Alley bar has everything: tassel-twirling dancers trying out their best burlesque hip pops, live jazz music every night of the week, and a brunch Bloody Mary served in a goblet the size of a toddler’s head (that also comes with jalapeño cheese poppers). Those are only some of the reasons why Skull’s has been around since 1948—another reason being how many legendary musicians (like Etta James, Johnny Cash, and Elvis) have played here before. There’s no bad time to head to Skull’s, but Friday and Saturdays are when they put on a burlesque showcase that still brings all the locals out.

If you peek right around the corner of The Optimist and look up, you’ll find a neon sign that reads “Le Loup.” When we first stumbled upon this place, it felt like that neon sign marked the spot of an oceanic treasure. But instead of rare jewels and golden chalices, we found a nautical-themed bar with some inventive and delicious cocktails. This is the type of place where you’ll find things like the fermented pineapple rind beverage known as tepache, sea buckthorn, and spiced brine in your drink. Le Loup is all hushed conversations tucked into dimly-lit wood-paneled coves and booths, fueled by rounds of raw oysters, bubbles, brambles, and deconstructed piña coladas—and it’s exactly the type of place you start or end the night with. 

Nashville’s had a lot of transplant restaurants and bars, but this NYC spot has been one of its happiest additions and works for really any occasion. There’s no menu here, you just answer a couple of questions from the bartender—think things like "how do you feel about gin" or "spicy or sweet?"—and then they make the perfect drink for that precise moment in your life. The atmosphere is also always on point, with dim lights, hushed tones, and alt music set on low.

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While Brooklyn Bowl is definitely somewhere you can see live music, we like coming here best with a group of competitive friends looking to perfect their granny roll with a side of boozy milkshakes and really good fried chicken. You’ve got 19 lanes to choose from (they’re first come, first serve), all set in a funky laser-lit space.

Chopper feels like a cool, weird combo between a Trader Vic’s and a neighborhood bar in the year 3100 (after the machines have taken over). That’s because the owners here have given the bar a pretty fantastical back story: Chopper is a “research vessel” studying a robot culture from a mysterious Island X (hence the giant golden robot hanging over the bar). The theme is all silly fun, but the drinks are seriously good. Rhum agricole, honeydew gin, and mezcal mingle with fresh-pressed juices and housemade bitters, and it all gets served up in funky glasses. All the better to wash down some of the best tacos in Nashville, courtesy of Maiz de la Vida’s regularly-scheduled food truck appearances.

Flamingo Cocktail Club feels like someone took a small slice of South Beach and plopped it right in the middle of Wedgewood-Houston without thinking anyone would notice. Except everybody in Nashville did. This former church is constantly full of people hanging out on textured couches and dancing to everything from live funk/jazz to DJ-spun EDM under a shimmering disco ball. Mojitos are the move here, but the Jalapina with tequila, pineapple, jalapeño, and lime is light and refreshing too. There is a strict dress code here: no flip-flops and shorts. Miami wouldn’t expect anything less.


During the day, the rooftop at the Thompson Nashville is a perfect spot to take in the Nashville skyline and have a sceney brunch. But as the sun sets, the terrace turns into a standing-room-only situation with a DJ and a bunch of great cocktails (including some large-format options that are meant for eight people). Depending on the night, you might end up giggling with some out-of-towners or cozying up with a date next to one of the space heaters on a chilly evening.

Mother’s Ruin is a bar in Germantown that also happens to serve really good food (shout out to the perfectly crispy Old Bay waffle fries), that also feels a bit off the beaten path, surrounded by low-slung houses and nondescript brick buildings. That’s perfectly fine with the people who bounce between the three levels, stopping for the occasional snack session on the outdoor patio. It can get loud and buzzy, a result of the playlist and copious rounds of Slushy Du Jour a.k.a. boozy frozen concoctions that rotate daily. But it’s exactly where you want to be when heartfelt conversations aren’t a priority and drinking the night away with a room full of strangers is.

Old Glory is technically a speakeasy, and yes, there are a ton of those. But this one is the best option in town. It’s located in the boiler room of what was once Nashville’s largest steam cleaning facility, and the original electrical boxes, coal hopper, and smoke stack from the 1920s are still there. Look for the big golden triangle which will lead you inside to a space with high ceilings and groups of people perched on stools sipping on bourbon and curaçao cocktails.

Santa’s Pub remains one of Nashville’s weirdest and best dives. This holiday-themed, cash-only, double-wide trailer is all about karaoke and cheap beer. The inside is smoky and grungy, and if you’re hungry you’ll have to make do with a bag of chips, but the bartenders are quick with your drink and embody those nice Southern manners you’ve heard so much about. The crowd’s an interesting one—you’ll find the Wedgewood-Houston cool kids downing beers next to the Brentwood soccer moms. And it all just works. Santa’s is the exact opposite of a night on Broadway, and that’s exactly why we love it.

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