It’s safe to say that you can throw out any preconceived notions you have about the shining Tennessee city of Nashville.
Sure, there are honky tonk bars and the city is awash with country music and culture, but one visit to its pristine streets and you’ll find that it’s so much more than that. From top tier hotels sprouting buzzy bars to cocktail-focused hideaways that are turning heads and Instagram-worthy novelties that will have your friends and family stunned, here are some of the best bars in Nashville in every category.
HOTEL BAR: Commons Club at the Virgin Hotel Nashville
A newer part of the Nashville landscape, the city’s Virgin outpost opened in July 2020 during the height of the Coronavirus pandemic with strict health protocols. Thankfully the hotel has successfully persevered since, boasting the impressive Commons Club downstairs and Pool Club on the roof; both of which showcase impressive bar programs. The star of the show here is Dan Rook, a native of Chicago and a bartender with a passion for libations. The menu here zigzags between Tennessee-friendly favorites (like Cooper’s Revenge made with Coopers Craft Bourbon) to refreshing fare like a coconut margarita (with 1800 Coconut and coconut water) dubbed JB’s Marg.
NOVELTY: The Falls Bar and Lounge
A short drive outside Downtown Nashville lies the iconic Grand Ole Opry, an American musical landmark which has minted country stars for a century and is celebrating its milestone 5,000th performance this autumn. But located a short walk from the theater is the expansive Gaylord Opryland Resort, a gargantuan hotel and indoor playland boasting numerous restaurants, bars and shops. The complex is so big that it also boasts an intricate series of waterways, rivers and waterfalls, flanked by a series of walkways and bridges under its towering roof. A stand-out of the resort is The Falls Bar and Lounge which serves up libations with the most unique view in the area: in full sight of two massive waterfalls as well as man-made streams, a koi pond and lush greenery. It’s a boozy novelty, and the perfect place to kick back with a local beer or whisky concoction.
RESTAURANT BAR: Stateside Kitchen
When it comes to restaurant bars that boast a major boozy pedigree, the Stateside Kitchen stands out in a crowded field of respectable eateries that Nashvillians and tourists alike are buzzing over. Aside from the delectable food (try the grilled artichokes as a starter), the Stateside’s digs are picturequese: a glass atrium ceiling, shiny tiled floors and walls, and a strip of cozy blue stools which flank a marble-topped bar. When it comes to the libations, the menu offers a copious amount with plenty of local whiskys and bourbons as well as thoughtful cocktails like a Smoked Peach Old Fashion (which includes Buffalo Trace Bourbon as well as its namesake smoked peach). Also features are a bevy of variations of Lynchberg, Tennessee’s own Jack Daniels, including its tough-to-find Sinatra Select. It’s of course named after Frank, the brand’s most famous fan.
HONKY TONK: Robert’s Western World
While Nashville isn’t all country, there are still quality honky tonk visits to be had. One of the absolute diviest is Robert’s Western World, located on the city’s famed Broadway (which is like the Las Vegas Strip, but somehow more lively and with a country theme). In the midst of a continual schedule of live music and busy walls chock full of country decor (think: murals of Patsy Cline), partons enjoy dirt-cheap drink specials and so-greasy-it’s-good grub like Robert’s famous baloney sandwich. It all adds up to the ultimate Music City spot for a good ol’ country-themed time.
ALL-AROUND BAR: Skull’s Rainbow Room
Along with being known for its checkerboard stage where everyone from Elvis to Bob Dylan has performed, this iconic bar located in the city’s bar hotspot known as Printer’s Alley boasts jazz, burlesque and fine drinks. Its bar program is both extensive and approachable, including a George Dickel Tennessee Rye, Apple, 5 Spice Blend and Angostura concoction called The Hancock. It’s no wonder that Skull’s, aside from a brief break in the early 00s, has been a Music City go-to since 1948.
COCKTAIL FORWARD: Patterson House
Even the most keen cocktail fan would be impressed by The Patterson House, a local favorite among the city’s bar industry. Dubbing itself a “sophisticated speakeasy-style lounge specializing in hand-crafted artisan cocktails,” the mixologist haven gets its cred from owners Benjamin and Max Goldberg of Strategic Hospitality; they’re brothers who run a variety of disparate yet popular bars around the city. Its liquor stock is as extensive as its inventive menu. One standout, the Rope-A-Dope, features everything from Calvados and Dolin Blanc to Giffard Banana, Merlet Creme de Frais and Bitterman’s Boston Bittahs. Advance reservations are definitely recommended.
A KARAOKE GOOD TIME: Cross-Eyed Critter’s Watering Hole
Imagine Chuck E. Cheese, but for adults. Located in the basement of Nashville’s Graduate Hotel outpost, this rollicking hideaway became known as the first animatronics bar in the world when it opened in early 2020 as it features three movin’ and groovin’ animal star robots, each meant to imitate a country icon. And yes, that includes a Dolly Parton fox. As you karaoke your heart out, the three ‘play’ along to the song of your choice. Just make sure you grab a libation before your big debut, whether a fun shot concoction (like the Flaming Dr. Pepper with Hot Rum, Amaretto and Beer) or a drink pairing (like a Hap & Harry’s with Jack Daniels).