The best Nashville bars for eats and live music
By Alyson Sheppard, Jul 2020
What Austin is to Texas, Nashville is to Tennessee: Each city is flush with great music, great food and plenty of bars that provide both. Nashville's bars, many of which line a famously neon-lit stretch of Lower Broadway, are hideaways for die-hard music fans who know where to go on a weeknight to find the next great star singing their heart out.
Here are five Nashville bars where you can find great shows, great drinks and great eats any day (or night) of the week.
Enjoy all of Nashville's famous bars and tasty eats, day or night.
The Bluebird Cafe
The Bluebird Cafe is one of the most iconic listening rooms in Nashville. Known for its intimate setting and for giving famous singer-songwriters such as Taylor Swift and Jason Isbell a place to workshop their material, The Bluebird Cafe is also famous in Hollywood. (You might recognize it from its starring role in "Nashville.") The Bluebird books two shows a night seven nights a week, and it offers an open mic for up-and-comers on Monday nights. Reservations are generally required and are available a week in advance.
The Bluebird's bar serves more than a dozen wines and nearly as many local craft beers, such as Black Abbey's Five Points IPA. The kitchen whips up small plates like fried green tomatoes topped with goat cheese and smoked bacon and Nashville hot chicken tenders.
Sink your teeth into a real Southern classic: the fried bologna sandwich.
Robert's Western World
Three words: Fried. Bologna. Sandwich.
In the mid-20th century, Robert's Western World on Lower Broadway was home to the Sho-Bud steel guitar company, and it was a regular hangout for classic country sidemen like Lloyd Green, Bill West and Russ Hicks. During the 1990s, the space was transformed into a Western apparel store and honky-tonk. Today, the bar offers at least four live acts a day (the first starting around 11 a.m. and the last ending around 2 a.m.) every day of the week. On Sundays, it offers a gospel fellowship service at 10:30 a.m.
The grill is always sizzling, and it's usually cooking up a true delicacy: a Southern-fried bologna sandwich that stuffs seven slices of deli meat, lettuce and tomato between two slices of thick Texas toast. Try the Recession Special, which pairs the signature sandwich with chips, a marshmallow-stuffed MoonPie and a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon for a cool $6.
The Station Inn
Bluegrass music was born in Appalachia, and it's characterized by fiddles, banjos and mandolins. Learn all about it at The Station Inn, a music venue and bar in the hip Nashville neighborhood The Gulch; country and bluegrass superstars such as Vince Gill and Alison Krauss have held court there. Tickets for the nightly shows go on sale two hours before the musicians take the stage.
Fill up on nachos or other bar snacks, Southern-inspired eats such as hot dogs topped with pimento cheese, or locally made Goo Goo Cluster candy bars. Wash them down with a beer from a local brewery such as Yazoo, which brews in nearby Madison.
The Listening Room Cafe
For a boozy and musical brunch, visit The Listening Room Cafe. Founded by singer-songwriter Chris Blair, the venue has moved a few times over the years; it opened in Franklin, moved close to Music Row and finally settled south of Broadway. But the quality of musicians and warm atmosphere has never changed.
The cafe serves lunch and dinner to complement its nightly shows, and it hosts a Saturday brunch from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., with music at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Treat yourself to a Bloody Mary or a mimosa, a biscuit topped with Tennessee country ham and a sliced tomato, or a bag of cinnamon sugar-dusted doughnut holes served with homemade F.R.O.G. (fig, raspberry, orange and ginger) jam. Reservations are available 30 days out.
Tootsie's Orchid Lounge
Tootsie's Orchid Lounge calls itself "world-famous." And while they might not know about Tootsie's in Panama, they certainly know about it in Panama City Beach, Florida; the iconic Lower Broadway bar opened a satellite location there in 2008. The original Nashville location has been packed every night since 1960; songs have been written about the venue, and it's appeared in movies such as "Coal Miner's Daughter."
Arrive early (the bar opens at 10 a.m.) to grab a table near one of Tootsie's two stages, which are frequented by modern country musicians. Sip on a jar of the bar's namesake apple pie moonshine, and snack on a basket of fried pickle spears with ranch dressing on the side for dipping.
These Nashville bars will satisfy your appetite for awesome music, tasty food and strong drinks. Take a visit, and you'll be singing love songs about Music City all the way home.
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