Honky tonk bars with bands, clanging beer bottles and traditional country tunes? Yeah, Nashville has that. But you’ll have to move past the neon moons of Lower Broadway to find the heart of neighborhood Nashville. Hop in a cab and cross the river to the East Side where you’ll find the watering holes for working musicians, creative young professionals and bohemian types as well as some of the best restaurants in town.
For music with your beers
Where: The 5 Spot, 1006 Forrest Ave., Nashville, TN 37206, 615-650-9333, the5spotlive.com
What You’re Drinking: A local Yazoo beer at Derek Hoke’s $2 Tuesday
If you’ve seen ABC’s drama “Nashville,” then you might recognize the red curtain behind the stage at this bar. But you probably won’t find fictional “East Nashville hipster” and musician Avery in front of it.
The real-deal 5 Spot hosts an even more varied group of music lovers from Derek Hoke’s $2 Tuesday ($2 cover, $2 beers and 5 local acts) to the popular Boom Bap nights for hip hop to a bluegrass and old time on Wednesdays. Don’t miss the old school soul of Keep on Movin’
on Mondays, which GQ recently named the most stylish party in America.
For the craft cocktails and company
Where: No. 308, 407 Gallatin Ave., Nashville, TN 37206, 615-650-7344, bar308.com
What You’re Drinking: Death and Taxes or a Writers Block shot
Here’s a place you’ll find expertly crafted cocktails with fresh juices and house-made soda as well as cans of Dale’s Pale Ale and a menu of Writers Block shots. The Tom Robbins, for example, involves tequila, and the Richard Brautigan is whiskey with watermelon chaser.
The dark space with banquettes along the walls has a long elevated bar in the center of the room and a well-edited collection of mismatched furniture that might have East Nashville neighbors sitting next to Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys. Try the Death and Taxes with bourbon, cranberry, lime and Bristol Cream.
For a laid-back vibe
Where: The Red Door Saloon, 1010 Forrest Ave., Nashville, TN 37206, 615-226-7660, thereddoorsaloon.com
What You’re Drinking: A shot of Fireball Whiskey
The mix of company at this bar is as eclectic as the décor. But forget your Grandma’s attic, this looks more like Bettie Page’s Grandma’s attic. Along with wine-cork wallpapered walls you’ll see photos of Marilyn Monroe, among flying skeleton bric-a-brac and a bike hanging upside down from the ceiling. You’ll find eastside hipsters, bikers, day regulars who have lasted into the night and students who have crossed the river for something different – all swilling beers in a little house trimmed in purple and glowing inside with red light.
For Sunday afternoon football with people you wouldn’t have expected watched football
Where: 3 Crow Bar, 1024 Woodland St., Nashville, 615-262-3345, 3crowbar.com
What You’re Drinking: A Bushwaker
This is Sunday Funday Central for many in East Nashville when the beers are 2-for-1 and the bushwacker machine keeps busy churning out frosty chocolate shakes with Barcardi 151. It’s also where you might find a guy with a handlebar mustache wearing suspenders over his Redskins jersey, because it isn’t your typical sports bar. A stalwart (though under different names) of this Five Points area of East Nashville, it has long been a gathering place for locals including trivia night Thursdays or as the ending point for the East Nasty running group on Wednesdays. During warmer weather, the windows roll up and the back patios hum with energy.
For the music, pints and pie
Where: The Family Wash, 2038 Greenwood Ave., Nashville, TN 37206, 615-226-6070, familywash.com.
What You’re Drinking: A pint with your Shepherd's pie
A true Nashville gem, this funky little turquoise building with yellow trim is bar, restaurant and listening room with some of the city’s best musicians dropping in to serenade you with jazz, rock, country and all manner of genres as you eat and drink. The cozy interior is both romantic and rock-and-roll with its folk art, Christmas lights and Chinese paper lanterns hanging from the exposed duct-work ceiling. Stop by on Tuesdays for Pint and Pie Night when $10 gets you a beer and a hearty portion of the bar’s legendary Shepherd’s pie.
Source: “Food Lovers’ Guide to Nashville: The Best Restaurants, Markets & Local Culinary Offerings” (Food Lovers’ Series, Globe Pequot, November 2012)