The 14 Best Bars In Nashville 2023

The proving ground of numerous American singer-songwriters, Music City is a place alive with energy and excitement, as typified by the city's infamous Honky Tonk Highway. Unsurprisingly, this musical pedigree has long drawn locals and tourists alike into the city's bars and clubs. In 2022, Nashville had almost 15 million visitors.

The demand for bars is currently being met by a diverse range of Nashville proprietors who each aim to fill a specific niche. This means that, aside from the ubiquitous honky tonks, today's Nashville is also home to excellent speakeasies, taprooms, and dives. In this article, we have highlighted a variety of these establishments.

While naming something as "the best" is debatable, each bar on this list is a leader in its specific niche and has many loyal fans, both tourists and locals. So while Nashville is known for its music, it's in these bars that you'll find the city's soul.

1. The Patterson House

Opened in 2009, The Patterson House remains a key facet of Nashville's cocktail scene. This bar maintains its relevance not through the constant reinventions Nashville is known for but by a thorough commitment to excellence. The most prominent example of this is the expertise of the staff. Each of the bartenders boasts an encyclopedic knowledge of the drinks on offer and can easily answer questions or make accurate suggestions thanks to the extensive training they undergo.

That being said, The Patterson House is not above simple pleasures. In fact, the staff enjoys making comforting classics, as bartender Miranda Poore highlighted to Esquire: "We have a drink here called the Jennings, and it's a play on the Jack and Coke. Everyone that comes through the bar that has no understanding of our menu gets really intimidated, so that's the first thing they order."

The menu extends far beyond the Jennings, including up to 50 different cocktails, each ordered by spirit type. All cocktails, whether classics or house signatures are crafted using an extensive array of quality ingredients. Some of these — like the homemade bitters — are unique to The Patterson House, meaning there's nothing like these cocktails anywhere else in Nashville.

2. Santa's Pub

In a world that seems to prioritize complicated cocktails and expensive wine, it is always refreshing to find a bar where the drinks list is short and the reasons to have fun are many. Santa's Pub, a double-wide trailer off Bransford Avenue that sells beer at $2 a bottle, is one such place. The fact it is cash-only and does not serve liquor or wine only adds to the appeal.

Of course, such a restrictive drinks menu means some will never visit Santa's, but those who do are in for a real treat. In a word, the pub is fun. Be it the cheap beers, karaoke or simple, relaxed atmosphere, Santa's seems to always bring out the best in people. Perhaps because of this, the bar is a favorite of many celebrities, including big-name singers. 

At Santa's, they know they are safe from harassment and the same goes for anyone who steps inside the establishment. Owner Elmer Denzel "Santa" Irwin is immensely proud that there has never been trouble at Santa's and clearly revels in creating a space for all to enjoy.

3. The Fox Bar and Cocktail Club

Named one of the best cocktail bars in the United States east, the Fox Bar and Cocktail Club is perhaps the most innovative inclusion on this list. An ever-rotating, vast cocktail menu is a source of constant excitement for any cocktail-inclined individual. 

All bartenders contribute to this vast creative endeavor as head bartender Laura Unterberg explains on Alcohol Professor: "Every bartender is encouraged to submit recipes, and then together we will workshop them to make sure that they are a perfect fit for that month's menu. Often we will showcase a new spirit, adding complimentary and contrasting flavors, sort of like a color wheel, to create balance."  

Currently, the bar offers an enticing variety of drinks, such as Howard's Cookies, which is a mix of white chocolate-washed Cobrafire brandy, spiced pear, Lillet blanc and shortbread. Aside from innovative signatures, the Fox Bar and Cocktail Club also prepares a range of classic cocktails, including five different takes on the old fashioned. If that doesn't demonstrate a bar crew that is in love with its craft, we don't know what does.

4. Skull's Rainbow Room

Skull's Rainbow Room is a historic bar famed for both its jazz and burlesque shows. Over the years, Skull's has been host to many iconic performances. Today, live jazz takes place every evening and burlesque on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, drawing in locals and tourists alike who have had their fill of country music.

In terms of drinks, Skull's has a huge range of options, from cocktails to beer. Yet, it is the liquor cabinet that is the bar's most impressive feature. An enormous range of whiskeys is available, including premium options such as Cascade Moon 13-year-old Rye.

To cap it all off, Skull's has also built a solid culinary reputation, a rare feat for such a busy bar. As with the drinks, the food menus are packed with quality ingredients, leaning towards the indulgent through the likes of foie gras and prime rib. 

One customer had this to say about the food on Yelp: "The lobster bisque melts in your mouth good. The prime rib empanadas will make you think you hit the jackpot. And the lamb chops will make you think you went to heaven — coupled with [mashed] potatoes and drizzled in a gravy that is absolutely amazing."

5. Robert's Western World

Nashville's reputation as a partying, music-oriented city owes a lot to the honky tonk, a rowdy establishment where country music is played. Numerous multistage honky tonks pack Nashville's Lower Broadway. A place otherwise known as Honky Tonk Highway. 

While many of the establishments that line Honky Tonk Highway have been transformed by Nashville's ballooning tourist trade, Robert's Western World emphasizes history, protecting the culture and the artists that gave rise to Music City. Classic country music is the main appeal of Robert's Western World; you won't be getting any craft cocktails or liquor in the busy bar. 

Instead, customers can sip on a range of beers, with domestic specials like Pabst Blue Ribbon costing a measly $2.50. A small selection of wine completes the drinks menu. In terms of food, this bar is known for the Recession Special: A fried bologna sandwich served with chips, moon pie, and a Pabst Blue Ribbon for $6. It doesn't get more Nashville than that.

6. 12 South Taproom and Grill

While lagging behind the likes of Portland and Denver, Nashville's craft beer scene has grown rapidly in recent years. Now, brilliant craft breweries such as Blackstone Brewery and Tennessee Brew Works are familiar names to those drinking in the city. Of course, such a proliferation of high-quality breweries has also led to the emergence of another type of establishment in Nashville: The taproom.

Opened in 2006, 12 South Taproom and Grill is one of the city's very best. Unsurprisingly, the main draw is beer, and 12 South serves a huge variety of it, from fruited gose to stouts, wheat beers and brown ales. While such a variety would be a draw in and of itself, 12 South taps into the city's current inclinations by sourcing from a large number of local breweries, including the likes of New Heights Brewing Company and Yazoo Brewing Company. 

To complement the beers, 12 South even serves a variety of satiating food, including a selection of Nash-Mex. In other words, there is no better place to try a variety of Nashville's most exciting brews than 12 South Taproom.

7. Audrey

Coming from the brain of eminent chef Sean Brock, the bar above Nashville restaurant Audrey is exquisite both in style and substance. As a restaurant and bar that celebrates Brock's Appalachian grandmother, Audrey is packed with art created by the area's artists. Brock's love for Japan also shines through in the sleek, clean aesthetic.

Unique as Audrey's design is, it pales in comparison to the ingenuity employed behind the bar. Customers are greeted not with a menu but a basket of five different ingredients. After picking one, a bartender will use the produce to make a cocktail with just two further ingredients. The result is a unique, produce-forward drink that is available for that night only. 

Jon Howard explains to Vinepair: "Nothing is shaken, and it's not stirred. Produce is broken down, spirit is added, then it's muddled, spooned, tossed around, strained, and at that point, there's no ice anywhere. We're going from a fresh ingredient, and that's the bulk of the drink. During service, the drink keeps its fresh identity because everything's done right there on the spot when you order it." 

As perhaps the singularly most unique drinking experience in the entire United States, the bar at Audrey is a bucket list destination for all cocktail lovers. One that might change American cocktail bars forever.

8. Attaboy

Another excellent cocktail bar that eschews a menu is Nashville's outpost of the New York City icon, Attaboy. Attaboy opened its site in Nashville in 2017, and while the setting is different, the bar continues many of the brand's practices.

"We have no menu and take all of our orders through conversation with the guests by having them describe their likes/dislikes," said managing partner Brandon Bramhall on the Nashville Voyager. "We focus on simplicity and the classics. Above all, our focus is to always provide an elevated, special experience with each guest that walks in the door."

A tailored approach and enduring quality have seen Attaboy carve a niche for itself in Nashville's bustling cocktail scene as well as America's wider one. Such is the quality of Attaboy Nashville that it was a finalist in the 2022 James Beard Awards for Outstanding Bar Program. More importantly, public opinion of the bar is incredibly high, meaning a booth at Attaboy is the hottest seat in town.

9. Honky Tonk Central

Honky Tonk Central is a large bar that is three stories high and seems to have live country music every hour of the day and night. The bar is boisterous, lively, and usually packed, making it a truly fantastic experience for those looking to party. One Customer highlighted this on Yelp: "I will preface this is your classic Broadway — Nashville crazy spot. You're not going to get the best food in Nashville or the best service (they're always slammed), but you're going to get great bands and an awesome experience."

With a focus on music, Honky Tonk Central serves a limited range of drinks, predominately beer. The food menu is a bit more varied, with options including nachos, sandwiches, and wings. Yet, it is the wild, uniquely Nashville honky tonk experience that brings and keeps customers at Honky Tonk Central. There really is nothing quite like it.

10. Acme Feed and Seed

Many bars on this list have their specific niche, whether that is craft cocktails or raucous country music. In contrast, Acme Feed and Seed has made its mark by being a Jack-of-all-trades. As such, this is the perfect bar to head to if you cannot decide what you want. This is because, as a 22,000 square feet building with multiple floors, Acme Feed and Seed is several bars in one.

The bottommost floor is a honky tonk bar with loud country acts frequently performed. By comparison, the second floor is a much more relaxed bar where customers can order sushi to enjoy alongside their drinks. However, it is the top floor, a rooftop bar with fantastic views of downtown Nashville, that proves to be Acme Feed and Seed's biggest draw.

An impressive range of beers, both draft and canned, are offered across the entirety of Acme Feed and Seed. These include beers from some local breweries, including Jackalope Brewing Company and Yazoo Brewing Company. The bar also sells a number of reimagined classic cocktails as well as liquors, including sake.

11. The Bluebird Cafe

The Bluebird Cafe is probably the most iconic bar you will find in Nashville. While many will be familiar with the bar thanks to its featuring prominently in the hit TV series "Nashville," The Bluebird has long been a launch pad for some of country music's biggest stars, including Taylor Swift, Keith Urban, Garth Brooks, and many more. 

The bar does not solely rely on its reputation to draw punters in; excellent music, food, and drinks are all guaranteed in the small 100-seat venue. Many of the bar's faithful patrons were concerned when founder Amy Kurland stepped away from the business in 2008. 

However, Kurland had a plan to ensure the Bluebird wouldn't lose its magic, as she explained to The Legacy Lab: "I'll give it to the Nashville Songwriters Association. I had been working with them forever. They had basically the same mission as The Bluebird." 

It is also terrific for anyone who snags a ticket — the Bluebird still offers world-class yet intimate music events. If you are lucky enough to get yourself a ticket you can also expect to sip on a range of local beers from the likes of Tennessee Brew Works.

12. Von Elrod's Beer Hall & Kitchen

With 38 beers on tap, Von Elrod's Beer Hall & Kitchen more than lives up to its name. The majority of those on offer either come from local breweries or from Germany itself. As such, Von Elrod's offerings range from the best wheat beers in the world to local brown ales, an eclectic mix that is sure to impress any avid beer drinker. For those less inclined to beer, Von Elrod's also sells cocktails, including frozen margaritas and mimosas by the liter.

Located in Germantown, it is no surprise Von Elrod's Beer Hall & Kitchen taps into Germany's extensive beer culture in many ways. However, it is the bar's location across from Nashville Sounds baseball stadium that can make the place really raucous, as one customer highlighted on TripAdvisor: "It is a sports bar, beer garden with gourmet level eats in Germantown directly across from the baseball stadium."

Von Elrod's trademark beer cheese-coated giant pretzels are the perfect thing to munch on while watching the game. Just be sure to order another stein before those from the stadium come flooding out.

13. Rudy's Jazz Room

Despite Nashville not being a jazz hotspot like New York, such is the quality of Rudy's Jazz Room that some of the country's top performers still play in the city. This is because chef and co-owner, Michael Braden, has managed to recreate the vibe of popular jazz clubs. Partly, this has to do with the setting. Rudy's is small, dark, and has a robust bar selection. Yet, it is the ambiance that really cements Rudy's Jazz Room as a proper jazz venue. Here, patrons actively listen and celebrate good playing emphatically.

The food is also worth mentioning. Braden has created a menu full of Southern delights like chicken, andouille, and shrimp gumbo. Many of the meals are even available in smaller portions late into the night, perfect for fuelling the dancing. 

Finally, Rudy's is a great place to slip away from the tourist crowd and mix with some locals, as this customer explained on Yelp: "I'm a Nashville resident, and this place offers a great alternative to Music City's country scene. At $15 per ticket, it's also very affordable relative to some of the other local music spots."

14. Legends Corner

It can be hard to stand out as a honky tonk located on Lower Broadway. After all, the street is full of them. Many establishments resort to louder music, brighter signs, and more noise in general. Legends Corner takes the opposite approach, marketing itself as a calmer space where patrons can enjoy top-quality classic country all day long. A style that saw Legends Corner earn a TripAdvisor Travellers' Choice Award 2022.

The music played by the extensive array of bands and artists is among the very best you will find on Honky Tonk Highway. This is one of the city's worst-kept secrets, as highlighted by this customer on TripAdvisor: "[We] listened to the same fabulous music. Different vibe during the day but music is equally enjoyable during this time. Bartender was excellent, our favorite music location." 

This high-quality music builds upon the bar's history as a haunt for many of country music's biggest stars, including Johnny Cash. All fans of the genre will adore not only the music but also the way the bar is decorated. Unique album covers line the bar's walls while a range of country music memorabilia – including Cash's guitar — is dotted around.