15 Hidden Bars Worth Searching for in Nashville
Nashville's speakeasies have impeccable cocktails and even better vibes.
It’s not like it’s difficult to find a spot for a proper cocktail in Nashville, except when it’s intentionally hard. Some of Nashville’s finest bars are a little more hidden away, to create a sense of exclusivity and limit crowds so that talented bartenders can offer the sort of individualized attention that their inventive drinks deserve. Besides, it’s nice to have a conversation at a bar where you don’t have to yell to be heard. Here are some of our favorite places to chill.
The talented mixologists at The Fox are a big part of the attraction, and some of their novel takes on classic cocktails have actually won national awards in recipe contests. But even if all you want is a proper gin and tonic, you’ll be delighted by the cozy library vibe of the East Nashville emporium. The bar staff insists on seasonal, locally-sourced ingredients, so the drink menu changes frequently. Don’t worry if your favorite rolls off, because there’s sure to be something new to delight you.
You’ll need to know the secret phone number to punch into the bright red vintage phone vestibule that guards the entrance to this speakeasy experience, but it’s not too hard to politely ask them for it or find out from a club member or the concierge at downtown hotels. Once inside the inner sanctum, patrons discover an opulent space to enjoy inventive cocktails, cigars, and a pizza-centric menu of snacks. Settle in on one of their comfy couches and feel like you’re Daddy Warbucks relaxing in a private library.
An outpost of the James Beard Award-nominated NYC cocktail bar, Nashville’s version of Attaboy is no slouch either! Well, the building is kinda slouchy, a cinderblock edifice hidden away in an alley where guests are invited to “knock gently” to gain entry. If the bar is full, you’ll have to wait outside, but once you gain entrance, the fun really begins. Bartenders interview patrons about their drink preferences and then compose cocktails on the fly to fulfill their wildest dreams. Sit at the bar or settle into a blue velvet booth to enjoy a completely crafty cocktail or two.
This former sports bar has been converted into a fantastical Lewis Caroll/steampunk mashup of a bar. The intentionally dark and cozy downstairs hosts diners and incognito drinkers, while the airy upstairs offers brighter conditions for more extroverted patrons. The two bars are set up identically with top shelf spirits and house-made ingredients so that the talented bar staff can prepare any drink from their list at either location, but the upper level offers the advantage of an expansive balcony with fire pits and sofas perfect for enjoying or one of Fable’s ingenious cocktails with a fine cigar from their humidor.
This subterranean lair in the Noelle hotel downtown is intentionally difficult to find. The entrance is through a door you’d probably never pass through unless you work for the hotel cleaning staff, but it’s a passage to something wonderful. Hidden Bar often stages thematic pop-ups that extend to both the riotous decor and the drink list. While the entrance may be hidden, they’re not afraid to go over-the-top to delight patrons once they figure out the way in.
Once the home to the law office of Jimmy Hoffa’s attorney, Black Rabbit comes by its speakeasy vibe honestly and historically. The old brick building has tunnels burrowed beneath it that Al Capone legendarily used to smuggle illicit booze from the Cumberland River to the clubs in Printers Alley, but the vast variety of fine whiskeys and other spirits that line the walls of the long bar are entirely legal now. Black Rabbit also hosts one of the best happy hour deals in Downtown, and the menu of small plates cooked over live fires is another big attraction at this popular hangout for tourists and locals alike. Bands performing on the cozy stage have been known to spill out into the adjoining alley when the spirit strikes them.
Skull’s has been a Printers Alley institution since the middle of the last century, except for the few years it was closed when notorious club owner David “Skull” Schulman was murdered, reportedly by someone that knew he always kept the evening’s cash receipts in the top pocket of his trademark overalls. Since reopening, the showroom has revived the old-school vibe with nightly jazz and burlesque shows, classic cocktails served from an elaborate wooden bar and a restaurant that features an excellent chophouse menu. It’s easy to forget the time during an evening at Skulls.
It’s hard to believe that a three-story bar built in the boiler room of a former dry cleaning facility could be hidden, but that’s the case with Old Glory, tucked away in the interior hallway of Villa Place. Shafts of light beam through high windows across exposed stone and tile walls adorned with living plants during the day, but you’ll probably want to be part of the late night crowd anyway. Descend down the sweeping staircase and join the party people who are deadly serious about their cocktails.
Tucked away in a nondescript strip mall among the towering hotel buildings of SoBro, Bar Sovereign’s entrance is marked only by a small golden plaque that is fortunately close to eye level. Inside is a wonderland of bold artwork covering the walls, a sculpture created from a disassembled piano behind the bar and a menu of interesting and affordable cocktails that is rare to find amongst the nearby tourist destinations. The atmosphere gets a little wilder late at night when DJs spin tunes for the party people and industry folks looking to blow off a little steam at the end of a shift.
Easy to miss off of Printers Alley on the ground floor of the Bobby Hotel, Garage Bar exudes a gritty vibe, serving cold cans of PBR and old school cocktails. It’s important to stay upright at Garage Bar, because a spill off of a bar stool could lead to a hard landing on the cement floors. Graffiti-covered walls complete the intentionally grungy decor, and televisions tuned to the big gamer and a retro jukebox provide the entertainment.
This microbar has a double punny name. First of all, it is, indeed, crammed into the sixth bay of what used to be a self-service car wash before the building was converted into an elevated food and drink court with international carryout restaurants occupying the other quintet of stalls. Secondly, the menu is intentionally basic, with simple, well-made cocktails designed to be served quickly so that guests can enjoy them in one of the very few seats in Bay 6 or carry them out to the lively outdoor patio where patrons enjoy their food from one of the options at The Wash.
Dirty Little Secret is only open on Friday and Saturday, but they make up for the limited hours by keeping the music pumping until late night. DJs spin the wheels of steel for crowds of festive partiers, and VIP and table service are available if you want to act like a high roller. The atmosphere is certainly more lively than your typical speakeasy dive bar, but it is a bit of a hidden gem off of Printer Alley.
It’s not like they’re trying to hide Never, Never. It’s just that the former welding shop is so nondescript and hidden away next to the railroad tracks, you might need someone to show you the way to the front door. It’s worth the hunt, though, because the cocktails are both clever and cheap. Enjoy small bites, beer, wine and cocktails at the amiable dimly-lit bar or discover the patio oasis out back that feels like being a guest at a friend’s house party.
A speakeasy in a food hall? What a brilliant place to hide one! Tucked away in the hallway outside of Level 3 South at the Assembly Food Hall, One More Cocktail Club feels like worlds away from the tourist throngs below, especially during Friday and Saturday nights when OMCC is open. There’s only room for a couple of dozen guests in the chic lounge, so everyone is treated like a VIP. The menu is a mix of new craft cocktails and classics, with special attention paid to creating beautiful works of art including appropriate garnishes. A tight menu of red, white, and bubbly wines is also available for those in the know.
If you park on the top deck of the garage below the Fifth + Broad retail/dining/entertainment complex across from the Bridgestone Arena, you’ll actually have to walk down to get to Pushing Daisies, home of “underground margaritas.” Named after the class of cocktails that feature citrus, sweet and sour, this hot new lounge concentrates on the tequila version of the whiskey sour or daiquiri. Margaritas are crafted using luxury ingredients and quaffed by a hip crowd of guests enjoying pumping music and dramatic lighting.