They don’t call this town Music City for nothing, and if you’re in Nashville, you’re basically required by law to check out a concert at some point -- so to help you do that, we put together a list of the six best venues in town, and where to grab a bite/drink before the show...
Venue: Mercy Lounge
Locally favored and nationally renowned for attracting top, headlining acts, as well as being the front-runners of introducing the next breaking bands to the city, one building has it all. Just off the beaten path from Downtown, Mercy Lounge plays a mix of household names from John Fogerty and The White Stripes to up-and-comers like Dr. Dog and Beach House. Cannery Ballroom is their 1K-capacity space on the first level and their more recent addition, The High Watt, is off to the side of Mercy and is ideal for catching local acts.
Where to eat: Flyte World Dining & Wine
Just down the street, Chef Matthew Lackey prepares his menu using artisanal ingredients sourced from Middle Tennessee farms to create the likes of chicken w/ collard soup. Their wine selection's not too shabby either, and features some of the most unique varietals from around the world.
What you're getting: Pork w/ caramelized ramps
Grab a drink: Jackalope Brewing Company
Across the street from Flyte is local brewery and taproom, Jackalope. The first female-owned brewery in Tennessee, Jackalope’s brews are unfiltered, unpasteurized, and extremely fresh. Try the most popular, Thunder Ann Pale Ale, or their Rompo Red Rye Ale, a Tennessee take on an Irish red by adding flaked rye to the mash.
What you’re drinking: The Bearwalker Brown, made w/ pure maple syrup during the conditioning phase.
Venue: Ryman Auditorium
"The Mother Church of Country Music" is where you can pack in the pews, throwing your hands in the air praising the almighty legends who play there. The walls of this venue hold something holy in order to get the inimitable sound that comes from within. Many artists have recorded live performances there from Johnny Cash and Neil Young to Patty Griffin and Jonny Lang.
Where to eat: Merchants Restaurant
Make it a history-rich evening and dine at Merchants Restaurant, which opened in 1988 in the old Merchants Hotel, where legends like Hank Williams and Patsy Cline would stay while passing through. The menu is sectioned in two, with more burgers and sandwiches downstairs and larger items like carnaroli risotto upstairs. And there's a great craft cocktail menu offered on both levels.
What you're getting: Prime beef culotte steak
Grab a drink: Robert's Western World
Adjacent to The Ryman, Robert’s is a great place to grab a beer and soak in one of the few, Lower Broad experiences that the locals will frequent. Robert’s is a classic honkey tonk built with great live music and location for a pre- or post-Ryman show.
What you're getting: Some locally brewed Blackstone porter
Venue: The Basement
This Nashville rock venue, located below Grimey’s New & Preloved Music record store, is beloved as much by those who attend as those who play there. Its intimate feel lends the perfect setting for everything from acoustic to metal shows and even “secret” shows. Metallica played before 175 people back in 2008 on the band’s way to Bonnaroo, and Mumford & Sons ended their sold-out, three-night appearance at The Ryman with a show there.
Where to eat: The Smiling Elephant
Voted best pad Thai in the city, Smiling Elephant sits just half a mile from The Basement and reigns as the preferred spot for locals to fill up on their dumplings and drunken noodles. Dishes are served on levels of heat from mild and hot to the ominous sounding "Thai spicy".
What you're getting: You just can't go wrong with the pad Thai
Grab a drink: M.L. Rose Craft Beer & Burgers
This local beer bar gained even more favor when they started kicking mainstream beers off the taps in favor of local & regional craft brews. They even have a beer club, to more effectively help you work your way through each seasonal menu.
What you're getting: The Summer lineup currently features some delicious KY Bourbon Barrel Ale
Venue: The Station Inn
Since the '70s, the historic Station Inn has been the place to go to say you’ve heard bluegrass and roots music in Nashville. Legendary performers include Jimmy Martin and Bobby Osborne to Bill Monroe, Ricky Skaggs, and Allison Kraus. Talented bluegrass performers continue the tradition today on any given night, music always starting at 9pm.
Where to eat: The 404 Kitchen
Just next door is The 404 Kitchen, a reconstructed shipping container turned 56-seat restaurant with James Beard semifinalist Matt Bolus’s modern European menu. Try the crudo starter with entrees like the peach & pork ragout, or the red snapper. Also? The bar shelves an extensive, rare whiskey collection.
What you're getting: Rabbit with ricotta gnudi
Grab a drink: Rusan’s Sushi & Seafood
Seemingly an odd choice, but hear us out -- located directly across the street from The Station Inn and The 404 Kitchen, you can slip into Rusan’s for an unexpected twist in your night with blaring house music and an overly enthusiastic staff, who will not only cheer on your sake bomb takedowns, but will orchestrate the countdown. Whether you’re on a date or with a group of friends, no one can deny the bonding power of restaurant-chanted booze.
What you're getting: Sake bombs, cheering
Venue: Bluebird Café
Sitting on the list of must-have experiences for all locals and visitors, the Bluebird is the only place to hear the crème de la crème of up-and-coming singer/songwriters with industry veterans who penned your favorite classics. Famous faces love to pop in regularly to catch a show or play the famed listening room themselves. Dave Grohl recently played an hour set to an unsuspecting crowd before humbly thanking the crowd and walking off stage. Plus, you have to respect a place that will not only hush the loud talkers, but straight-up kick them out if they don’t shut it.
Where to eat: Firefly Grille
Executive Chef Kristen Gregory, winner of the Food Network’s Chopped, has prepared one of the best Summer menus at this local eatery. The truffle oil white cheddar mac & cheese dish is a house specialty and the fried oysters are solid favorites.
What you're getting: A whole steampot of mussels, to yourself
Grab a drink: Greenhouse Bar
An actual greenhouse with a center bar is just a couple hops, skips, and a jump from Firefly. Sit on patio furniture amongst the lush landscaping inside the greenhouse or outside by the fire pit and tiki bar for some tipsy tea or mojitos with fresh mint grown yards away from your chair.
What you're getting: If you're not in the mood for a botanical cocktail, some of their Yazoo ought to do the trick
Venue: 3rd & Lindsley
In 2011, 3rd & Lindsley underwent a complete renovation, building a new stage, sound & light system, and more than doubling their seat capacity. Their new look hasn’t sacrificed their intimate, neighborhood feel as they continue hosting acts from local house favs The Wooten Brothers to household names like Sheryl Crow, Ed Sheeran, and Lady Antebellum.
Where to eat: Husk
Fill up on some Southern, farm-to-table fare at Chef Sean Brock’s Rutledge Hill location of Husk. The menu changes twice daily, but you can always find the deviled eggs with smoked okra and trout roe, and anything made with their Bear Creek beef or catch of the day won’t disappoint.
What you're getting: A recommendation from your server
Grab a drink: Pinewood Social
Another great choice for dining, but Pinewood is so much more than that with options to grab a drink at the bar, reserve an alley for a quick round of bowling, or lounge by their recently opened, outdoor pool and cabana area. Matt Tocco runs a sophisticated, yet unpretentious bar program with everything from craft cocktails to straight-up buckets of beer.
What you're getting: The District 9 (rye whiskey, absinthe, Maurin Quina, citrus)
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1. Mercy Lounge/The Cannery Ballroom1 Cannery Row, Nashville
2. Flyte World Dining and Wine718 Division St, Nashville
3. Jackalope Brewing Company701 Eighth Ave S, Nashville
4. Ryman Auditorium116 5th Ave N, Nashville
5. Merchants Restaurant401 Broadway, Nashville
6. Robert's Western World416 Broadway, Nashville
7. The Basement1604 8th Avenue S, Nashville
8. The Smiling Elephant2213 8th Ave S, Nashville
9. M.L. Rose Craft Beer & Burgers4408 Charlotte Ave, Nashville
10. The Station Inn402 12th Ave S, Nashville
11. The 404 Kitchen404 12th Ave S, Nashville
12. Rusan's Sushi & Seafood505 12th Ave S, Nashville
13. Bluebird Cafe4104 Hillsboro Pike, Nashville
14. Firefly Grille2201 Bandywood Dr, Nashville
15. The Greenhouse Bar2211 Bandywood Dr, Nashville
16. 3rd & Lindsley816 3rd Ave S, Nashville
17. Husk37 Rutledge St, Nashville
18. Pinewood Social33 Peabody St, Nashville
This Downtown bar and concert venue is one of Nashville's premier destinations for concerts, parties, shows, and events, and it's available to rent out for wedding receptions, corporate events, and other private functions.
Manned by award-winning Chef Matt Lackey, this Downtown resto's menu utilizes artisanal ingredients sourced from Middle Tennessee farms, and their wine selection features some of the most unique varietals from around the world.
This rustic Gulch brewery is well-known for its flavorful and unique ingredients combos in its unpasteurized, unfiltered beers. You'll want to check out the Love Bird, a wheat beer infused with raspberries and strawberries; the Thunder Ann, made with apricot and mango to highlight the citrus notes of American pale ale; or the Bearwalker Brown Maple Brown, brewed with pure maple syrup used during the conditioning phase.
This National Historic Landmark is a Nashville institution and a quality spot to watch various musical and theatrical performances throughout the year.
This Downtown eatery opened in 1988 in the old Merchants Hotel, where legends like Hank Williams and Pasty Cline would stay while passing through. The menu is sectioned into parts, with more burgers and sandwiches downstairs and larger items like prime beef culotte and carnaroli risotto upstairs. And a great craft cocktail menu is offered on both levels.
Robert’s Western World, located in the heart of Lower Broad’s Music City, is one of the originators of country music in the area. Born in the early 90s, Robert’s is still a bustling with locals and visitors craving honky tonk music and a menu to match -- the Recession Special, a fried bologna sandwich served with chips and a PBR for a whopping $5, is a fan favorite. Located just steps from the Ryman Auditorium, Robert’s is your best bet for a cheap, cold beer, moon cakes, and live music to finish a classy evening at the Grand Ole Opry.
This Nashville rock venue, located below Grimey’s New & Preloved Music record store, is beloved as much by those who attend as those who play there. Its intimate feel lends the perfect setting for everything from acoustic to metal shows and even “secret” shows.
One of the best spots for pad Thai in the city, Smiling Elephant reigns as the preferred spot for locals to fill up on their dumplings and drunken noodles. Dishes are served on levels of heat from mild and hot to Thai spicy, if you dare.
Between M.L. Rose's 34-tap craft beer program, eight of which rotate through local, seasonal, and small batch brews, and the simple, greasy American pub fare, the relaxed and decidedly cool atmosphere will make you want to hang around and have a few (especially when the fire pits get going on the patio). If you have any trouble picking what you want from the short menu, it's because you can't choose between loaded waffle fries and a fat, craft burger like the signature Nash Vegas stacked with a thick beef patty, savory pimento cheese, crispy tabasco onions, and tangy barbecue on a fluffy potato bun. The best part is that the full menu is served nightly until 1am.
Since the 70s, the historic Station Inn has been the place to go to say you’ve heard bluegrass and roots music in Nashville. Legendary performers include, Jimmy Martin and Bobby Osborne to Bill Monroe, Ricky Skaggs, and Allison Kraus.
Housed in a downtown shipping container, this intimate spot barely fits 40 diners, but it's worth a visit if only for its 150-strong whiskey collection that features obscure selections and mainstream brands alike. The dishes emerging from the tiny kitchen -- like the peach and tomato salad, or the rabbit with dandelion greens -- use gamey meats and peasant ingredients like squash, cornbread, and red potatoes to create an assembly of homey flavors.
You can slip into Rusan's for an unexpected twist in your night, with blaring house music and an overly enthusiastic staff that will not only cheer on your sake bomb takedowns, but will orchestrate the countdown. Whether you’re on a date or with a group of friends, no one can deny the bonding power of a restaurant chanted sake bomb (not to mention quality sushi).
The must-have experience for all locals and visitors, The Bluebird is the only place to hear the crème de la crème of up-and-coming singer/songwriters with industry veterans who penned your favorite classics. Famous faces love to pop in regularly to catch a show or play the famed listening room themselves.
Executive Chef Kristen Gregory, winner of the Food Network’s Chopped, has prepared one of the best Summer menus at this local eatery. The truffle oil white cheddar mac & cheese dish is a house specialty and the fried oysters or the steampot of mussels are a must-try.
This Green Hills drinkery is an actual greenhouse with a center bar, where you can sit on patio furniture amongst the lush landscaping inside the greenhouse or outside by the fire pit and tiki bar for some tipsy tea or mojitos with fresh, muddled mint from the garden.
This Rutledge Hill music spot features an intimate, neighborhood feel as they continue hosting acts from local house faves The Wooten Brothers to household names like Sheryl Crow, Ed Sheeran, and Lady Antebellum.
The Nashville outpost of Chef Sean Brock's Charleston-born restaurant, Husk in SoBro focuses on dishes from the dirt, changing its menu twice daily according to what produce and protein goods are freshest. Self-described as “a celebration of Southern ingredients,” most of the courses here use local ingredients (including herbs from a backyard garden), and diners are encouraged to pair courses like shrimp and grits and a hot fish sandwich with a cocktail from the lauded whiskey list, with over 60 bourbons on offer. And while the dress code is casual, the meals are all served in a historic mansion setting, turning your comfort food into regal fare.
This waterfront spot in Rolling Mill Hill has the layout of an MTV Cribs home -- just look at its six vintage bowling lanes, dining room, lounge and outdoor courtyard. While the food is indeed tasty (after all, Catbird Seat veteran Josh Habiger helms the kitchen), people seem to gravitate to Pinewood for the social scene: it's a see-and-be-seen kind of place, which goes hand-in-hand with the pool, bocce ball field, and the strong cocktails.