A Weekend in Nashville: Dive Bars, BBQ & Honky Tonks

By April 8, 2016Food & Booze, Stateside

This past New Year’s I spent a weekend in Nashville that was so action packed I can barely remember all of the places that we jammed into two days. Luckily, I write things down so I am able to share the most incredible weekend in Nashville you can have. Overall we went to 15 different bars and restaurants in two days!

The weekend started off by arriving with my hubby from an eight hour drive. We were heading back to our home in Texas after spending a Christmas in North Carolina with my in-laws. I was tired, dirty, and ready to collapse on the bed in an exhausted heap. While Hudson and I usually opt for the cheapest motel we can find and deal with whatever strange occurrences happen in such shady places, this time was different. One of my best friends had booked us a hotel for the weekend as a birthday present. In case you didn’t know, my birthday is New Year’s Day and I am accustomed to a long line of disappointing celebrations as New Year’s Eve is the single most overrated holiday out there and everyone is always too hungover on my actual birthday to do anything.

We checked into the Fairfield Inn & Suites in The Gulch, and as I slid the card key into the door I couldn’t wait to fall in a pile on the bed. Instead I was greeted with the smiling faces of our favorite couple-friends. The hotel room was a ruse for a surprise weekend together, and I was the only one who wasn’t in on it. So instead of reveling in dreamland, I cracked open a beer and we got started on our epic Nashville Weekend!

Weekend in Nashville: Day 1

Our first intention was to eat, and if you’re going to Nashville you just gotta get some hot chicken. Unfortunately, we walked the wrong way and decided to stop in a bar and refuel before making it all the way to Hattie’s. That bar was Tin Roof.

Tin Roof

Having no idea that this bar was a Nashville institution, we stumbled in just as happy hour was starting. Please note this is the original location, and not the one on Broadway. With $1 PBRs, $3 craft drafts, and $4 well drinks we were pleasantly surprised. The service was so fast we were sure our server was somehow bending the laws of physics while mixing our drinks. We snacked on some chips and guac and quickly downed 3 or 4 cocktails before a Clemson game started and the bar was overrun with loud people wearing bright orange. That was our cue to get outta there.

Hattie B’s Hot Chicken

When we finally arrived at Hattie B’s Hot Chicken, the line was out the door and we were informed by a friendly, portly fellow that they were closing early for New Year’s Eve and we probably wouldn’t make it in. Despite the 20 degree temps that none of us were prepared for, we told him we’d wait it out. With only two days in Nashville this was our only chance to try the famous Hattie B’s. Well, I think he must have appreciated our resolve, because he made sure we got into Hattie’s that day. Only a few other stragglers behind us were let in as well.

When ordering at Hattie’s you’re going to get the hot chicken. That is why you’re there. Exactly how hot you go is up to you. The hubby and I split the HOT! and our friend Omar went for DAMN HOT! That shit was fucking hot. There is also a level called “SHUT THE CLUCK UP!” But none of us were quite so brave. We got a pitcher of beer and your meal also comes with a fountain drink. We went with water. The HOT! was pretty hot, but balanced out with the pimento mac and cheese, lots of cold beer, and copious amounts of water, I did alright. As Omar sat with his nose running and sweat pouring down his face, he took the rest of his chicken to go. Side note (pun intended): the black eyed pea salad was fantastic.

The Patterson House

#gasolineboots #pattersonhouse #nashville #nomaspantalones

A photo posted by Taylor (@nomadami) on

After Hattie’s, our next stop was Patterson House. A super swanky cocktail bar, Patterson House is the kind of place I never think I am fancy enough to enter. And when I do enter I assume they’re all thinking, “What is that hobo doing in here?” We got there early as we heard you won’t even get in if you arrive after 7. The place is intentionally difficult to find, being tucked into the basement of a very unassuming building. We were almost immediately led through a curtain into a seductively dark bar. The menu is a range of cocktails so wild and exquisite, your head will spin. Each section is based on a single liquor, and as you make your way through each cocktail in a section, they get heavier, and headier, and boozier (of course). We each had three and were sufficiently buzzed when we paid the exorbitant bill. For such a swanky place, the service was mysteriously poor. There seemed to be servers everywhere but they never wanted to stop at our table. Or maybe that’s just part of the ambiance.

Knowing we were gonna have a big night ahead of us, (it was New Year’s Eve, after all) we headed back to the hotel to shower and regroup. My only stipulation for New Year’s Eve was that we go nowhere near the massive outdoor Jack Daniel’s concert that was going on downtown. And nowhere with a $60 cover. New Year’s Eve crowds are always a shitshow and so I asked my local friend where the best dive bars were. He answered unequivocally: on the East Side. His particular recommendations were Dino’s and then Fran’s for late night karaoke. So we put on some music, had a few hotel cocktails and tried our best to look pretty. After working from home and seeing no humans but my husband and the grocery store clerk for the past five months, I had forgotten what makeup was. So Janine helped me out and we called an Uber to the hotel. We were immediately validated in our choice when the driver said, “You’re going to Dino’s? That’s awesome. You must know a local.”


weekend in nashville best bars

Janine, queen of the lasers.

Dino’s official tagline is “Nashville’s Oldest Dive Bar.” If you know me at all, you know I LOVE dive bars and I am actually on a mission to find all the best, most authentic local haunts in the country. If it’s shady, cash only, and is full of weathered old locals, I want to post up there. One day I may even compile this list for you lovely readers. Dino’s is a solid addition to that elite group, though I can’t quite speak to how divey it really was when they were having a New Year’s Eve electrodance party with laser lights. There was no line, the cover was $10 and they were selling strong rum punch for $3. It was already shaping up to be a great NYE.

We all drank cocktails and danced until we couldn’t drink cocktails and dance anymore and decided it was time for karaoke. We made our way to Fran’s.

Fran’s East Side

Another superb addition to the dive bar list, Fran’s doesn’t even have a website. Nor do they accept credit cards or sell anything except cans of beer. The crowd was friendly, relaxed, and everyone was having a good time. The only blemish on our evening was almost getting kicked out when Hudson fell asleep at the table. This was severely frowned upon by the wrinkled bar matron with a scowl etched into her face. I tried to tell her that he has a medical condition (this is undiagnosed) and then I proceeded to explain how he gets up at 4:45 for work. This was of course two weeks deep into winter vacation and so maybe wasn’t applicable that very night. We ran through all of our go-to karaoke songs (mine are “Son of a Preacher Man” for solos, and “Bohemian Rhapsody” if you’ve got a friend) and stumbled out of the bar around two or three or four, who knows?

#bohemianrhapsody #killinit #happynewyear #happybdaytaytay

A photo posted by Janine Alsalam (@j9alsalam) on

As we looked around us, we saw there was nothing. Desolate train tracks and an empty parking lot and a strangely bright moon were all that surrounded us. Uber was NYE surge pricing around 10x and we certainly weren’t gonna do that. And then a moment later, a light appeared. The light of a taxi picking up fares. What miracle was this? We hailed the heavenly taxi in the middle of nowhere and were happy to pay 3x the fare to make it back to the hotel.

At this point I’m pretty sure we ordered a pizza, but I have no idea where it was from. I am positive however, that it was fucking delicious. In the way that everything is delicious when you’re hammered at 3am. It was officially the best New Year’s Eve of my entire life.

Weekend in Nashville Day 2: Happy Birthday to Me! (#bdaymate)

We started with breakfast at the hotel, because it was free and was pretty good as far as free hotel breakfasts go. They also had a bloody mary and mimosa bar in the lobby, but we were smart enough to bring our own champagne and orange juice to the room. We had bagels and belgian waffles and leftover pizza and leftover hot chicken and regaled each other with stories from the night before. We were all in agreement that it was a spectacular success.

Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint

#sauceboss #alabamawhite #bdaymate

A photo posted by Taylor (@nomadami) on

Our first stop for the day was another must-do recommendation from my local friend. Never underestimate the power of bothering your local friends for advice. We took an Uber to Martin’s and were immediately struck by the line. For New Year’s Day there were a lot of people waiting to get BBQ. You could instantly tell that Martin’s BBQ was a Nashville institution, just by the sheer amount of swag they had for sale. We all got potholders for souvenirs. After about a 20 minute wait, I had some of the best BBQ of my entire life. They will ask you which sauce you want, and you want all of them. But then just eat the Alabama White cause it’s really the only one you’ll ever need. We ordered the Big Momma Sampler which comes with 4 Bones, ¼ lb. Pork, ¼ lb. Brisket and choice of 2 sides. Dropping $50 for BBQ, two beers, and a potholder seemed weird, but hey, it was my birthday. My only real complaint for Martin’s is that the brisket was a little dry, which is very strange for brisket. Omar also thought he invented the hashtag #bdaymate (like “G’day mate”) but it turns out he is not that clever. We left with our bellies very happy and called another Uber to hit up a vintage store Janine had heard about. We laughed the whole way there. I had missed my best friends.

Cool Stuff Weird Things

This was a pretty neat store, with both cool stuff and weird things in it. The coolest things were probably the custom-made metal, light-up signage and the Elvis outside. The clothing part upstairs was super sad, but they had a decent record selection. After a little bit of browsing, we headed towards a dive bar I found nearby.

A photo posted by Janine Alsalam (@j9alsalam) on

Betty’s Grille

Since there was a dive bar nearby, we just had to check it out. Seemed like just the kind of spot we would love. Except it wasn’t. From the moment we walked into the door, I felt more tangible hostility than I have felt in any establishment in my life. We ordered four beers and sat in relative silence watching a sports bloopers show on the big screen TV. These salty locals seemed to emanate the desperation of lost souls. There was no happiness in that place. I feared if we stayed any longer we may never be able to leave. We took no photos and I will never be returning again.

Pinewood Social

A photo posted by Janine Alsalam (@j9alsalam) on

The next bar on our list was exactly the opposite of the one we had just left. Pinewood Social is an uber-hispter bowling alley/coffee shop/cocktail lounge in a huge warehouse with an outdoor pool and gaming area. It was filled to the brim with super trendy Nashvillians. We had been trying to make bowling reservations since we got to Nashville, but unfortunately Pinewood Social is a very popular place. We put our names on the list and posted up at the bar. Despite having a fancy cocktail list like all proper hipster bars do, we ordered rail whiskey with ginger and bitters and proceeded to drink about seven of them each, NBD. By the time they called our name for bowling, we were sufficiently buzzed and ready to go. Oh well.

UP – Fairfield Inn and Suites Hotel Bar & Lounge

Since the Fairfild Inn has an awesome rooftop hotel bar, we opted to head up there and enjoy a few moscow mules before going to dinner. We were about 10 hours into drinking at this point and I probably should have opted for a nap, but what are you gonna do? The bartender looked just like the Dude and when I told him so he quickly retorted with, “Well, that’s just like…your opinion, man.” If you get that joke, I love you.

Rolf & Daughters

#realphoto #polaroid #besties #nashville #bdaymate

A photo posted by Taylor (@nomadami) on

If you’re a foodie in Nashville, you will be told to go to Rolf & Daughters. Reservations are impossible so you just show up, get a cocktail and then wait two hours for your table. This is exactly what we did and by the time our table was ready, we were famished. Everything is expensive and the portions are small, just as you would expect at an hip, pretentious restaurant. Unfortunately, we weren’t blown away by the food. Everything seemed to be overly acidic and to top it all off, I started feeling sick and wasn’t able to eat much. Too many cocktails for TayTay? Possibly. I really should have taken that nap. I would probably give it another chance as the reviews are so good it just can’t be that underwhelming. But only if someone else was paying. As it was, we soldiered on through dinner and decided we should hit up a bar close to the hotel since I wasn’t feeling so hot. That terrible bar was:

Winners & Losers

These two shitty bars were right across the street from our hotel, so we thought, “Why not?” Should we go to Winners or Losers? My first choice would obviously be Losers cause any place called Winners is probably full of douchebags. Full it was, and douchebags they were. Within one minute of entering the bar someone tried to start a fight with us. We didn’t even get a drink. Luckily, the sheer terribleness of this bar reinvigorated me to get the fuck out of there, and we finally made it to the place everybody else goes when they go to Nashville: downtown!

Robert’s Western World

A photo posted by Janine Alsalam (@j9alsalam) on

Avoiding downtown on NYE was easily the best decision we made, but you just can’t pass it up if you’re in Music City. Robert’s Western World is one of the most famous bars/venues downtown and with good reason: it’s awesome. The place was packed, the band was superb and I think we got our honky tonk on, though I’m still not sure what that means. We took some whiskey shots, cause if you feel a little tired from drinking all day, shots are the best way to liven yourself back up. Right? I wasn’t about to go home early on my birthday.

BB King’s Blues Club

From there we headed to another super-famous bar: BB King’s Blues Club. Known for great live music, I couldn’t wait to find out who was playing. Sadly, as we approached we heard some shitty R&B from a DJ wafting into the street. We decided to pass on BB King’s that night, but definitely check it out next time you’re in Nashville. Upon later research I learned there WAS blues playing there that night, but perhaps we walked by at exactly the wrong time.

Whiskey Bent Saloon

Our next and last stop was the Whiskey Bent Saloon. Hands down the best way to explore Nashville is to walk around until you hear music you like and then duck into the bar and check it out. That is exactly what we did. We listened to whatever random band was playing for a while, danced a bit, had a few more cocktails and decided it was finally time to head back to the hotel.

When we got back to the hotel after our 16 hours of birthday celebrating, I was more than ready to call it a night. My Nashville birthday weekend was officially the best birthday I can remember in my life. And so far 32 has been a damn good year.

#love #bdaymate

A photo posted by Omar Qazi (@omarzbaker) on

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