A week or so ago, the James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards semifinalists were announced, and there were a good few Nashville folks in the list. We were excited to see it, and wrote a little something about those talented chefs/restaurateurs.
It came to mind, though: While Nashville is doing quite well at the moment with celeb chef-run restaurants and upscale eateries, the art of the dive bar is something we do just as well — and that’s been true for a whole lot longer.
Although we often blog about new restaurants and fancy festivals, we — and most Nashvillians — have a place in our hearts for a good old-fashioned dive… cheap drinks, sticky floors, uncomplicated eats and all. Here are a few of the places we’d list among Nashville’s most effectively divey dive bars:
411 Gallatin Ave., East Nashville
We’re going to start this off with a long run of bars named for people, because most good dive bars follow that tried-and-true naming convention. So, starting with Dino’s: Celebrated as the oldest dive bar in East Nashville, this cozy space was taken over by new owners in recent years, and lots of folks worried that the low-key dive-bar-meets-greasy-spoon vibe might get shined up. Nope. Dino’s is still as friendly and unpretentious as ever (if just a little cleaner). It’s where you can grab a $3 Tecate and Frito pie to close out a long night/early morning. Notably solid burgers, too.
Fran’s East Side Tavern
2105 W. Greenwood Ave., East Nashville
If East Nashville has a real-deal townie bar, this is it — the other side of the pendulum from the more hipster-y stops. Karaoke, rowdy locals, $2 domestics, paying with cash.
2907 Gallatin Pike, Inglewood
Inglewood bar Mickey’s is only a few years old, but it was designed to feel lived-in, and it does. The building was home to a host of other bars through the years — Maw & Paw’s, Smitty’s Beer Belly, other solid dive-bar names. And it carries the tradition forward, with baloney sandwiches and a tagline that spells their approach out cleanly: “No DJs, No bands, No karaoke, No trivia nights… Just a great neighborhood dive bar where East Nashville’s locals can drink.”
1010 16th Ave. S., Music Row
Although the address isn’t the same anymore, Bobby’s Idle Hour took its storied history with it — years back before it moved down the road, aspiring country songwriters and singers piled in to flex writing muscles and test out songs, and plenty went on to bigger Music Row things. (Folks like, say, Kris Kristofferson were known to pass the time there.) Today, it’s the only live, dive venue on Music Row, and even if that part of town is markedly different today, Bobby’s Idle Hour remains an excellent place to share a beer and tell a few tales.
407 49th Ave N., West Nashville
East Nashville doesn’t have a total dive monopoly — West Nashville has Betty’s, very much a neighborhood bar, very much a dive. If your night requires cold, cheap domestics, a few wings and a smoke haze, you’d surely do worse than to head here.
Springwater Supper Club & Lounge
115 27th ave N., Midtown
If there was a trophy for diviest dive in Nashville, Springwater would almost certainly win — smoky, grimy and ready to hand you a $2 beer, its history traces back to the late 1800s and probably hasn’t been cleaned much since. So, all love, it comes by being called a dive honestly. You can catch great local music any given night, from rock to Americana, and local comedy a lot of the time too. Occasionally a massive star stops in to do something like a secret show or a video shoot — like Kesha or, above, the Black Keys.
921 Woodland St., East Nashville
As stocked as East Nashville is with fancy food and coffee and clothes, it also has the healthiest concentration of dives, and Edgefield remains one of the best of the divey best. A perfect place for a game of pool or darts, maybe a grilled-cheese sandwich — definitely ideal if you want someone with a massive record collection (and who knows how to use it) to spin some songs to accompany your night of drinking.
Just a few of the names we throw out when someone asks us where a good dive is in Nashville… What would you add?