"I have so many friends who have asked for recommendations over the years that I keep this list as an easy reference for them."
Richard Speight, Jr. April 2021.
Make a reservation at Jimmy Kelly's - fabulous steakhouse and oldest restaurant in Nashville. Corn cakes and a bacon wrapped filet stuffed with blue cheese. Oh Lordy.
My other favorite restaurant, and a hot spot for locals and travelers alike, is the legendary Loveless Cafe. Everything they do is fantastic - biscuits, fried chicken, collard greens… you name it. Their breakfast is to die for. But then again, so is everything else.
Go have drinks at the ACME downtown. Used to be an actual Feed n’ Seed, now a three-story bar and restaurant on Broadway near the river. Go to the top, outside bar for a cool view of Broadway & the river.
From there, you can walk up and down Broadway enjoying the bars and live music. Here are some spots to prioritize...
Without question, you must go to legendary Tootsies Orchid Lounge. This was the “go to” bar for all of the Opry stars from the very beginnings of the Opry and country music.
Then pop a few doors down to a bar called Robert's Western World. And then maybe to The Stage for a bigger venue and more room for dancing. And all these spots have fantastic live music, some on more than one level.
If you want to leave the touristy area of downtown but still wanna see great bands, check out who’s playing at the EXIT/IN and at Basement East. Exit/in has a long and storied history of bringing great acts to town. From Steve Martin to R.E.M., Walk the West to The White Animals, The Snakes to The Cactus Brothers, (and even The Distortion Hawgs and Inspector 12), Exit/In has hosted them all and still books fantastic bands of note and on the rise. Both that joint and Basement East are awesome venues doing the Lord’s work in keeping Music City rockin’.
If you want to buy music, not just listen to it, then head to Jack White’s store for his record label, Third Man Records, located at 623 7th Ave S. There, you can buy one of a kind vinyl of live performances by artists and bands recorded at Jack’s place that are only available there. And once they’re gone, they’re gone. Got my nephew a great Jack Johnson live recording there. It’s a great place to find a favorite artist or discover future faves.
Also downtown is the world famous Ryman auditorium. Used to be a church, now a world famous venue to tour, and if anybody is playing there and you're up for seeing a show, go see it. It's a legendary spot and unlike any place else.
If bluegrass is your jam, uber over to The Station Inn for beer and kickass banjo. It’s awesome.
In that same area are 2 fun bars. One is called Winners, one is called Losers.
Decide which you are and go to that one.
12th Ave south is a fun area to walk around, grab a bite, beer, and shop. Imogene & Willie’s makes their own jeans & other cool clothing items. Duck in there.
For BBQ, my sister Barby, who still lives there, says Edley's on 12 Ave South for sure.
Printer’s Alley is a classic spot downtown to hit and hear music.
The legendary Bluebird Cafe has launched the careers of countless singers & songwriters. It’s not downtown, and tickets are hard to get, but it’s tiny and super cool and worth checking out if you can ever get in.
And if you’re a fried chicken fan, you gotta try Nashville’s hot chicken. It’s fried, spicy, and amazing. Prince’s Hot Chicken is the original and fantastic so you gotta give it a try.
The other hot chicken restaurant beloved by locals is Hattie B’s. I recommend getting both and staging your own sweatin’ and burnin’ taste test.