AJ's Good Time Bar/Friends In Low Places/Kid Rock's
When you visit Nashville, your first stop is probably going to be Lower Broadway.
It’s that neon strip of honky-tonks that welcomes you with live music from every window. And one of the first things you’ll notice (besides all of those f*cking pedal taverns and tractors full of bachelorette parties driving past you) is that you probably recognize a lot of the names hanging on neon signs in front of those bars.
Country artists are opening their own bars on almost every corner of Broadway. Some of them are good, some of them are sh*t, and some fall in between – they’re just generic bars that you could find pretty much anywhere else.
(And before you run to the comments, yes, everybody knows that most artists don’t actually “own” their bars – most of them just license their name to big hospitality companies).
So which bars are worth checking out, which ones are just “meh,” and which ones should you skip altogether?
Here’s the definitive ranking:
1. AJ’s Good Time Bar
Would you honestly expect anything less than the best from a legend like Alan Jackson?
AJ’s Good Time Bar is a no-frills honky tonk where you’ll hear nothing but real country music. It’s the kind of bar that’s almost hard to find on Broadway these days. You won’t hear any sh*tty pop music, you won’t hear endless Pat Benatar covers, and you won’t hear any rap disguised as country.
And that’s not just my opinion: It’s Alan’s rule. Nothing but damn good country music at AJ’s.
The bar is four floors, with karaoke on one floor and a rooftop bar. And other than Robert’s Western World, this is one of the only bars that makes the trip downtown worth it. If every artist-owned bar was like AJ’s, Nashville would be better for it.
The first time I stepped inside this place I heard the band playing Eric Church’s “Mr. Misunderstood.” Finally, somewhere that I won’t have to hear f*cking Journey covers all night long.
John Rich’s Redneck Riviera definitely lives up to its name. It’s nothing fancy – in fact, you’ll probably feel like you’re at a hole-in-the-wall dive bar, as opposed to the massive venues and cookie-cutter experiences you get at some of the other bars on this list. There’s a stage made out of an Airstream trailer, and a rooftop bar covered in Astroturf where you can play giant Jenga and cornhole (or “bags,” as some of you weirdos like to call it).
Oh, and American flags everywhere – because if there’s one thing John Rich loves more than his country music, it’s his country. Redneck Riviera is a good bar – unless you hate America and country music.
I’ll be honest, I wanted to hate this place more than I did. I spent two years rolling my eyes every time Garth Brooks said that he wanted to have the “Chick-fil-A of honky tonks,” but after checking it out, honestly I kind of get it.
The place was clean, the band was playing ’90s country music, they sounded good, and the bartenders were some of the friendliest on Broadway.
Honestly my biggest problem with the bar was that the location of the stage off to the side of the bar made it hard to see from some places in the bar. (And there was also a DJ that came on between bands and played remixes of everything from Jelly Roll to Taylor Swift and Usher…which doesn’t really seem to fit with Garth’s plan of having “traditional country music” coming from his bar. So if that’s something they do all the time…maybe don’t).
Of course I still miss the old Paradise Park, which occupied this spot back in the day. The cheap pitchers, the greasy food, the astroturf…man those were the days.
4. Hank Williams Jr.’s Boogie Bar
Another new entry into the crowded artist bar scene from Bocephus himself. Full transparency, I’ve only been here once and it was for the grand opening, so I’ve never really visited this bar in its “natural state.” But it was everything you’d want from a Hank Jr. bar: Multiple floors, good music, and plenty of Jim Beam.
5. Miranda Lambert’s Casa Rosa
When she became the first female artist to open a bar on Broadway, Miranda managed to pull off one of the most unique of the artist-owned venues. And I’m not just talking about all of the pink decor.
Casa Rosa has a Tex-Mex inspired menu, and it has easily the best food of any of the other bars on this list. Why settle for an overpriced burger and fries when you can stop in and get fajitas, tamales, or just some chips and queso? That’s the stuff that’ll keep you going when you’re already a few drinks in.
The biggest problem is that the bar can sometimes be a little too nightclub-y, and late at night you’re more likely to hear EDM and pop coming from some floors of the bar than you are Miranda’s brand of Texas country.
6. Kid Rock’s Big Ass Honky Tonk Rock ‘N Roll Steakhouse
It’s not the most country of the artist-owned bars, but it’s not the least country either.
It IS the least family-friendly though – so if you’re offended by “Cadillac Pu**y” signs and a logo featuring a woman’s ass, you should probably stay away from Kid Rock’s. It’s a little tacky, but what did you really expect from the guy who put a giant middle finger statue in front of his house?
This bar has also somehow become one of the most popular bars on Broadway, with visitors seemingly planning their entire trip around a visit to Kid Rock’s bar. Lines at this place regularly snake around the building, but the bar is massive so it’s usually not too long to get inside.
It’s probably not the best if you’re easily offended, or if you don’t like being packed in listening to Metallica, but it’s definitely not the worst bar on Broadway despite its reputation.
7. Ole Red
The first time I walked into Ole Red I thought I was in a gift shop for Blake Shelton merch. The music’s pretty good here, and the dance floor on the first level is massive, but overall the bar is just kind of…generic.
The one saving grace, though, is the rooftop bar. Every bar on Broadway has a rooftop these days, but The Lookout at Ole Red is the best rooftop of them all.
There’s live music and both indoor and outdoor seating, TVs for all of the sports fans, and there are even couches for when you’ve been drinking for too long and just want to relax. For the rooftop alone, Ole Red manages to jump ahead of some of the other bars on this list.
These next three bars are tied, because honestly, they’re all the f*cking same.
Give me a few drinks and I wouldn’t even be able to tell you whose bar I was in…
8. Dierks Bentley’s Whiskey Row
Walk into the first floor of Whiskey Row and you’ll probably be ready to walk back out because it’s so damn crowded. That’s because the main bar takes up the entire f*cking middle of the floor.
You could try to escape to the rooftop bar, but you’d better bring your climbing shoes and oxygen tank if you plan to go up there, because it’s a hike. Dierks opened a Whiskey Row in Denver, and coincidentally, once you finish climbing all the stairs at the Nashville location you’re at the same altitude as Denver.
There’s absolutely nothing special about Whiskey Row, unless you’re looking for a DJ who plays Taylor Swift and want to climb 20 flights of stairs to get to a tiny rooftop bar. If that’s your thing, sure, check it out.
8. Luke’s 32 Bridge
Ok, I’ll say it: This bar is just weird. It has a restaurant with a tiny stage on the first floor, and then you get upstairs to find a huge dance floor with a stage that’s half a floor above you.
And don’t expect to hear much country music either, because this place is more “That’s My Kind of Night” Luke Bryan than “We Rode in Trucks” Luke Bryan.
The dance floor looks more like a college nightclub than a honky tonk, so if you’re in town for your bachelorette party and want a place to get white girl wasted, Luke’s is probably a safe choice.
Oh, and there’s a sushi bar on the rooftop. Who the hell wants to eat sushi from a bar in the hot Nashville summer sun? Nope. Pass.
Jason Aldean’s Kitchen + Rooftop bar actually shares a rooftop with Luke’s 32 Bridge, which is appropriate because they’re basically the same anyway – they’re owned by the same group, and even share the same executive chef.
The main bar is, appropriately, a big green tractor, and it’s actually on the second floor of the building occupied by Tequila Cowboy. Other than that, not much really stands out about Jason Aldean’s.
The music’s a little more country than Luke Bryan’s bar, but the entire place felt like a parody of a Jason Aldean song. There’s also a gift shop, which is good, because buying a t-shirt is probably the best way to remember you were here. Otherwise, there’s not much that stands out about it.
11. FGL House
Florida Georgia Line’s bar isn’t even on Broadway, which is appropriate because it’s not even country.
I haven’t spent much time at FGL House, but in the little time that I’ve been there, I don’t think I heard a single country song. Which probably explains why I haven’t spent much time there – well that, and the fact that it’s full of frat guys wanting to black out on shots of Fireball surrounded by bachelorette parties who want to jam out to TLC’s “No Scrubs.”
FGL House feels like the clubs I went to in college (if the clubs I went to in college had a live band doing shitty Rihanna covers). It’s overcrowded, has a terrible layout, and shitty music. If Garth Brooks has the Chick-fil-A of honky tonks, this place is the Waffle House bathroom of honky tonks.
If I’m out in downtown Nashville, I would rather go literally anywhere else than FGL House – and that includes the homeless camp down by the river.