For outdoor dog-friendly drinking and patios with live music, these are your best bets for al fresco dining in Music City.
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If your mom used to have to yell at you to go outside and get some fresh air, you should still heed her wise advice in adulthood. Everything is better outside, especially drinking and dining with friends. Sure, the weather in Nashville can get a little sultry in the summer, but just wait a while, and it will probably change. In the meantime, take advantage of the plethora of outdoor restaurant and bar options that Music City has to offer. Here’s a list of some of our favorites.
When champion pitmaster Carey Bringle opened his first restaurant, Peg Leg Porker, the focus was on West Tennessee-style pork. With his latest smokehouse, Bringle turns his talents to the beefy barbecue of Texas. In addition to brisket, ribs, and smoked prime rib, the highlight at the Smoking Oasis is the spacious outdoor area, covered with turf and strewn with yard games, picnic tables, and comfy chairs that offer a view of the big game on the big screens. It’s already become an essential neighborhood hang.
The entire Graduate Hotel is basically a shrine to Dolly Parton, the patron saint of country music. Bright colors and bold design elements are a salute to the woman who famously said, “It takes a lot of money to look this cheap.” The rooftop pool bar/restaurant White Limozeen is the cherry on the top of the colorful cake, bathed in pinks and florals. The airy indoor space is like being invited to a tea party (with booze) in a genteel Southern estate, but the real highlight is the chance to lounge on daybeds by the pool while sipping on cocktails and noshing on small plates.
The tropical foliage wallpaper at this Polynesian-inspired bar and restaurant makes you feel like you’re outside even when you’re sitting in one of the comfy booths looking through the porthole windows. But it’s the colorful outdoor patio with its tiki torches and warm wooden alcoves that really set the mood for a trip to the islands accompanied by strong drinks and fun food. Order a Pupu Platter and a mug of punch, and you’ll be halfway to Tahiti.
Pinewood Social is like the Swiss Army knife of entertainment, featuring a fantastic coffee bar, strong cocktail program, multiple food menus that change throughout the day and a really cool retro bowling alley. It’s possible to spend an entire day and night inside the converted trolley shed, but then you’d miss out on all the outdoor fun. Table tennis, bocce, two plunge pools, a mobile kitchen in an Airstream trailer to provide the comestibles and sweeping views of downtown without having to deal with the madness of Lower Broad make Pinewood a favorite secret oasis for locals and clever visitors.
Blue Moon Waterfront Grille
This popular marina restaurant and bar can be a little tough to find, but once you’re there, it feels like home. You can even arrive by boat if you set your gps to Cumberland River Mile Marker 175. Tie up your dinghy and feast on delicious food with a Caribbean twist. Sunday brunch is also a decadent treat. Specialty cocktails trend tropical alongside plenty of beers and wines by the glass or the bottle. The outside deck is shaded by a sail-like awning so you won’t even need to apply sunscreen.
M.L.Rose Craft Beer & Burgers
Each of M.L.Rose’s Nashville locations offers outdoor seating, but the Sylvan Park outpost has the premium patio of the chain. The dog-friendly outdoor area is covered with turf and features yard games, a fire pit and televisions for watching sports while enjoying some of the best burgers and one of the finest craft beer menus in town. A golf garden allows guests to work on their putting skills as long as they are willing to set their beer down for a minute.
The 1886 former blacksmith shop that houses Geist took a hard hit during the 2020 Nashville tornado, but after a long rebuilding effort, the restaurant has come back better than ever. The scrupulous renovations restored the historic nature of the smithy shop, making for an elegant space to enjoy bespoke cocktails and European-inspired cuisine. Works from local artists decorate the dining room, but the real highlight is the Champagne Garden. This outdoor space is partially covered to protect guests from the elements but also features a lovely courtyard where the bubbly flows year-round as well as a wood stove for cooking and warming up by the fire when there’s a nip in the air.
The Band Box at First Tennessee Park
Perched high above the right field wall at First Tennessee Park, the home of the AAA baseball Nashville Sounds, The Band Box offers a premium way to watch a ballgame. (Or not watch a ballgame since it’s easy to forget that there are players on the field while you enjoy elevated ballpark fare and premium beers and frozen cocktails.) There are couches for lounging, foosball, cornhole, putt putt, and table tennis to keep guests entertained during games that drag on a little long and dedicated four-tops for fans that actually want to keep track of the action on the field. Notable chefs from all over town cook special dishes at pop-up events during every Thursday night home game, so those are the absolute best times to visit.
At this tony hot spot atop the TownePlace Suites by Marriott just north of the urban core, they say, “Come for the booze, stay for the views!” The expansive patio does offer perspectives of the Nashville skyline that are rarely seen by tourists populating the rooftops of the [Insert country music star’s name] nightclubs of Lower Broad. Neon accents and art pieces create a hip “Tokyo meets Miami” vibe, and the New American menu of shareable tapas is the perfect food to accompany inventive cocktails and a surprisingly affordable wine list.
The 404 Kitchen
The people-watching in the Gulch is so entertaining that they should charge admission just to watch it, especially from the elevated outdoor deck of The 404 Kitchen. The already masterful kitchen extends to the patio where they keep a couple of charcoal grills that they use to great effect on seafood and meat dishes, especially the phenomenal tri-tip steak that takes three days to cook. Enjoyed with a glass of wine or a cocktail or a dram of whiskey from the biggest collection of bottles in town, it’s a fantastic accompaniment to the show below.
Von Elrod's Beer Hall & Kitchen
If you’re a fan of sunshine and a big stein, the convivial beer garden at Von Elrod’s should be your home away from home. Sit at long communal tables while taking in the fresh air and electric atmosphere, especially when there’s a big sporting event on the televisions. In addition to prototypical Bavarian pretzels and exotic house made sausages, Von Elrod’s features a menu of Southern barbecue classics smoked low and slow over wood. Beer flows from 36 taps, and liter steins of mimosas are the proper pairing for the popular Bluegrass brunch on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Prost!
Martin's Bar-B-Que Joint
Martin’s has nine locations around the region, but the two-story smoked meat emporium just south of Broadway is the jewel in the crown. Thanks to Nashville’s weird topography, the upstairs level is actually where the outdoor space is, featuring a huge adult playground of a beer garden with multiple bars, long picnic tables, darts, and other games, a small stage for local music acts and four massive smokers where whole hogs lie in smoky repose overnight to be ready for the next day’s sandwiches. The aroma of smoldering hickory will stick with you long after you leave, and that’s a good thing.
12 South Taproom & Grill
Long before 12 South became the entertainment mecca that it is now, 12 South Taproom was the favorite hangout for neighborhood denizens and for anyone who appreciates craft beer and good, affordable food. Now that the sidewalks are filled with bachelorette parties wandering from coffee shops to bars to shops in hopes of spotting Reese Witherspoon at her Draper James boutique (hint: she owns it, but she doesn’t just hang out there), the patio at the Taproom is a safe haven to nurse a beer and be happy that you’re too old for that sort of nonsense. Order some wings, oysters on the half shell, or nachos and stretch your visit out to an entire afternoon.
Often voted the best Mexican restaurant on the East Side with the best margarita and best patio, it’s not surprising that the outside deck at Rosepepper can get a little crowded with neighbors enjoying tacos, burritos, and the utterly addictive Buffalo white cheese dip. They don’t take reservations, so get there early or you might have to wait inside for a little while to score an al fresco table. Not that it’s the worst thing to happen to you if you have to enjoy that first top-shelf marg at the bar.
Chef Bryan Lee Weaver garnered a vaunted reputation for his work at the Middle Eastern/Mediterranean eatery Butcher & Bee, but his true passion is good old fashioned Southwestern cuisine. Weaver still runs The Bee, but Redheaded Stranger is where he gets to play with fun dishes like inventive breakfast tacos, one of Nashville’s best burgers spiced up with Hatch green chiles, a burrito that’s as big as your head and his version of a crunchwrap that puts a certain national chain to shame. A sunny afternoon passed drinking cold beer and eating hot food on the deck at The Stranger has quickly become an East Nashville fixture.