Your favorite country singer might also have your favorite downtown Nashville bar, but likely not. Not ever celebrity watering hole matches the music, so in an effort help you make smart drinking decisions during your next Nashville vacation, Taste of Country spent a Saturday night at six signature bars on Lower Broadway.

We found that some — but certainly not all — lived up to the namesake's legacy.

Luke Bryan and Jason Aldean are the most recent country stars to open bar/restaurants/venues, and appropriately for the two friends, the establishments are adjoined. Across Broadway you'll find Blake Shelton's Ole Red, and around the corner is Florida Georgia Line's FGL House. Walk two blocks from there to dive into Alan Jackson's AJ's Good Time Bar, and across the street from that, find Dierks Bentley's Whiskey Row — perhaps the most surprising stop on this self-guided tour. (John Rich's Redneck Riviera is near the river on Broadway, but we didn't get there this time. Too many signature drinks, bachelorette parties and "Wagon Wheel" covers, okay?)

Below is an honest review of all six bars meant to help you make smart decisions during your next trip to Nashville. A short walk to the first meant crossing no fewer than seven bachelorette parties, two pedal taverns and a carnival of street performers. Nashville's under-appreciated sideshow is the carnival-like cast of characters that line Lower Broadway and adjoining streets, hoping for a handout or a tip. A teenage drummer's bucket quickly fills with $1 and $5 bills on a hot Saturday. Hopeless singer-songwriters perch themselves on corners, singing covers through tinny amplifiers as their dogs nap alongside them. At one point shortly after 10PM, a crowd gathered as a scruffy, beer-bellied man looking north of 50 dried his hands to hang from a pull-up bar for 120 seconds. If successful, he'd pocket $100, but the younger, more chiseled man that tried before him barely lasted a minute, making it clear the old-timer would need to survive on grit. Sadly our crew got pushed down the street by a swell of inebriated travelers before we could learn his fate. It was late, after all — and hot — and we needed another drink.

We started at Luke's 32 Bridge (301 Broadway):

Bryan's newly-opened restaurant and bar filled a vacancy left by a boot shop, but underwent a total redesign to offer a lower-level family restaurant, a main level bar and stage and two rooftop levels that feature an impressive sports bar and sushi bar. We started downstairs, with food and drinks in the restaurant, and the reviews from our group were mixed.

Drinks: We leaned into signature food and drink items at each stop. Luke's bar offers several named after his hit songs, and they range in price from $12 to $15. The Strip It Down and Country Girl are served in tall glasses with short straws. The Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye (vodka and cranberry with grapefruit juice and a lemon wedge) come in a plastic bar cup. All three are packed the kind of punch you'd expect from an 8-year-old girl, which is not atypical of the Broadway experience.

Food:
Luke's Elk Burger: Simply delicious. A garlic aioli mixes well with the mustard seed flavor packed in the red dragon cheese.
Nashville Hot Chicken Bites: Actual Nashville hot chicken is hard to find on Lower Broadway, and this appetizer didn't even try. It's one or two steps better than Chick-Fil-A.
Cheese Curds: They did the job of being cheese curds.

Taste of Country Staff

Ambiance: Once the music started playing on the main stage (about 7PM), the place filled up with tourists and became the kind of bar you hope to find when you come to Nashville. It's a great stage, set in a wide room that allows intimacy and easy access to drinks. A black pickup truck hangs over the performer, just above Luke Bryan's name in bright white lights. This could be what his man cave looks like, actually.

Typical Crowd: Families can eat downstairs, while young people can get their freak on upstairs. In between there are floors to drop off dad or the bro who wants to watch football — honestly, it's pretty much who you'd expect at a tourist bar in Nashville.

Pro-Tip: There's a short staircase that connect the rooftops of Luke's 32 Bridge to Jason Aldean's Kitchen + Rooftop Bar. You don't have to go back outside and wait in line only to climb more steps. We certainly took advantage.

Best Bar To: Watch a football game.

Down the steps to Jason Aldean's Kitchen + Rooftop Bar (307 Broadway)

Seeing as they're connected, the rooftop experience at Jason Aldean's Nashville bar isn't wildly different from his good friend Luke's, although the crowd seemed to be more lively and the television viewing (read: football watching) experience wasn't as satisfying. Minus the sushi bar, the top floors are very similar.

Drinks: 
Once again we ordered drinks named after hit songs, and once again we were left hoping for a better buzz. You could taste maybe a little gin in The Truth. The My Kinda Party Punch delivered more than anything found next door, but Amarillo Sky was nondescript. We'd recommend beer at Jason's or Luke's.

Food:
Jason's Mac and Cheese: Thick, twirly noodles and grilled chicken make this dish as hearty as Grandma's.
Hot Chicken Sandwich: It's a wet hot chicken sandwich, which is atypical of Nashville hot chicken. Technically it doesn't pretend to be Nashville hot chicken, only hot chicken served in Nashville, and it's very good at being just that.
Tommyhawk Ribeye: We didn't order this, but the couple sitting next to us found it nearly orgasmic. Imagine a chunk of ribeye on a bone as big as your femur.

Taste of Country Staff

Ambiance: The bones of the old Cadillac Ranch and Tequila Cowboy still exist, and no one has quite figured out what to do with the balcony level. The lower level is one great room with a stage at the back and a bar that longs for something that differentiates itself. "Aside from the phallic tractor, there's not much there," one member of our team remarked. The main stage wasn't set to open until 10PM. Contemporary country music played over the PA, allowing for an easy conversation with a chatty bartender.

Typical Crowd: Aldean's bar may trend a smidge younger than Luke Bryan's bar, but no one who loves one will dislike the other.

Pro-Tip: The TC Restaurant Group has a stronghold on downtown Nashville bars and restaurants. In addition to the Aldean and Luke Bryan bars, they own FGL House, Sun Diner, Crazy Town and Tequila Cowboy. Our bartender friend described a series of Harry Potter-like passageways that allow an insider to move between the connected venues unseen. Pretty cool, huh?

Best Bar To: Day drink.

So let's keep it in the family at FGL House (120 3rd Ave. S)

Drinks: With high expectations we ordered a Party People (Old Camp Peach Pecan Whiskey, pear liqueur, lemon juice, honey syrup and soda), plus a straight glass of the peach stuff. Both were delicious and strong, and 30 percent cheaper than what we'd paid at the other bars. Old Camp is a good whiskey for the non-whiskey drinker, not the snob. It's mild, but interesting, smooth, strong and very mainstream. Honestly, it's a bit like FGL's music.

Food:
Cajun Pasta: Andouille sausage, chicken, peppers, shrimp and a creamy sauce over thick noodles will break your diet, but it's worth it. It's the kind of dish you return for.
Bar Nachos: There's nothing worse than when someone calls tortilla chips and that thick, neon yellow sauce they ladle over them "nachos." Nachos have toppings like peppers, tomatoes, onions and meat, plus beans and shredded cheese. The top-floor bar nachos at FGL House fall in between, with a delicious cheese sauce and limited meat options, plus salsa and maybe some veggies. For $9 they're a good play when it's late, you're drunk and hungry. Pretzels and brats were also on the menu, all prepared in front of you. The food truck feel of this setup is really brilliant.

Ambiance: FGL House's upper-level band was the best we'd see all night. Paramore, 'N Sync and Backstreet Boys mixed well with Shania Twain and "Wagon Wheel." Honestly, we don't specifically remember them playing "Wagon Wheel," but every other band did, so we'll assume it's a downtown Nashville honky-tonk requirement.

Typical Crowd: Find a party crowd upstairs, but it's not as packed as so many triple-decker bars on Broadway. Bachelor parties (shoutout to our friends from Boston!) are as common as bachelorette parties (our count was in the high teens by this point), and if you spin a 360, you get a great view of the Cumberland River bridge at night. The male bartenders are also pretty hot.

Pro-Tip: FGL House serves a pretty dang good salad, and they mark numerous items on their menu as gluten-free.

Best Bar To: Get a decent drink!

All full! Let's go honky-tonking at AJ's Good Time Bar (421 Broadway)

Drinks: We strongly encourage tourists to avoid the signature drinks at AJ's Good Time Bar. The Hullbilly Bar menu shows 10 of them, and while Jackson's face and memorabilia are everywhere, there's no way he tried and signed off drinks like Midnight in Montgomery. Get a beer or move on.
Salty Dog: It's like sucking a grapefruit?
Midnight in Montgomery: Vodka, blue curacao, black razz, sweet and sour and 7-Up. Imagine adding a quarter cup of sugar to Barbicide.
Keylime Pie Shooter: Whipped vodka, rumchata, lime juice. It's what you'd expect at a themed frat party at a state university.
Jello Shots: This rooftop offering was a pleasant surprise.

Food: The third floor Hullbilly Bar menu offers snacks like hot dogs that were not available at this hour. Getting food after 9PM is honestly a struggle at the celebrity-owned bars, with several shutting down service. Come fed or go to Jack's across the street before 10PM.

Ambiance: The rooftop experience is pleasant, but other than that, the place is a dive bar with at least one unsanitary quirk. In the women's bathroom people have taken to gobbing on lipstick and kissing the wall — there are kissy lips all over!

Typical Crowd: A traditional country-loving mob filters in downstairs, while a crowd not unlike what you'd find at your neighborhood karaoke bar fills the Hullbilly Bar.

Pro-Tip: If you're looking for that classic country sound on Broadway, AJ's is your best bet of the celebrity-owned bars.

Best Bar To: Graffiti the staircase wall. No joke!

Cross the street for Dierks Bentley's Whiskey Row (400 Broadway)

Whiskey Row was No. 5 on our list, and after chillaxing and sneaking a cold beer at AJ's, we were ready to get our party back on. Well, some of us were anyway. Reviews were split on Whiskey Row. It's not the bar you're expecting if you're a fan of bluegrass-influenced music. One could say it's the Beyonce of bluegrass bars.

Drinks: The drink menu spotlights a number of enticing Dierks-themed drinks, but none are served after 9PM. That points to the central issue with Whiskey Row: It lacks Dierks. We went with a vodka cranberry and vodka water instead, and both were the strongest we'd sipped all night (aside from FGL's straight whiskey). The price was reasonable and the female bartenders were dressed for success.

Food: At this hour (11PM), they weren't serving. So we'll put a pin in this until a later date.

Ambiance: The lower level of Whiskey Row offers an experience found at every Nashville bar. A cover band plays hits (yes, "Wagon Wheel"), and there is space to move around. Upstairs it's a straight-up nightclub, and above that is another one. We're talking pop-and-hip-hop, grind-on-your-neighbor, sardine-can nightclub with music cranked to 11. Depending on your taste, you'll love or loathe this scene, but none of it was expected from a bar with Bentley's name on it. Whiskey Row could be anyone's bar, which is a bummer when the man behind it is so defined.

Typical Crowd: The top two floors are for college kids and young-to-mid-20 somethings.

Pro-Tip: On a hot summer night, head to the back corners to find industrial fans to cool you down.

Best Bar To: Meet Mr. Right for tonight.

Last call at Blake Shelton's Ole Red Nashville (300 Broadway)

If there were a prize for Best Dressed Bar, Blake Shelton's Ole Red would win it. It feels Shelton-y, like a bar he'd tuck into for a beer and some fried chicken, or even bring girlfriend Gwen Stefani to for something more high-class. We ended our night on the second level of this bar, overlooking the main stage and the sounds of Brett Westgrove.

Drinks: We started on the roof and ordered the Honey Bee, Cumberland Punch (which came with and edible orchid) and the Lookout. A more experienced bar staff mixed three great drinks that really had us saying bad things about the $15 we spent on weak drinks at Luke's 32 Bridge. Maybe it was a little too high-fallutin' — honestly, who eats orchids? — but it felt right going down.

Food: Once again we were unable to eat due to the late hour, but had been treated to a sample menu upon the restaurant's opening this spring. The Champagne of Chicken tastes like Miller High Life (too much like it if you spent your college years sipping from the lady on the moon), and the other dishes come heavy with butter. Blake will fatten you up with poutine, baconaise and a Blue Tick Burger. He wins for best menu, and that's without trying the oyster bar upstairs.

Ambiance: On our way down to the main level, we ran into bachelorette parties No. 25 and 26, so we popped back up the balcony level, which proved to be the best of all worlds. The music was predictable and the mood was much less of a party than any other restaurant/bar, and it felt just right. Upstairs we found an air-conditioned space that still allowed for a fabulous view of Broadway.

Typical Crowd: Very similar to Luke Bryan's and Jason Aldean's bars. Let's just all agree to call that corner of 3rd Ave. and Broadway "tourist central."

Pro-Tip: You enter off of 3rd Ave and encounter a staircase and elevator. Take the elevator (it's quite splendid for an elevator) to the second level and enjoy all of the music with half the crowd.

Best Bar To: Impress a country girl.

Billy Dukes for Taste of Country

About Our Crew:
A trio of journalists from Taste of Country and the Boot were joined by a designated drinker to allow someone else to drive home. Ages range from 28 to 38 years old. Two people are married with kids, one just married and another single. Musical tastes among this crew can only be described as jukebox-like. A fifth, classic country leaning member joined late, saving AJ's Good Time Bar from some of the scorn.

 

 

 

What Is Country Music's Best Drinking Song Ever? We Know!: