The Best Dive Bars In Nashville

Much like New Orleans and Las Vegas, Nashville is a city that's come to be synonymous with bar culture. From intricate drinking dens and James Beard-recognized cocktail destinations to raucous saloons and Dolly Parton-themed rooftop lounges (via AFAR), you're never far from a boozy beverage in Music City. But while the city may be particularly known for its honky-tonks and the Eataly-sized country bars along Broadway, it's also got a diverse — and widespread — array of watering holes, including some truly epic dives.

Distinguished by their decidedly — and endearingly — grittier motifs, with limited menus, frequent cash-only policies, and eccentric elements like random holiday décor or alligator art, dive bars hold a special place in a barfly's heart. With other touchstone hallmarks like jukeboxes, dart boards, cheap beer, and karaoke, these are bastions of boozy frivolity with no pretense — just vibes and quirky history. The next time you need a drink in Nashville and want to veer off the beaten Broadway path, here are some great dive bars to try.

Santa's Pub

Located in a double-wide trailer that's decked out in year round holiday lights and décor, it doesn't get anymore adorably dive-y than Santa's Pub. Beloved equally by tourists and locals, grabbing a brew here feels like drinking in a cozy — and haphazardly decorated — winter cabin (unless you're sitting on the patio, sweltering in Nashville's summer humidity).

Regardless of the season or the forecast, Santa's Pub has become a rite of passage for connoisseurs of cheap beer and karaoke (held nightly), and anyone charmed by the inherent cheer of drinking next to a fake fireplace and a Charlie Brown-sized Christmas tree, even in the summer. But for food, liquor, and wine, look elsewhere. The mark of a true dive bar, Santa's Pub offers a refreshingly simple (i.e. limited) menu, famously serving nothing but beer as cold as the North Pole on a cash-only basis (via Condé Nast Traveler).

Bobby's Garage Bar

More of a modern, hip destination than your typically timeworn drinking establishment, Bobby's Garage Bar is a cool graffiti-filled basement dwelling underneath the Bobby Hotel in downtown Nashville. Just a couple blocks away from the bar-filled fray of Broadway, this dark den feels like the antithesis of the tourist trap: chill, relaxed, and intimate, with the heart of a classic dive bar and quality that far exceeds expectations.

With an entrance off Printer's Alley, in a cavernous space that gets a garage vibe from its concrete walls and pillars, it's the kind of place that's got all the beloved dive bar trappings, like cheap beer, a jukebox, and a bar counter that guests can use markers to write on. But the cocktails are much craftier and more meticulous than you might expect. Sure, you can also get ice-cold bottled beer here, but this is one gussied-up dive that offers truly impressive cocktails and mixology, with one of the best Manhattans you'll likely sip in Music City.

Springwater Supper Club & Lounge

Open since 1897, Springwater Supper Club & Lounge claims to be the oldest continuously operating bar in Tennessee. It has definitely stood the test of time, proving its mettle as a watering hole worth visiting. In terms of dive bar requisites, it ticks all the boxes, from pool tables and neon signs to pinball machines, a small music stage for entertainment throughout the week, vinyl booths, and walls covered floor to ceiling in bumper stickers. There's even an old-school cigarette vending machine (heads up: Smoking is only allowed outside on the front or back porch), which should cue you in to just how vintage this place is.

Despite the name, Springwater doesn't really look (or taste) anything like a supper club — you won't find any Art Deco furnishings or red checkered napkins here. Nor is it particularly lounge-y either. This is one bar that definitely looks its age, tattered edges and all, but that's the charm of this enduring staple. Folks flock here for the authentic rough-and-tumble dive bar atmosphere, complete with cash-only comforts like basic beers, and a menu that includes chili dogs, muffalettas, and even grilled peanut butter and banana sandwiches on rye.

Batters Box

Conveniently close to the hustle and bustle of uber-touristy Broadway, Batters Box is a back-to-basics establishment that blends the best of both dive bars and sports bars. As two casual bar genres, it's surprising how rare they overlap, but in the Venn diagram of dives and sports, Batters Box sits right in the middle, beckoning bar-goers away from Broadway for something decidedly more relaxed and frills-free.

This casual hang has a patio, lots of baseball paraphernalia, and a cozy interior space with a small bar, TVs, and a golf-themed arcade game, which is especially fun on a beer buzz. Menu-wise, it's all about the classic American combo of pizza and beer here, but in true dive fashion, don't expect anything artisanal or Neapolitan. Rather, this is the type of straightforward American pie, heaped with cheese and pepperoni, that you crave when you're sharing a pitcher. The menu also offers breakfast, burgers, chicken tenders, and a "Home Run Reuben." Rounding out the dive-y ambience, this is the rare bar that allows smoking inside.

Wilburn Street Tavern

With its well-worn brick façade and an iconic — and delightfully dingy — sign emblazoned with "Wilburn Street Tavern" under a snow-capped mountain, this place is the quintessential Nashville bar. Although the exterior may look more like a grungy DMV than a bar you'd want to lounge in, a step through the front door makes it abundantly clear why new owners gave new life to the dive in 2018 (via Eater Nashville) and kept up the spirit of this East Nashville charmer.

Inside the brick-walled space, you'll find essentials like neon beer signs, a pool table, a mishmash of funky art and vintage furnishings, from alligator portraits to leg lamps, and cozy little booths. The whole bar feels like a rustic bungalow, complete with picnic table-filled patio and video games for periodic game nights. On the menu, Wilburn Street Tavern exceeds expectations with its varied selection of craft beers, well-made cocktails, and an above-and-beyond food selection that includes rotating specials like Sonoran hot dogs, Coney dogs, chicken tinga nachos, and antipasti platters, which the restaurant posts to its Instagram.

Mickey's Tavern

As no-frills as it gets, Mickey's Tavern embodies the humble notion of a classic Americana dive bar. Seemingly preserved in time, and utterly devoid of any decorative bells and whistles, this small, shoebox-sized corner bar is a rare breed nowadays, especially in a city like Nashville, where country music stars are constantly opening new honky-tonks (via Whiskey Riff).

With its concise drink list (mostly cheap beer, affordable mixed drinks, and a surprisingly deep whiskey selection including rare and expensive bottles of bourbon), a few billiard-style games, a jukebox, fried bologna sandwiches, and twinkly bulb lights that give the space a funky '70s-style basement feel, Mickey's Tavern is all about the unadorned simplicity of the dive bar pastime. This is the kind of place where locals come to unwind on a casual weeknight (without having to get dressed up or make a reservation). In fact, the bar proudly states on its website, "No DJs. No bands. No karaoke. No trivia nights."

The Villager Tavern

The dive vibes are alive and well at this neighborhood standby, which has been open since 1973. Located in the heart of cutesy Hillsboro Village, randomly sandwiched between chic boutiques, The Villager Tavern is a pint-sized bar that's rich with eccentric character — and bar games, most notably darts. In fact, The Villager Tavern, with its full wall of boards, was included on a BBC America list of the top 15 dart bars in the U.S. (via Foursquare). But there's plenty more to love about this enduring cornerstone.

From po' boy sandwiches and other New Orleans-inspired décor to a foosball table, jukebox, candy machines, and all the cheap beer you can swig, this place is the ultimate crowd-pleaser, whether you're looking to snack, play games, or just kick back with friends. Another true hallmark of a legit dive bar, this is also the kind of place that has photos of happy (and/or tipsy) guests plastered all over the walls, most of whom are drinking beer out of plastic dog bowls, which has become a birthday tradition (via Thrillist).

Betty's Grill

Smoke-friendly and cash-only, with a small stage for musicians against a backdrop of twinkly lights and ribbons, offbeat Betty's Grill meets all the marks for that casual, quirky dive bar (via Now Playing Nashville). It helps that the façade looks more like a small house than a bar, outfitted with motorcycle and NASCAR paraphernalia, a darts board and pinball machine, pitchers of cold beer, and the most eclectic assortment of photos, from tigers to Marilyn Monroe. The low-ceilinged interior that'll make you feel like you're drinking in an attic.

As is par for the dive bar course, the "grill" aspect of the business at Betty's Grill is endearingly basic and bad for you in the best kind of way. In addition to beer and basic mixed drinks standards, the small kitchen turns out familiar pub grub, like onion rings, chicken wings, hot dogs, grilled cheese, and fries.

Dino's

There's a reason we selected Dino's as one of the best dive bars in the U.S. With an ambience that feels halfway between an old-school diner and a vintage booze den, it is another timeworn institution that's teeming with dusty charm. The exterior looks like a rough-around-the-edges brick fortress, with windows advertising "Dino's Fine Food," which is hilariously ironic considering the spartan menu is as heartwarmingly basic as it gets.

Aglow in soft red lights, it features a smattering of tables, barstools overlooking the small grill, and snug window-side booths. In terms of décor and drinks, Dino's runs the gamut with Dolly Parton art, graffiti-filled bathrooms, and an abbreviated menu of ice cold beer, shots, and straightforward cocktails. But there are a few surprises in store. Offering some beyond-the-basics beverages such as pours of mezcal, Fernet, and natural wine, plus the addition of a large, dog-friendly back patio, Dino's does indeed continue to evolve since its 1970s debut, just at a dive bar pace.

The Lipstick Lounge

Heralded as the city's top LGBTQ bar in a 2021 Nashville Scene readers' poll, The Lipstick Lounge defies genre standards as a cute, colorful, and dance-able alternative for a casual neighborhood spot. It's instantly recognizable by the giant red lip bench outside, and the bright purple paint job on the building. The bar's interior is surprisingly massive, featuring different rooms with unique vibes, starting with the main imbibing area that has a raised stage which is popular for karaoke.

In case you're not looking to sing or dance, other rooms offer a more relaxed experience, like a lounge-y space with a dart board, and even a lesser-known upstairs area that doubles as a cigar bar, with quieter alcoves for sitting on sofas, relaxing, and carrying on conversation at a normal volume. Although it's known locally as a queer bar (via Lesbian Bar Project), and it's queer-owned, The Lipstick Lounge is the kind of place where everyone feels welcome. Basically, it's like a good old-fashioned dive, but with more drag queens. There's also a robust food menu, offering brunch, burgers, quesadillas, hoagies, BLTs, late-night corn dogs, and more.