Nashville’s most colorful country music establishments are the honky-tonks that line Broadway. Once places where country boys and girls would come to shake a leg or meet a beau, these all-day, all-night bars and music clubs now cater to visitors.
Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge (422 Broadway, 615/726-0463, no cover) is painted purple and exudes classic country every day of the week beginning as early as 10 a.m.
Three doors down from Tootsie’s is Robert’s Western World (416 Broadway, 615/244-9552, no cover), voted the city’s best honky-tonk. Originally a store selling boots, cowboy hats, and other country music regalia, Roberts morphed into a bar and nightclub with a good gift shop.
Another choice is The Stage (412 Broadway, 615/726-0504, no cover), with a large dance floor and music seven nights a week.
After the Opry moved to Music Valley in the late 1970s, taking with it the customers who kept Broadway businesses afloat, the street’s honky-tonks subsisted first on local bar flies and later on the tourist trade. Whether you’re looking for a place to drown your sorrows or kick off a night on the town, Broadway’s honky-tonks are a good place to go.
Probably the most popular country music nightclub downtown, the Wildhorse Saloon (120 2nd Ave. N., 615/902-8200, www.wildhorsesaloon.com, cover varies) is a boot-scootin’ and beer-drinking place to see and be seen. When the Wildhorse opened in 1994, promoters drove a herd of cattle through the streets of downtown Nashville. Today, the Wildhorse is still a place where a good show and a good time are the top priorities. The huge dance floor is often packed with cowboys and cowgirls line dancing to the greatest hits of the country music genre. Dance lessons are offered every day (Mon.–Thurs. 6:30–8:30 p.m., Fri. 6–9:30 p.m., Sat. noon–9:30 p.m., Sun. 2–7:30 p.m.).
The Wildhorse books big-name acts many nights of the week, including country music, roots rock, and classic rock stars. The Wildhorse opens Thursday through Sunday at 11 a.m., and on Monday at 5 p.m. When there is a show on, doors normally close at 6 p.m. and re-open at 7 p.m. for people with tickets. On other nights the cover charge ranges $4–6. From 10 p.m. on, the Wildhorse is a 21-and-up club.
The city’s most popular venue for bluegrass and roots music, The Station Inn (402 12th Ave. S., 615/255-3307, cover varies) showcases fine artists every night of the week. This homey and casual club opens nightly at 7 p.m., with music starting about 9 p.m. This is a 21-and-over club, unless you come with a parent or guardian. There is no cover for the Sunday-night bluegrass jam.
The Douglas Corner Cafe (2106-A 8th Ave. S., 615/298-1688, cover varies) offers a Tuesday-night open mic, and country acts the rest of the week. It is known as a place where singer-songwriters are discovered, and it is not unlike the the Bluebird Cafe in attitude and ambience. An intimate setting, full menu, and good acoustics make this a popular choice for music listening. Several live albums have been recorded here.
The Nashville Palace (2400 Music Valley Dr., 615/889-1540, no cover) is a restaurant, nightclub, and dance floor across from the Opryland Hotel. Live music is on tap daily starting at 5 p.m., and talent nights on Tuesday and Wednesday always draw a crowd.
© Susanna Henighan Potter from Moon Tennessee, 5th Edition