My Nashville Sports Bar Adventure

For the first time since 1995, I’m getting paid to write an article. It’s not something that I’ll put on the resume. I haven’t exactly hunted down paying gigs. Through Mike Schottey, my Bleacher Report hookup, I got an offer to post an article for a Nashville-based ezine. I didn’t think it was too critical that I live in Atlanta.

My assignment was to write about three to five “places to watch the game” in Nashville. I had 500 words. This post will be me using the rest.

This will shock none of my readers, but I tend to travel to Nashville exclusively during football season. My parents have three seats in Section 143 of LP Field, and I’m there from four to six times during the season. This trip would be an opportunity to hang with the ‘rents and I would get to do something unusual. I’d see the town.

My friend Don joined in. I’m at his house for most other NFL Sundays watching the Ticket or his favorite ADD activity, the Red Zone. I hired my dad to be the driver since he’s not much of a beer guy and he would be amused by our antics.

It was an old-school drive through the city. For most of the journey between joints, my dad didn’t use GPS and in one case he knew the part of town but not the name of the bar.

Our first stop would be The Box Seat, which was described to me by Nashville resident and Dynasty League Football staff writer Tim Stafford as a “total dive” located in the Green Hills area. We couldn’t find the dive because the dive had changed names. It was now the Crows Nest. No apostrophe.

Because of the description, I was a little let down that the Crows Nest had no dive qualities whatsoever. What set the place apart was the following picture. If you’re a Titans’ fan with small children, do not let them look at this:

Why on earth would a bar in Nashville have an oil painting, and not a good one at that, of Kevin Dyson reaching frantically for the end zone with the football like his arm could grow a foot by sheer will? It was there. I had to look at it the whole time I was at my booth. I ordered a Fat Tire and my friend had a Sam Adams Summer. The waiter said that the place didn’t serve beer by the pitcher.

It was a very clean and new feeling joint. My dad went there in the 80s when it was a Cleveland Browns bar. No one working the bar was alive back then. There were two floors with signed Steve McNair jerseys on the way up. Porch seating wasn’t too popular this weekend.

The bathroom was clean with a Cuban cigar motif. What I like about the foreign advertising is that they throw in casual nudity like a woman with one breast exposed. In America we don’t do casual nudity. It’s always shall we say extreme.

We had an order of smoked chicken wings and they were quite tasty. They were right in my sweet spot of heat and flavor with the smoky residue. If I had known what was coming next, I would have waited on food.

On the way out of Green Hills, I saw a sign in front of a liquor store that said “Wind Chill 106 degrees”.

Our next stop was Neighbors, a small establishment in Sylvan Park. I don’t know these parts of town but as a professional freelance writer I can pretend. When I first entered the space, I could have come to two conclusions about sports bars. One is that they have to have a Golden Tee machine. The other is that they must have an oil painting. I prefer this one to the Dyson travesty.

Neighbors is co-owned by former Titans special-teamer Donnie Nickey. I did not meet Nickey but I made a couple of connections. First I ran into Tim, who I am confident in calling a regular to this relatively new BBQ spot. It’s the smallest place I saw all day, just a few tables and a bar. I sat right in front of a giant big screen (woo hoo) that was showing a women’s softball game (d’oh).

Tim is in sales and consulting but we pretty much talked football the entire time I was there. When it came to lunch he recommended the ribs so that was my pick. It was just the tip of the meat iceberg.

Tim introduced me to Jody who is the co-owner and a BBQ die-hard. He excitedly showed me the setup in the back. I needed a moment to recover from the blast furnace that was the mid-day heat. I really felt like Guy Fieri on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. Jody told me about how they smoke the meat for up to 24 hours. That’s what I call dedication. The pulled pork is actually pulled while the brisket is sliced. He uses a dry rub for most of it and I’d like to buy the recipe.

There was a patio that’s nice when it’s not nuclear hot. He had a drop-down screen that shows a projected HD image for Titans games.

Back inside, I went to work on the ribs. I thought the bones had melted away. It had the crust that Jody talked about on the outside and the meat was practically butter. The red beans were smoked as well. They may even smoke the beer.

Jody brought out a sampler of the rest of the menu since I’m a serious journalist and our crew ate like kings. Everything was fantastic from the brisket to the pulled pork. I hear the smoked wings were great but they disappeared before I could get to them.

In terms of a sports bar, you’re probably coming here just to watch the Titans. There aren’t a ton of screens. Joe said the place gets lively at night with bands coming in. He’s trying to organize a shuttle to the Titans games and if that comes to fruition, I’m on board. Thanks to Tim for hooking me up.

I had a Fat Tire to start and went with a Gerst ale for my second beer. The original Gerst brewery was torn down to make room for what is now LP Field. There’s a small German restaurant that’s all that is left and I saw it as we moved on to our next location.

[Zach note to self: Do not post said picture on Twitter and pre-emptively apologize to Bills fans for its depiction of the Music City Miracle. Nerves are still raw for some fans. Oh wait, you already did that? Insult deserved.]

We went across town to Sam’s, an establishment in Hillsboro Village. The Titans cow picture, which I found out later was named Brisket the Beer-Drinking Bull, was the highlight. We walked downstairs past a sign that copied the Notre Dame Play Like a Champion Today sign. This is what you expect from a sports bar. Kind of dark, tons of TVs, waitresses in ref outfits tighter than what Ed Hochuli usually sports, blasting the air conditioner, all that jazz. We were stuffed from our previous stop so I just had a Yazoo Dos Perros. It’s a dark beer much like Negro Modelo. Don got excited when he found a free video Texas Hold ‘Em game. The guy at the bar in the Colt .45s jersey and hat combo had the outfit of the day. You could tell that there’s not much sportswise on TV since one of the screens had a religious show on.

Beer selection looked good and I bet the place is jumping on a Sunday afternoon. As we left we saw a crowd waiting in line to get in to see Moonrise Kingdom. Standing outside for more than a minute was torture.

We drove through downtown Nashville and traversed Second Avenue, the epicenter of all things touristy in town, on our way to our final stop in East Nashville. In typical OBL (that’s what I call my dad, Old Bob Law) fashion, he knew the general location of the final bar but not the name. I think there might be more bars than churches in town, but it’s probably a photo finish. We stopped at a place called Beyond the Edge.

The name made it seem like an extreme sports kind of bar. If your extreme sport is smoking, this is the place. In Nashville an establishment has to be “21 and over” only for there to be smoking. There were lots of televisions and the beer selection was great, 25 on tap and 75 in the bottle according to the menu. I started with a Jackalope Bear Walker Brown ale as I liked the name. It was a little bitter for my tastes. The waitress had a Bear Down Nashville shirt on. Yep, it’s a Red Sox and Bears bar. Show up on November 4.

There were two rooms with tables and booths, a couple of pool tables and the ubiquitious Golden Tee machine. Don hit the digital jukebox and played his favorite, November Rain. I had another Genese Ale to finish up the day. I spent more on food and beverage at our four stops than I’m getting paid for the article, which makes me a real writer. We live on the edge.

Here’s a final picture of the drinking and driving (OBL did the driving, we did the drinking) crew:

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