Cold weather is now a distant memory in the South and outdoor dining season is in full swing. Music City loves a good patio almost as much as live music, and the options—like the burgeoning restaurant scene itself—have blossomed. Whether you’re looking for a lively downtown rooftop, a people-watching patio, or a riverfront oasis, these are the spots for the best outdoor dining in Nashville.
The Treehouse (East Nashville)
Even though it channels a childhood dream, The Treehouse is a perfect spot for a grown-up date—or just a casual neighborhood hang. The colorfully painted exterior and wrap-around patio with an outdoor bar adds to the playful vibe, which extends to the menu as well. Chef Richard Jones serves up a seasonal and globally influenced menu, which draws inspiration from his home country of Australia. Order the sesame popcorn, bathed in nutty sesame oil and hot sauce to start; for a main, try the Asian-influenced hanger steak, served with a sweet and salty balsamic caramel glaze, accompanied with sticky rice and fresh coconut.
In the midst of new construction and change, Geist Bar + Restaurant remains an oasis of Old Nashville—with a modern twist. What was once a blacksmith shop, built circa 1900, has been renovated to retain its historical landmark status. The chic interior maintains an industrial feel but the outdoor space can’t be missed: The full patio and courtyard, called the Champagne Garden, boasts an outdoor fireplace, wrought-iron fencing, and ambient string lights. The menu focuses on reimagined Southern dishes, such as double cut pork chop with za’atar, labneh, and harissa honey; for distinctly Southern flavors, order the roasted chicken with tender braised greens, cornbread, and hot sauce butter.
Blue Moon Waterfront Grille (Rock Harbor Marina)
Once the summer heat creeps into the South, a breeze becomes priceless, especially while dining al fresco. Luckily, Blue Moon Waterfront Grille has the cool air game down—it’s located on the Cumberland River itself, atop a floating barge in Rock Harbor Marina. You can even access the restaurant by boat, making it a perfect place to grab a bite and a cocktail after a day on the water. Enjoy your meal, which might consist of jerk chicken breasts or a sweet and savory coconut shrimp platter, served with black beans and rice, under the covered patio. Make sure to round out the island vibe with a tropical specialty cocktail: the Port O’ Call, a blend of rums, pineapple juice, and blue Curaçao, is sure to quench your thirst on a hot day.
Urban Grub (12 South)
Opened in 2012 by veteran Nashville restaurateur Jay Pennington and Billy Inman, Urban Grub is an all-season mainstay on 12 South’s bustling dining scene. Its cornucopia of spaces include a light-filled biergarten, an indoor-outdoor bar, cozy private cabanas and fire pits, plus wood-paneled dining rooms with retractable windows to the garden. The menu skews Southern, with global accents. Try the classic shrimp and grits, transformed with the addition of smoky tasso ham cream and some heat from chipotle peppers. And don’t miss brunch on the weekend—Urban Grub offers a stunning seafood and charcuterie bar with an all-you-can eat option.
Rolf and Daughters (Germantown)
Since opening in 2012, James Beard Award-nominated chef Philip Krajek has served up rustic, locally-influenced Mediterranean fare in this historic brick building in the heart of Germantown. Begin your meal with crusty house baked sourdough, slathered in decadent umami seaweed butter, before digging into housemade pasta, such as fusilli with saffron, calabrian chile, and a delicate shrimp and squid ragu. The interior is industrial yet cozy, with exposed brick walls, but the garden patio, with string lights and climbing vines, is truly the place to be. Bring a large group to share small plates to maximize the dinner party experience.
The Rooftop Bar – The Twelve Thirty Club (Downtown)
If you’re looking to grab a bite and cocktails with a fabulous downtown view but not feeling the honky-tonking, try the Rooftop Bar at the Twelve Thirty Club. Perched atop a three-story concept by restaurateur Sam Fox and musician Justin Timberlake, it offers a small but tasty menu of sophisticated bar food. The rooftop expanse, furnished with comfortable lounge seating and dining tables, is accented with lush foliage and bright neon signs; a tiled bar and orange accents contribute to the lively digs. Snag a seat for excellent people-watching and feast on staples such as the juicy 12/30 smash burger and decadent truffle fries—and wash it all down with a fruity rooftop sangria.
etc. (Green Hills)
Award-winning chef Deb Paquette showcases bold flavors and international influences at this bright Green Hills spot. The well-curated wine list pairs nicely with the cosmopolitan menu; dishes such as cornmeal catfish and masala shrimp blend Southern cooking traditions with South Asian flavors. The intimate indoor space boasts a tony modern vibe, with comfortable banquettes and simple decor—in the warmer months, etc.’s spacious outdoor patio provides ample seating for lunch, brunch, and dinner. Take advantage of the restaurant’s weekday happy hour and sip a chilled rosé al fresco.
Towering 21 stories above Nashville in the Joseph Hotel, Denim offers the ultimate rooftop dining experience. The kitchen, helmed by chef Tony Mantuano, who has won both James Beard Awards and MICHELIN nods, focuses on sophisticated but unfussy dishes such as short rib grilled cheese, oozing cheddar and gouda, spiked with horseradish. The interior bar exudes unpretentious luxury with chrome and leather barstools and floor to ceiling windows for a maximum skyline view. Outdoor seating is available after 8 pm for non-hotel guests—it’s the perfect spot to meet for a cocktail or two; try the Purple Martin, a dreamy concoction with butterfly pea flower-infused mezcal, inspired by the flocks of birds spotted from Denim’s rooftop perch.
The Mockingbird Nashville (The Gulch)
Opened in 2017 by Maneet Chauhan along with longtime friend, executive chef/partner Brian Riggenbach, and Morph Hospitality, this chic Gulch spot boasts not one but two outdoor dining spaces. The patios are an extension of the Art Deco-inspired interiors, all geometric brass railings and built-in wooden benches. The popular weekend brunch—which consists of playful riffs on American comfort foods, such as a Korean-inspired take on steak frites and the Totsalot, a pile of crispy potatoes smothered in pork sausage gravy, topped with a fried egg—is now available from Wednesday through Sunday.
Epice (12 South)
Since 2014, Maher Fawaz and family have provided 12 South with authentic Lebanese fare, an excellent wine list, and a perfect patio for people-watching. Come for lunch to sip a cold glass of rosé, best coupled with a lahmajin sandwich—perfectly spiced ground lamb, pickles, and creamy labneh inside fresh pita—and watch the envious passerbys. Come dinnertime, classic Middle Eastern dishes such as sayadeya, an aromatic fish and vermicelli rice dish flavored with turmeric and coriander, take center stage.
Mere Bulles (Franklin/Brentwood)
Mere Bulles is an excellent place to escape the crowds of Nashville. Though it occupied a downtown location when it opened in 1985, the restaurant has since moved to greener pastures—literally. It’s now located on a historic former estate and horse farm, and the two-story brick building makes an enchanting setting for traditional steakhouse fare and a myriad of sides such as haricot vert with bacon and mac and cheese with fontina and gruyere. The warm patio, enclosed by wrought-iron fences, strung with twinkling lights, is perfect for both date night and a casual Sunday brunch.
Sambuca Restaurant – Nashville (The Gulch)
Head to this longtime Gulch hotspot to be in the center of action. Live music and a rooftop patio make this a perfect place to enjoy a meal, Music City-style. And they don’t just stick to country, so you’ll hear everything from jazz to the blues to rock and roll. The menu exhibits equal range, from salads and pizza to heavier entrees, such as the dry-aged 16-ounce ribeye and chicken parmigiana. Don’t miss the killer happy hour on weekdays from 4pm to 7pm.
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