Nashville’s 12 South neighborhood is perpetually busy; between the numerous shops, top-notch restaurants and busy bars, this relatively small stretch of 12th Avenue is a beacon for both locals and visitors. Here, you’ll find a rundown of some of the best bars on 12 South — whether you’re looking for somewhere to spend an adventurous Friday night out or a low-key joint to grab a beer or two on a quiet weekday, 12 South has a bar for you.
South Taproom & Grill
Bar, Pub Grub, American, Vegetarian, $$$
In the decade that 12 South Taproom has been open, it has garnered a devoted local client base due to its welcoming atmosphere (or, as the owners of the bar put it, ‘an ambiance as eclectic as its patrons’) and its wide selection of quality craft beers that is far from mediocre. While the bar serves other libations, including wine and ciders, it is first and foremost a beer bar, with a draft selection carefully curated by the staff based on taste, depth and quality. The bar also offers a full menu of food, ranging from classics such as BLTs and cheeseburgers to adventurous twists on bar food fare, including tacos made with salmon, shrimp, or trout.
Both pizzeria and popular local pub, MAFIAoZA’s has long been keeping locals loyal due to its unbeatable food (it has some of the best pizza in Nashville) and its hard to beat drink specials. MAFIAoZA’s boasts a different happy hour special every day that features drafts and bottled beer; but, if that isn’t enough to entice you to this 12 South favorite, the stone oven pizza is made from only the freshest, highest-quality ingredients and is sure to please even the pickiest of eaters (and the rest of the authentic Italian menu, which includes everything from pastas to cannolis, is nothing to sneeze at, either). The restaurant also offers a generous kid’s menu and is family friendly, making MAFIAoZA’s the perfect all-ages destination.
This ski lodge inspired bar is, perhaps, one of the most unique on 12 South — if not in Nashville writ large. Walk into Embers and you will realize quickly that the ‘ski lodge’ is not a mere lip-service inspiration but is, instead, the driving force behind the entire ambience and decor of this gastrobar. Embers is relatively new to the Nashville bar scene, having opened just two years ago, but has quickly developed a reputation as a can’t-miss drinking and dining spot in the city. Embers’ lure is due in large part to its impressive array of drink offerings (which include multiple vodkas, gins, tequilas and rums) in addition to over 140 different types of whiskeys, 12 different beers on tap and 30 different wines. The decor is also worth checking out in its own right; between the wood paneling and indoor fireplace, you might forget that you’re in Nashville and not an upscale Northwestern ski lodge.
Known for its eclectic twists on Southern classics, Urban Grub is a hotspot for those searching for a food and dining option that sways towards the more upscale entities on the casual dining spectrum. This massive wood-paneled restaurant is hard to miss on 12 South; the decor is impressive, complete with floor-to-ceiling windows, outdoor patio seating and towering indoor stone fireplaces. In addition to its large selection of fresh seafood dishes and modern takes on Southern staples like shrimp and grits, Urban Grub also offers a number of unique craft cocktails and wines served both by the glass and by the bottle. Note that relative to other spots on 12 South, Urban Grub does tend to be a bit pricier, but you certainly get what you pay for.
While this upscale modern diner is technically a restaurant first and a bar second, The Flipside is nonetheless one of the best places to go on 12 South if you’re searching for quality drinks in an upbeat atmosphere. From the chrome finishing and the 1950s-styled television set behind the bar to the RCA Victor sign hanging from the ceiling, you will feel as though you’ve stepped back a few decades — but in the best way possible. The restaurant is well known for its chicken — it offers roughly 20 different highly inventive spins on classic breaded chicken — as well as its other twists on classic diner foods (including tater tot nachos that are every bit as good as they sound). Their drinks, too, are stellar; The Flipside offers a full menu of craft cocktails broken down by the type of liquor base and include everything, from classics like a Pimm’s Cup and a Nutty Mule (their take on the Moscow Mule) to a drink called ‘The Chubby Checker,’ a whiskey-infused twist on a root beer float.