When Ryan promises Nashville’s diviest dive bars, he’s not lying. Just look at Dino’s, our first stop, where Ryan looked surprisingly cheery for a man who’s just found out he’s not allowed to pack heat.
Nashvillians are possibly the friendliest people on earth and Ryan – who doesn’t really carry a firearm, by the way – is no exception. He’s spent much of his twenties traveling in Asia and he loves the concept of Vayable. His tour isn’t full of facts and stats, history and trivia. It’s simply a fun night out with a great guy who knows where to go, who’ll also give you the lowdown on Nashville life over two-dollar beers.
There are faux-dives everywhere. Places where management has spent big on perfecting that worn-in look. But it cannot be faked. Dive bars are places where gourmet snacks, craft beers, credit cards, wireless internet and music from the 21st century don’t exist. Dino’s is over 100 years old and one suspects little has changed here in the past century.
This is a spot untouched by gentrification, hipsters or a taste for contemporary furnishing. Best of all, the burgers are amazing.
Yet compared to Santa’s, the second stop on Ryan’s dive bar crawl, Dino’s is Buckingham Palace.
Santa’s Pub is a large trailer covered in Christmas decorations. Inside is the most gloriously divey dive I’ve ever seen. It’s run by Santa – yes, he has a big white beard and delivers presents at Christmas – a native of Nashville who has hundreds of great stories to entertain you with. He only opened his bar last year but it’s already earned cult status among those in the know. Country legends and rock icons can often be found at the bar, and Mumford & Sons played a secret show here on their last US tour. While Grammy winners occasionally perform karaoke here, my version of ‘Man of Constant Sorrow’ was a tuneless disaster. Ryan insisted it wasn’t that bad. What a generous host!
After posing with Santa, who’s promising one heck of a party on Christmas Day, we went to another three bars, all of which were bona fide dives. I don’t want to give away all Ryan’s backstreet bar secrets here, so you’ll just have to book the tour.