There’s nothing quite like waterfront drinking and dining. It’s as if the water adds a little extra seasoning to the food, and the ambiance can’t be beat. Unfortunately, Nashville is too far from the coast for easy al fresco dining on the ocean unless you’ve got your own private jet. (And good for you if you do. Call me if you need a co-pilot!)
On the plus side, Middle Tennessee does have some fantastic spots to dine waterside on the Cumberland River or one of the area’s beautiful lakes — Percy Priest and Old Hickory. While the weather still allows for comfortable outdoor dining, here’s a list of a few fine choices for lakeside libations and riverfront repast.
Waterfront Dining on the Cumberland River
Blue Moon Waterfront Grille
525 Basswood Dr, Nashville, TN 37209 • bluemoongrille.com
Open seasonally from April until the end of September, Blue Moon Waterfront Grille has been a neighborhood favorite for diners who approach by car from Interstate 40 in West Nashville and by boat via the Cumberland River to Rock Harbor Marina. The original Blue Moon washed down the river during the massive Nashville floods of 2010, but the new version, which opened two years later, is better than ever! Boasting both indoor and outdoor dining areas with roll-up doors to let the breezes in, Blue Moon offers one of the happiest happy hours in town daily from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. There are plenty of large televisions to watch the big game while enjoying a full-service bar and a menu of seafood-centric salads, sandwiches and entrees made with fresh, local ingredients whenever possible. Blue Moon features live music several nights per week with local bands playing tunes to get you in the island mood.
Cherokee Steak House & Marina
450 Cherokee Dock Rd, Lebanon, TN 37087 • cherokeesteakhouse-marina.com
Cherokee has been a favorite old school steakhouse stalwart since 1958. They are rightly proud of their aged, corn-fed beef that they carve into hearty steaks and chops. The prime rib at Cherokee Steak House is a go-to order for ravenous carnivores, but don’t skip over the seafood options on the menu or you’ll miss out on some fantastic fried, broiled or blackened fish and shellfish dishes. Although they don’t serve alcohol at Cherokee, patrons are welcome to BYOB, and the restaurant staff will gladly provide wine glasses and mixers on request. They do ask that guests don’t bring in coolers, though, because this is a place for casual fine dining, not a keg party!
RELATED: Your Guide to Nashville Steakhouses
River View Restaurant & Marina
110 Old River Rd, Ashland City, TN 37015 • riverviewrestaurantandmarina.com
Situated at Mile Marker 158 on the Cumberland River, River View Restaurant & Marina is a popular rest stop for boaters making their way up or down the river. Although they no longer sell gasoline in the marina, you can still purchase supplies for your boat including beer to-go, plus you can order anything off the restaurant menu to take with you on the journey. But then you’d be missing out on the experience of eating in the attractive dining room with its large windows offering views of the river flowing by. Fans frequently drive from Nashville to enjoy the restaurant’s famous catfish, served fried as fillets or a whole fish, or broiled instead. For a powerful hunger, consider a combo platter of catfish with shrimp, clam strips, chicken tenders or pork loin. Save room for a slice of their delectable Key lime pie to finish off a great meal.
Waterfront Dining on Percy Priest Lake
Papa Turney’s Old Fashion BBQ
3979 Bell Rd, Hermitage, TN 37076 • papaturneysbbq.com
Papa Turney used to sell his barbecue pork and grilled steaks out of a small building off Lebanon Road that you could only find if you smelled the smoke coming off his cooker on a trailer in the parking lot. When he got the chance to move into a restaurant space at Nashville Shores on J. Percy Priest Lake, his audience expanded dramatically. The menu still features the sweet and smoky barbecue pork, beef brisket and chicken that he served in his tiny former space, but now he has added new selections like chicken wings, ribs and the rare delicacy of smoked catfish. Papa’s wife, Mama Turney, has earned a reputation of her own selling her homemade pies in local grocery stores for years, but now she has a permanent home to offer slices and whole pies to finish off a barbecue feast at Papa T’s. The space also houses a music venue called Miss Zeke’s Juke Joint where bands play blues, jazz, R&B and soul music with a backdrop of the lake to add to the atmosphere.
3361 Bell Rd, Nashville, TN 37214 • shipwreckcovetn.com
Shipwreck Cove is a casual bar and grill at Elm Hill Marina on Percy Priest Lake. Open year-round, this family-friendly hang serves elevated bar snacks, sandwiches and larger plates including salmon, shrimp and their popular Captain’s Ribeye Dinner featuring a 14-oz. steak and two sides. The bar serves beer, wine and a fantastic boozy adult milkshake that locals know as a Bushwacker. Situated right in the middle of the water with lots of outdoor seating, Shipwreck Cove is a great spot to listen to live music and enjoy a basket of wings or a plate of their Redneck Nachos topped with smoky pulled pork and Jack Daniel’s BBQ Sauce. Their burgers and wings are made fresh and never frozen, so wait times can get a bit long when it’s busy. But hey, what’s your hurry?!
Waterfront Dining on Old Hickory Lake
155 Sanders Ferry Rd, Hendersonville, TN 37075
Located close to downtown Hendersonville, Moby Dicky’s is the sort of spot that you definitely don’t need to be a boat owner to enjoy. A seafood and sports bar that happens to be on the water, Moby Dicky’s would be worth a visit even if they were totally landlocked. Starters are called “Happytizers” on the menu, and they’re sure to put a smile on your face if you’re a fan of shrimp, oysters, lobster or grouper fingers. (Groupers have hands? Who knew?) There are also plenty of affordable seafood options for the main course, or you can sample local favorites like steak n’ biscuits, hot chicken sliders or a fried bologna sandwich. There are lots of TVs and comfy seating areas to watch sports or sit outside under large shady awnings to enjoy the view of the water.
Sam’s Sports Grill at Blue Turtle Bay
2001 Lakeshore Dr, Old Hickory, TN 37138 • samssportsgrill.com
With multiple locations around town, Sam’s Sports Grill is one of the most popular restaurant chains in town garnering multiple awards for “Best Sports Bar” from local publications. Known for their nachos, amazing chicken wings, sandwiches and pizzas, Sam’s really upped their game when they opened this outpost on Old Hickory Lake. Sam’s Sports Grill at Blue Turtle Bay plays on the nautical theme with attractive decor and huge windows looking out at the boats docked all around the restaurant in the marina. Roll-up windows allow diners to enjoy the great outdoors while still protected from the elements, and Monday through Friday daily lunch specials and happy hour deals encourage patrons to visit often and stay awhile. Since Sam’s is on the south shore of Old Hickory Lake, it’s not too far of a drive from Nashville and is totally worth the trip!
Awedaddy’s Bar & Grille
727 Marina Private Rd, Gallatin, TN 37066 • restaurantgallatintn.com
Unlike Sam’s, Awedaddy’s Bar & Grill is located on the north side of Old Hickory Lake in Gallatin, so it’s more of a local secret. That just means you won’t be quite as crowded as you settle in for a day on the lake at this cozy seafood shack. Awedaddy’s closes for the winter, so the April opening date is anticipated by neighborhood denizens as soon as they see the first daffodils. In addition to seafood specialties like peel-and-eat shrimp, fish tacos and crab cakes, Awedaddy’s also serves up a beloved burger, made with Black Angus beef topped with bacon, double cheddar cheese, an onion ring, smoked beef brisket, smothered with BBQ sauce and finished off with lettuce, tomato and onion. The bar is known for its powerful Bushwhackers, and you know what they say about this popular Nashville treat: “One is great. Two is too many. Three is perfect!”
The Rudder at Anchor High Marina
126 River Rd, Hendersonville, TN 37075 • therudderahm.com
The chill atmosphere at The Rudder at Anchor High Marina befits its location right on the water at Old Hickory Lake. An expansive outdoor deck offers views of the marina and a place for live musical performances almost every night of the month. The friendly bartenders sling affordable drinks that don’t skimp on the spirits, so the regular bar crowd is committed to their favorite hang. The bar is also the perfect spot to enjoy a dozen fresh oysters on the half-shell or an order of Buffalo wings sold by the pound. The rest of the food menu runs the gamut from traditional bar snacks to seafood baskets to pizzas, burgers, sandwiches and salads. More substantial plates are also available, so don’t miss out on The Rudder’s St. Louis ribs or beer-marinated pork chop with mashed potatoes if you have a big appetite.
Savor the remaining warm days of summer and fall at any of these waterfront dining options — a meal with a view is the best kind of meal!
All images reprinted with permission.
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