There are some nights that are made for dressing to the hilt and attending a show at the theater—but there seem to be many more nights meant for
kicking back and enjoying time with friends in a familiar environment. Casual nightlife around Franklin goes a few different ways: you can enjoy drinks in a family-owned bar, you can eat a fantastic meal at a local restaurant (blue jeans welcome!), or you can sip a Tennessee beer and listen to live music. In Franklin, you’ll often get a combination of all three.
In The Mood For Low-Key
JJ’s Wine Bar is one of my favorite spots for an unpretentious wine experience with friends. It’s upscale but trendy, with wines for those who consider themselves connoisseurs down to me, who just knows that she likes a Cabernet Sauvignon.
JJ’s has innovative wine-dispensing machines, which serve 28 varietals by the glass. Co-owner Lisa Judd describes her wine bar with a “welcome-to-my-home atmosphere.” That fits the bill—JJ’s has a fabulous porch, comfy chairs, relaxing music, and even a chess set in the Merlot Room for when you just want to enjoy a glass of wine and decompress.
Guests play games while they enjoy charcuteries and chocolate fondue (a JJ’s specialty!). If you’re not into wine, don’t let the name fool you: JJ’s has a long list of cocktails.
In fact, one cocktail on their menu is named after a couple who got engaged at the wine bar. A marriage and two kids later—they still frequent JJ’s on date night. Hours: Tuesday-Thursday 4-10 p.m, Friday and Saturday 4-11 p.m., and closed Sunday/Monday.
If you’re in the mood to enjoy an evening cigar, add Franklin Cigar Humidor & Hops to your list. A well-ventilated lounge full of cushy leather chairs and big TVs suggests that it’s even better than your average experience.
They carry over 150 lines in their 3,000-square-foot humidor—ranging from $6-$100 per cigar—and are one of 250 appointed Davidoff merchants in the country. Pair your mild, medium, or full-bodied cigar with rotating craft beers on tap, including local Yazoo, Turtle Anarchy, Yee Haw, and Bearded Iris.
Sit inside, watch the game, drink a beer, and relax with friends. Hours: Monday-Thursday 10 a.m.-10 p.m, Friday-Saturday 10 a.m-11 p.m., and Sunday 12-9 p.m.
When I’m looking for a consistently delicious, mid-range dinner in Cool Springs, you’ll find me at The Rutledge. Opened by Middle Tennessee brothers Curt and Mason Revelette, The Rutledge feels different than your typical restaurant ambiance. One patron described it simply: “It has an amazing vibe.”
That was intentional.
Walk in, and you’ll see the white, clean design of a modern American grill—with works from some of the world’s best artists, like Retna, Mr. Brainwash, Alec Monopoly, and Terry O’Neil.
The food is fantastic; the hot chicken rivals some of Nashville’s best restaurants. Personally, you’ll find me snacking on Shrimp Banh Mi. The drinks are even better, with expertly crafted cocktails that bring fresh, seasonal ingredients to the tip of your tongue.
Try a summer favorite, The Rutledge Punch: cucumber, watermelon, rum, agave, simple syrup, and Prosecco. The lights are down, and the music is up. The Rutledge calls it “a downtown experience in Cool Springs.” Hours: Monday-Thursday 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Friday 11 a.m-midnight, Saturday 10 a.m.-midnight, and Sunday 10 a.m.-9 p.m.
Turn It Up A Notch
If I had friends stopping into town for just one evening, I would, without a doubt, bring them to Mojo’s Tacos.
Mojo’s is a punchy, fresh taco shop with bold flavors and Tennessee flair. My list of favorite menu items drags on: Hot chicken tacos, adobo chicken tacos, chicken nachos, and Jalapeno Caesar Salad. I’ve never once had a bad meal at Mojo’s.
When you walk in, you’ll probably see a line. With only one or two registers open and quick food prep times, Mojo’s wants you to eat at a table; the line moves quickly. Sit at the bar and pick up the local favorite Mile High Margarita or enjoy a paleta (Mexican popsicle with fresh fruit) on their colorfully-lit “patio.”
It’s the perfect spot for a casual night with friends. Great food, quick service, fun decor—what more could you ask for? Hours: Monday-Saturday 10:30 a.m.-9 p.m. and Sunday 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m.
One of the newest additions to Franklin’s casual nightlife scene is Hop House Tennessee Taps & Tapas. Hop House was opened in February 2020 by longtime Franklin residents Mark Cook and Kenny Sizemore right around the corner from Main Street.
Owner Mark shares that their mission is “to bring beer from all over Tennessee to Franklin.” It’s a statewide taste-test in your backyard. Pick one of 30 Tennessee beers on tap or six from adjoining states. On the walls, guests will see a gallery of photos from breweries across Tennessee.
This art was taken by award-winning photojournalist John Partipilo, who traveled with Mark and Kenny to local breweries as they sought out the best beers in the Volunteer State.
The owners want their staff to be educated on the breweries and the stories behind them to share with customers, which adds to the joint’s family feel. In addition to beer, guests will find a unique tapas (small plates) menu that showcases Tennessee ingredients.
Try Shishitos Togarashi or anything that involves beer cheese. Hours: Monday-Thursday 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Friday-Saturday 11 a.m.-midnight, and Sunday 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
At Front St. Tavern in Westhaven, you’ll find live music every week. This popular community spot combines everything great about a casual night away from home: a mix of low and high food options, a family-friendly atmosphere (parents need fun, too!), chocolate chess pie, and a classic cocktail menu.
It’s a local watering hole that packs out neighborhood events and weekend cookouts. Their large, lit outdoor patio is the perfect spot for Saturday night meet-ups. Hours: Sunday-Thursday 11 a.m.-8 p.m., and Friday-Saturday 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Say the word “pub,” and any self-respecting Franklinite will turn and point to McCreary’s.
The Irish pub and eatery sits in prominence on Main Street. It was founded by Darryl and Annie McCreary but is now owned by Natasha Hendrix, who started at the pub as a waitress in 2002.
There was something about McCreary’s that she felt drawn to: “There are no pretenses, just comfortable, casual fun.” McCreary’s comes close in authenticity; you’ll find good, hearty dishes (a mix of Irish and American options), daily drink specials, and live Celtic music. In the nearly-wee hours, you’ll be making friends with all kinds of people over a pint of twice-poured Guinness and a plate of Dublin-style fish and chips. Hours: Monday-Saturday 11 a.m.-9 p.m., and Sunday 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
Owner Joni Cole wanted to make O’ Be Joyful into Franklin’s “hometown bar”—and the regulars who frequent OBJ will tell you all you need to know. Located right next to popular sister restaurant Gray’s, O’ Be Joyful will serve you one of the best burgers in town.
If you like a little heat, pick the Jalapeno Burger, with house-made tequila Jalapeno aioli. The restaurant has one of Franklin’s largest whiskey collections, rotating craft beers, and canned wine (touted as “red, white, and recyclable”).
A little known fact about O’ Be Joyful: the name comes from vintage slang during the Civil War, meaning an intoxicating drink or a homemade brew. As Joni shares, “He was into his O’ Be Joyful!” The quote is engraved in a piece of wood in their front window. Invite a few friends out for an evening on Main Street and get into your own O’ Be Joyful, neat, or on the rocks. Hours: Monday-Sunday 11 a.m.-midnight.
You will never be let down by an evening at Franklin’s legendary Kimbro’s Pickin’ Parlor. Fifteen years ago, songwriter Ron Kimbro turned a neighborhood store and Victorian cottage into a pickin’ parlor. In 2007, he was joined by Will Jordan, who had the vision for an eclectic music venue.
As local students found, Kimbro’s “defies all conventional business models.” It’s a one-of-a-kind spot with unfiltered Franklin spirit that’s open late for night owls. I find something new on the walls every time I visit. Built on the foundation of live music, Kimbro’s has created a community of local musicians, even taking several awards for its venue.
In addition to being a go-to nightlife spot, Kimbro’s also serves some killer Southern-style food. Try the “Catch a Fire” Jerk Chicken Plate or follow along on their Instagram page to find out what’s coming off their smoker. Hours: Monday-Sunday 4 p.m.-3 a.m.