Ole Red Invents the 'Swanky Tonk'

Five Floors of Fun

Strolling down Broadway in Nashville's downtown can take you into any number of honky-tonks. But it's those red lights that will draw you in to Ole Red on the corner of Broadway and Third. And what you'll immediately notice is that this place isn't your typical honky-tonk; it's "swanky tonk," a decidedly upscale version of the honky-tonk. And if it's the red lights that drew you in, it's the ambiance, mouthwatering menu and enticing cocktails that will keep you there. 

"I'm obsessed with good burgers, and I'm obsessed with having a good burger, and I would argue that our burger is one of the best," Chef Garrett Pittler says. "I'm really OCD about having a good burger. It's so simple, and so many people screw it up."

Burgers aren't the only things on the menu. Southern Tater Tot Poutine, Kiss My Country Ass Quesadilla and Redneck Nachos are just a few of the other offerings on the first floor.

"I think we've done a good job of making a variety of menu items that stay focused and true to honky-tonk and Nashville and Blake," Garrett says.

Asked if Blake had a favorite dish on the menu, Garrett joked, "He likes CheezIits, Sprite Zero and Smithworks Vodka." 

Venture upstairs to The Lookout, and the dining and cocktail menu changes.

"This is where chef's culinary background really comes in because we get to play a little more up here, and we're not married to a certain concept," says Cassie Wade, assistant general manager and cocktail guru. "Essentially, we have three different restaurants in one. A guest can come in a few nights in a row and have different experiences. You can be downstairs and have the experience. You can come up to the rooftop and have a totally different experience."   

Rooftop cocktails include Bad Decisions, Darling, Unshaken and Frozen Encounter.

"You have to have a frozen drink on a rooftop," Cassie says. "We also have a prosecco on tap."

Prosecco on tap? Count us in!  


Rotel Beer Cheese: 
5 pounds Velveeta, cut into large cubes
1 cup onion powder
1 cup garlic powder
2 ½ teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 cups shredded cheddar
1 bottle Miller High Life
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 cup milk
1 can Rotel tomatoes

In a double boiler, add Velveeta, milk and beer and slowly heat on medium setting as to not scorch the cheese. When melted and well-combined with beer, add spices, shredded cheddar and Rotel tomatoes. Add salt to taste.

Smoked Chicken:
1 cup barbecue seasoning (Any basic kind in the spice section of the grocery)
1 whole chicken

Rub the seasoning over the chicken. Cover the chicken with plastic wrap and place in the cooler for 1 hour.
Place chicken in smoker for 1 hour and 20 minutes at 220 degrees. After 45 minutes, turn the chicken to its opposite side. The juices near the bone should run clear. Pull all meat.

Ole Red BBQ Sauce:
1 yellow onion, large diced
9 cloves garlic, smashed
1/2 cup Kentucky Gentleman bourbon
3 tablespoons chili powder
1 quart ketchup
1 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons yellow mustard
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire (Bourbon Barrel Aged, vegan)
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon hot sauce
1/4 cup molasses

Sweat onions and garlic until soft and translucent. Add whiskey and reduce until almost gone. Add in chili powder and toast for 2-3 minutes. Add in remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer. Once it has reached a simmer, turn it off and strain.

To Assemble Nachos:
1 16-ounce bag potato chips
8 ounces Rotel beer cheese, warm
6 ounces pulled smoked chicken
2 ounces Ole Red BBQ sauce
2 ounces sour cream
1 ounce green onion, sliced
1 avocado, halved

On a baking sheet, ladle about 2 ounces of the beer cheese. Place half of the potato chips next. Next, take half of the pulled chicken, 4 ounces of beer cheese and spread it out on top of the chips. Place the other half of the chips for the next layer then repeat with the chicken and beer cheese. Next, put all other ingredients down except the avocado. Remove the pit from the avocado and squeeze the contents of both sides on top of the nachos. 

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