It’s a frequent dilemma for visitors to Nashville. You arrive at the airport in the morning, but you can’t check into your hotel until 3:00. Or they kick you out of your lodgings at 11:00 am after a great trip to Music City, but your flight doesn’t leave until later in the day. What’s a traveler to do?
At The Listening Room Cafe just outside of the downtown core at 618 4th Ave South, they’ve come up with a fantastic solution. Every weekday from noon until 2:30, the Listening Room offers a “Lunch and Listen” opportunity in the cozy bar area outside of their main performance room. The venue is already known for featuring some of the best singer/songwriters in town for two shows nightly in their large listening room, so it’s logical that they extended their offerings to the midday meal hour with this promotion.
Guests are invited to roll in their luggage and sit down to an affordable meal from a menu of Southern and Midwestern classics while they listen to a set or two from local musical talents playing acoustic music through a fantastic sound system. The owner of The Listening Room Cafe is Chris Blair, and he’s a stickler for high fidelity sound in his club. Through a special relationship with Bose, he has always outfitted his sound system with some of the finest equipment, and the performers appreciate his dedication to making them sound even better.
The vibe at lunch is quite casual, even with the industrial feel of the dining area with its exposed HVAC ducts overhead and cement floors. The venue offers flexible seating in booths or at table or even the bar, which is definitely open to serve your day drinking desires. Tables are set with drinking water in Jack Daniel’s bottles, a nice touch that also ensures you don’t have to flag down a server just to top off your water glass.
One of the issues of trying to eat while you listen to music in town is that it’s usually too quiet or too loud to enjoy both at the same time. By that, we mean that in the more intimate venues that feature singer/songwriters, the audience appropriately focuses on the performers, and table conversation is expected to be kept at a minimum. On the other hand, while the honky tonks of downtown do feature great bands and excellent food, the music is usually so loud that you have to scream at your dining companions to “PLEASE PASS THE KETCHUP! THANK YOU!”
At the Listening Room Cafe, they understand that you’re there to enjoy a meal with friends while you also hear some tunes, often original compositions from a singer who might be a star someday. The volume is at an appropriate level for you to concentrate on the music and the meal at the same time. Really, how focused can you be on the singer when you’re chowing down on a plate of Sweet & Spicy Fried Pickles or a basket of some of the best Smoked Wings in town? Blair is a big fan of smoking meats, and his proprietary sweet/spicy BBQ rub that makes his wings so delectable is available for purchase at the bar if you take a liking to it and want a souvenir of Nashville to take home with you.
The menu also features a great bowl of chili and some interesting salads if you’re looking to go a little healthier. Blair is proud of his Midwestern heritage, and one of his St. Louis favorites also make an appearance on the lunch menu. The award-winning Turkey Apple Crisp Sandwich features shaved turkey breast that has been smoked in house along with a crisp tart bite from slices of Granny Smith apples plus smoky bacon, swiss cheese and a novel cranberry aioli. It’s all served on wheat berry toast and will remind you of Thanksgiving all year round. The kitchen also puts out some pretty respectable smoked pork shoulder and brisket sandwiches as well as a fine burger that is smoked before finishing on the grill.
Save a little room for dessert if you can, because their bag of little homemade donut holes sprinkled with cinnamon or powdered sugar will definitely take the edge off your afternoon. Whether you’re looking for your first taste of music on the way into town from BNA or want to savor one last bit of songwriting talent before returning home, a trip to The Listening Room Cafe for their “Lunch & Listen” is always a good call. Heck, it’s a power move on any day whether you’re traveling or not!