The Nashville Food Renaissance has exploded so abruptly that new dining experiences seemingly spring up weekly. Trying to find the next fabulous place can be overwhelming. Being “new” is so pervasive that it seems that change is the only constant. That is, unless you amble into Brown’s diner, a constant now for nearly a century.
The precise origins of Nashville’s oldest beer bar and second oldest restaurant have been lost to time, however most accounts link it with “The Parade of Road Railways” hosted by Nashville in 1926. The diner’s location at Blair Boulevard and 21st Avenue was the end of the parade line and for some unknown reason, became the de facto resting place of two mule-drawn street cars. Exactly why the cars were abandoned is unclear. However, six months later Ota Brown opened a diner in them. She named it after her husband, Charlie, and just like that Brown’s Diner was born.
Over the ensuing century Brown’s has had only three owners. For forty-something years Charlie and Ota Brown were the proprietors, until Jim Love purchased it in the mid-seventies and subsequently sold it to its current owner-operator/head chef and founding partner of Edley’s Barbecue, Bret Tuck in 2021. A group of Tuck’s friends approached him as their last hope to save the diner, since it was going to be sold and demolished. Tuck had always loved the diner and felt that his experience with Edley’s would translate well into this new venture. It was a last minute pardon just before execution of sentence.
This historic landmark and burger Mecca continues to be one of the few constants left in the ever-changing Nashville food landscape, including most of the servers who have been there for 30 years or more. Another constant is the excellent food quality, which has earned too many awards to count. To accommodate more patrons, a veranda was recently added for alfresco dining, essentially doubling maximum occupancy from 65 to 130 people. The original street cars have not been touched.
As soon as the door opens, a definite “well worn, comfortable shoe vibe,” as Tuck describes it, envelopes guests, including pictures of such patron legends as John Prine, Vince Gill, Kevin Costner, Tex Cobb, Don Everly, and many more. The bar is only stocked with the 18 no-nonsense beers that patrons favor and live bands are regularly featured on the small stage. Brown’s remains the quintessential beer/burger dive, gracing the Music City for the last 100 years.
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