Summer has arrived in Tennessee, and it’s already a scorcher. Don’t let the heat keep you indoors, though, because there are plenty of riverfront and lakeside dining options where you can catch a delightfully cool breeze off the glittering water.
To get you started, take a look at our list of the top 10 waterfront restaurants in Middle TN. Choose from seafood, burgers and brews, low and slow BBQ, classic Southern cuisine, and a sports bar—a few of which are also live music venues. It’s time to slather on your sunscreen, put on your favorite summer hat, and kick back at the waterside under summer’s cerulean skies.
Blue Moon Waterfront Grille is a Music City staple. Back in 2010, it was washed away by the floods. Two years later, it made a triumphant return, and it was just as delicious and popular as ever! Due to the restaurant’s outdoor seating and roll-up restaurant door, it’s open seasonally from late March through September.
Whether you’re arriving by boat on the Cumberland River or by highway, you’ll adore Blue Moon Waterfront Grille’s Sunday brunch, family-friendly lunch and dinner, or happy hour from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. daily. The menu is packed with seafood dishes ranging from entrees to sandwiches, salads, and more.
Thanks to its central location, reputation, and big-screen TVs for sports fans, this grille is often packed. They do not accept reservations, so arrive earlier than you plan to dine.
Situated on J. Percy Priest Lake, Shipwreck Cove is beloved by lakers for its year-round hours, delicious casual and elevated pub offerings, and family-owned feel. Stop by for pulled pork redneck nachos, fried pickles, fish and chips, thick burgers, boozy milkshakes, a full bar, and stay for the gorgeous lakeside views and live music.
In years gone by, Papa Turney sold his low and slow BBQ pork, brisket, and chicken out of a modest location off Lebanon Road. The spot was somewhat secluded, so most locals first discovered his mouthwatering meats by following their noses as smoke wafted from his cooker.
Now, Papa Turney’s Old Fashion BBQ has moved into a restaurant right on Percy Priest Lake at the Nashville Shores Marina. The menu has expanded right along with the dining space, so one can now enjoy ribs, smoked catfish, and tender ribs.
Mama Turney, Papa’s wife, has sold her handmade pies in Tennessee grocery stores for many years, and now she has made her pies a permanent fixture at Papa Turney’s Old Fashion BBQ! Order a slice after your meal or take a whole pie to go.
In addition to the BBQ, the Turneys have added a music venue, Miss Zeke’s Juke Joint. Stop by after you eat to hear blues, jazz, and soul music as you enjoy the sunset above a gorgeous lakeside view.
The Rudder, which claims the title of the town’s #1 Live Music and Event Venue, is located on Old Hickory Lake at Hendersonville’s Anchor High Marina. This family-friendly spot is especially popular with the lake’s boating enthusiasts. The Rudder is famous for its seafood, including hot crab dip, ahi tuna, peel-and-eat shrimp, and oysters, in addition to classic dishes like pork chops and burgers. The fried pickles are not to be missed, but you may want to bring a few friends to help you eat the generous pile of pickles you’ll receive!
Relax on the tiki-themed deck during concerts and trivia nights and be sure to let your children feed the fish, ducks, and turtles that reside in the lake below the deck. During the week from Tuesday through Friday, Happy Hour runs from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Situated on Old Hickory Lake near downtown Hendersonville, this sports bar and seafood spot is beloved by both boaters and locals who want to enjoy the waterfront views. Moby Dicky’s features a covered patio with retractable screens, plenty of televisions, and cushy seating that will beckon you to kick back and stay a while.
The menu features local delicacies like hot chicken sliders, fried bologna sandwiches, and steak ‘n biscuits as well as seafood staples like lobster, shrimp, and oysters. Stop by for a beer, brunch, or a relaxed dinner—rain or shine, this is a great place to be!
Situated on Old Hickory Lake’s northern shore, Awedaddy’s Bar and Grill is locally famous. Open seasonally from spring through autumn, Awedaddy’s stays faithful to Middle Tennessee’s own brand of Southern cooking with offerings like smoked brisket piled atop a huge Black Angus beef burger, peel-and-eat shrimp, shrimp and grits, catfish, crab cakes, huge cheese sticks, and a Bushwhacker that’ll give you a brand-new understanding of the boozy shake’s name.
Awedaddy’s is open for lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch, with “more car parking than any other restaurant on Hickory Lake” in addition to boat parking.
Sam’s Sports Grill is one of Tennessee’s local chains, and their nautical-themed location on the south shores of Old Hickory Lake may be the best one yet. Dubbed the “Best Sports Bar” on multiple local lists, Sam’s is beloved for their flavorful chicken wings, loaded nachos, classic sandwiches (we love the french dip with zesty horseradish), and pizzas.
During the warmest days of the year, Sam’s rolls up their windows so that even those dining indoors will be able to enjoy the cool breeze and stunning views of the lake. If you’re in the area during the week, stop by for a less crowded dining room, daily lunch specials, and enticing happy hour pricing.
Since 1958, Cherokee Steakhouse has fed locals from their spot right on Old Hickory Lake. The steakhouse is famous for their juicy aged steaks and chops (the prime rib is outstanding!), but their seafood options are likewise delicious. Burgers, hot dogs, and tacos round out the menu, while bushwhackers, draft beers, and margaritas can be ordered from the bar.
In addition to their casual fine dining offerings, Cherokee hosts a rotating roster of live musicians, with open-mic karaoke running every Sunday. Brunch is served on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., which is why locals have been known to spend Sundays hanging out at the Cherokee from brunch ‘til bedtime!
If you long for seating along the scenic Cumberland, but don’t want to battle the crowds in downtown Nashville, head out to Ashland City to Riverview Restaurant & Marina. Beloved by locals and boaters alike, this restaurant’s motto is “The only thing we overlook is the river.” Since opening in 2000, Lori and Walt Randolph have proven the accuracy of their claim over and over again!
We recommend sitting outdoors, but even indoors you’ll enjoy the river’s beauty through the dining room’s picture windows. Order seafood favorites like catfish, crab cakes, hand-breaded prawns, or choose turf with an order of steak. Don’t sleep on the banana pudding—but heads up, it sells out often!
So, where will you go first? Do you have a favorite waterfront restaurant that isn’t on our list? Leave us a comment and tell us more. Thank you for visiting Parks; we hope you have a safe and happy summer!