19 May L.A. Jackson
You know, I’m really at a loss for words. But first, let me backtrack a bit…
Prior to moving to Nashville, there was a certain very palpable level of trepidation and worry: “I’m moving to [country] Music City USA”. I have no problem with country music, or the lifestyle; I just want to make sure I have variety and options. Everything in moderation, right? My background is in music education, and so my tastes are very broad and far-reaching, having been exposed to so much from a young age up to now. Having visited time and time again, sights and sounds of the honky tonks of Broadway had been forever engraved in my mind. As I started exploring the city more once I knew I’d possibly be relocating, I began discovering alternative scenes and really cool spots. It wasn’t until I actually got here and lived close enough to spend entire days out exploring that I really started discovering all the best spots.
Finding LA Jackson so early on was like a godsend. Created by _____ in _____, LA Jackson is the antithesis, or the contrast of Broadway, and I mean that in the best way possible; having both – not just one or the other – is what makes the city so great to visit and live in. Having variety is what gives this city the continued to potential to keep expanding and diversifying like it is.
LA Jackson is a bar for everyone, with a decidedly urban twist. It takes a little work to get into it, so it doesn’t attract a lot of bystanders and passers thru; it’s a very deliberate destination. Situated on the rooftop of Thompson Hotel (no article like “the”) in The Gulch at the southern convergence of 11th and 12th Avenues South, it may not be the highest up in terms of rooftop bars in town, but it undoubtedly has some of the best views and is one of the most exquisite experiences in all of Music City. Look at the picture above for the tree on top of the building in the foreground. See the glass wall? That’s the outdoor area of LA Jackson, viewed from 12th Avenue South just north of Thompson Hotel.
I often use the term “experience” to describe a restaurant or bar, reason being that there are so many things that contribute to the feel of a place; the interior, lighting, seating, layout, design, colors, textiles, menu design, vibe of the staff and crowd, not to mention the food and the drinks, of course! The French have a term – “je ne sais quoi” – literally translated “I don’t know what” that is used to refer to the sum of all components that you sometimes just can’t find the words to describe. To me an experience is a work of art, not unlike a statue hewn out of a block of marble, with each and every piece chipped away meticulously and very purposefully to make it what it is. Everything about a beautiful experience is done totally on purpose.
To me, LA Jackson, among many other esteemed establishments exemplify this idea of an “experience”. Big on botanicals, the cocktail menu is an alluring and exquisite dive into craft cocktails, its only fault being the fact it’s not two or three times as extensive in offerings. All five-or-so of the house cocktails are excellent, and are unique yet approachable blends of flavors that both complement each other, yet also expand your idea of how ingredients can be used. One of the best examples of that is the Bey Swizzle which makes use of a house made syrup of several ingredients, including basil of all things, which lends a sweet, slightly spicy note to the drink. Take time to enjoy the drinks and savor them slowly; typically strong on the spirits even when it doesn’t taste like it, they pack a punch and are worth the $12-14 price range I seem to recall.
What goes best with great drinks? Great food. Surprisingly, even as a bar, LA Jackson has a small but well-rounded-out menu of appetizer-sized bar bites, as well as a few slightly larger things. The truffle fries are my usual go-to; a huge portion is great for sharing among a couple friends. The catfish sliders are also excellent, and unlike so many fish sandwiches, the bread, batter, and fish all play against each other nicely – sweet, salty, and tender. The boudin balls and vennison lollipops are also excellent.
So by this point, hopefully you’re ready to check it out. As I mentioned earlier, getting in takes a little effort… and by effort, I mean knowing where to go. Just across the street, the Icon parking garage gives free parking for the first hour, and $3 per hour after that, which is very fair. After you’ve parked, walk across the street, head to the right of the front desk, and hop in the elevator. Hit “R” for rooftop. When you reach the top, you’ll see a beautiful view looking northwest over the inner loop and Midtown / West End. Head the opposite direction, and hit the restrooms on the right if you need them. The rest is pretty obvious, so enjoy yourself.
- Ambience - 8.7/108.7/10
- Menu Selection - 10/1010/10
- Quality - 9.2/109.2/10
- Preparation - 8.7/108.7/10
- Service - 9.5/109.5/10
Few places in Nashville enjoy the luxury of being truly incomparable. While other rooftop bars exist, no place pulls it off like LA Jackson does. It's hard to find faults with this place; slightly more comfortable seating could work, but more seating in general is the biggest concern, and it's a small one at that. Excellent service, drinks, and a small but well-done menu make this a winner in my book.