The South is full of signature flavors and lively music, and groups traveling throughout the region can find places to experience the best of both. At these unique venues, food and music go hand in hand, accompanied by colorful characters and fascinating histories, to deliver unforgettable Southern travel experiences.
Based in northeast Alabama at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, the Rattlesnake Saloon is a spectacular Western-themed dining and music venue built under the shelter of a spacious rock cavern.
This establishment traces its roots to 1916, when a farmer named Owen Foster purchased the first tract of a 6,000-acre property for 25 cents an acre. During the farm’s early years, Foster used the rock cave shelter that later became the Rattlesnake Saloon as a hog pen. The 33-foot hole that now runs all the power cables to the saloon was originally drilled through the rock to funnel feed to the hogs without having to climb around the steep bluff.
Foster later opened the Seven Springs Lodge and began hosting tourist activities such as trail riding, ATV and motorcycle events and chuck wagon races. Together with the help of his sons, Foster initiated plans to transform the old hog pen into a true Wild West watering hole: a saloon and restaurant nestled under the natural shelter of the rock. During the construction phase, a rattlesnake nest was uncovered nearby, inspiring the Foster family to dub their new venue the Rattlesnake Saloon. Since the saloon’s grand opening in 2009, guests from all 50 states and at least 30 countries have found their way to this remarkable restaurant in the rock.
True to its title, the Rattlesnake Saloon showcases a traditional Western aesthetic with swinging bat-wing doors, a wood-paneled facade and hitching posts for horses. Open Thursday to Saturday, with limited hours on Sunday, the restaurant caters to lunch and dinner crowds with country fare such as fried apple fritters, black angus burgers, crispy golden onion rings and fried dill pickles. Guests can take advantage of more than 30 tables and chairs throughout the open-air portion of the shelter, with additional seating available inside the saloon. During the evening hours, tables fill fast as local rock and country bands fill the cavern with music.
Floyd Country Store
For over a century, the Floyd Country Store has played a central role in the culture and community of Floyd, Virginia. During the early 1980s, local musicians began hanging out around the general store to play music together, sometimes drawing crowds to listen. The informal gathering became known as the Friday Night Jamboree and has continued to take place on Fridays ever since.
Today, the classic event has become more formal, featuring a gospel group from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. and two dance bands from 7:30 to 10:30. What’s more, the Floyd Country Store has garnered international acclaim as music lovers travel from all over the world to hear the timeless music of Appalachia in its purest form.
“I think it epitomizes a simplicity and a celebration of life, and a lot of people come to Floyd to see that exercised in a really beautiful way,” said owner Dylan Locke. “We see everyone from 2-year-olds to 90-year-olds on the dance floor, from old-timers to newcomers. It’s got this beautiful cross section of generations.”
When Locke and his wife, Heather Krantz, took over the business in 2014, the couple worked hard to revitalize the cafe, retail shop and live music shows. They expanded the store’s range of entertainment, adding Saturday night dances and concerts, film screenings, community workshops and more. They also reworked the menu, placing a renewed emphasis on fresh, Southern-inspired cuisine.
“It’s incredibly healthy food, all made from scratch and locally sourced, while still connected to the cuisine of Appalachia,” said Locke.
Patrons can savor these heritage-rich recipes through menu items like East Carolina-style pulled smoked pork barbecue, or chicken Brunswick stew and pinto beans with onions and skillet-baked cornbread.
Larry B’s Rhythm Room
Van Buren, Arkansas
When Larry and Hazel Bedell first moved to Van Buren, Arkansas, they knew they wanted to start their own business. After a building opened up for rent in Van Buren’s historic downtown area, the couple joined forces
with experienced local chef James Thomas to open an upscale dinner club where guests could enjoy fine dining, great service and nightly live music. Their shared dream came to fruition with the grand opening of Larry B’s Rhythm Room in March 2018, and it was not long before locals and travelers alike began pouring through the doors.
“We get such big parties every night, we have to rearrange tables — I’m talking about groups of 20 to 30 people,” said Hazel Bedell. “People just love it. They always say they’re glad to have somewhere to go and enjoy gourmet food.”
Open from Tuesday to Saturday each week, the restaurant specializes in soul food with a twist, showcasing classic Southern cuisine such as shrimp and grits, fried green tomatoes, crab cakes and black-and-blue burgers. The most famous item on the menu is Hazel Bedell’s specialty: chicken and waffles with rum butter and rum syrup.
“We get a lot of people that come and keep coming back because they want to try everything on the menu,” said Bedell.
The entertainment brings something new to the table each night as well, whether it is Jazz Night, Ladies Night, Oldies but Goldies or Date Night. Larry Bedell, a seasoned performer of over 50 years, often leads the performances himself on Fridays and Saturdays.
Venkman’s has quickly become one of the most popular dining establishments in Atlanta since its opening in 2015. Based in the heart of Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward, the chic restaurant and music club was founded by two musicians, Nicholas Niespodziani and Peter Olson of the band Yacht Rock Revue, who sought to create a high-end venue where people could enjoy quality food and music in one location.
“As we were touring all over the country, we saw a lot of cool venues starting to combine good food and good music,” said Niespodziani. “A lot of places, you have to choose one or the other, and we thought — hey, there’s no reason you can’t have both.”
Part of the restaurant’s success is tied to the wide appeal of its entertainment lineup, which ranges from jazz concerts to ’60s tribute shows and classic rock bands. Parents are also welcome to bring their kids for some of the children’s programming, with past shows such as “Beyond the Neighborhood: The Music of Fred Rogers” and “The New Adventures of Brer Rabbit,” a 40-minute musical puppet show.
“It was kind of a crazy idea, but we’ve found a lot of niches that are really cool and provided a place for people to gather that really wasn’t there before,” said Niespodziani.
In the spirit of fostering community, the menu features a number of sharable items, such as hot pretzel bites, pimento grit fritters and pommes frites with pickle sauce. Other options include bourbon cured salmon Benedict, chicken and grits, hot pastrami and grilled cheese with tomato soup.
Puckett’s of Leiper’s Fork
Leiper’s Fork, Tennessee
Originally founded by the Puckett family during the 1950s, Puckett’s Grocery and Restaurant of Leiper’s Fork has been a staple of the Leiper’s Fork community for more than 60 years, attracting a diverse clientele of tourists, farmers and musicians. Though it primarily functioned as a grocery store under the ownership of the Pucketts, later proprietors expanded the shop into a full-scale dining and live music venue. Today, other Puckett locations can be found in downtown Franklin, Nashville, Columbia and Chattanooga.
Still serving the Leiper’s Fork community with “real food, real people and real atmosphere,” the original Puckett’s property continues to attract loyal patrons with fresh, home-style cooking and weekly live music. During the week, guests can enjoy open-mic nights and performances from traditional folk bands. A lineup of gospel artists performs on Sundays.
Over the years, Puckett’s has won various Sizzle Awards, including Best Catering, Best Meat ‘n’ Three, Best Value, Best Live Entertainment, Best Burger, Best Breakfast, Favorite Retail Merchant and Best Business Lunch. Guests will want to sample a little bit of everything from the restaurant’s award-winning menu, which includes mouthwatering Southern cuisine like buttermilk biscuits, sweet potato fries, fried catfish, pulled pork sandwiches and cherry-smoked ribs.
Blue Moon Saloon and Guest House
After traveling abroad for several years during the late 1990s, Mark Falgout decided to purchase an 18th-century Arcadian house in Lafayette, Louisiana, and convert the property into a hostel-style guesthouse.
“When I decided to come back, I thought, if I can’t be traveling, then I would like to be around folks who are,” said Falgout. “I asked myself, if I showed up in a new town, where would I like to stay? I knew I’d look for a place with a friendly staff, someplace centrally located where I could meet fellow travelers as well as locals.”
The Blue Moon Saloon and Guest House officially opened its doors in 2001 and has since become one of the top Cajun music venues in the state. The guesthouse has six rooms: four private rooms and two dorm-style rooms with bunk beds. Next door, the Blue Moon Bungalow offers the most spacious accommodations, with two bedrooms, one bathroom and a full-service kitchen.
When guests check in to the Blue Moon Saloon, they receive a free-cocktail ticket and admission to all the live shows, which take place nearly every night of the week. One of the most popular events is the weekly Cajun Jam on Wednesday.
“If you want to come down to the mecca of Cajun and Creole music in Lafayette, then Blue Moon is the place,” said Falgout.