White Limozeen, the Dolly Parton-inspired rooftop restaurant and poolside lounge at the Graduate Hotel that opened mid-pandemic, has been a beacon of bright pink hope for better days spent poolside, with a drink in hand. The name, already injecting the experience with outsized glam, comes from the title of Dolly’s 1989 album (and song) White Limozeen, her hit-filled comeback.
It makes sense that a highly Instagrammable spot like White Limozeen has joined the scene, as Nashville’s meteoric rise to an “It City” has coincided with its equally spectacular popularity as a bachelorette destination. The city’s eateries and nightlife venues have raced to keep up, as entrepreneurs and developers push the skyline higher and the throngs on Broadway thicker. The city’s growth is a mixed bag, creating a conundrum for locals who are watching the last traces of their “small-town city” disappear, while simultaneously enjoying the glut of new restaurants from big-name chefs, craft cocktails, and swanky hotels.
No one disputes the force of nature that is White Limozeen. But just what is a night there like? We felt it was our sworn duty to find out.
The Graduate in Nashville, like all of its hotels around the country, is heavily themed to match its location. Here, we have neon signs, paintings of Dolly and Minnie Pearl, and all manner of Southernisms represented via art and neon. Upon entering the lobby, men and women of all ages stream upstairs via a specific elevator that will inject us directly into the bloodstream of a pink, pink bar.
“I just want a girly drink,” sighs one of my two elevator companions, both of whom appear to have had their makeup done professionally and their hair braided into similar styles. Both are wearing thigh-high white leather boots.
Early evening is already busy when we arrive at the rooftop. Golden hour approaches, and many guests are already deep in extensive happy hour snacks and drinks at the various lounge-y seating areas. An enormous, pink wire sculpture of the goddess herself, Dolly Parton, looks over the rooftop as she attracts diners for photos.
Elsewhere, the rooftop is dotted with pink-and-white-striped umbrellas with tassels dangling in the breeze, white furniture with pink cushions, and bright floral-patterned lounge chairs surrounding the small rooftop pool, dubbed The Governor’s Pool. A gaggle of tweens congregate by the pool for photos, a mother looking on approvingly. They’re celebrating a 13th birthday. Each of them is dressed in a white top with jeans. No matching leather boots to be found in this crew, however.
Inside, a group is dining upon a plush, velvet bed-like settee, their drinks balanced on a tray as they recline. Elsewhere, a bachelorette party is toasting the bride. In the bathroom, they trade secrets and I listen — not understanding the drama but relishing it nonetheless. Everyone trades compliments on each other’s attire, which range from a hot pink maxi dress adorned with leopards (mine) to cowboy boots and miniskirts, a classic pairing in Nashville and anywhere country Western cosplay is commonly on display.
The bar never stops being busy, and it prepares what are, to be honest, some of the best cocktails I’ve had in Nashville. Demi Natoli is behind that program, bringing her experience at bars like Nashville’s Patterson House and Chicago’s Lost Lake to this pink castle in the sky. Drinks like the Queen of the Rodeo (“She’s a gussied-up Cosmo,” the menu explains) are not a mere citrus drink, not with that dusting of glitter.
As for dinner, the menu is French-inspired, but like most Nashville restaurants it can’t resist a nod to local Southern cuisine. At White Limozeen, this means the caviar comes with onion biscuits, deviled eggs, and chives. There is seafood — perhaps a bit less overtly Southern: raw oysters, marinated mussels with fennel and lemon aioli; salmon sashimi with strawberry, chili, and mint. From there, enter a heartier zone where a white-bread burger and a New York strip with onion rings are stars.
Incredibly, given the size and sheer volume of the place, the service at White Limozeen comes across as impeccable. Could it be that everyone is filled with the spirit of Nashville’s patron saint, channeling the overwhelming magnanimity of Dolly Parton?
So what is the magic of White Limozeen? Like the deity for which it is named — and unlike so many bars in the rooftop genre, and not just in Nashville — it’s inclusive. Older couples in search of a vibrant dining experience can coexist alongside sequin-clad bachelorettes seeking the perfect, Instagram-friendly lighting ahead of their night on Broadway. The high-low vibe feels right: a world away from the chaos of Broadway, but also a far cry from steakhouse seriousness. Yes, plates of raw oysters, and glasses of bubbly, consumed while wearing cut-off jean shorts.
After all, what are we chasing these days, anyway? Something fun, something to make us all feel alive — especially as we slog through 2021. If that’s the order of the day, then White Limozeen deftly captures the zeitgeist.
Ellen Fort is a Nashville-based writer and editor covering the restaurant world, food, drinks, and culture. She has previously worked as the food editor at Sunset Magazine, and editor of Eater San Francisco. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter. Follow Resy, too.