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New Graduate Hotel Gives Nashville Animatronic Karaoke and Late Night Tacos

West End’s newest hotel bar, Cross-Eyed Critters Watering Hole, opens tonight

Nashville’s newest hotel opened this week on West End — and the intricately detailed Graduate Nashville gives three distinct new dining (and drinking) options to the Midtown neighborhood. Two are open to the public now — Poindexter, an all-day lobby cafe that opened Monday, and Cross-Eyed Critters, the first-ever animatronic karaoke bar serving late night tacos that opens today (Thursday, January 9). A pink-peppered rooftop bar with scenic views, Miss Bessie’s will open in the coming months.

Located at 101 20th Avenue North, Graduate Nashville features 205 rooms. Its three food and beverage concepts opened in partnership with hospitality team Marc Rose and Med Abrous — the duo behind Los Angeles’ award-winning cocktail hot spot The Spare Room; iconic 35-year-old NYC-style Chinese restaurant Genghis Cohen; and all-day café concept Winsome. Already acquainted with the Graduate Hotels brand, Rose and Abrous recently opened Mountaineering Club and Poindexter at Graduate Seattle and will oversee food and beverage operations for the forthcoming Graduate Roosevelt Island, opening in summer 2020.

Positioned directly off the lobby and with a separate entrance on West End Avenue, Cross-Eyed Critters Watering Hole (named after an Eric Church song, says Rose) is the first ever animatronic karaoke bar in existence. The bar focuses on a backup trio of robotic musicians — a bear, pig and fox that perform songs such as Sweet Child of Mine by Guns N’ Roses and Islands in the Stream by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton. The backup band takes you back — giving nostalgic reminders of childhood birthday parties spent over pizza at Chuck E. Cheese.

The nostalgia continues into the drink and cocktail menus (see the full menu below). To drink, find names like care bear stare and howdy doody time, all which are available in pitcher form. Shooters like flaming Dr. Peppers and dirt cake pudding shots sit beside an array of “sidepieces” on the menu — combinations like Black Cherry White Claw and a shot of Jagermeister for $12. There’s also a trio of tequila, Tecate, and spicy tomato.

The food menu is a nod to the Taco Bell that once stood where the Graduate Nashville is today. Eventually, CEC will house an outside taco truck on the patio, but for now they’re prepping the bar’s snacks in a small kitchen at Critters. There’s smoked nuts, chips with guacamole and salsa, and Tajin fries with cheese sauce for dipping to share. Taco offerings include chicken, Beyond meat, and a namesake Cross-Eyed double stacked beef taco. Also find a crispy avocado tostada, sliders, and cinnamon sugar churros on the menu for now.

The rustic walls of Cross-Eyed Critters are lined with black velvet paintings of country-western stars, while aged wooden floors create a gritty, worn-in feel. The bar offerings will include renditions of nostalgic cocktails and shots, like the Flaming Dr. Pepper, alongside plenty of cold beer, and an outdoor taco trailer, which pays homage to the beloved late-night favorite, Taco Bell, formerly located on the Graduate Nashville site. A nod to southern dive bars, the concept’s name takes inspiration from Eric Church’s Merle Haggard tribute song, Pledge Allegiance to the Hag.

To start, CEC will open Tuesday thru Thursday from 5 p.m. to midnight, and Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. until 3 a.m. They will serve the full menu all night.

Eater got a first look inside Cross-Eyed Critters and an advance taste of CEC’s menu items and cocktails — scroll to see more of the ground-level animatronic karaoke bar. Stay tuned tomorrow for a deeper look at the stunningly decorated hotel.

Sam Angel / Eater Nashville
Sam Angel / Eater Nashville
Sam Angel / Eater Nashville
A cozy corner at Cross-Eyed Critters at Graduate Nashville
Sam Angel / Eater Nashville
Sam Angel / Eater Nashville
Sam Angel / Eater Nashville
Sam Angel / Eater Nashville
Sam Angel / Eater Nashville
A double-stacked beef taco at Cross-Eyed Critters
Sam Angel / Eater Nashville
A dirt cake-inspired pudding shot topped with gummy worms
Sam Angel / Eater Nashville
Sam Angel / Eater Nashville
Sam Angel / Eater Nashville
Sam Angel / Eater Nashville
Vegan-friendly fried avocado tostadas at Cross-Eyed Critters
Sam Angel / Eater Nashville
Churros from Cross-Eyed Critter
Sam Angel / Eater Nashville
Tajin-seasoned fries with cheese sauce at Cross-Eyed Critters
Sam Angel / Eater Nashville

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