I am obsessed with Nashville’s other culinary masterpiece: The Goo Goo Cluster

Nashville might be famous for its hot chicken and barbecue, but one of the city’s most outstanding culinary inventions that flies completely under the radar just happens to be America’s oldest candy bar, the Goo Goo Cluster.

Calling it a candy bar is something of a misnomer because it’s not actually shaped like a bar. It’s a disk-shaped confection containing marshmallow nougat, caramel and roasted peanuts that is covered in milk chocolate and is even more delicious than you imagine. 

Introduced in 1912 by the Standard Candy Company in Nashville, the Goo Goo Cluster might not be as old as chocolate bars like the Hershey Bar which dates back to 1900, but when company owner Howell Campbell and plant supervisor Porter Moore cooked up the recipe in a copper kettle, it was the first time multiple elements were brought together to be mass-produced in a retail confection. 

Over time the company has introduced variations like the Goo Goo Supreme which replaces the peanuts with pecans and the Peanut Butter Goo Goo which replaces the marshmallow nougat and caramel with peanut butter. For Canadian readers, probably the closest comparison to the Goo Goo Cluster is that it’s like an oversized Turtle, but with marshmallow added to the center.

But what about that crazy name? Some people will tell you that it’s based on a long-time partnership with that other Nashville icon, the Grand Ole Opry where GOO is taken from the first three letters of the famous country and western music stage show. It’s a good story, but the Opry was only founded in 1925, a full 13 years after the candy bar was introduced.

According to the company’s literature, the truth is that it was suggested by a school teacher who after hearing the company president tell her that his son’s first words were “goo goo,” she exclaimed: “That’s what you should call your candy – Goo Goo!” From there the first slogan was born: “Goo Goo! It’s so good, people will ask for it from birth.”

Goo Goo clusters are easy enough to find in shops throughout Nashville, but as you get further from Tennessee, they are not nearly as ubiquitous as other candy bars, so you have to hunt for them. They are distributed in some Cracker Barrels and other specialty retailers across the United States and you can also order them online, but the truly best way to try one is to visit the Goo Goo retail store in downtown Nashville.

While you’re there you can grab some pre-wrapped candy from the shelf, but what you’ll really want to do is to create your own cluster using bespoke ingredients. The store makes it easy to do that with its Design Your Own kiosks where you follow step-by-step instructions on a touch screen to create your dream cluster. The store’s on-site chocolatiers then build your four-ounce custom candy in front of your eyes at the Chocolate Bar in about 15 minutes. While the factory-made Goo Goos are delicious, these custom-built ones are even better and more closely resemble the Goo Goos that were, once upon a time, hand dipped and sold without wrappers under glass at drug store candy counters.

For an even more in-depth experience, the store offers a variety of classes you can take on site, including Taste of Goo Goo which takes you through the process of making your own candy bar, Goos & Booze which pairs chocolate with adult beverages and the Secrets of Goo Goo, a wine-tasting experience which features wines sourced from Tennessee.

Part of the candy bar’s allure is that it is a rare treat beyond the streets of Nashville. If you pay close attention, it occasionally pops up on screen in TV shows like Stranger Things or movies like Masterminds. Those who’ve tasted a Goo Goo will see these scenes and nod knowingly to acknowledge that they get the reference and are part of the Goo Goo cult while the uninitiated will be baffled.

Don’t want to be one of those people and are ready to be indoctrinated into the Goo Goo cult? Navigate yourself to these coordinates:

Goo Goo Chocolate Co.
116 3rd Ave S, Nashville, TN
Open 7 days a week, 10 am – 6 pm


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