Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Loveless Cafe - Nashville, TN

I have a confession to make. I never ate at the Loveless Cafe while I was a student at Vanderbilt. I knew about it. I saw the sign on the interstate whenever I would drive over to Memphis to visit some friends, but I just never bothered to investigate. I just never had a reason to be over there and it didn't seem like the kind of place you would go alone. And I was indeed right - it's not the kind of place you go alone (although I guess you could) and other than actually eating there, there isn't a whole lot of other reasons to be out that direction. It's not a place you'll stumble on accidentally, unless you are really lost!

I DID eat there once while I still considered myself a resident of Nashville. The day after graduation, my dad came back with the U-haul and Jeff was preparing to leave with him to haul ALL my stuff back except for my air mattress and a suitcase. My aunt was also still in town, and she said she wanted to take us all to the Loveless. She had gone to Vanderbilt many moons ago, so that's how she knew about it. We all packed up and headed out there for lunch and it was really good. I didn't know what I'd been missing!

So during our little vacation we decided to go back. One of the themes of our trip seemed to be wandering back roads, which I really enjoy as long as someone else is doing the driving! We took a different way out there, and it wasn't as far removed from civilization as I remember. Of course, this trip I wasn't already starving so it was a much more enjoyable journey, too. Even at 4pm on a Sunday, the wait was about half an hour. That didn't bother me because there are a few little shops around to explore, including one that held the creations of local artists. I fell in love with several pieces but didn't take any of them home. All the more reason for me to return.

The atmosphere is definitely laid back. One of my favorite things was the cute paper place mats with the story about the Cafe and little puzzles and games. Clearly, it doesn't take much to keep me entertained. Because of the history associated with this place and the fact that it's definitely a tourist destination, it would be so easy for the whole thing to be a little over the top with costumes and trying to make a show out of the whole meal, but thankfully they don't. It's just very genuine, friendly service in a comfortable atmosphere with fantastic food!

An oh, the food. There is a part of me that is convinced there are major corporate dealings that require less negotiation and cooperation than ordering a meal here (at least for us!) The problem isn't the way the menu is written at all. Most plates are pretty standard - an entree with two sides and all the biscuits you can handle. The problem is that there are SO many good options for both entrees and sides and choosing is really tough. Thankfully, Jeff and I are both sharers so we use that to our advantage.

Jeff got the sampler plate with fried chicken, country ham, and fried catfish. I settled for simply the fried chicken. Our sides consisted of macaroni and cheese, caramel sweet potatoes, turnip greens, and marinated cucumbers and onions. The macaroni and cheese was great. I was expecting more of the "casserole" style (which I like, but isn't my favorite) but it was very creamy and fantastic. I think I could lose myself in a family sized bowl of it! The sweet potatoes were a little too sweet for my personal taste, but they were still very good. I won't swear by this, but I think Jeff wanted to tip up his bowl and drink the pot liquor that was in with his greens. He restrained himself and soaked it up with a biscuit, but it was definitely not wasted. Of course there were the biscuits (a few of which "accidentally" ended up in my purse for breakfast the next day!) and we both ate way too many. But despite being ridiculously full, we managed to share a slice of peanut butter pie. It wasn't my favorite peanut butter pie, but it was not disappointing.

Obviously, this is now on our "regular rotation" of places to eat in Nashville. We're trying to come up with ways to get various family members up there so we can take them. One option that we really enjoyed during our first trip was the family style dinners. Since we had at least four people, we were able to get two entrees (fried chicken and meatloaf were our choices) and three vegetables (mashed potatoes and gravy, grits, and turnip greens) and share them among everyone. It's all you can eat, but I can't for the life of me see how anyone would need seconds. The platters of food put out for us were HUGE and, although the menu says no to-go boxes, since we never ordered seconds our waitress said she could give us boxes and we filled up three with our leftovers! If everyone likes different things this may not be the best option, but if everyone is going to order the fried chicken (which I recommend, especially on your first visit!) then it's perfect.

If you have an excuse to visit Nashville and the means to get away from downtown just a bit, go check it out! Just don't plan on eating much else for the rest of the day!

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