Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Loveless Cafe, an Iconic Southern Restaurant

When a restaurant garners award after award, you want to be sure that a visit there will match its highly publicized reputation. Such is the case with Loveless Café in Nashville. It is more than deserving of every award and accolade that it’s received.

The sign for Loveless Cafe has stood the test of time.

Loveless has been judged one of the best places for friendly family dining and among the top “essential” places to eat in Nashville. It has been also listed as an iconic Southern restaurant by USA Today’s Travel 10 Best series. Even People magazine has acknowledged the special connections of Loveless to the culinary traditions of Nashville after its chefs handed out 1,200 biscuits at the Music City Food + Wine Festival. These awards and recognitions are for 2014 alone; each year before also has its own special tributes to this exceptional place.

Country ham, two eggs with red-eye gravy, and stone-ground grits
Everyone who enters through the doors seems to be interested in the made-from-scratch biscuits. Thank goodness breakfast is served throughout the day and that biscuits are served with every meal all day long. Up to 7,000 biscuits are made daily. However, a quick check of the menu shows that more than biscuits attracts the lines of customers waiting for a table.

Up to 7,000 biscuits are made daily.

Trying to be prepared, I checked the Loveless website in advance to see when to arrive. I learned that the best time to avoid a waitlist is to arrive by 11 o’clock for an early lunch or 5 o’clock for an early supper. What I don’t remember the site mentioning is that those suggestions apply for only weekdays. When I arrived on a Saturday at 10:50 a.m. expecting a table available for lunch, I was amazed at how many people were meandering in the front of the restaurant and soon learned that my wait would be 75 minutes. (I’m glad that I arrived for lunch before 11 o’clock!)

Peach cobbler with ice cream
However, the time was well spent reviewing all the autographed photos of the famous who have made a pilgrimage to the Loveless, browsing among the goodies and keepsakes for sale in the restaurant’s shops, and looking over the historic property that includes a recently built special-event barn (very popular for weddings).

Carol Fay Ellison, known as the Biscuit Lady, is remembered in art work at the Loveless.

What began as Loveless Motel and Café in 1951 quickly became a destination for hearty eaters as they learned about its delicious homemade preserves and made-from-scratch biscuits. Although the property has changed hands several times, biscuits are still made using the original Loveless recipe. In fact, my biscuits were so good that I tweeted a picture of them – and Loveless later added it to its online collection of Twitter photos and comments.

Biscuits with homemade preserves (and sorghum on request) are served with every order.
The food was more than memorable, and the portions are also more than ample. After I had ordered a peach cobbler with lunch, people at the next table had to comment that the banana pudding was the best ever (“Banana pudding to go, please”). Because I couldn’t try everything that I wanted at lunch, I also ordered two additional items – braised turnip greens and more stone-ground grits – to go with the pudding just so that I could continue to savor the tastes of Loveless later in the day.

Banana pudding is the best dessert!

Because Loveless Café is such an iconic Southern restaurant, I’ll be back soon. I’ll even drive the eight hours from home just for the biscuits – but will also take advantage of the full menu again. Located near the Natchez Trace Parkway, Loveless has a prime location for travelers, but its food is much more important than its location for attracting appreciative customers and preserving its well-deserved reputation.

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