My life is a Tale of Two Cities…both tourist towns. At Nashville’s center, 2nd Avenue, I rubbed shoulders this summer with girl gangs in shorts and boots out for barbecue and beer. In Marrakesh’s marketplace, Jemaa el Fna, I rub shoulders with girl groups in harem pants and sandals out for a bargain and mint tea. But sometimes the best stuff is found on country (or desert) backroads.
Though Sundays when I was growing up and picnics with my kids meant fried chicken, the last few years I’ve rarely eaten anything fried. But when on my layover in Madrid on the way to Tennessee I almost opted for KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) over a tapas bar, I knew it was time to go home. I missed biscuits and gravy. And like I said in my first Southern Girl Gone Home post, I dreamed one night of bacon. I’ve never eaten country ham other than at Christmas, but I couldn’t wait to taste it again. While home I porked out—literally–particularly at a place considered a national treasure. I’m ashamed to say I have been in Nashville since 1987 and never made the trip to the Loveless Café. Since only home for a month, I decided to check out the place People Magazine says the country ham is “the best in America” and USA Today calls “the real McCoy of Southern cooking,” Bon Appetit gushed, “On a scale of 1 to 10, my breakfast came in at about a 14,” and Martha Stewart crooned, “It was the best breakfast I’ve ever had.” And, of course, there’s the wall of fame– country music legends making claiming the food is iconic.
The Loveless began as a private home hangout in the 40s where folks gathered in the living room and danced on the hardwood floor. By 1951 Lon and Annie Loveless were serving chicken and biscuits to travelers on Highway 100 from their front door; they then added 14 motel rooms. The rest of their history is here and check out their world-famous “Biscuit Lady,” Carol Fay Ellison making biscuits on the Today Show.
When Taylor, Cole and I were told the wait was an hour and forty minutes, we almost bolted, but I’m so glad we didn’t. We waited only and hour and I was a little disappointed because I was having a great conversation in the Shimai gift shop with owner Becca Ganick. She loves meeting people from all over the world who stop by. The restaurant is open 7 AM-9 PM Monday-Friday. We were there on a Friday at prime lunch time; to beat the crowds it’s recommended to visit Monday-Thursday 7-9am, after 2pm or before 6pm. Or stop in on a road trip on the Natchez Trace as I hope to do next time. To plan it, festivals, sites, and Bed and Breakfasts along the way are listed here. It’s amazing what you can learn on backroads.
Be sure to try the GRITS–even if you aren’t a “Girl Raised in the South.” And after the biscuits, you may want to pick up a package of their biscuit mix. I hauled mine back to Morocco…if only I could have brought the ham, too. And if you want to try one of their recipes, I recommend the Fruit Tea Punch–especially those of you who drink only hot tea because In the south, “sweet tea” on ice is a staple, Banana Pudding with Homemade Wafers (especially if you don’t have “store-bought” wafers), Loveless Pecan Pie, or their signature Elvis Pie. And please, all you southern cooks, leave your favorite variations and other favorite recipes in the comments for Yankees ( people from “up north” or anywhere not southern US) to try.