Soul Food
From Their Kitchen to Yours
Recipes from the Loveless Café, Nashville
One of Music City's most beloved institutions is situated at 8400 Highway 100, twenty five minutes from the hustle of downtown Nashville and a tenth of a mile from the scenic 444-mile Natchez Trace Parkway. No, it's not the Grand Ole Opry or the Ryman Auditorium, but the roster of country music stars who have frequented this establishment might sound like a guest list at a VIP party on CMA Awards night. Its design hardly rivals the architectural mastery of Nashville's Parthenon on West End Avenue, but even the Greeks themselves could not have created a more inviting, hospitable setting. And, while others like it have fallen by the wayside, the Loveless Café is among those last remaining southern vestiges where the nostalgic can experience a slice of Americana and a slice of country ham or homemade pie. With so much tempting fare from which to choose, why settle for just a slice of anything? After all, this is the Loveless Café! Like church---where you're supposed to come in one way and leave in another---patrons of the Loveless might come hungry, but they are sure to leave well-fed and thoroughly satisfied. Somebody say "Amen!"

Formerly the Harpeth Valley Tea Room, the Loveless Motel and Café first served its trademark fried chicken and biscuits in the early 1950s when the property was acquired by Lon and Annie Loveless. The early 1900s home quickly became a favorite dining spot among locals and hungry motorists traveling U.S. Highway100 prior to the advent of the Eisenhower Interstate Highway System. The Loveless family sold the business to Cordell and Stella Maynard in 1959, passing along their coveted biscuit recipe to the new proprietors. In 1973, Charles and Donna McCabe bought the establishment. Their 12-year-old son, George, performed a variety of chores around the motel, and eventually became a partner in 1982. George McCabe created the Loveless Motel and Café "Hams & Jams" catalogue and, with the demise of the motel, emphasis was placed on the cafe and mail-order business. In December 2003, TomKats, Inc., a company noted for its movie-location catering business and award-winning Nashville eateries Saffire and SoBro Grill and Catering, purchased the Loveless along with its fabulous biscuit recipe. Subsequently, the quaint 75-seat restaurant was extensively renovated and expanded to accommodate more diners, but the Loveless Café's reputation for serving great southern food remains uncompromised.

Loveless Cafe

8400 Highway 100
Nashville, Tennessee 37221
Tel: (615) 646-9700
Special thanks to Joseph Conner, Kristie Sheppard and Angie Gore of Nashville-based Kaleidoscope Media for their helpful assistance with this article.

NBC's Al Roker with Carol Fay Ellison, the "Biscuit Lady"

Carol Fay Ellison, who started out as a dishwasher at the Loveless Café, became the restaurant's celebrity "Biscuit Lady," appearing on NBC's Today (with Katie Couric and Al Roker) and Late Night with Conan O'Brien as well as The Martha Stewart Show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show and AOL Television's In The Kitchen with Bob and Taste of America with Mark DeCarlo. Her great personality, sense of humor, Southern graciousness and ability to whip up a heapin' of mouth-watering, downhome specialties made her a hit.  Ellison passed away at 48 on April 5, 2010.

Braised Pork Chops

2 tablespoons canola oil

Six 6-ounce boneless center-cut pork chops, trimmed of any fat

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar

2 tablespoons light brown sugar

1 tablespoon Worcestershire or soy sauce

1 teaspoon garlic salt

Sprigs of fresh parsley, for garnish

1. Heat oil in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium high heat. Brown pork chops on all sides. 2-3 minutes per side.

2. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, stir together mustard, vinegar, sugar, Worcestershire sauce and garlic salt with 1/3 cup water. Pour over pork chops. Reduce heat, cover and cook until tender, about 1 hour.

3. Transfer pork to a serving platter. Raise heat to medium-high and cook sauce until thickened, about 5 minutes. Pour sauce over pork chops; garnish with parsley and serve immediately.

Serves 6

*Recipe from Southern Country Cooking from the Loveless Café by Jane and Michael Stern

Hashbrown Casserole

1 pound bag frozen shredded potatoes

2/3 cup finely-diced onion

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

1 can condensed cream of chicken soup

16 ounces sour cream

salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together, place in an oven-safe casserole dish and bake covered for 30 minutes. Remove cover and return to oven for another 30 minutes until brown.

Loveless Pecan Pie

1 cup light corn syrup

1/2 cup brown sugar

3 eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 ounces unsalted butter, melted

1 1/4 cups pecan pieces

1 10-inch pie crust

Mix first six ingredients together with wire whisk until smooth. Place pecans in pie shell. Pour custard mix over nuts and bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or until filling puffs and rises above the edges of the pie shell. Carefully remove pie from oven and let cool completely before serving.

Peach Glazed Country Ham with Peach-Corn Relish

1 (6-7 pound) fully cooked spiral sliced Loveless Café Country Ham

1/2 cup Loveless Café Peach Preserves

1 tablespoon honey Dijon or stone-ground mustard

3/4 teaspoon hot sauce

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

Peach-Corn Relish (see recipe below)

3 large ripe peaches, pitted and halved

Score fat side on ham in a diamond design. Place ham, fat side up, on a rack in a roasting pan. Insert a meat thermometer, making sure it does not touch fat or bone. Bake uncovered at 325 degrees for 1 hour and 30 minutes or until meat thermometer registers 135 degrees.

Combine peach preserves, mustard, hot sauce and ground cloves to make a glaze. Whisk until smooth. Remove ham from oven and brush with glaze. Bake 20 more minutes or until thermometer registers 140 degrees.

Place ham on a platter. Arrange peach halves on platter. Spoon peach-corn relish into peach halves.

Serves 16

Peach-Corn Relish

1 fresh peach, peeled and diced

1/4 cup water

1 cup Loveless Café Corn Relish

Pinch of ground cloves

In small saute pan, cook diced peach with water over medium heat until tender. Add Loveless Café Corn Relish and a pinch of ground cloves, and cook for 3-5 minutes. Scoop relish into peach halves. Serve relish hot or cold.

The Loveless Café is located at 8400 Highway 100 at the northern terminus of the Natchez Trace Parkway.

*Southern Country Cooking from the Loveless Café

(Jane & Michael Stern. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2005.)

The cookbook, Southern Country Cooking from the Loveless Café, is just one of many excellent gift ideas available from the Loveless Café's Hams & Jams Country Market. Country ham, preserves, relishes, Tennessee-made crafts and other Loveless merchandise and apparel are offered online individually and in gift packs.

Author: Greg Freeman. Recipes & Illustrations provided by the Loveless Cafe and Kaleidoscope Media. Published November 30, 2007.  Amended July 25, 2010.

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