Fried chicken and biscuits have been a part of Loveless Cafe’s history for more than sixty years. In 1951, Lon and Annie Loveless began serving them out the front door of their home to travelers who passed by on US Highway 100, the then primary route between Nashville and Memphis, Tennessee.
Weary travelers found comfort and refuge at the cozy home and in the food the owners served to them while seated at picnic tables in the front yard. As the tiny house became a planned stop for treks along the Trace, Lon and Annie Loveless expanded their private home into the Loveless Motel and Cafe. Lon Loveless built and ran the property’s motel and was responsible for smoking the meats while Annie whipped up batches of her homemade preserves and scratch-made-biscuits - a secret recipe that remains unchanged to this day. Through the years, the Cafe lovingly changed hands to just two local families who continued to serve the time-tested Southern cuisine. In 1982, “Hams & Jams” the mail-order business was established to fill requests from around the globe for the eateries much-desired smoked country ham and jams.
During this time, the modest roadside eatery that was once Nashville’s best-kept secret became a national sensation, and it was discovered by food writers who recognized it as a precious cultural icon.
In December 2003, the Loveless Cafe and Motel was purchased by Nashville natives who had grown up enjoying the delicacies of this quaint roadside eatery and wanted to revive the property that had tired with time.
In January 2004, under the new ownership, Loveless closed its doors for the first time in its history to undergo renovations. When the doors re-opened that June, folks were standing in lines thicker than sausage gravy to get a taste of their favorite dishes! To everyone’s delight, the Cafe menu was the same but better – enhanced with more southern favorites like pulled pork BBQ, lots of fresh country vegetables and, never before offered, homemade desserts! A new smokehouse was built on property and the 14 original motel rooms were converted into unique retail shops – including the Loveless Hams & Jams Country Market. The Loveless Motel Shops provide visitors a wonderful way to pass time while waiting for a table during busy periods. Loveless Cafe’s rich history and story of revival attracted the attention of the media. In 2005, named it America’s “Top Down-Home Dining Spot.” Loveless’ famous “Biscuit Lady” Carol Fay was a much-requested guest on many television shows including the Ellen DeGeneres Show, The Today Show, the Martha Stewart Show and Late Night with Conan O’Brien.
In 2009, the Loveless Cafe furthered its commitment to the Nashville community by adding The Loveless Barn, a 4,800 square foot live music and event venue. The Loveless Barn has become the “it” place to host parties, weddings, fundraisers and other large-scale events.
In October of 2012, the team at Loveless Cafe received a treasured and unexpected acknowledgement. The prestigious James Beard Foundation extended an invitation for Loveless Cafe to serve Valentines Dinner 2013 in the famed James Beard House in New York City. A team of chefs including Loveless Cafe Chef, Daniel Dillingham, Senior Pitmaster George Harvell, Loveless Cafe Pastry Chef, Alisa Huntsman, and Loveless Barn Executive Chef, Bart Pickens pulled off one of the most successful dinner events in Loveless history. Their culinary presentation appeased the sophisticated palates of New Yorkers with five courses of authentic Loveless cuisine and soothed their souls with true Southern hospitality. The dinner enabled the Loveless chefs to stretch their culinary skills and show Nashville, and the rest of the world, how honored they were to be representing the heart and soul of Southern cuisine, and the delicious food that has made the Loveless Cafe a culinary destination for decades.
Despite the passing of time, the Loveless Cafe remains true to its origins. Serving true southern comfort food encompassing a time when people ate what was indigenous to the area where they lived. Before the “super highways,” the rural South was a remote area with backroads leading to treasures known only to those who ventured down them. For years, the Loveless was one of those treasures, located just yards from the northern terminus of the Natchez Trace Parkway, one of America’s oldest roads that extends south from Central Tennessee 444 miles to Natchez, Mississippi. The Loveless Cafe represents a treasure trove of memories “out Highway 100” and the generations of families who regularly return to relive those memories. Take the Oliphant family, for instance, who has eaten Easter Sunday breakfast at the Loveless Cafe every Easter for the past 42 years – now, that’s a family tradition!
Many who visit the Loveless Cafe are taken back to their own memories when life seemed slower, simpler and sweeter, back to the kitchens of their childhoods. For our visitors, the Loveless Cafe represents so much more than a restaurant. As Donna McCabe, previous long-time owner of the Loveless Cafe said, “People just like real food.” The Loveless Cafe will always be a place where real people come to enjoy real Southern food.