Food Review: Nashville’s Loveless Cafe; Home of THE biscuit…or is it?

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If you have ever been anywhere around Nashville, you have heard about the infamous Loveless Cafe. I have been to Nashville three times, and I have eaten at this cafe three times. It is a Nashville staple, and for good reason…well, mostly. Perhaps it took the third time for this tourist trap to lose its charm, at least for me. Here’s the breakdown:

Environment

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Front of the Loveless Cafe restaurant

While there WILL be a wait, no matter the time of day you visit, (I visited at 2:00 p.m. on a Friday) there is plenty to keep you occupied on the grounds. Years ago, this was a motel. Now all of the motel rooms are cute little shops you can explore. There is even a grocery/ gift store where you can purchase the biscuit mix for these Nashville-famous biscuits. (Later in this post, we test the mix out)
You can also look into the smokehouse, where they smoke their popular turkey breasts and other meats.
There are also sets of cornhole and other games along the property to keep you entertained as you wait for a table. They even have free lemonade and water to drink while you’re in the heat.

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Inside of Ham and Jams Country Market

Inside the restaurant, you enter into a room full of celebrity’s photos that have been signed and framed. Of course, all of these people have eaten here. From there, the layout is what you would expect of an old house: broken into rooms, all of which are filled with people.

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Once seated, you get another distraction: a place mat of games and the history of Loveless Cafe and Motel. Yet, they also, almost immediately, set biscuits in front of you, which means I didn’t read one word on my place mat.

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The Food

Biscuits!

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These biscuits really are the only reason I keep returning to eat here. They are small, fluffy, buttery gems. They come complete with very spreadable butter, as well as house-made peach, strawberry, and blackberry preserves. They are so good, that they have been featured on many television shows, including Throwdown with Bobby Flay, though Bobby won that one. =/
Either way, they are very tasty as long as they are hot. Let them sit and cool, and they seem to lose their soft charm.
During this third trip, I only ate 4 biscuits along with my meal. The time before that, I ate 7. The first time, I lost count.
The preserves are also very good, though I usually skip out because I’m not a fan of jams or preserves. Though, the strawberry is my favorite.

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Fluffy, rather than flaky, middle of these delicious biscuits.

*The last part of this review includes trying to break down the recipe and an experiment with the mix they sell at Loveless Cafe.

Fried Chicken Dinner

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Drew ordered the half order, all dark meat, of the fried chicken platter. It comes with two sides and cost $13.50.
This chicken is supposed to be great. Most of the people in the restaurant were eating it. However, we both were a little disappointed. While the chicken is soo juicy, there just isn’t much flavor there. And I like a lot of flavor. For example, my favorite fried chicken is from Gus’s.  While the outside of the chicken was crispy, there wasn’t much of a batter. Overall, it was juicy, not greasy, but flavorlessly flat.

Drew got the bean of the day: pinto beans with ham. These were delicious and perfectly porky.
He also got the caramel sweet potatoes. I hated these, they were way too sweet, very one-noted. Drew thought they were pretty good and finished them off….weirdo.

Famous Loveless Country Ham Breakfast Platter

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Loveless Cafe does serve breakfast all day. Each breakfast platter comes with a choice of grits, hashbrown casserole, or home fried potatoes. This particular platter, I got the half order of ham, comes with two eggs (over medium for me) and red eye gravy, and I chose the fried potatoes.  It ran me $11.99.
The potatoes were very crispy, which I love. The eggs were cooked perfectly. No runny whites, just lots of runy yolk. Yum!
The ham was SALTY. It was so salty, I had to cut it up and mix it with my unsalted eggs and fried potatoes to be able to eat it. But once I mixed all of that together, it was delicious!

Overall, we think the meals are NOT worth the price. So, clearly, we just ate more biscuits to make it worth spending this much on mediocre food.

*Extra food opinions: In my previous visits, here is what stood out to me food-wise.
-Friday special: Nashville hot chicken. This fried chicken dunked in a special hot sauce was much better than the plain fried chicken. Though, it was too spicy for me, Drew loved it!
-Fried chicken livers: very good, would get again. However, they are not as good as fresh ones from Chester’s Fried Chicken….yep, from a gas station. #noshame
-Fried green tomatoes: I generally LOVE fried green tomatoes. I hated these. Soggy, soggy, soggy. Nobody at our table liked them. At our current visit, we noticed other tables not finishing them off either. What a shame.
-Mashed potatoes: These are just plain bland. Can I have some more salt and butter please?

Biscuit Mix Experiment

Knowing that I do love these biscuits, I have done research trying to find the key to this secret recipe. There are so many different suggestions and copy cat recipes out there, I don’t even want to dive into that pool. Especially since the store at Loveless Cafe sells their biscuit mix. So, I bought some. I made them, following the directions perfectly, and had eight people blind taste test them and pick a favorite. Here are the results.

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Biscuit mix bought from Loveless Cafe

The instructions and process were quick and easy. I had biscuits in the oven in no more than 10 minutes from the moment I started reading the back instructions. All you do is add buttermilk to the biscuit mix, pinch it with your whole hand until it is put together. Then, add a little flour to keep it from sticking to a surface, roll it out to a 1/2 inch thick. Then, cut, place into a dish, add melted butter over the top, and cook for about 15 minutes.

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The instructions suggest using a cast iron skillet so I did. They also suggest using a 2 inch circular cookie cutter. Well, don’t have one of those, so I used a 1.5 inch flower cookie cutter. Here’s what they looked like right out of the oven:

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To make sure this was a fair judgement of this mix, I brought home a dozen biscuits from Loveless Cafe, the ones they made themselves, and reheated them for tasting. From the get-go, you can tell that these biscuits look very different. The mix did not rise at all, really. So, the ones from the restaurant are much fluffier.

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However, the taste was almost exactly the same, with one exception. 7/8 taste-testers said that the restaurant biscuits had an almost metallic taste that the mix biscuits did not. So, I looked again at the ingredients in the mix. There is nothing in those ingredients, such as baking powder, that would make them rise. My theory is that they add baking powder in the restaurant, which would make them rise and give that metallic taste when they are cooled. Though that taste is untraceable when they are fresh and hot.

Results: Overall, everyone agreed that the texture was better in the restaurant biscuit, but the taste was better in the mix biscuit. Next time, I will try letting them rise first. If that doesn’t help, I’ll add a little baking powder.

Conclusion: While I have thoroughly enjoyed my three trips to Loveless Cafe, and everyone should go at least once, I think our time together has come to an end. Now that I can make a biscuit somewhat close to theirs at home, that’s all I need. The rest of their food can be beat elsewhere.

But let your mouth be the judge. Definitely go to Loveless Cafe if you haven’t been there before. Let me know what you think in the comments.

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