Knocking around Nashville last month dropped me on the doorstep of City Cafe East, one of the finest lunch spots I’ve ever had the pleasure to visit. It was a Thursday, when owner and executive chef George T. Bird (on right above) and Calvin Oden feature a menu headlined by meat loaf with zesty sauce, Jerusalem chicken, salmon croquettes, and baked tilapia.
George and Calvin serve lunch cafeteria style at the 1455 Lebanon Pike restaurant behind a long glass and stainless steel display case. Customers can also choose from soul food style helpings of black-eyed peas, red beans and rice, creamed corn, green beans, mashed potatoes, and Cajun corn bread.
Love those peach and cherry cobblers for dessert.
Fridays feature roasted pork loin and fried catfish fillets; Mondays are about baked chicken breast and country style steak. Once a month George soaks hickory chips in pineapple juice, a prelude to a barbecued brisket feast that attracts 250 to 280 diners to City Cafe East.
The day I arrived at the just lunch cafe (10:00 a.m.- 2:30 p.m) so did families, and working guys, and businessmen in button downs and patterned ties. George opened for business the same month in 2008 that the bottom fell out of the economy. But he said business has been steady and growing. There is no doubt why. George’s cooking is inviting and fresh and satsifying. And the top price — $8.75 for a main course and three sides — is more than fair. It feels good to eat well and support such a distinctive place and its welcoming owner.
— Keith Schneider