Friday, March 18, 2011

The Pie Wagon Gets New Owner, Bringing Back Breakfast

Posted By on Fri, Mar 18, 2011 at 4:43 PM

Historic meat-and-three The Pie Wagon, which has been serving up lunch since 1922, has a new owner.

Carol Babb, who's owned the cafe for 20 years, is retiring and has sold the business to veteran restaurateur David Biggs. He plans to make only a few changes, including adding breakfast service.

Biggs is probably best-known as one of the owners of Mac's, a longtime lunch spot that used to be on Broadway near Vanderbilt, where Ken's Sushi is today. Later he owned Diamond in the Rough, a restaurant and music venue on Lower Broadway.

(In the interim he co-owned a fabric company in Georgia that makes country-chic Western shirts for retailers and country-defending body armor for the Army and Marines. Now he plans to run The Pie Wagon full time.)

Today was the last day for the longtime owners Babb and her son Jason. Lunch included lots of shared memories and hugs. Biggs, meanwhile, is closing the restaurant for a few days to spruce it up. He plans to reopen on Monday, March 28.

Lunch will continue to be a meat-and-three buffet, but Biggs will add sandwiches and wraps from the grill (burgers and veggie wraps are among the new items). Breakfast will be cooked to order starting at 6:30 a.m.

My own memory of The Pie Wagon goes back to its longtime location on 12th Avenue where Whiskey Kitchen is now, but the history stretches decades earlier than that.

Here's some of the history as recounted by The Pie Wagon's website:

In 1922, the Coombs brothers established the first permanent location of The Pie Wagon, which was originally named The Majestic Cafe. At that time, the restaurant was a trolley car that sat behind what is now the Frist Center. They served short-order, Southern food 24 hours a day.

In the 1920s, restaurants that served food out of trolley cars were referred to as pie wagons. Around 1965, The Pie Wagon moved into a building on 12th and McGavock. Although the restaurant no longer resided in a trolley car, people continued to refer to it as The Pie Wagon, and, over time, the original name was lost.

The restaurant changed owners three times before Carol Babb bought it in 1990. She became the first female owner and began serving classic Southern food in the cafeteria style we know today. In 2002, Carol designed a new restaurant and moved The Pie Wagon into its current location on Division Street between Music Row and The Gulch. ...

The Pie Wagon has been a staple of Music Row for many years and it has even been nicknamed The Music Row Commissary. They are famous in Nashville for their Hot Chicken and Fried Catfish. The Pie Wagon has been written up internationally and featured in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Life magazine as well as many other well-known publications. The Pie Wagon has also been featured on CNN as the best restaurant in Nashville for Southern food.

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