Josh Weekley takes his cue
On a recent afternoon, Josh Weekley had shed his toque and chef whites for a House of Blues ball cap and a Pabst Blue Ribbon T-shirt. He was standing in what used to be Atlantis but is now a work in progress. One of Nashville’s most acclaimed chefs, Weekley has been overseeing the transformation of the restaurant he owned with former wife Susan Cone. By late December, this dining room and the two smaller rooms on either side will be filled not with white-clothed, silver-set tables, but with seven top-of-the-line, red-felt-covered pool tables. Down the hall and past the foyer, another makeover is taking place, changing Atlantis’ expansive lounge into a laid-back, sit-down dining area served by a newly redone bar.
The Rack Room and Blue Bar is expected to open sometime this month, and Weekley and partners Jim Simpson, Kelly Jones and Kevin Gannon are hoping their joint will add fuel to the bright flame of midtown nightlife. Jones brings some well-earned expertise to this table; he also owns the nearby Red Door Saloon, Broadway Brewhouse and Mojo Grille. “We feel like we will appeal to people who want to have a good time, good drinks and good food without having to spend a lot of money or feel like they are going to a singles bar,” says Weekley. “We want to develop a clientele of regulars who come because it’s a fun, easy, comfortable place to hang.”
A new bar has been built to serve the Rack Room section, which will also be equipped with wall-mounted televisions. The entrance will move from the side of the building to Broadway, and a patio will be built where the old entrance was; another deck off the dining room will seat 140. Acknowledging that first impressions do count, the white exterior will be repainted, which hopefully will help dispel the funeral-home look this building sported.
Weekley will eventually be back overseeing the kitchen, but don’t expect to see him whipping up his famous lobster pie with white truffles. A blackboard menu will list several frequently changing entrées in the $12 to $18 range; appetizers will be more casual and snacky, though not in the jalapeño popper/cheese stick category. “You can do casual and fun with quality,” Weekley assures. “We won’t be compromising on anything.” Rack Room and Blue Bar, located at 1911 Broadway, will be open seven days a week, from 3 p.m.-3 a.m.
TomKats takes over Loveless
Tom Morales, founder and owner of TomKats Inc., parent company of the movie catering concern TomKats, isn’t waiting for 2004 to make some major changes. Recently, he divested himself of partners and chefs in two other concerns, Saffire restaurant in Franklin and the SoBro Grille in the Country Music Hall of Fame. Gone from Saffire is executive chef Scott Alderson, who’d been there since the restaurant opened. Alderson has been replaced by Kristin Gregory, who served as sous chef under him. Meanwhile, Ray Whitlock, formerly of 6º, Saffire and SoBro Grille, has been named executive chef for TomKats, and George Harwellwhom Morales credits as the culinary success behind the film-catering companyis settling in at SoBro. Jody Faison, who originally partnered SoBro with Morales, has since de-partnered.
But the really big news is Morales’ purchase of Loveless Motel & Cafe, a local institution. Opened in 1952 by Lon and Annie Loveless, the cafe drew diners in droves to its hearty breakfasts, made famous by its biscuits and peach and blackberry jams. Located on Highway 100 at the northern tip of the Natchez Trace Parkway, the Loveless was a democratic institution, feeding neighboring farm families as well as visiting celebrities that included Paul McCartney and Martha Stewart. The McCabe family purchased the Loveless in 1973, eventually expanding the services to include off-site catering and the Hams & Jams mail-order business. A couple years ago, the McCabes began looking for a buyer for the business and the property, which covers 5 acres of prime real estate. Morales closed on the sale last week, with the dual mission of preserving its illustrious past while building for the future.
He has hired Tuck Hinton Architects to direct the renovation of the existing Loveless building, which will keep the original design of the exterior, spruce up the interior and add 75 seats. The mail-order concern, housed to the left of the cafe, will also be redesigned to add retail space. Some outbuildings will eventually be home to future retail tenants, and other long-term plans include the development of a barn in the back into a 500-seat facility for parties and special events, and the refurbishment of the small on-site bungalows for overnight guests.
Ham, biscuit and fried chicken lovers should not fret. The breakfast menu will remain the sameMorales will be getting together soon with Annie Lovelessand the dinner menu will offer “100-percent neighborhood country comfort food.”
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