Lockeland Table Community Kitchen and Bar in East Nashville turns 10

In August 2012, Lockeland Table Community Kitchen and Bar opened, breathing new life into a historic commercial building in Lockeland

Springs, and ushered in a new era of service in the East Nashville neighborhood. Executive Chef Hal Holden-Bache and General Manager Cara Graham were intentional when they teamed up to create their dream restaurant. They wanted it to be more than a hospitable farm-to-table restaurant. They wanted to honor the history of the building and pay tribute to each previous owner. They wanted it to be a hub for good relationships, a gathering place in the hood for delicious food and drink, an eco-friendly steward, and a contributor to the greater good of the community.

Without a doubt, they realized this dream. In its first year of operation, Lockeland Table (LT) was named Best New Restaurant by the James Beard Foundation and won an Architecture Award from the Metro Historic Commission. (They faithfully restored the facade of the HG Hill grocery store.) They instituted Community Hour, an hour better than happy hour that runs Monday through Saturday, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., filled with drinks and snacks. bites at a reduced price, part of which is donated to the community. PTO. Every day they serve 140 to 250 covers, with tables making three solid towers.

And now a decade has passed. It gave them pause to reflect on their journey, which began nearby at the Eastland Cafe. Holden-Bache was in the kitchen, Graham in the dining room. Initially, they clashed.

“We realized that we had the same intentions and the same work ethic. We both figured out from our experiences that the front and back of the house form a circle, rather than two opposite sides,” says Graham.

From this alignment, they formed a partnership and developed a business plan, which included purchasing a property. They searched the whole town. Little did they know the space was nearby, a structure that over its lifetime had housed a haberdashery, grocery store, beauty salon, and, in its latest iteration, the workshop and art gallery. by John Guider. Graham worked with Pathways Lending and handled the meeting with the bankers to secure the loan. They closed the building in February 2012 and began the six-month renovation.

The community then, as now, was at the forefront. In fact, about 50 neighbors helped build an interior wall. “We opened on August 11, before the Tomato Art Fest weekend,” says Graham. “It was beautiful.” For Chief Hal, the birth of his first child and LT, just six weeks apart, are forever linked in his mind as a watershed moment.

“I became a father and a restaurateur around the same time,” he recalls. “It had a profound impact. May our goals focus on work/life balance, raising our families, and getting a small slice of the pie. Grow and give back. Being part of this community, working hard to send our kids to college. Do my best, wherever I am.

Graham agrees. “We’ve both worked in enough other places to know what not to do. To be truly successful, you need to have a tight-knit team. We have been fortunate that most of our employees have been with us for several years. The key is in our culture: providing a safe, fun and professional work environment. When I hire someone, I feel like I’m bringing in a new family member.

An unintended benefit has been cultivating new relationships. Holden-Bache marvels at how buying products from White Squirrel Farm has become more than a business deal. “It took me a minute to learn how to use the farm,” he says. ” We grew up together. I learned how to shape my menu better, depending on what the Winters family grows. From there, a wonderful friendship was formed. It’s a win all the way. »

When Paul and Dorothy Craig of Summer Triangle Pottery were served special meals prepared by the chef and his team, while being aware of their food allergies, the Craigs showed their appreciation with pottery gifts. Over the years, Hal and Cara have changed all of their serving ware with handcrafted works from the clay artists. Graham shares another valuable example. “Liz (Endicott) came up to me and said, ‘I want to learn everything I can from you.’ She was with us for six years and then opened Lyra with her husband. I can’t tell you how much that warms my heart. We are still in touch every week and helping each other in any way we can. is how it’s supposed to be.

Creativity and seasonality abound at LT, but there are stalwarts that will always be in the rotation. Among the staples are empanadas, which Holden-Bache has been making since she was seventeen. He also savors their Margherita pizza for its “beautiful simplicity”. The succulent dry-aged strip loin steak, served with chimichurri sauce, is a consistent bestseller. Summer produce inspires favorites like the LT Wedge, made with fried green tomatoes, smoked blue cheese, dehydrated Tennshootoe ham and homemade red pepper jam. So what do the partners think of the future, of the next ten years?

After the turmoil of the pandemic and the resulting worries about staffing and supply chain issues, Holden-Bache is struggling to move beyond the weekly view. “It can consume you,” he says, “Stealing your attention: what’s the curveball going to be today? Power outage? Shortage of product? Employee not showing up?”

Graham adds, “Staffing has become a major issue. Here we have a chef who loves to teach. We have a great opportunity for anyone who is dedicated to craftsmanship and wants to learn. We have a culture of respect. We’ve been 90% waste-free since day one. During the pandemic, we kept our staff paid at 100%. We ran the sidewalk bill. I’m proud of these things.

In a city that is still growing, with a constant influx of new-new-new, we toast to the success of Lockeland Table, which has remained more than deliciously relevant. Holden-Bache and Graham made it a vital part of the community. “It’s really about love,” Graham says. “That’s why I had the Phoenix mural painted from the ashes on the side of our building. We all stand up.

By any measure, ten years in the life of a restaurant is a milestone worth celebrating. According to today’s measure, which includes surviving a destructive tornado followed by a long pandemic, this anniversary warrants dancing in the streets. To that end, Graham and Holden-Bache have planned a Woodland Block Party at Holly Streets on the 16th to be held on Sunday August 14th. Food, music, friends, community: what could be better?

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