For Cool Café chef and owner Tim Ness, home cooking means cooking from scratch, which includes everything from making salad dressings to hand-peeling the 250 pounds of potatoes the restaurant goes through daily.
“I’ve been cooking Southern food for several years. I mean, I’ve been here below the Mason-Dixon for over 30 years,” Ness said. “I make everything from scratch—I don’t buy [premade food]; I buy ingredients. Everything is made in-house from scratch.”
The restaurant, which opened in Franklin in 2005 as a classic meat-and-three, has expanded its Southern-inspired menu over time to include fresh fish and Steak Night—Ness’ favorite—on Fridays and Saturdays.
“Steak Night rocks. It puts a light in my fire again because it’s something totally off the meat-and-three,” Ness said. “I hand-cut all the steaks myself. We get them all kind of ready to go, and we cook them in a cast iron skillet with rendered bacon fat, so they got a bit of a crunch to them on the outside.”
However, diners can still find their favorite comfort dishes on a daily basis. The weekly lunch menu features a number of home cooking-inspired dishes such as mashed potatoes, meatloaf, casseroles, pork chops, banana pudding and Cool Cafe’s signature fried chicken.
“We are renowned for our fried chicken,” he said.
Ness said the daily lunch menu is posted each day on Cool Café’s Facebook page for the regular lunch crowd, which was well-numbered until last spring. However, when the coronavirus pandemic hit the region last March, Ness said, the eatery closed for several weeks, and it is still working to adapt after a large portion of its lunch clientele, which mostly comprised people who worked in the area, stopped coming in as often.
“It’s coming along really well, but it’s not going along as fast as I want it to be,” Ness said. “My Steak Night is probably the most up-and-moving thing now because the meat-and-three’s not all the way back yet because of the people not working or ... still working from home.”
Ness said the restaurant has also stayed afloat by offering to-go meals at Miss Daisy’s Kitchen, which is located just next door to Cool Café. Those looking for a quick meal can stop by and pick up a dish, such as macaroni and cheese or spaghetti and meatballs.
When diners do come back, Ness said, his first priority will be to serve them a filling meal.
“I like to put the best plate possible on the table for anybody to dive into and eat,” he said. “When you’ve got a clean plate coming back, we know they enjoyed it.”
1110 Hillsboro Road, Ste. B200, Franklin
Hours: Tue.-Fri. 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m., 4-9 p.m.; Sat. 4-9 p.m.; Sun. 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m.; closed Mon.
Cool Cafe in Franklin focuses on from-scratch fare
The Cool Cafe Burger ($14) features a cast-iron cooked beef patty topped with fried onions, provolone cheese and a housemade steak sauce. (Courtesy Cool Cafe)