Jason and Ali Burns and their business partner Rob Day are segueing into 2022 with a new name for their restaurant: City Bar. Formerly known as City Cafe, the eatery is serving up food with a regional flair and a renewed focus on custom cocktails and a lively atmosphere.
“We’ve found something we really like, and it is going to be both more of a bar and also a restaurant you can bring the family to,” Day said. “It is big enough that someone can be here at the bar, and a family can sit nearby and eat dinner.”
The new dishes incorporate cooking skills Jason and Ali have honed since the 1980s working at and running restaurants offering a spectrum of styles, including Italian, Mexican, Southern regional and contemporary American cuisines, both said.
The new offerings include hot chicken tacos, prime rib and chicken tender sliders as well as 14-inch Margherita, pepperoni and sausage pizzas, all of which are fresh and hand-prepared with signature recipes developed over the years, Jason said.
While the offerings might be familiar, Jason said the food is prepared with attention to fresh ingredients, detail and quality to make it stand out. Some of the beef and pork will be sourced from a farm that Day owns.
“Just because it is bar fare doesn’t mean it is bar food,” Jason said. “It is worth emphasizing we take a lot of pride in what we create. We make all our own sauces, and our meats will always be fresh and never frozen.”
Day said the increased focus on the bar will include special bourbons and other liquor tasting events. The eatery also plans to add widescreen televisions for sports games and draft beers, they said. Happy hour will be Tuesday to Friday from 3-6 p.m.
At the same time, Jason and Ali are reclaiming the restaurant’s considerable local lineage by reintroducing a Southern-style “meat and three” plate lunch, Jason said.
The business will be open from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. serving the traditional Southern lunch favorite.
Ali, a Franklin native, and Jason had stopped serving “meat and three” more than a year ago to focus on a traditional Italian menu while operating as Bella Notte in the City. However, many long standing patrons still referred to the restaurant as The City Café, the name associated with the previous owners Jerry Cunningham and the late Hap Townes, and the city’s longest continuously operating independent restaurateurs who sold it to Jason, Ali and Rob.
While Bella Notte’s food menu was something he felt was a cut above many other Italian eateries, Jason said he feels positive about tapping into the restaurant’s past.
“In a way, we’ve been trying to continue the tradition of Jerry Cunningham of good food and creating an atmosphere that is a gathering place where customers feel like family,” Jason said.
Ali, whose lifelong passion is baking, will also prepare all the breads for sliders and other sandwiches from scratch along with chess, fudge and pecan pies.
“I’m also looking to do some seasonal desserts in the summer with ice cream, but we’ll always have pie,” Ali said.
Live music performances—an aspect Ali and Jason added during the pandemic to give talented musicians an audience—will also be scheduled and posted on their website. Day said performers would be in a diverse range of formats and genres.
•In the coming months, Jason said they hope to regularly schedule and promote in-house pop-up cuisine nights with guest chefs or Jason preparing different cuisines.
“We’re looking to grow this thing and keep getting better,” Jason said.
330 Franklin Road, Ste. 250, Brentwood
Hours, Sun.-Fri. 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m., Tues.- Fri. 3-8 p.m., and Sat. 5-10 p.m.