Restaurants

For the second year in a row, the Post team has canvassed Middle Tennessee to compile the definitive compendium of the region's business and political power brokers — the leaders who have already shaped and are in many ways reshaping Music City. The people listed below and in the 17 other sections that make up In Charge are here not only because of their titles but also because they are using their positions to create opportunity for others and for the city as a whole — be it in business, government or on broader civic issues.

 

Bob Bernstein
Founder & Owner
Bongo Java Productions
bongojava.com

Nashville’s coffeehouse and bean-selling king. Bongo Java on Belmont was first; the larger Fido soon followed, as did a later East Nashville cafe and roasting works. Recently opened coffee and ice cream shop Hot & Cold next door to Fido. Has a flair for publicity — parlayed a cinnamon bun resembling Mother Teresa into world headlines. Beans are organic and fair-trade; helped form a co-op of independent roasters that buy directly from growers to promote sustainability. Owns other real estate in Hillsboro Village and East Nashville.

Rick Bolsom
Co-Owner & President
Tin Angel / Nashville Originals
tinangel.net/nashvilleoriginals.com

Opened Cakewalk Cafe in 1987 with wife Vicki, starting a 23-year success story. First as Cakewalk and then later as Zola, the restaurant was a pioneer in chef-driven, casual fine dining. In 1993, the Bolsoms opened their own restaurant, Tin Angel, which still thrives. A driving force in forming the Nashville Originals, a group of 30-something restaurants seeking to increase the visibility and viability of locally owned restaurants.

Gina Butler
Founder
Gigi’s Cupcakes
gigiscupcakesusa.com

Born in Oklahoma and raised in California, Butler opened her first cupcake shop in Nashville in 2008 after her brother called her to say a cupcake he’d eaten at a famous New York bakery wasn’t as good as her recipe. Leads the local cupcake craze and now has more than 30 franchise locations in 15 states.

Sandra Cochran
President & COO
Cracker Barrel Old Country Store
crackerbarrel.com

Former company EVP and CFO who has earned respect both within the company and on Wall Street after joining restaurant and retail concept in 2009. Former five-year CEO of Books-A-Million, was promoted to president and COO of Cracker Barrel late last year, becoming heir apparent to CEO Michael Woodhouse. Vanderbilt University chemical engineering graduate and previous VP of corporate finance for SunTrust Securities.

Ben Goldberg
Founder & Co-Owner
Strategic Hospitality
strategichospitalityonline.com

At age 31, making Nashville a hipper and happier place along with younger brother Max. Projects have included Bar Twenty3, which helped introduce Nashvillians to chic lounge nightlife, and music venue City Hall. After both concepts ran their course, Goldberg’s focus was Lower Broadway, with the Paradise Park & Trailer Resort and a recent re-imagination of the historic Merchants Restaurant. Holdings also include popular Patterson House, which aims to recreate the lost art of exquisite cocktails. Recently helped Gibson launch Diana’s Sweet Shoppe on Lower Broad.

Linus Hall
Co-Owner
Yazoo Brewing Co.
yazoobrew.com

Mississippi native whose education includes prestigious brewmaster training plus a Vanderbilt MBA. Turned a small start-up in the former Marathon Motorworks into a booming brewery selling to stores and restaurants across Tennessee and northern Alabama. After outgrowing Yazoo’s Marathon digs, moved the company to a new and roomier location in The Gulch, where its award-winning beer is served from its taproom.

David Head
President & CEO
O’Charley’s
ocharleysinc.com

Took the helm of O’Charley’s following the resignation of Jeff Warne last year. Charged with helping to improve the company’s financial performance by building customer loyalty. Spent four years as CEO of Donelson-based quick-serve seafood chain Capitain D’s after leading Miami-based Romacorp, parent of Tony Roma’s Ribs, Seafood and Stakes dinnerhouse chain.

Chris Hyndman
Owner
Virago, Whiskey Kitchen, Kayne Prime, Tavern
whiskeykitchen.com

Successful and active local restaurateur who is transforming the area around his hip Whiskey Kitchen restaurant and watering hole — which he’s dubbed the M Street — with the relocation of an expanded Virago and creation of soon-to-be-open Kayne Prime steakhouse nearby. Recently redesigned former Lime space into a Midtown tavern.

Tom Loventhal
Managing General Partner
Noshville Delicatessen
noshville.com

Restaurateur has strong background in insurance and financial services; Loventhal Insurance has been family-owned since 1889. Restaurant ventures began with investing in Rick Bolsom projects. Opened Noshville in 1996 to create a New York-style delicatessen for Nashville. Midtown restaurant was a big hit, so he added locations in Green Hills, the airport and Cool Springs. Also a founder and VP of the independent restaurant group, Nashville Originals. Has taken his restaurant advocacy to the state level, serving on the executive committee of Tennessee Hospitality Association.

Margot McCormack
Co-Owner & Chef
Margot Café & Bar
margotcafe.com

After 10 years building culinary expertise in New York City, returned home to Nashville in 1996 and worked as executive chef at F. Scott’s. Partnered with businessman Jay Frein to open Margot Café & Bar in 2001. Has attracted a loyal following and become a force in the revived East Nashville during the past decade. Opened Marché Artisan Foods in 2007. Earned a spot on the 2008 list of semifinalists for the prestigious James Beard Foundation Awards.

Tom Morales
Owner
TomKats
tomkats.com

Caterer to the entertainment industry (company has worked on over 500 productions), TomKats now has more than  225 employees and crews based out of New York, Los Angeles and Nashville. Also owns Saffire Restaurant, SoBro Grill and the Loveless Café, which he has greatly expanded in scope. Recently joint-ventured on purchase of Fontanel, which reopened as The Farm House Restaurant at Fontanel last year.

Bob Page
CEO
Back Yard Burgers
backyardburgers.com

Leads the growing burger chain that was founded in Mississippi in 1987 and relocated to Nashville following its 2007 merger with BBAC. Company has 120 restaurants in 17 states, including 47 company-owned restaurants and a new sit-down dining concept in Hermitage. Joined the company as a consultant in 2008 and became CEO last year.

Randy Rayburn
Owner
Sunset Grill, Midtown Cafe, Cabana
sunsetgrill.com

Savvy restaurateur who takes hold of civic issues with both hands. Flagship Sunset Grill helped launch Hillsboro Village as a dining hub in 1990 and nearby Cabana has a splashy lounge vibe. Midtown Cafe is a longtime spot for powerful folk to dine and deal. Rayburn made headlines as a vigorous opponent of guns in bars and staunch supporter of new convention center. Now says he’ll focus on family, his businesses and issues affecting the Village.

Lonnie Stout
Chairman, President & CEO
J. Alexander’s
jalexanders.com

Has led company (the former Volunteer Capital Corp.) since 1986, moving it squarely at the upscale contemporary end of the food chain and rolling out the current concept in 1991. Is nursing newer locations and adding some value items to lure thrifty consumers. In 2009, secured $3 million and $5 million credit line with Pinnacle to help steer company through downturn.

Michael Woodhouse
Chairman & CEO
Cracker Barrel Old Country Store
crackerbarrel.com

Responsible for the strategic direction of Lebanon-based restaurant and retail concept synonymous with roadside dining. Led company through divestiture of subsidiary Logan’s and operational improvements focused on maintaining quality while speeding up meals’ delivery to diners. Steadily expanding store network across the country. Company’s push into the recorded music space — inking exclusive distribution deals with artists including Alison Krauss and Charlie Daniels — has been successful.