Café Rakka doesn’t look like much from the outside, but make no mistake, this is one of the neatest little dives north of Nashville. Just off the Johnny Cash Parkway in Hendersonville, it’s regularly attracting standing-room-only crowds of people of all ages, ready for a truly different dining experience. This city has a lot of real gems, the kinds of places you’d otherwise have a hard time discovering, but this one has received love from the likes of Guy Fieti, Gary Allen and others. If you’re ready for a new culinary experience this place definitely has your ticket on a platter.
Mediterranean Cuisine is pretty common these days, to the extent that some of the classic dishes become almost interchangeably generic from place to place. Lamb is only cooked in so many ways. Pitas can only be so crisp. What’s really refreshing is to see how Café Rakka takes these dishes you’ve already become so comfortable with and introduces them in a new, spiced up way. Literally. With masterful use of fresh saffron and fresh cilantro, the result is unbelievably refreshing. Unfettered by salty, cheap preservatives, each dish is exploding with fresh, natural flavor. It’s a credit to Mediterranean cuisine that it can be made this fresh.
The falafel sandwich is a tight wrap packed with a home recipe of the chickpea and fava bean concoction, and topped with fresh lettuce, tomatoes, and sauce. It’s a simple item, but it’s very filling, and you get a real sense of how this stuff is meant to be made; well-seasoned and slightly seared for a very memorable crunch. Also good are the Sajj-grilled entrees; chicken, lamb or beef grilled and served alongside fresh pitas, saffron rice, yogurt and vegetables. Once again, you’ll find yourself full on a dish packed with great flavor. It’s worth the price.
The café has such great food, and the word is out on it in a big way – the limited indoor seating seems to be inundated with plenty of hungry families and groups. It’s hard to find a seat at mealtime. For that I highly suggest you come with as small a group as you can, and that you try to get your food to-go or dine outside if at all possible. It gets a little uncomfortable with such a crowd, but you can’t really blame everyone else.
The hype surrounding this tiny little Nashville dive is well-merited. You’ll absolutely want to give it a try, especially if you’re new to Mediterranean food or want something healthy that still gives the taste buds a delicious workout.
- The dinner dishes can be a little pricey, so if you aren’t sold on the meals yet it might be better to come for lunch earlier in the day.
- Seating can be a little difficult for lunch, though they do have carry-out options.
- Give a try to the simple items like the falafel and the sandwiches, they’re a good, simple introduction to the cuisine.