A contrived café with a gourmet approach, Caviar & Bananas hails from the low country, as do its owners, Kris and Margaret Furniss. “It is interesting to think there might be a reason that we don’t know,” Kris says of Nashville’s draw for Charleston-based concepts. “Charleston is such a food city, and so is Nashville; and the two share cultural similarities.” While Husk and Sean Brock are known for the reinvention of Southern staples and Butcher & Bee for veggie-driven mezze, Caviar & Bananas rolls a coffee shop, boutique food market, sandwich and salad counter, and small-plate concept into one. After living in New York, Kris and Margaret relocated to Charleston, where they opened the original Caviar & Bananas. There are three locations in Charleston, SC, one location in Greenville, SC, and (as of June 21) one in Nashville. Located in Midtown, where 21st turns into Broadway, Caviar & Bananas has quickly become one of the most popular spots in Nashville. They are shifting the shape of all-day dining.
In New York, Kris was working in finance and Margaret in brand development. “I wasn’t passionate about what I was doing, so I decided to make a change,” Kris tells us. “I loved the restaurant business, but it was a party every night. I got involved with Dean & Deluca and that is what started my love for this type of environment and interaction with food. It opened my eyes to the retailed and packed food world — a whole different world that I loved.” This experience, and the couple’s regular habit of dining out, led them to begin thinking about opening a space of their own. “We became concept critics (in a nice way) and took what we believed to be good ideas and tried to put it all into one,” Kris shares. And thus, Caviar & Bananas was born.
“In Charleston, we envisioned a little cheese shop with a cheese and charcuterie counter and expected to sell a few sandwiches. We opened and were selling 150 sandwiches a day while only four people were buying cheese. We have had to evolve as we have grown. Nashville is a culmination of all of those years of ideas and edits and tweaks; we think of Nashville as our flagship,” Margaret shares.
The trick to a successful visit to Caviar & Bananas is navigating the space as a market, not a restaurant. “Adjust your mindset and design your own experience,” Margaret suggests. The 6,100-square-foot space in Nashville (compared to Charleston’s 3,300 square feet) is divided into sections based on type of cuisine. The salad bar features menu items, with The Far East and Seattle Caesar being the most popular, as well as the opportunity to design your own. Choose from fresh arugula, kale, mixed greens, romaine or spinach, and begin adding protein, cheese and toppings. This is truly the answer to our lunchtime prayers. The prepared food selection showcases daily items that range from chicken tenders and turkey burgers to roasted chicken and pecan salad and grilled eggplant stacks. “Seventy percent of the prepared food offerings are our staples throughout the company, and the other 30% is on rotation. If we were to remove the kale salad and chicken fingers, there would be a riot,” Kris tells us.
“We are a chef-driven concept. Everything is made here by scratch using ingredients that are responsibly sourced,” Margaret says. At the sandwich station, Executive Chef Joe Denomme created the Tennessee Trio, which is only found in Nashville. House-cured porchetta, crispy confit pork belly, Sweetwater Valley buttermilk cheddar, Tennessee whiskey bacon jam, pickled sunchokes and arugula are piled between two pieces of ciabatta to create this mouthwatering sandwich. Other combinations on the sandwich menu include duck confit and fig preserves, house-made pimento cheese, and bacon and hot smoked salmon with Alabama white sauce — and of course the chance to create your own.
For breakfast, the coffee bar serves breakfast favorites, such as the sunrise sandwich, ricotta toast and overnight oats, until 11:30 a.m. When the space transforms into a wine bar, the selection changes from coffee and eggs to summer-inspired wines (for now) and small plates. The small plates menu has been a big hit. Diners choose one item for $8, three for $23 or six for $42. Each dish pairs perfectly with the selection of wines. “Nashville and Greenville both have the wine component, but Nashville is the drinking-est of any location, which is very fun,” Margaret says. The propensity for Nashvillians to enjoy a libation at almost any time of the day (and the scorching summer temps) even inspired the seasonal offering of “frozé,” a frozen rosé drink available during warmer months.
If you choose dining in over taking your choices to go, seating options are plentiful. Gold metal chairs are pulled up to chic white tables that fit seamlessly with the white subway tiling and walls — all of which is offset by black accents. Artfully packaged food and art by Nashville artist Amanda Norman are the only subtle pops of color in the space. “The décor and design of the Nashville location differ in that it’s more modern, fresh, light and airy,” Margaret says.
“We both love Nashville and think it is a great city — a city that is growing. We expand into cities we want to be in; we are hands-on owners. Nashville was the right environment for what we are doing, and we are glad to be part of this development that is bringing more life to Midtown.” Margaret says. “In nine years we have opened five locations — three in the last year. It’s time to take a breath and let the dust settle.”
Caviar & Bananas is located at 2031 Broadway, Nashville, TN 37203. Hours are Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.; Friday 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturday, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Click here to see additional locations.
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