Even if you’re new to Murfreesboro, it’s hard to imagine anyone wouldn’t discover the City Café. The century-old diner is a staple and historic landmark just off the Square. The food is good, but so is the company, there are always lively discussions and exchanges of ideas. That’s what attracted the Kellogg’s to the restaurant in the first place; the people.
When they first heard the business was for sale, they realized it was an opportunity to bring a dream to fruition. Teresa Kellogg and a business partner bought the Café in 2014. In 2017, Teresa’s husband Rollin retired and bought out the previous partner. Now, it is truly a family business. Rollin added baking to his set of skills and Teresa runs the kitchen. The couple says it’s easy to be business partners when you are best friends.
The restaurant first opened on February 10th, 1900. Though it has moved a couple of times, it has always been downtown and been a favorite gathering spot for local residents. It was founded by Dorsey Cantrell who also ran a dairy atop the original location. Though there have been a handful of different owners over the years, the menu has remained largely the same.
Though you can’t get a hamburger for a nickel anymore, you can great home cooking at a good price. The establishment has always provided a hearty breakfast or meat-and-three for lunch. However, that doesn’t stop the owners from changing up the menu every now and then. Rollin offers seasonal pastries and very soon, Teresa will be serving her red beans and rice.
They are open at 6am to go to 2pm every day but Sunday. Currently, dinner is not available though you may reserve the restaurant in the evening for special events. The dinner option is something the owners want to bring back but of course, that means more staff and food items. When asked of when that might happen, they responded we will have to wait and see, but it is something the Kellogg’s are actively working toward.
With MTSU and new businesses popping up, the majority of Murfreesboro residents were not born here. But a visit to the City Café is a great way to take in Middle Tennessee culture. There are old menus and an original sign that adorn the walls. The food is also a nod to antiquity as it is all made from scratch.
But the place isn’t just a throwback to the past. Each and every morning people meet their friends or wait to make new ones and strike up an engaging conversation. It is said if you want to know what is going on in town, this restaurant is the place to be. For years local politicians have held court and pundits have discussed current events. There is also the occasional prayer breakfast upstairs. As Teresa put it; “You may come here as a stranger but you will leave here as a friend.”
A challenge the current owners face is retention of staff, a common issue for all restaurateurs. Though, they have servers who have been with them for years and even employees who have been with the Café for over 30 years. It’s that type of loyalty that keeps good consistent customer service.
As for promoting the business, it was featured on Tennessee Crossroads a while back. Some people will bring friends and family in on Saturdays for live music. Rollin states “You have to utilize the tool s you can use and social media is a big thing.” You can also check out the daily specials on their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/citycafe.murfreesboro/
As I ask the owners my closing question; “What gives you momentum”, their response is the love for the restaurant. “It’s the love of what we do. History isn’t alive anywhere… Older people say they remember coming in here when they were in college and now their children come here”, Teresa said.
City Café truly is a Rutherford County institution. On February 10th, 2010, the Café will celebrate 120 years of continual business. That could very well be the longest-running restaurant in the entire state. Whether its breakfast, lunch or one day dinner, check out the City Café. While there, take in the ambiance, homemade food, and history.
Blaine Little is the founder and CEO of Momentum Seminars Training & Coaching, helping companies remain profitable by investing in their people. Learn more at www.MomentumSeminars.com