When it comes to comfort food, no one does it better than Mack and Kate’s. Co-owned by Jan and Bernie Strawn (Mack and Kate are their daughters), this Franklin eatery serves every heaping plate of chicken and grits or mac and cheese with a side of Southern hospitality. We sat down with Jan to chat about what inspired them to open the family-focused restaurant.
What’s the story behind Mack and Kate’s?
I have a strong background in southern cooking. My mom came from a family of 12 with 9 girls, so I learned how to cook at a very early age. All of my relatives were farmers, so I understand farming. They all had smokehouses so I understand smoking, too. My family raised its own cattle and hogs and had free-range chickens. I have deep roots in the farming community.
16 years ago we opened [Mack and Kate’s] in the back end of a 1910 service station serving smoked meats. Over the years, our little dining spot grew and we moved to Franklin. In addition to Mack and Kate’s, we’ve evolved to open fine dining restaurants, a market and delicatessen, and a BBQ restaurant.
What is your most popular dish?
Our mac and cheese and chicken and grits are both popular, depending on the day and the weather. They’re both such comfort foods. For Fooda, it’s chicken and grits.
What inspires the menu creations at Mack and Kate’s?
A lot of recipes are from my mom, like the fried chicken, fried corn, and mac and cheese. In Nashville, we’ve won or been in the top three for mac and cheese for the past 10 years. Mac and cheese is always included on our lunch menus. I’ve done everything from lobster mac and cheese, to bacon mac and cheese, to jalapeño mac and cheese.
What do you love most about cooking?
For me, cooking is a memory making business. People come together for all sorts of occasions. Some tell us how they visit our restaurant every time they’re in town, and we just love that.
The foodies have spoken and named Mack and Kate’s the Best Southern Lunch in Nashville. Do you think this comfort food café has what it takes to win the best overall lunch in the city?