You know you've arrived as a restaurant when the spiked bleached blond fireball Guy Fieri arrives with Food Network crew in hand to tape an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives
, which was the case not long ago with Cafe Rakka in suburban Hendersonville. Country singing stars The Oak Ridge Boys just happened to be stopping by that day, which means Fieri didn't have the wildest hairdo in the house for a change. Attracting the show and the stars: the cooking of Syrian-born chef-owner Riyad Al-Kasem - aka Chef Rakka - who draws from the tutelage and recipes of his Syrian grandmother and mother. Rakka's go-to dish remains the kabob halabi, a seasoned and grilled ground meat dish served with a yogurt sauce and fresh pita that was his father's favorite.
From the restaurant's website:
"Café Rakka opened in March 2008 in Hendersonville, Tenn., and features a variety of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dishes based on centuries-old family recipes, each prepared fresh to order. This cozy, comfortable restaurant is fast becoming a Middle Tennessee favorite, serving signature dishes with flair! During the summer, an outdoor patio awaits those patrons looking for an alfresco dining experience. Come try old favorites like hummus, baba ghanoush, falafel and tabbouleh, and sample new dishes such as shish tawook, lahm-ajeen and more."
"Everything we ordered at Café Rakka was extraordinarily fresh and flavorful, accented by subtle spices and fresh ingredients - ginger, lemons, garlic, cucumbers, cilantro, eggplant, olive oil and endless jars of earth-toned spices - that are displayed on shelves and refrigerators throughout the small casual dining room."
- Carrington Fox, Nashville Scene