B.J. Lofback has installed a great team to make it work. The coffee-brewing hardware is manned by P.J. Kinzer, formerly of Bongo Java, so the coffee is the real deal. Pastry chef Audra Dykes — known for her riffs (get it?) on Girl Scout cookies — fills the pastry case each day for morning and afternoon treats. She also makes all the biscuits as well as buns and breads for the lunch service. In the kitchen, Andrew Whitney and Brittany Kane (who will both be familiar to customers of the Riffs truck) continue to make the creative cuisine Riffs fans have become accustomed to.
Breakfast is usually fairly tame with biscuits and gravy, French toast, and other favorites on the menu (as well as pastries). But lunch will feature items such Korean barbecue tacos, soups, salads, and the lemon ricotta flatbread I tried last week (and the squash fritters I had the week before). I almost ordered the fritters again — the order consists of patties of squash bits pan-fried to perfection and topped with yellow-pepper aioli, roasted corn salsa, and long shreds of crispy sweet potato. It's a favorite I enjoyed several times throughout the summer.
Instead, I was persuaded to try the flatbread, and I'm glad I did. Though I’m not a huge fan of eggs, I trust these guys know how to put a meal together, so I ate it as prepared, and it was fantastic. The flatbread was topped with arugula, a season-end ripe tomato, house-made lemon ricotta, a fried egg (sunny side up), and finally, crispy capers and a bit of pepper. It was amazing.
I told Drew I’d been meaning to make my own ricotta, and he said, “Oh, yeah, it’s really easy …” and proceeded to describe the whole process for creating the lemon ricotta I was eating — and well, I’m just not going to make it after all. I’ll just let Riffs do it, thank you very much.
While I was in for lunch, the restaurant was still in the “soft opening” phase, meaning that there were still some finishing touches needed in the dining room, so they were selling food mostly for takeout to the indigenous office workers. One such office worker seemed a bit … let's say, perplexed by the creative menu, and Riffs has since (in just a couple of weeks) added some simpler fare. The Retro Burger, a grilled cheese sandwich and a few other options will be available for less adventurous eaters.
Riffs Cafe is open only the hours from 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, but it’s worth the short trip out to Donelson to get some Riffs food in a comfy indoor setting. Furnishings are being finalized this week, but there is also seating in the building’s atrium. And, of course, you can still find the bright green truck around town at various events and frequently for weekend brunches at Conexión Américas’ Mesa Komal kitchen and at the Nashville Farmers’ Market. Check the Riffs Catering Facebook page for additional information.
Know before you go: You can see each day’s menu on the Riffs Cafe Facebook page. To get to the restaurant, you turn onto Marriott Drive from Elm Hill Pike and turn left into the second driveway (it’s a small one) to building two. At the stop sign, you just dog leg to the right (you’ll see it in the bottom floor of the building) and turn left into the café’s parking lot.
Riffs Cafe at Highland Ridge
555 Marriott Drive (Building Two) #105
Open Monday through Friday, 6:30 a.m.-3 p.m.