If you’re looking for great food, great music, a change of pace and something not too far out of Nashville, look no further than Richard’s Cajun Café in Whites Creek. Only about 15 minutes from downtown Nashville, Richard’s provides a delicious combo of original music, original food and kind service – all in one great environment.
If you were to ask the many songwriters who visit and perform there, and who inevitably end up creating long-time friendships with the owner, Richard Trest, they would tell you that Richard’s Café offers more than just a place to perform their original music. The great thing about playing at the café is the kindness and constant support from the owner and his team, as one songwriter noted, “You can always play music somewhere, but playing at a place where the owner loves music as much as we do is really cool. He jumps in and plays a little harp – or the zydeco tie, which is always fun and the audience loves it. It’s nice to have that support.”
The Trests, Richard and his wife Debbie, purchased the two old buildings on the corner of Whites Creek & Old Hickory Blvd in 2004, turning one into the café.
“We had sold a family property in New Orleans and looked all over Nashville for a rehab property to avoid tax on the gain. Nothing much happening at our small amount, but these buildings looked cool and the owners wanted out, so they dropped the price. I had no idea what we would do with them,” Richard explains. “But I had often thought of having a restaurant, so the rest is history.”
Though Richard’s is titled as a Cajun café, it offers much more. “Cajun is a word most people recognize and associate with gumbo, jambalaya, etouffee but we have much more,” Richard says. “I was born in New Orleans and grew up in Gulfport Mississippi, spent eight years in Baton Rouge and 14 in Houston. I consider these areas the home of fine coastal cuisine, which has traditional Cajun dishes, Creole dishes like red beans and rice and shrimp Creole, shrimp and blackened seafood and Po-boy and muffuletta sandwiches. We do burgers and veggie dishes as well. That’s the other part of coastal cuisine – something for everyone.”
There is little doubt that if located in a more populated area of town, the café could’ve had even greater success. But Whites Creek residents – and all who visit the Cajun-vibe restaurant – are thrilled that it sits where it does. Richard continues, “We have created a comforting, inviting place with authentic southern dishes and engaging original music. Our rural area doesn’t really have the density to support many businesses, but as the word has gotten out we have become a destination for folks all around Nashville, Clarksville and many outlying areas. Some come to hear the music, others for a great meal at a reasonable price. I haven’t had a paycheck for 13 years, but it’s still rewarding.”
As for the kinships Richard is known for striking up with the songwriters who visit and perform at his cozy café, that comes quite naturally to the proprietor, who’s been playing and writing music since his teenage years and always had a fondness for songwriting and its creators. As a songwriter himself, he is happy to create an environment that is so supportive of songwriters and the dreams that tag along with them.
“I was amazed at the way songwriters and musicians welcomed me [in Nashville] and I was hooked,” Richard relates. “I made many connections over the years and in 2004, when there weren’t as many writer’s venues as there are now, I started inviting folks out to play. I got to keep up my ‘chops’ playing guitar, harmonica, bass and percussion with quite a few artists, and have written songs with hundreds of people from all over the world. I grow every week listening to old players and brand-new dreamers and really enjoy listening, writing and talking to the many folks I meet. If you are a songwriter, you are part of an amazing diverse and supporting family.”
Richard continues: “The Whites Creek area is the most diverse place I have ever been a part of. Third generation farmers and land owners, music industry artists and major players, as well as salt of the earth country folks and city folks trying to get away from the city lights. One thing I have been blessed with during my life has been good health, good career and a great partner. I have taken opportunities to live in different parts of the county, try many sports, travel to exotic places, and get my hands dirty building and fixing things. Being a writer, I enjoy talking to people about their life and life in general, and my life experiences allow me to carry on a conversation about just about anything. I feel like many people are pleased to enter a place where the get a great meal and a personal touch from my staff and me.”
Since Richard has been around the block a time or two when it comes to hosting great songwriters and writing with so many of them, he offers advice for up and coming songwriters. “Don’t suck. Work on your craft, both words, melody and performance. Seek input and advice from those who have come before you but be true to yourself and learn to cull good advice from bad. Support your fellow writers, musicians, engineers, publishers and fans in any way you can, you will only get out of something what you put in. Choose your friends and allies carefully, not only for what they have to offer, but for their character. Make your expectations realistic but take advantage of those opportunities and chances to shine even brighter than you could imagine. Above all, give thanks that you have been given a gift and use it to entertain, to heal, to vent, to explore life. If you really love creating music, do it, most never make a living with their music, but many make it part of their life.”
Richard’s Cajun Café has been in business nearly 15 years now – and we hope it will have many more years of success to come! Visit the Cafe at 4420 Whites Creek Pike, Whites Creek, TN 37189. For reservations, call 615-299-9590. You can also visit their website.