Fresh and Simple: Chef Julia Jaksic Offers Exactly What She Wants at This All-Day Cafe in East Nashville
In the last few years, East Nashville has reemerged as the place to be in Music City, with quirky energy and a buzzing food and nightlife scene. One of the newest neighborhood establishments is Cafe Roze, an all-day cafe specializing in fresh and simple breakfast, lunch and dinner options. Led by longtime New York chef and restaurant consultant Julia Jaksic, Cafe Roze boasts a sleek space with a cool yet approachable vibe, where locals and visitors alike can enjoy popular dishes such as the Roze Bowl made with beet tahini, red quinoa, black lentils, seasonal vegetables, kale and pickled beets.
After moving to Nashville from the East Coast, Jaksic soon discovered that finding a spot for a late lunch was nearly impossible, hence Cafe Roze’s nonstop kitchen—reminiscent of those she frequented at all hours of the day and night in New York. Jaksic’s goal in opening the small, airy bistro is to create a community space, where guests can grab a quick cup of coffee or hunker down for a long dinner with old friends.
The restaurant is named after a person, Rose, but Jaksic changed the spelling as a nod to her Croatian heritage. “Roze,” meaning pink or blush, is also the only pop of color in the otherwise black, white and gray decor. Jaksic’s background did more than inspire the name of her first solo project, however.
Long before the idea for Cafe Roze materialized, Jaksic knew she wanted to be a chef. “My Croatian family put food at the center of everything,” Jaksic says. “So, growing up, I understood the important role food plays in our daily lives and how it brings us together while simultaneously defining who we are as individuals. It was this seed—planted at a young age—that led me to where I am today.”
Jaksic defines her cooking style as straightforward flavors with the use of great ingredients. This translates into delectable menu items such as the beet toast with whipped ricotta, beets and pistachio dukkah and the harissa chicken with spiced sweet potatoes and shiso.
Planning Cafe Roze’s menu, Jaksic was able to make all the decisions herself: “For the first time, I wasn’t working for someone else who had the vision for the space and the food,” she explains. This time, she was able to concentrate on exactly what she wanted to offer patrons. “I strived to create a menu that features the farmers with whom we work, but also has something for everyone—from gluten-free, dairy-free or vegan diners to someone in search of a decadent hangover meal made with wholesome ingredients.”
On any given day, you can find locals camped out at the bar; giddy bachelorette parties solely interested in the cocktail menu; tourists who come for the food and the “Instagrammable” design; creatives; families; businesspeople and everyone in between. And, as befits an all-day cafe in a city best known for its live music, it also hosts monthly jazz nights, featuring the Jake Botts Quartet. During these Monday-night performances, the music, the food and the audience converge under neon lights for a memorable experience.
“Watching Roze come into being and continue to evolve and grow has been an amazing experience,” says Jaksic. “It’s this Nashville neighborhood, this community in the middle of America that defines that experience, and I couldn’t be happier that Roze was born here in East.”
Images courtesy of Attilio D’Agostino.