Getting to Know Three of Hendersonville’s Best Restaurateurs
Over the past 10 years, Hendersonville’s rapid growth has brought many new restaurants to the area offering a wide variety of dining styles and cuisines. Built upon the passion of a new generation of restaurateurs, these eateries offer Hendersonville diners a wide variety of dining styles and cuisines unmatched by most cities its size. This month, Hendersonville Lifestyle showcases three of the city’s most popular dining places and the restaurateurs driving their success.
Jimmy Adamopoulos, Chef and Owner, Music City Diner–Comfort Food with a Greek Twist
One of Hendersonville’s newest restaurants is the Music City Diner, located on Glen Oak Boulevard. During its first year of operation, Music City Diner has introduced thousands of locals to the charm and allure of a classic neighborhood diner. Owned and operated by Jimmy Adamopoulos and his partner and mother, Shelle, the restaurant offers a full breakfast to dinner menu, with all items available each day from opening to close.
The Adamopoulos have a long history in the restaurant business, having come from a large family of Greek immigrants who have spent their entire lives in food service. Shelle started in the restaurant industry more than 30 years ago, helping to open and manage restaurants across western and middle Tennessee. Jimmy has more than 12 years of restaurant experience, including two years spent in culinary school at Sullivan University in Louisville, Kentucky.
“Jimmy was born to be in the restaurant business,” Shelle says. “Even when he was a baby, he had a playpen in the backroom of the restaurant.”
Although he and his family have operated restaurants ranging from steakhouses to pizzerias, Jimmy finds the diner concept, with its signature full menu all day to be the most exciting.
“The Greeks started the diner business in the northeastern United States, serving traditional American food with a touch of Greek specialties,” he says. “This concept allows for breakfast all day–that’s a must for a diner.
“Diners are known for having broad menus—dinner in the morning or breakfast at night. We serve good comfort food, food that everybody likes, such as hamburgers, salads and grilled chicken. We offer big portions, big deserts–lots of value for the money.”
When asked what he enjoys most about the restaurant business, Jimmy responds with a smile, and says that he “loves the diner concept the best–it is my favorite, hands down. You come in in the morning, you smell the pancakes, you smell the coffee. We work long hours, all day long, but each day is an endless variety. You get the freedom to do anything that you want really. You get to meet people, feed people. It’s exciting.”
Hector Salazar, Owner, Casa Vieja–Authentic Mexican Cuisine Served by Family to Family
Two of the most popular eateries in Hendersonville share a common name: Casa Vieja. Casa Vieja offers authentic Mexican cuisine served in a relaxed and family-friendly atmosphere. Owned and operated by Hector Salazar and his brother, Jaime, the restaurants are routinely packed with customers eager to enjoy authentic Mexican food and drinks served by enthusiastic servers.
Hector Salazar began his restaurant career more than 25 years ago in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. From Hopkinsville, he and his family moved to Lebanon, Tennessee, and then Tupelo, Mississippi, before opening the first La Terraza restaurant in Nashville in 2000. After several years in business with La Terraza, Hector and Jaime Salazar partnered with another investor to open the first Casa Vieja restaurant on East Main Street in Hendersonville in 2007. The original restaurant was followed up by the opening of the second Casa Vieja eatery, located near the Hendersonville Walmart, in 2012.
The son of a dairy and pork farmer in Mexico, Hector learned the value of hard work at an early age.
His father “taught him how to work long hours and that nothing is given to you,” he says. “You must work hard and appreciate the things that you have. Ultimately, you must make your own way in life.”
After moving to the United States, Hector began his career as a busboy and a waiter before finally earning a spot as a restaurant manager. While working as a manager, he and his brother saved as much as they could to accumulate enough money to open a restaurant of their own.
“We are very blessed to be in Hendersonville,” he says. “We are especially grateful for our customers who have become a part of our family. Without our customers and our family, Casa Vieja would not exist.”
When asked what distinguishes Casa Vieja from its competition, Hector responds that “it is our atmosphere, our people and our food. We use the best possible quality ingredients, including prime cuts of meat, poultry and seafood. We strive to be just a little more authentic than the rest of our competitors. Our service and our cuisine sets us apart.”
Josh Woodham, Managing Partner, The Chop House–Fine Dining in the City by the Lake
Hendersonville’s rapid growth over the past decade brought in many restaurants offering a wide range of cuisines. Although they provided local diners with new choices, none of them offered the intimate, fine dining experience so often found in larger cities. That void was filled with the opening of the Chop House Steakhouse on Anderson Lane in 2007. Serving entrees ranging from steak burgers to prime rib and soft cut pork chops, the Chop House has become one of Hendersonville’s most popular eateries.
The Hendersonville Chop House is managed and operated by local restaurateur and managing partner Josh Woodham, who came to Sumner County in 2011. Woodham started in the restaurant business when he was “a 15-year-old kid in high school washing dishes at a Shoney’s.” After college, Woodham decided to stay in the business “because restaurant work was something that he liked and that he could do well.”
Around the same time, he went to work for the parent company of the Chop House chain, Connor Concepts. After spending several years with the company in various positions, Woodham was given the opportunity to manage the Hendersonville Chop House.
When asked what he loves most about his business, Woodham says “I love the excitement, the rush that you get when you get busy–the adrenaline gets flowing when I am working alongside people in a teamwork environment.” He then adds he “enjoys executing our plan every day. From maintaining clean facilities to greeting our guests with a big smile at the front door, ensuring that their salads and entrees come out on time and correctly–if we can do all of these things right every day, then we will come out on top.”
According to Woodham, the key to success in his industry goes far beyond the traditional elements of great food and service. He states “a lot of people think that we are in the food business, but the truth is, we are in the people business. We are relationship-driven and we always have to build new bonds with our customers and our community.”