Though it sits in a cavernous complex that vibrates with energy from concerts, art exhibits and antique shows in the Factory at Franklin, time seems to instantly slow down when stepping into Stoveworks Restaurant & Catering. Decorated to resemble a cozy home, Owner Patricia McCracken says that the comfortable atmosphere – with details like the occasional overstuffed armchair and window curtains – has helped garner a loyal following over the years.
“I’ve always loved entertaining, and the whole experience of celebrating something. To me, Stoveworks is an extension of my dining room,” McCracken said. “But it’s not just the décor that makes you feel at home. The food and our people make you feel that way too. With this restaurant, we just wanted to reflect the character, warmth and charm of the Franklin community.”
Wrapped in the middle of the historic former factory, Stoveworks was established in 2000 by Calvin and Marilyn LeHew, the visionaries behind the 12-building dining, retail and entertainment destination in downtown Franklin. When McCracken and husband Sam Barcus took over in 2004, the pair largely stuck to its tried-and-true lunch menu that touts simple Southern cooking, just like your mother may have made it.
“Pat took this from a tearoom to a full-service restaurant, with catering,” Barcus said. “Today we do 400-plated dinners and special occasions like wedding receptions and holiday parties in the Factory venues, events that people come back for year after year. I think that’s a critical indication that we’re doing something right.”
The lunch-only restaurant, open Tuesday through Saturday, is grounded in its extensive soup, salad and sandwich offerings — from its signature tomato basil soup and chicken salad to a mushroom swiss burger. McCracken says the kitchen team also places a special emphasis on healthier dishes, such as their seasonal salads, daily quiches and the turkey burger.
But where Stoveworks really shines is through its specialty plates, which include both rich dishes and more clean profiles: from Southern creamed chicken with homemade cornbread and a three-cheese tortellini to blackened catfish and grilled salmon.
“The quality of food is extraordinary, because our chef is amazing. We kept some of those recipes from Marilyn [LeHew], and have added our own homemade recipes to the mix,” McCracken said. “We like to say we are authentic Southern fare with Southern flair.”
Several years ago, McCracken added a catering component to the restaurant. The kitchen offers a variety of options for off-site corporate meetings and parties, and also provides delectable spreads for wedding receptions and other big events.
“We love these happy events and our staff works very hard to make each one a memorable occasion, which, has helped build our catering to what it is now,” she said.
Barcus, an analyst who runs the business side of the restaurant and helps on the weekends, says that he and his wife heeded the LeHews’ advice after they purchased the restaurant eight years ago.
“Calvin told us the most critical things to this restaurant would be the unique location, the people and the quality of the food,” Barcus said. “We listened.
“There are no smoke and mirrors here. Old school is a good way to put it, because our focus is on service and food. Eating with us is an experience.”
Stoveworks is open Tuesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Saturdays 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. To see their menu and catering options, go to www.stoveworksrestaurant.com.
This is part of a series on merchants in downtown Franklin.