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The Short Version: Located in the heart of Nashville in the Five Points district, Margot Café & Bar is one of the most popular date spots around. It offers a French-inspired menu that changes daily based on what’s in season on local farms. Margot Café & Bar’s charm extends to its cozy and colorful brick building. Couples can choose a relaxed date in the covered brick patio, the pet-friendly open-air dining area, or flower-filled gardens, all while they enjoy cuisine created by Chef Margot McCormack.
Dating experts often create lists for what makes a restaurant ideal for a great dinner date. The restaurant should serve delicious food and drinks, but that’s just the beginning. A great date spot also allows couples to feel comfortable, even when the ambiance is upscale. Perhaps most importantly, the experience should be surprising and delightful.
Couples can find that type of experience at Margot Café & Bar, located in Nashville, and it checks all the boxes for a great date night.
One thing that distinguishes Margot Café & Bar from most other restaurants is that it doesn’t have a freezer. That means guests don’t always know what will be on the menu.
“Our menu changes every single day depending on what’s available fresh and local,” said Destin Weishaar, Margot Café & Bar General Manager, who’s been working the front door for 17 years. “We don’t have a freezer, so whatever comes in from our farm partners is what we serve.”
That spontaneity is no problem for Chef, Founder, and restaurant namesake Margot McCormack. She is a 2019 James Beard Foundation Semifinalist for Outstanding Chef and has a recognized talent for turning simple ingredients into extraordinary cuisine.
Margot majored in English at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and initially returned to her hometown of Nashville to pursue creative writing.
Luckily for couples throughout the city looking for an ideal dinner date location, she instead found herself creating fresh, French-inspired dishes at Margot Café & Bar.
The café, located on the outskirts of town, opened more than 20 years ago when Margot first set eyes on the abandoned gas station that didn’t even have a roof.
She always enjoyed being in the kitchen, first as a little girl helping her mother by sampling dishes, making her smile, and, of course, cooking. While in college, she worked as a line cook at a Bennigan’s to earn money. When she returned to Nashville, she connected with Jody Faison, a local restaurateur who owned the popular restaurant Faison’s.
After working in the kitchen there, Margot wanted to learn more. So she enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America and completed the 21-month program. She went on to work in a European restaurant in New York City before returning to Nashville. Margot was the executive chef at F. Scott’s Restaurant & Jazz Bar on the west side of town when she started thinking about her own restaurant.
That’s when she saw the building in 2001.
“She drove by the building, and there was a connection there. She started to build it from the ground up,” Destin said. “The building didn’t even have a roof. It was in an underserved, undervalued area, filled with artists and musicians who couldn’t afford to live anywhere else.”
She started the restaurant with a $100,000 investment because real estate in the area was so affordable.
It didn’t take long for her restaurant to become a favorite among Nashville locals and tourists who heard about her creative menu.
Several of the staff have been with the café for a long time. Destin has been at the front of the house for 17 years. Another server has been with the restaurant for 19 years. That kind of dedication is rare in the industry, and it is a testament to the type of atmosphere Margot Café & Bar fosters.
“Our people tend to stick around. We are committed to providing quality service and food and just doing what we do on this corner,” Destin said. “We’ve been here 20 years, and we’re not going anywhere.”
That’s great news for couples who have shared many special date nights at the restaurant. It’s common to see someone pop the question during dinner, and the staff sees many couples come in on dates night after night. Married couples often leave the children at home and rekindle their romance with an elegant meal.
“This is one of East Nashville’s real gems,” wrote Camilla J. on Yelp! “The menu is different daily, and you know you are getting locally sourced, good ingredients transformed to exciting Southern dishes with a touch of France. They always have excellent wine pairings for whatever dish you choose, and it won’t leave you broke.”
Allegra, another Nashville resident, also gave Margot Café & Bar five stars on Yelp!
“Margot was an experience. Every bit of the culinary experience was incredible,” she wrote. “The aesthetic of the restaurant, the perfectly combined flavors, the presentation of the dishes. The dishes were local, fresh, and delicious. Could not recommend more and cannot wait to return!”
Margot Café & Bar has room for 60 guests inside, so reservations are strongly recommended. It also has nine outdoor tables — with umbrellas, blankets, and heaters for the winter months — for walk-ins only, and those are available any time of year.
The restaurant is open Wednesdays through Sundays, and Destin said the business thrives thanks to the regulars who stop in to see what Margot is preparing that evening.
“I’ve seen kids who are now married and having kids of their own. It’s a really good feeling that we’ve had these people forever,” Destin said. “The city is booming in Nashville, and we have new younger people coming in, tourists, and a diverse range of people. But we operate from a core of regulars.”
Those regulars also kept Margot Café & Bar busy during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the restaurant never had to close its doors. Destin said the staff was handing food out of the window at one point, then transferred to curbside pickup. The restaurant returned to half-capacity, following government regulations, and then back to full capacity as the health precautions were lifted and vaccines became widely available.
Destin said the same atmosphere that makes date nights such a success also makes it fun to come to work. As the Chef de Cuisine, Nashville native Hadley Long works on the food preparation and consults with Margot about the menu for each evening. At 4 p.m., Destin types it up as a draft, and by 4:30 p.m., it’s ready to go.
“If it’s a warm day, the menu is lighter, and in cold weather, we can have more comfort food,” Destin said. “It gives us the flexibility to adapt from one day to the next, and it keeps it fresh for everyone.”