Arnold’s Country Kitchen – Jack | Southern Foodways Alliance arrow left envelope headphones search facebook instagram twitter flickr menu rss play circle itunes calendar

Oral Histories

The SFA oral history program documents life stories from the American South. Collecting these stories, we honor the people whose labor defines the region. If you would like to contribute to SFA’s oral history collections, please send your ideas for oral history along with your CV or Resume and a portfolio of prior oral history work to

< Back to Oral History project: Nashville Eats

< Back to Oral History project: Tabasco Guardians of the Tradition


Jack Arnold and Kahlil Arnold

Arnold's Country Kitchen

Born on a kitchen table in 1937 at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Parkway, Jack Arnold must have been destined for the food business. Coming from a long line of home cooks, Arnold shined shoes at a local farmers market before taking his first restaurant job washing dishes as a teenager at his hometown diner. Bound for Vanderbilt University with an academic scholarship—but without enough financial aid to cover tuition— Jack found himself working the college’s cafeterias to earn his way until he took a position running a restaurant for meat-n-three owner Lynn Chandler. In 1987, Jack bought the restaurant, borrowing money from customers, and made it Arnold’s Country Kitchen.

Over the years, Arnold’s has been written up in major newspapers and magazines across the country as a must-visit when in Music City, and the meat-n-three even earned an America’s Classic James Beard award in 2009. But among the accolades, it’s the plates of roast beef, turnip greens, and macaroni and cheese that keep customers lining up out the front door. And though Jack’s physical presence at the restaurant is limited these days, the spirit of the man who started the place can be sensed with every plate.

Regular customers at Arnold’s Country Kitchen not only have access to home-cooking, they’ve had a front row seat to home life as they watched Kahlil Arnold grow up. Son of meat-n-three legend Jack Arnold, Kahlil had his first official taste of the business in 1990 at age 13 when his father—determined to teach him strong work ethic and the bones of the business from the ground up—had him washing pots in the back. After his on-the-job education, Kahlil went to college and left the family business for a stint working the front of the house at the legendary Loveless Cafe.  As his father began to age and the family business needed him, Kahlil felt the call to head home to the restaurant to run the place with his mother, Rose in 2005. Now Kahlil often does the watching as his longtime customers have married and raised children of their own.

Kahlil picked up his chops in the kitchen from longtime cooks, busboys, and of course his father. And though he keeps one foot firmly planted in the tradition of the place with mainstays on the menu like the roast beef and turnip greens, you’ll also find Kahlil’s personal spin on dishes as he carries Arnold’s Country Kitchen into the future.

Date of interview:
2012-05-14 00:00

Jennifer Justus

Jennifer Justus

Download Transcript

Other Project Interviews



The Southern Foodways Alliance drives a more progressive future by leading conversations that challenge existing constructs, shape perspectives, and foster meaningful discussions. We reconsider the past with research, scrutiny, and documentation.


Alex Raij Txikito

Let’s Stay in Touch

Sign up for the SFA newsletter to have the latest content
delivered directly to your inbox.