Ryman Auditorium opening new restaurant in June

The Ryman Auditorium is opening a new restaurant in June on the east side of the famed theater in downtown Nashville, Tenn.

Cafe Lula will face Fourth Avenue and is located just steps away from Lower Broadway. Named for Lula C. Naff, longtime manager of the Ryman known as the “first lady” of theater management, the cafe will have seating for about 80 patrons inside and another 30 on an outdoor patio, which is covered.

“Cafe Lula will be a delicious and convenient addition to downtown’s dining options,” Sally Williams, Ryman Auditorium general manager, said in a news release. “We look forward to serving a wide range of guests, from Nashville visitors looking for a cup of coffee and pastry before taking a Ryman tour to our downtown neighbors looking for a quick and healthy lunch to music fans looking for dinner and a cocktail before a concert.”

The new cafe is part of a $14 million improvement project. The auditorium will not be altered as part of the project.

Thomas Ryman was a riverboat captain when he went to see popular revivalist Samuel Porter Jones address a crowd in Nashville. With plans to heckle Jones, Ryman instead emerged a changed man and decided to build a tabernacle where Jones could speak to large crowds.

In the ensuing years, dozens of famed musicians, politicians and performers have appeared on the auditorium’s stage — from President Teddy Roosevelt to Harry Houdini to Charlie Chaplin. But, the “Mother Church of Country Music” is perhaps best known for its three-decade run as the host of the Grand Ole Opry.

While the auditorium — located in the heart of downtown Nashville — eventually fell into a state of disrepair, this National Historic Landmark has been revitalized and transformed into one of the most famous music venues. The Ryman still regularly hosts concerts and is open during the day as a museum.

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Todd DeFeo loves to travel anywhere, anytime, taking pictures and notes. An award-winning reporter, Todd revels in the experience and the fact that every place has a story to tell. He is the owner of The DeFeo Groupe and also edits Express Telegraph and Railfanning.org.