Already it feels different.
The recently opened Lyncoya Café on Sanders Ferry Road has a distinctly new vibe.
Credit could be given to the restaurant’s millennial owners Seth Yeargan and Alex Sommese, who spent five months painting and renovating the more than 50-year-old building.
Or you can thank the building’s long-time owner who agreed to lease to the young entrepreneurs.
Either way, it’s clear that someone has finally given one of the city’s most visible – and at one time neglected - structures a little TLC.
And yet there are still homages to the Old Hendersonville that anyone who has lived here for more than 20 years yearns for. There’s the enormous clock once owned by Conway Twitty that Yeargan spotted at an antique store in Manchester. (He’ll show you the letter of authentication if you ask.)
There’s the dotting of Phil Ponder prints. (“Instead of the Wall of Wonder, we thought we’d do the Wall of Ponder,” Yeargan laughs.)
And, of course, there’s the Mallard-shaped phone strategically placed on a shelf next to the front booth.
It’s a nod back to a time when the biggest news in town was whether or not the offspring of the daring duck who built her nest at the restaurant’s front entrance had finally hatched.
The two almost chose a strip mall in Hermitage for their next venture until a friend of Yeargan’s suggested the former Mallard’s building.
The owner at first said he wouldn’t allow them to sell alcohol, but relented.
Still, the building needed a lot of work.
“Seth was like this is too much of an undertaking. It’s not doable,” said Sommese, 25. “And I finally came out to the place and I saw it. And I was like these windows - like you can’t pass up on these windows and that view. And I said, ‘where do we sign?’ Let’s do it.”
Once they committed to opening a restaurant, Yeargan turned to Reddit for a name.
When he told the online community that he planned to open an eatery on Old Hickory Lake, someone suggested the name of Andrew Jackson’s adopted Native American son, Lyncoya.
Yeargan, 29, spent six years learning the restaurant business working for the Cincinnati-based Thunderdome Restaurant Group. He opened Nadeen’s Hermitage Haven in nearby Hermitage around three years ago. There, he met Sommese who waited tables while working in production on the set of the TV show “Pickler and Ben.”
Yeargan recently sold his interest in Nadeen’s and in April the two decided to open a place of their own with a third investor.
Sommese runs the front of the restaurant while Yeargan, along with his brother Sam, command the kitchen.
The restaurant’s menu includes reasonably priced salads (like the Lyncoya Cobb), sandwiches (the Firecracker – a spicy fried chicken sandwich is already a favorite), burgers and pasta dishes.
Yeargan says that everything from the meatballs to the salad dressings are made in-house from scratch. He even drives to Nashville – the closest he’s aware of – for the freshly made pasta.
The restaurant also serves beer and wine, and will soon have a liquor license the two noted.
However, don’t look for a bar in the restaurant anytime soon.
“We want to keep a comfortable family-friendly vibe,” Yeargan said. “But we want to have a place where you can enjoy a cocktail if you want, too.”
Both the lunch and brunch menus are works in progress, the two noted, with plans to add a meat-and-three dish of the day coming soon. Vegetarian and vegan options are also planned.
The two would also like to one day take advantage of their unique location along Drake’s Creek. Sommese dreams of a patio bustling with live music. Yeargan is more cautious.
“Don’t run anything about the patio because we haven’t run it by the landlord yet,” Yeargan tells a reporter.
“We’re going to have a patio,” winks Sommese. “We’ll figure it out. This place needs a patio.”
For now, the two agree the focus is on serving good food that makes people want to come back.
“We’re just trying to keep it real,” noted Yeargan. “We’re happy to be here and we’re going to try to keep expanding the menu and listen to what people want.”
Lyncoya Café is open 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays; 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturdays; and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays.