NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WZTV) — Arnold's Country Kitchen is a Nashville institution. The restaurant boasts two James Beard awards and has been named the best meat and three for 10 years in a row. It's the real Nashville, even so the city's growth is hurting this Nashville treasure.
Kahlil Arnold's day starts at 5:30 a.m. This is what it takes to make super-high quality lunch for 400 to 500 customers. The produce is local, even heirloom. The famous roast beef always slow roasted. There are no shortcuts in this kitchen.
"That's what gets me up in the morning - I have so many people to please and I love just the feeling, the happiness they get from eating here," said Kahlil Arnold.
When the doors open at 10:30 a.m., there is an instant line. Some people don't even check in before a trip to Arnold's. It's that kind of place.
And the line? It never disappears until right up to closing.
There's always urgency when it's this busy. Busy, but always friendly, there's always time to chat.
"Hey my man, this peach pie: We only have it for two weeks. The time is now," Arnold jokes with a customer.
Arnold has a simple quality control formula.
"Just go out here and look at the dishes, and if you see a lot of something on people's plate, something is wrong. You don't want to see leftovers, especially if it's the same thing," said Arnold.
When we went, the plates look licked clean.
"Must have been a damn good day," laughed Arnold.
In a city that averages more than one new restaurant opening a week, Arnold's charts a steady course with more than three decades of the same glorious comfort.
"It's like home. The food is fantastic, consistent. People are so friendly," said Bill Porter.
The only thing that has not been consistent is the property tax bill. Just seven years ago, the property tax was less than $11,000. In 2015, the bill went up to $17,000. But in 2017, the bill went up to $42,500.
It makes you look at the line differently. No line - no Arnold's.
"I mean you tell me what are we going to do? It's a gut shot," Arnold said. "My mom is always saying what are we going to do, we have to stay busy if we don't feed 400 or 500, consider the day a loss."
The Arnolds have filed an appeal. While some say you should be happy your property is valuable, they care much more about their family business.
"We're not here to make money on property. We're here to keep my family tradition going," Arnold explained. "We didn't buy this property to be a flip."
Rose Arnold can't imagine doing anything else anywhere else, but how much can they bear?
"We love it, but we've got to figure out, it can't continue," Arnold said. "Property taxes will be assessed pretty soon and that's the scariest part of it. How high next time?"
If you didn't know any better, you would look at Arnold's and say it's a gold mine. What you didn't know was that the city was taking a lot of that gold, and not even all the empty plates can make up for that.
FOX 17's Dennis Ferrier spoke with property assessor Vivian Wilhoite. She says her office simply fairly evaluates property; they can't give special treatment. She claims only the mayor and Metro Council can give concessions. They certainly have done it for Opryland and Marriott and Amazon, but not businesses like Arnold's. We will see what the new administration has in mind.