When Melanie Nelson moved to Middle Tennessee after growing up in Southern Florida, she found herself missing both the ocean and the vibrant flavors of the tropics. At the time, there wasn’t anywhere in Nashville to find good acai bowls or other island-inspired fare. Over the years, Nelson has spent significant time traveling in and around the Caribbean and Hawaiian Islands which helped to shape her palette for fresh fruits, vegetables, and tropical-themed entrees.
Her whole life, Nelson always dreamed of becoming an entrepreneur. After a lot of thought and consideration, she felt that a food truck would be the quickest and most cost-effective way to share her love of flavorful cuisine with the area. Armed with a background in hospitality and marketing, she launched Roasted Coconut in April 2022. The name was carefully selected as a combination of her desire to offer coffee along with dishing up fresh, island-inspired bites.
Together with her husband, Brian, they purchased and converted an antique box truck into a tropical oasis on wheels. The tiki truck was well received as they served up tasty acai bowls, smoothies, soups, and salads. Almost immediately, the beloved Mr. Tiki was booked 7 days a week for festivals and special events in Wilson and its surrounding counties.
“The Wilson County Fair was a game changer for us,” says Nelson. Everyone began asking if Roasted Coconut had a permanent restaurant location. Amy, a frequent customer says the menu is addicting. Another frequent guest, Mary, shares, “The ingredients are always high-quality and incredibly fresh. The flavor profiles are magically delicious.” The remarkable response to the recipes and the need for a commercial kitchen for catering is what prompted Nelson to launch a brick-and-mortar cafe with the same vibe. When looking for a location, the Lebanon area was quickly a strong contender. They secured a storefront just off The Square and, once again, the Nelsons began renovating and transforming the building into a paradise-themed destination.
Everything about the newly opened Roasted Coconut Cafe makes you feel like you are at a mini coastal retreat. Nelson wanted to include as many natural elements as possible and there are unique beachy touches everywhere including waves in the tile, a large bamboo fan, and colorful wallpaper. It’s worth a visit just to see the beamed inset ceiling with a stamped flora design. Guests rave about the expanded menu and the aesthetic, noting that it is a relaxing atmosphere with delightful, healthy options.
When crafting the cafe menu, Nelson created new recipes inspired by her travels and love for fresh ingredients. Many of the signature dishes are family recipes including all their house-made dressings. One of their key ingredients, lilikoi (passion fruit) butter, is sourced from Maui, Hawaii. The cafe is also a big supporter of farm-to-table, striving to acquire in-season produce and meats from local farms as much as possible. Having a family member with Celiac has also pushed Nelson to source ingredients for various dietary needs. She shares, “Essentially, our entire menu is available gluten-free including our sweet or savory crepes, avocado toast, spices, soups, chicken salad – everything!” There are multiple vegan and dairy-free options too.
If the lack of sunshine and shorter days have you feeling down, step inside the Roasted Coconut Cafe for breakfast, brunch, or lunch to be transported to a tropical destination with vibrant, fresh flavors, colors, and friendly staff. You are guaranteed to indulge your tastebuds with something different that you can’t get anywhere else. In 2024, you’ll still see Mr. Tiki driving around Middle Tennessee for special events and the Roasted Coconut will offer local delivery in Lebanon.