JD’s Cafe Serves Comfort Food and Community

By: Megan Williams  |  Photos by: Ashlee Glen

I’m finally in a setting that people enjoy and can come and enjoy the meal,” Julian (J.D.) Davis said sitting at a bistro table outside of his new brick and mortar restaurant, JD’s Cafe.

While the restaurant opened in March, Davis has been cooking for the community for years.

“I’ve been cooking all my life,” he said. “But I’ve been cooking in the industry since I was 15. I started at Charley’s at the mall in ‘87 or ‘88.”

After Davis got his start at Charley’s, he moved on to Shakers where he held his first management job at just 17 years old. From there, he held positions at country clubs, franchises, and local eateries such as Market at Main where, after working there for a number of years, he left to pursue his own business: JD’s Mobile Cafe and Catering.

Operating out of a concession trailer, Davis served crowd favorites like Philly cheesesteaks and po’boys at private catering events or at the outdoor food court, The BackYard, in Forest. Over the years, Davis amassed quite the following and reputation, but the nomadic nature of his business kept him from maintaining a roster of regulars.

So when the opportunity presented itself to fill a vacant space in Boonsboro Shopping Center, Davis jumped and never looked back.

“I feel like I’ve gotten to the right location,” he said. “I feel like it’s a blessing simply because of the people that I’m seeing—people who I haven’t seen in decades. Everything I have done up to this point has been building my name up so that this could happen.”

JD’s Cafe opened its doors on March 18, 2024 and has kept a steady stream of customers since. On any given day, the intimate interior and attached front patio is full of folks picking up to-go orders or settling in for an indulgent lunch.

“My menu hasn’t changed much [since JD’s Mobile Cafe] other than a few additions,” Davis recounted, highlighting a menu offering of large, filling sandwiches such as the catfish po’boy or the Carolina BBQ sandwich as well as hearty comfort entrees like their homemade meatloaf and baby back ribs. “It’s homemade dishes and added sides.”

Davis said he intentionally created a smaller menu to mirror the smaller size of the restaurant and to highlight the foods he knows JD’s Cafe does well.

“I didn’t try to have everything on the menu,” he said. “But people say they can taste the love in my food.”

Whether it’s love or exceptional cooking skills or maybe a little of both, the food at JD’s Cafe is mouthwatering. The pulled pork—slightly smokey and melt-in-your-mouth tender—is leveled up even more with their signature BBQ sauce, a unique blend of sweet and tangy notes. The catfish po’boy is unbelievably delicate and beautifully absorbs the house-made remoulade sauce. And the meatloaf—packed with ground beef, onions, and peppers—is the embodiment of comfort when sliced and served between two pieces of white bread and served alongside country green beans.

“It’s nap food!” Davis joked. “If I were to tell someone what to order, I’d tell them to order the meatloaf or salmon cakes. But our pride and joy are the Philly cheesesteak and catfish po’boy. They’re the most ordered items on the menu.”

Davis said the new brick and mortar has been well-received by the community, specifically noting that all of his past owners and managers from his previous restaurant jobs have dined there since opening in March.

“My passion and gift for feeding people is expressed through those great reviews,” he said. “I’m always about the customer and making them happy—I worry about myself later. It’s what separates me from other places.”

That sentiment is evident to anyone occupying a table for even a short moment at JD’s Cafe. Davis is behind the counter preparing a sandwich one moment, hand delivering an order to an outside table the next or taking the time to know exactly how to pronounce a customer’s name so it’s correct when he announces their to-go order is ready. Amidst caring for his customers, he’s constantly checking in on his team.

“I’m so proud of the opportunity to provide jobs,” he said. “This is a small business and a family atmosphere. The opportunity to provide great food and great service to the community on top of a great atmosphere is something I’m really proud of.”

Davis is content building his base of regulars and serving a steady stream of delicious food to customers and doesn’t foresee moving or expanding in the near future.

“Contentment is my thing,” he said. “The only reason I would grow is if there is a need to grow if I can’t make a customer happy. The second I’m not making a customer happy is when I’ll make a change.”  

JD’s Cafe can be found at 4925 Boonsboro Road in Lynchburg. They are currently open for lunch and dinner. Their menu can be found at jdscafelynchburgva.com.

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