That Food Guy
Sunday, August 28, 2016
  Gap Creek Coffee House - Cumberland Gap, Tennessee
 
 
Gap Creek Coffee House
10 Pinnacle Alley
Cumberland Gap, Tennessee 37724
423-801-3100
 
 
 
 
The original thirteen colonies, now the United States, were looking to westward expansion. There had already been inroads to the Ohio River Valley.  To the southwest there were significant natural barriers. There were tales of green and fertile land to the west on the other side of the Cumberland and Appalachian Mountains.  Many men explored these far and distant lands, men whose names you probably remember form school. There were men such as Daniel Boone, James Bowie, Kit Carson and Lewis Clark. They followed the game trails and explored the area bringing back stories of rich and verdant land, deep forests with abundant wild game. But it was too far away, too difficult to reach to be of use for settlement. Settlement needs the exchange of goods, the farmer’s crops for the manufactured and imported goods from the Atlantic seaboard states.

In 1750 Dr. Thomas Walker, a physician and explorer led the first expedition that discovered the Cumberland Gap, a natural break in the mountains near the juncture of Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia.  It was a narrow gap but suitable for making a mule train and wagon road across the one seemingly impenetrable barrier.  The Wilderness Road was born. The way was open for the westward expansion to "Kentuck" and "Tenasi."

It was only natural that a settlement would spring up at the foot of the gap. What better place to have a blacksmith to repair the wagons, a store to provide the needed flour, bacon and coffee? That settlement became a Postal destination in 1803. It was incorporated in 1907. Walking the street of Cumberland Gap it is hard to come up with just the right word to describe it although quaint frequently comes to mind. It is almost like taking a trip back in time and perhaps a bit of the mystique of Daniel Boon, Jim Bowie and Dr. Walker can be felt in the air.
 
On this particular Sunday, a day that dawned hot and glaringly sunny, we went to Cumberland Gap for a dog event, canine scent work, a sport where dogs and handlers try to find selected odors that may be hidden in vehicles, in rooms or in the out-of-doors.  The center of our activities that day, with their gracious cooperation and generosity, would be the Gap Creek Coffee House. Nestled on a grassy and wooded lot adjacent to a perennial stream, Gap Creek, the coffee house was fashioned from a 90-year old wood frame cottage. The grassy area surrounding the cottage offers many patio chairs and table. The covered front porch has a swing and offers a shady vantage point to people watch while sipping your coffee. Part of the parlor has some seating but is mostly an order area at the counter behind which is the food prep area in the old dining and kitchen area. The bedrooms serve as small and cozy dining rooms.
The wife, the dogs and I left home early for the two hour drive to Cumberland Gap. I skipped breakfast hoping to get something to eat once we arrived. After setting up the kennels in a shady spot I went to see what the Gap Creek Coffee House had to offer. It is a coffee shop and not a restaurant as such. They do offer a big selection of sandwiches and wraps, as well as pastries with their lattes and gourmet coffees. I asked the young lady at the counter what they might have in the way of breakfast fare. She thought for a moment and offered me an egg, bacon and cheese grilled panini sandwich. I placed my order; I had a choice of eat in or outside. I chose to eat in and took a seat in one of the dining rooms to wait.
It appears the coffee shop is popular with the locals. There were several sipping their coffees while they perused their phones and tablets. Several others stopped in and got their coffee and left. There is no need for a Starbucks in this tiny community.

My order was ready shortly. It was served on a round tray with a fresh paper liner. My order slip and receipt and some napkins were tucked under the paper liner. Although my egg, bacon and cheese panini was not listed on the menu it should be noted that, “All sandwiches, melts and wraps are served with chips and a pickle spear. Had this sandwich been served in a big city restaurant it would have been acceptable. Being that it was in a small village almost in the wilderness it was a very nice presentation. The behind the counter personnel do make an effort to make appealing dishes.
The potato chips are not the usual chips you would get from a bag at the grocery store. These are I guess what you would call “artisan” chips. They are not salty and I would hazard a guess they are baked rather than fried. Although these “healthier” chips have a following they are not what I am used to. There was an adequate serving of these industrial grade chips. A pickle spear served with a sandwich is a long standing tradition that seems to have been lost in many newer chain restaurants. A nice crisp pickle, not overly tart, a good accompaniment to the sandwich.
The sandwich, on the outside, was made of slices of mild sourdough bread, toasted with panini grill marks but not pressed or flattened – an asset for this sandwich. Inside the bacon had been fried to just crisp. The cheese was hot and melted. I am not sure how they cooked the egg before it was put in the sandwich. The gleaming egg white and bright yellow yolk almost looks like it was a poached egg but I will probably never know. To me it was the ideal way to make the bacon, egg and cheese panini sandwich. It was a filling and tasty late breakfast and I appreciated it very much.
My wife, Janis, and I had different duties during the meet. As a result our meal times were staggered and we didn’t have the opportunity to eat together. At a later time she ordered a Club Wrap ($7.79 Smoked ham, smoked turkey, bacon, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, mayo and honey mustard on a wheat wrap.) And remember, that would be served with chips and a pickle. Unfortunately, we did not get a picture of that one. Suffice it to say that she enjoyed her wrap and finished her meal. If she had made this for herself at home it is what she would expect it to be.

Cumberland Gap is in a very scenic area rich in history. We plan to return one day soon when we would have leisure time to do a little sightseeing and exploring. I think we will again frequent the Gap Creek Coffee House, sit in the shade of tall trees alongside the cool, flowing waters of the creek and enjoy another sandwich for a laid-back lunch.

Summer Hours: 8:00Am - 8:00PM daily


Late Note: There were a lot of people and a lot of dogs all around. I asked the event coordinator if she had any feedback from the Gap Creek Coffee House about our visit that day. She did not have any direct knowledge but she told me one of the other entrants was asked when we might be coming back. That is a good sign. If you would like more information about canine scent work:

Event coordinator Rosana Dropkin http:/www.SunshineK9s.com  or Ro.SunshineK9s@gmail.com
Or National association of Canine Scent Work https://www.nacsw.net/

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Friday, August 26, 2016
  Oriental Cuisine - Maryville, Tennessee

Oriental Cuisine

622 Condry Lane

Maryville, TN 37803

865-984-0810 

http://www.865-984-0810.chinesemenu.com/
 



First Visit – A Take-Out Order
I would have never known the Oriental Cuisine Restaurant was there except for one thing. Several times a week my wife and I would go to the local gym. When leaving, while waiting for traffic, we would be looking across the street down a very small alley like street that has a name. In fact its name denotes its diminutive stature, Condry Lane. A lane; it is so much less that a boulevard, an avenue or even a street. It serves as the back entrance to a muffler shop and a bank parking lot as well as access for some industrial metal buildings on the left. Way down at the end of the street where it appears to dead end is one small sign; Oriental Cuisine shares sign space with a rug and tile company. From our vantage point we cannot see that building because it is set back to allow for customer parking in front. I was intrigued by this almost hidden restaurant and I thought that it must have something going for it as it would not garner any drive-by traffic.
Many months went by before I finally decided to see what it was all about. I did some internet research and found their website which is basically their menu. They offer a mix of Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese foods. I was on my own for lunch one day and stopped by for a takeout meal of sweet and sour chicken ($9.00 Breaded white chicken chunks deep fried to a golden brown and served with diced tomato, green pepper and pineapple in our sweet and sour sauce. Served with fried or steamed rice). At $9.00 dollars it seemed a bit on the expensive side but this was an exploratory visit to see what they offered and on that day I did have a “hankering” for some Chinese food. I also asked for a spring roll to compliment the meal ($1.75 A delicious mixture of jicama, carrots, onions, rice thread and pork wrapped in a crunchy spring roll wrapper) .

I was offered a seat at the nearest table and while I was waiting for my order I read over my take-home menu copy. I had ordered from the inside, the a la carte portion. On the back was the lunch menu of lower-priced combinations meals. Part of the combination is a bowl of soup. That would have made for an inconvenient take-home but I planned one day, if my pending order was good, return to try something their luncheon menu.
My order soon arrived. It was a large brown paper bag, neatly folded and stapled. I was quite surprised when I picked it up. Thinking back to my thoughts about the rather high cost I now, at least, considered it a very good deal on a price per pound basis. There was a lot of food inside that bag. I could hardly wait to get it home and check out the contents. The fact that it smelled so good made me even more eager.

Opening the bag, I found a large (26-ounce?) traditional Chinese take-out container of breaded fried chicken that was overflowing. I suspect that was a fluke and I got the benefit of the chef’s “Oops, I cooked a bit too much.” It was a large-sized container and if the chicken all fit inside it would still be a large portion. There was a portion of sweet and sour sauce and a portion of fruit and vegetables.
(I just have to add this in as a parenthetical comment: Over the years I have noticed that sweet and sour chicken or pork have become cheapened and degraded under the banner of “New York style” and the pineapple, sweet peppers and other vegetables that helped to define the dish in Chinatown settings have been eliminated and all you get is breaded chicken and sauce usually served separate. That rendition of sweet and sour chicken is travesty and defames the sweet and savory combination that is also beautiful to the eye. A pox on New York style.)

There was a 16-ounce container of fried rice, the spring roll, some packages of soy sauce, some plastic utensils and a fortune cookie. Looking over my stash of Chinese food I realized that if I had bought another spring roll I would have satisfying and filling meals for two; on a per serving basis, $4.50 per person plus the spring roll. The economics of my Oriental Cuisine purchase were looking much better. Now how does it taste?
Taking myself at my word, I divided the food into two portions and cut the spring roll in half. I would have half now and the remainder at a later time. I plated the food for a photo before eating; nothing fancy, just so it wasn’t a picture looking down into the bottom of a box. It was only half of my order but the food literally filled the plate. The sweet and sour chicken was delicious. The breading was fried crispy and the chicken inside was moist and juicy. It occurred to me while I was eating it that the extra  effort in separate packaging made for a crisp chicken in the sauce whereas if it had been all packaged together the chicken in all likelihood would have been soggy and unpalatable. The sweet and sour sauce was very good with a bit of tang from perhaps vinegar and sweetness but not just from sugar. I enjoyed the snap and flavor of the slightly crispy pepper and loved the fruity sweetness of the pineapple. An excellent sweet and sour dish I will definitely try again.

You can order fried rice as an entrée and it will be more elaborate that the pedestrian fried rice that usually serves as the carbohydrate filler in combination plates. This rice was no exception to that rule of thumb. There are bits and pieces here and there but for the most part it is rice, fried and seasoned with soy sauce. Certainly more flavorful than steamed rice but it was not too salty or overly seasoned with soy sauce.  It was good as filler rice goes but at the same time it was not exceptional.
The spring roll was crispy fried and the filling was tasty. A bit of hot Chinese mustard would have been beneficial but not necessary. Although I prefer the thicker, less crispy egg roll skins, I did enjoy the spring roll. It seems that egg or spring rolls are always an appetizer on Chinese food menus. I like them well enough that they should be a main course item. I will certainly add these spring rolls to my next order.

As a side note, take-out orders don’t always go home to be eaten. They may go to the office or on a climate day, to a picnic table in the park. The inclusion of the plastic cutlery was a nice thought.
Second Visit A Month Or So Later  – Eat In Luncheon Special

It was a very hot and sultry day, one usually better spent indoors. I had errands to run and as luck would have it, I was on my own for meals that day. I decided to treat myself to lunch out. It wouldn’t be a drive-thru burger this time. It would be the long awaited sit down meal at the Oriental Cuisine Restaurant for lunch. On the previous visit I had ordered an entrée from the main or dinner menu.  While waiting, I noticed that they also serve from a lunch menu with lower prices from 11:00Am to 3:30PM. It is a long list of choices and the entrée is served with soup (your choice of hot and sour, wonton or egg drop), a spring roll and rice (your choice of steamed or fried). My expectation was that It would be smaller portions and perhaps less elaborate in presentation. The lunch menu includes sweet and sour chicken and it would have been a good comparison but I also wanted to try a broader range of their offering so I chose the Sesame Chicken at $6.00 instead.  For my soup I ordered the wonton. For beverage I went with Coca Cola. My server, Sabrina, was very attentive, very personable. She checked on me at intervals and kept my soda glass full. I need to thank her for making my dining experience pleasurable.
My drink was delivered with a bowl of fried wontons, I sat back to await my meal. As I mentioned, it was a miserably hot day outside and the cool interior of the restaurant was a relief. The shades were drawn and the lighting subdued but you could still see images of the out-of-doors through the slats in the shade. I looked around. It was as I described before. It was oriental in motif, black lacquer chairs, a mural but not much else to give it that Asian look, certainly not gaudy. A quick count found about 50 seats. There were two tradesmen at the table next to me and a solo elderly gentleman across the aisle. There was a party of about 6 or 8 in the alcove. About 8 people came in to pick up their take-out orders; all must have called in and each order was ready on their arrival. Towards the end of my meal several people arrive and must have been regulars from the greetings. Apparently Sabrina, the server, saw one of them parking his car and had his preferred beverage ready for him when he entered the store. My observations answered the fundamental question I had harbored. How does this almost hidden restaurant manage to survive? It requires returning customers and word of mouth advertising. It certainly has returning customers and I will be providing some word of mouth. It is not an ornate place nor does it have an elegant ambiance but it is comfortable and it does have the feeling  like in the old Cheers theme song, “…where everybody knows your name.”

The wonton soup arrived quickly. There were two wontons in a clear broth.  It is served hot. A couple of the small ice pellet from my soda cooled it enough to sip. It is a mild broth with hints of many flavors, chicken and vegetables but not highly seasoned; nice flavor but mild, very subtle. The wontons are large and the wrappers are thick that made for a slightly doughy texture. A seasoned pork mixture in the middle was tasty. It was a flavorful way to await the entrée.
My entrée soon arrived. Oh, my God! The expected meager portions were huge. I must admit that I ate the whole thing with relish but I would have been much better of eating half and taking the rest home for later (something I saw others in the restaurant do). Two people could have shared the meal and felt satisfied.

The rice was the standard carbohydrate filler, seasoned with just the right amount of soy sauce. It was a soup-bowl full of rice, upended on the plate to make the rounded pile of rice. A line of three large florets of steamed broccoli divided he plate. The remainder of the plate was filled with chunks of breaded and fried chicken, coated with sauce and liberally sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds. Great aroma and a very nice presentation; it looked very appetizing.
The chicken, mostly dark meat I believe, was cook just about right, the meat cooked through, the breading still slightly crispy under the sauce. Good chicken flavor in the meat and their version of the sesame sauce is very tasty although perhaps a bit thin compared to others. In this case that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The sauce that pools under the chicken provides a nice condiment for the otherwise slightly bland fried rice. It was a very enjoyable meal, one where I did really eat too much.

In conclusion: Will I go back to Oriental Cuisine? Most assuredly! The food is good, the portions are large, the staff members are friendly and the restaurant just seems to be a comfortable palace to be. They have a lot more dishes that I would like to try but I will remember in the future to divide my plate; eat that part there and take the other part home for later.

They are open 6 day a week, closed on Mondays
Hours are Sunday – Thursday 10:00AM to 9:30PM
Friday 11:00AM to 10:00PM
 









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Saturday, August 20, 2016
  Cracker Barrel - Alcoa, Tennessee

Cracker Barrel (Old Country Store)

771 Louisville Rd, Alcoa, TN 37701
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
My first experience with Cracker Barrel was probably more than 20 years ago; long before I started blogging my food adventures. Back then, Cracker Barrel’s were a mostly Southeast presence and someone from Alaska would be hard-pressed to find a convenient Cracker Barrel. The wife and I flew down to Florida to visit her parents and one of the places they took us was a Cracker Barrel for breakfast. Over the years and many more trips to Florida to visit the in-laws garnered many more Cracker Barrel experiences.
When the wife retired we started the motor home phase of our retirement. We found that Cracker Barrel had expanded and had stores across much of the United States and they made a convenient place to stop for a bite one on the road. A bit later, we stayed in Florida to spend quality time with the wife’s father in his later years. That of course made a breakfast or even a lunch or dinner a common occurrence. That’s not to mention that frequent newspaper promotions for daily specials made for an even lower priced meal.

Since then we have relocated to Eastern Tennessee. We are located not too far from where the very first Cracker Barrel company store opened in 1969 in Lebanon Tennessee. In the past Cracker Barrel has had some rough times with customer relations. Apparently they have managed to smooth out the rough edges and I notice that the customer base seems to be a cross-section of the population. They seem to be doing it right because it has grown to be 630 stores located in 42 states and a bit less than 50 years. All of them are company owned and operated.
That brings us to today’s blog, Alcoa Tennessee's Cracker Barrel. Since we moved here we have met Abbie and Mariano who are also Alaskan ex-pats. We have become good friends and grub mates as we see what is good to eat in Eastern Tennessee. We agreed to meet at the local Maryville Cracker Barrel for breakfast. There is an old expression, “if you have seen one you have seen them all.” That is a close truism for Cracker Barrel stores. They are not exact copies of what but very, very close in layout, merchandise offered, the menu and usually the quality of the food. When we were traveling Cracker Barrel offered known quality, ample portions, and reasonable price.

It was a bright sunny and unseasonably warm day in Maryville. We managed to find a parking spot in the shade of a tree. The coolness inside the store was a welcome change from the heat outside. The hostess led us to a corner table where Abbie and Mariano were waiting for us. It was all very familiar, the fireplace and the old-time country decore They had arrived after us but we managed to pass each other in the store without noticing.
Our server, Misty Dawn, was there within moments to take our beverage order. A charming young lady, she would be at tables frequently to see what we needed and yet never looming. She was a plus to the dining experience. The menu was familiar. I was trying to juggle the included side dishes with each selection and Misty knew the menu well enough for me to order the right selection without having to order it piecemeal.

Abbie ordered the Momma’s Pancake Breakfast® ($8.19 Three freshly made Buttermilk Pancakes with your choice of any fruit topping or a warmed bottle of 100% Pure Natural Syrup plus two eggs cooked to order and your choice of Smoked Sausage Patties, Thick-Sliced Bacon, Turkey Sausage or Turkey Bacon.) On a plate by themselves there were three large golden brown pancakes with a large dollop of whipped butter. On a companion plate was the bacon, fried crisp, and eggs done to order. It was a typical Cracker Barrel presentation, the food looked good and appetizing. On request Abbie got more maple syrup. Momma’s pancake breakfast is a big meal and a bit more than Abbie normally eats. She did enjoy her mail but there was a good portion that went to Mariano and some in a doggy bag.
Mariano ordered the French Toast ($7.19 Four slices of our own Sourdough Bread (regular or whole wheat) dipped in egg then grilled to perfection. Served with any fruit topping or 100% Pure Natural Syrup.) The serving was on an oval platter and there were six thick slices of sourdough bread, egg dipped, and they were fried to a nice appetizing golden brown with a dollop of whipped butter on top. More syrup came as requested. Mario said it was very good, very tasty but he did have one observation. At $7.19 for four slices of bread the coffee really should come with it. The French toast at good appearance, good taste, but may have been a bit overpriced after adding the coffee.

Janis ordered the Wild Maine Blueberry Pancakes ($7.39 Three Buttermilk Pancakes loaded with wild Maine blueberries. Served with Wild Maine Blueberry Syrup.) Served on an oval platter were three golden brown pancakes topped with an amazing abundance of blueberries. All of that was topped with a generous helping of whipped cream. There was more than enough blueberry preserves that no additional syrup with needed. Janis enjoyed her meal, and set it was very good, very tasty. It is a serving much larger than she normally eats but she managed to finish most of her meal. The blueberry pancakes were presented well, were good tasting, and adequate portion with an abundance of blueberries.
I ordered a more conventional breakfast, at least for me, I chose the Sunrise Sampler® ($8.19 Two eggs cooked to order with Grits, Sawmill Gravy, homemade Buttermilk Biscuits, real butter and the best Preserves, Jam n’ Apple Butter (on request) we could find. Plus Fried Apples and Hashbrown Casserole and a Sampling of Smoked Sausage, Country Ham and Thick-Sliced Bacon.) This is a good combination as it includes eggs and breakfast meat along with hashbrowns, biscuits and gravy and fried apples. I asked for my eggs over medium and ask for the sausage as my choice of breakfast meat. The eggs were cooked order just like I asked for. The sausage is fried nicely with good color, was tender and had a good taste. The gravy was nice and hot, nice and thick and had that good peppery country gravy flavor. The fried apples were very good and always make a great end to breakfast meal. They’re kind of like eating an apple pie without the crust.

That leaves the biscuits and the hashbrown casserole. The biscuits it had been a loft. They were dense, heavy and one would guess that they had not used enough baking powder. They were also cold and makes me wonder if perhaps they weren’t left over from the day before. Without the gravy they would have been way to dry to eat. One of my favorite parts of the Cracker Barrel breakfast is the hashbrown casserole. This serving did not live up to what I have come to expect from Cracker Barrel. It was quite dry and the edges crispy and serving was way too small-sort of like the kitchen scooped the last remaining drag out of a long-standing pan to fill my order. I did enjoy the eggs  and apples as well as the gravy. The poorly prepared biscuits and potato casserole severely detracted from my enjoyment of the meal.



One of the things that kept us going back to Cracker Barrel over the years was a consistency of quality in the food. For the most part the four of us received meals that were up to Cracker Barrel’s normal standard. In my case, however, slight deviations from normal quality made a meal less than totally satisfying. As far as I can recall this is the first time I have been dissatisfied with Cracker Barrel. I am sure we will have breakfast a Cracker Barrel again in future and I hope that this glitch was a one-time event. And the grits.... well I never eat that stuff anyway.

Previous Cracker Barrel Blogs:
May 12 2012 http://thatfoodguy.blogspot.com/2012/05/cracker-barrel-revisited.html

Aug 19, 2011 http://thatfoodguy.blogspot.com/2011/08/cracker-barrel-st-petersburg-florida.html

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Friday, August 12, 2016
  Smoky Mountain Brewery - Maryville, Tennessee
 


Smoky Mountain Brewery
in Maryville, Tennessee

 
743 Watkins Rd, Maryville, TN 37801
(865) 238-1900 

 
 
There are a lot of restaurants under the Copper Cellar family manner. They include such restaurants as Calhoun’s, Cappuccino’s, Copper cellar and Copper Cellar Catering, Cherokee Grill, Chesapeake’s and of course, Smoky Mountain Brewery. There are four restaurants carrying the smoky Mountain brewery name. They are all located in the greater Knoxville Tennessee area of eastern Tennessee and are located in Turkey Creek, Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg and Maryville. We visited the Maryville location which is closest to our home.

About the 1970s a movement of creating craft beers began. Americans consumers were looking for alternatives to the pale lager beer sold by the major growing companies. If you wanted an old world style beer you had to seek out an important.  In 1978 President Jimmy Carter signed the H.R. 1337 bill and home brewing became legal. With the increasing popularity of home brewing and the emergence of micro-breweries it was only natural that the brewery pair with the restaurant.

Following the trend, in 1996 the first Smoky Mountain Brewery store opened in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. On their website they state, ”… the restaurant and brewery combination has been a fun place to take the family with its fresh mountain micro-brewed beer plus traditional pizza, one-of-a-kind subs and sandwiches.” The Maryville store boasts of over 40 hi-def video screens and that it is a great place especially during sporting events. Our visit was during the Olympics and we did have a great view of many of the Olympic venues. We arrived a bit before the dinner hour and there was immediate seating and it was not at all crowded. By the time we had finished our meal it was well into the dinner hour and the seating was full and there was a waiting line to get in; plan your visit. As with many places these days, the ceiling is unfinished, sporting the semi-industrial look with exposes AC ducting and the like. All of those hard surfaces reflect sound and a full restaurant is a noisy place.

Nonetheless, it was a pleasant interlude, the sharing of a meal with good friends. By prior arrangement we met Mariano and Abbie at the Smoky Mountain Brewery. Although we came from opposite directions we arrived almost simultaneously. We seem to have it down to the seconds…

We were seated almost immediately. Joanna. A most charming and efficient young lady and our server, was there in seconds to greet us and take out preliminary order for beverages.  I must add that during the meal she was usually close at hand but never obtrusive, certainly an asset to the Smoky Mountain Brewery.

The menu has lots of choices including appetizers, deli-style sandwiches, wings, salads, ribs, steak and chicken, pizzas and calzones and some pasta dishes as well as a selection of “Brewery Burgers.” From their menu: “Brewhouse Burgers – Ground fresh daily and served on your choice of sesame or whole-wheat bun. Choice of any side.” Those sides include honey mustard potato salad, fresh broccoli and beer cheese, baked macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, or a basket of fries. Not surprisingly, we all ordered from the Brewhouse Burgers section of the menu.

Abbie and Janis both ordered the Brewery Burger ($5.50), the basic burger that can be outfitted to taste with lettuce, tomato, onion and pickles. Both also chose the basket of fries for a side dish. The Brewhouse Burgers are in the middle of the middle range of what could be called “gourmet burgers.” The meat, somewhere between a third and half-pound patties, is cooked to order and the chef has the cook time pretty well nailed; a nice sear on the outside and the red to pink as ordered inside. The ladies seemed to enjoy their selections and stated that they were quite good leaving only minor amounts for a doggie bag.

Mariano ordered the Grilled Mountain Melt (Swiss and American cheese, sautéed onions, grilled rye bread - $6.50), basically a 2 cheese and onion hamburger on rye. Mariano said it was a very tasty burger and that he did enjoy the different taste and texture imparted by the grilled rye bread. He also noted that it was a big sandwich, very tall and very filling.

I ordered the Swiss Mushroom Burger (mushrooms and Swiss cheese, $6.50). I chose French fries as my side and a soft drink ($2.75 – when they glass gets low it is quickly replace usually without asking. They serve Coca Cola products.) When served the fries and burger were piping hot and the first bite was a bit of a surprise. The burger was cooked to order. There was a good portion of mushrooms covered with melted Swiss cheese. Served open face, the opposite but had the lettuce, tomato, red onion slices and pickles. All of the vegetables were fresh and appetizing looking.

When assembled it is a tall, imposing sandwich. First thought is, “How am I going to get a bite of this?” No worries. When you are hungry and there is a good burger in front of you it is certainly manageable. At first there is the tart crispness of the pickles and onion. Then comes the silky smoothness of the cheese, then the earthy goodness of the mushrooms and finally the juicy goodness of the meat. Truly, the whole can be greater than the sum of its parts. It was an excellent burger and one that I would definitely order again. As it comes from the kitchen it is just about perfect. You don’t have to add any condiments and what is on the burger already is just about right. I was able to eat to the last one or two bites before the burger fell apart. The French fries are whole potato fries, lightly seasoned and fried to a golden brown, served hot, and a mere dash of salt is all that might be required plus a dip once in a while in the ketchup.

It was a very pleasant meal; good food, good conversation in a congenial atmosphere and amiable service people. The Smoky Mountain Brewery will certainly be on our list of places we would like to return to.

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