Most of his recent columns have taken readers along the back roads to find local establishments serving up their own special takes on Southern cooking.
He’s been out Tenn. Highway 75 to sample the meat loaf at the Sulphur Springs Filling Station & Creamery, down Old State Route 34 to dive into the Friday Nite Fish Fry at the Telford Diner and into Greeneville for smoked turkey and corn pudding at Stan’s Bar-B-Q.
He drove down Tenn. Highway 107 in Chuckey twice — once to taste Mountain View Country Market’s Italian herb turkey wrap and again to enjoy a pulled pork platter at Shorty’s Restaurant. He made his way into Piney Flats to give the revitalized Pardner’s Bar-B-Que’s smoked beef brisket salad a shot. He grabbed the hamburger steak dinner at the Checkerboard Cafe on Rock Creek Road in Erwin.
Most recently, he found himself heading down to the Garbers community for breakfast in an old community store, Campbell’s Market & Deli on Cherokee Road.
Our point here is that mom-and-pop diners are alive and well in these hills.
They may not be as plentiful as they were before fast food and casual dining chains took over the landscape, but if you know where to look, you can still enjoy a meal that isn’t served in every city in America.
As we have followed the Mystery Diner’s tips over the years, we’ve learned that the owners and employees at these little places are genuinely interested in their customers. They are especially happy to know you made a special trip. It’s not the hurried and harried experience you’d expect at a place that hands you a pager when you walk in the door.
There’s something special about jumping in the car and making choices from a menu on a blackboard or a wrinkly pamphlet. There’s comfort in food that reminds you of your grandmother’s table on a Sunday afternoon.
Genuine Americana is harder and harder to come by in this world. Take advantage of it where it still exists. You’ll support local business and enjoy a good meal at the same time.