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Southern-style food & comfort found at the Gathering Place Cafe

The Mystery Diner • Nov 19, 2018 at 11:00 AM

While traveling, our friend the Retiree keeps her eyes and palate open for places for her friends in the dine-around bunch to try out. One such place came to her attention on a trip home from downstate.

Exterior

As you might expect from the name, the Gathering Place Cafe can be found near a place where people meet. The restaurant can be found at the junction of Tennessee Highways 350 and 351, in one of the prettiest parts of Greene County.

The fare offered is scratch-made “Southern-style Comfort Food.” The restaurant has seating for about a hundred or so, with enclosed front porch for the overflow. Though you will be given a menu, our friend the Retiree suggested we consult the day’s specials on the chalkboard that covered the north wall of the dining area.

Steak & Gravy

Our server Marissa said their Steak & Gravy platter ($7) was the most popular daily specials that the Gathering Place Cafe was offering that evening. That sounded good to my dining partner, who added side orders of mashed potatoes, pea salad and a scratch-made dinner roll.

The steak portion of steak & gravy was round steak cut thick and slow-simmered until fork tender. The gravy was as scratch-made as the dinner roll and so savory it made your mouth water just smelling on the plate. Add some equally scratch-made mashed potatoes (made country-style with some lumps still in it) and a pea salad that tasted better than it looked, and I had one happy dining partner sitting at our table.

Grilled Chicken Breast

The Retiree already knew what she was ordering, that being the grilled chicken breast platter ($7) sided with vegetable casserole, green beans and “city” cornbread. Here, the Gathering Place Cafe takes a good-sized marinated chicken breast, grills it, and then adds both the vegetable casserole and the green beans to the plate in just under fifteen minutes.

The vegetable casserole is a mix of steamed broccoli, onions, cauliflower, red bell pepper and mushrooms all in a very good cheese sauce. The green beans were just so-so. Her “city” cornbread had a nice sweetness to it that matched perfectly with the rest of the meal our friend was enjoying.

Meat Loaf

Checking out the chalkboard, I decided that their Meat Loaf platter was what I wanted, ($7) with some hash brown casserole, cucumber salad and some of that good cornbread to go with it. My dining partner’s father once told me that meat loaf is a good indicator of how competent a restaurant’s kitchen can be. In this case, the Gathering Place Cafe gets high marks for an excellent blend of slightly juicy and ground beef and lean ground pork.

The mix is hand-blended with some very good spices (was that nutmeg in there?) then baked until crusty on the outside and delicious. The ketchup topping was there, but unnecessary, as the spice blended into the meat did a fine job on its own. Though my hash brown casserole was just so-so, the cucumber salad was outstanding, having a mildly tangy vinegar-enhanced sweetness to the pickling liquor off-set with some chopped onions and fresh dill. Heavenly, all of it.

…and for Dessert…

While I was savoring the last bites of my meat loaf, our friend the Retiree was regaling my dining partner about the Gathering Place’s signature dessert, the Snickers Goo-ey.

Composed of a chess pie base topped with melted Snickers candy bars, the Goo-ey is then topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a turban of whipped cream, then drizzled with chocolate syrup and melted caramel. My dining partner ordered one ($5) with clean spoons for each of us. I had about four memorable tastes of this delicacy before my dining partner and the Retiree finished it right down to the last “goo-ey” drizzle.

Heading home

In addition to their plate specials, the Gathering Place Cafe also grills up a very tasty steak. On our visit, the steak was prime rib. This particular evening the steak ($20) was a sizzling sixteen-ounce inch-thick slice of prime rib beef cooked medium-rare to medium, and served with two side orders. My advice: come hungry. The Gathering Place recommends your making reservations early for parties of four or larger.

Oh, and as the sign on the Gathering Place Cafe’s front door says, “Cash Only.”

The Gathering Place Café

4500 TN 107 Cut-Off (TN Hwy 351)

Greeneville, Tennessee

423-525-4930

Wed-Sat 11 a.m.-8 p.m.

Closed Sun-Tue

Available on Facebook

Cash only – no checks or credit cards

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