Eating in East Tennessee

Dancing before dinner Ray's Cafe, Sevierville Tennessee. No booze but a lot of joy!
Dancing before dinner Ray’s Cafe, Sevierville Tennessee. No booze but a lot of joy!

For the past four days we’ve traveled around eastern Tennessee and I found the menus to be remarkably similar.  Perhaps it was because we wanted to take in the locally owned restaurants, and for the most part didn’t visit chains.

But at these family style restaurants, there were some things that stayed exactly the same, unlike in Massachusetts where every restaurant seems to want to do it their own independent New England way. Here is what is nearly always the same:

*The drink menu includes sweetened or unsweetened ice tea, fountain sodas, juices, coffee or milk, and refills are always free.

*Sides include fried okra, baked beans, cole slaw, mac and cheese, french fries, green beans, mashed potatoes, fried pickles

*Appetizers include fried green onions, salads with iceberg lettuce, corn nuggets, or hush puppies.

* Country fried steak, fried fish, fried chicken, barbecue of all meats and smoked turkey are very common menu items. The sides are all served in small bowls as actual sides, not on the meat plate. White or brown gravy is generously poured on the steaks.

*Desserts include strawberry cake, chocolate cakes of all types, pie a la mode, or bread pudding and are always huge. I never finished dessert, ever.

*Paper towels are on the table instead of napkins, which really helps with the bbq sauce.

*At breakfast, there are grits (love them!), there are pancakes without the real maple syrup that New Englanders are so picky about, the coffee is never strong.

*They always ask you before you order if you want separate checks, and for three of us, the tab never exceeded around $70.