Monday, October 6, 2008

On Expectations

The same day the ladies at Ruby’s United Hair Designers in Bristol, TN/VA told me that Ridgewood Barbeque was a must, those who were familiar with the Gatlinburg area also said that we had to have breakfast at the Log Cabin Pancake House. So, taking their advice, off we went.

This is a fairly large restaurant and seems to attract more tourists than locals. After reading a number of reviews on line, I was ready to expect slow and, at times, surly service. Our experience was just the opposite. After being seated, we were immediately given menus and offered coffee--with “hon” interjected after every third word. Chuck chose the buttermilk pancakes with a side of country ham and a side of home fries. I chose the cinnamon apple French toast with sausage links.

I think that Chuck made the better choice. The apple topping on the French toast was similar to canned apple pie filling. While the apples retained some crunch, the syrup was over thickened with corn starch. The sausage links were tasty but over cooked and dry.

Chuck’s breakfast brought five light pancakes about four inches in diameter. The country ham, as seems standard in Eastern Tennessee, wasn’t aged as long as Western Virginia ham is aged and so wasn’t as dry and chewy. The faux maple syrup was similar to what you would find on most grocers' shelves.

To me, the biggest disappointment for a restaurant of this caliber is that whipped margarine topped both the French toast and pancakes. I’m not a fan of whipped butter, let alone whipped margarine. To rate, I would give the Log Cabin Pancake House 3.5 Addies (out of five).

One afternoon we were looking at dulcimers and Native American flutes at Wood–N-Strings in Townsend and found ourselves in a conversation about local places to eat. The owner’s daughter mentioned the Phillips 66 station for really good pork barbeque (we went, we tried, we liked) and Miss Lily’s Café for soups, sandwiches, and salads.

So finding ourselves back in Townsend, we decided to follow her recommendation and off we went for lunch. Decorated in cabin chic, Miss Lily’s is a combination café and “country” store. The menu listed a dozen sandwiches, six salads, and four “local favorites.”

From the list of sandwiches, Chuck chose Miss Lily’s version of the Mountain Man--smoked beef brisket with ham, provolone, red and green slaw and spicy mustard. With his sandwich he got a side of red skin potato salad. I was tempted by the day’s special--a smoked salmon quesadilla--but instead chose the blackened fish and grits with a side salad from the list of local favorites. Both were wise choices.

The meats in Chuck’s sandwich were very intensely smoked, which was offset by the tangy slaw and mustard. The potato salad was also quite good.

My lunch was outstanding (top plate in photo, left). Remembering when blackening became popular and anything and everything was blackened, I was concerned that I would get a dry filet with a charcoal exterior. Not to worry. The chef used a light hand with the seasoning--enough to give flavor to what is a mild fish but not so much to be overpowering--and the fish was perfectly cooked. The tilapia sat on a bed of cheese grits, topped with a red pepper and corn cream sauce. Every element on this plate complimented the other. This is the type of meal that, should you return numerous times to the restaurant, you would always order.

To rate--I enjoyed my fish and grits so much that I would give Miss Lily’s Café 4.5 Addies. My only complaint--the greens in the salad, while not wilted, weren’t as crisp as I’d like.

(We were going to include our comments on a little pizza shop, but we had too much to say to squeeze it into today's entry. It will have its own day in one of the next two.)

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