Friday, October 18, 2019

Steak for Dinner!


We finally decided to dine at another nationwide chain restaurant…one that we’ve talked about eating at for a couple of years, but had never gotten around to visiting. 


This is the Longhorn Steakhouse in Farragut’s/Knoxville’s Turkey Creek shopping area.  We’ve probably driven by it 3 or 4 times a month for many years.  There are actually 2 Longhorn Steakhouse locations in the Knoxville market, with at least 491 of these restaurants in operation across the USA, Puerto Rico, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and El Salvador…




From the bar to the dining areas, the interior of this Longhorn Steakhouse Restaurant is warm and comfortable.  After the overwhelming number of ‘industrial look’ restaurants with open ceilings (and high noise levels) and a lot of metal, this décor was a welcome respite.  The metal here is decorative and western, including the sculptures.  Western art covers the walls and the ceilings are low and sound absorbing… Love the stone work too!


Diners are started out with a loaf of bread and butter.  It was nice to have and it was OK…but it also was fairly typical or average.  We skipped any appetizers because we both decided to order steaks and they came with a side salad and a side dish…

I had a small Miller Lite ($3.99) with the bread and Laurie went for a 9 oz. glass of Red Rock Malbec wine. ($10.49) She did enjoy her choice of wine.


The salads accompanying our entrees were nice with fresh ingredients and tasty salad dressings.  We’ve always wondered why many restaurant salads taste better than the ones we make at home…and the answer has to be the salad dressings.


Laurie loves ribeye steaks so she ordered Longhorn Steakhouse’s 12 oz. hand trimmed Ribeye. ($21.29) The sides that come with the steaks at no extra cost are the steamed broccoli, a baked potato, seasoned French fries, mashed potatoes or a sweet potato.  So of course, neither of us ordered a ‘free’ side.  Laurie chose the Parmesan Creamed Spinach. ($2.29)

Laurie enjoyed her steak.  It was grilled to medium rare as requested, it was tender and it was quite tasty.  The spinach side dish also was a winner.  Laurie’s one issue with her meal was that there was a bit too much fat or waste on her steak.  She had of course expected some fat as it adds flavor to the meat…but she felt there was just too much waste.


I ordered the 18 oz. bone-in Outlaw Ribeye for my dinner. ($26.99) I also chose a ‘special side’ instead of the standard ones.  My choice of sides was the Crispy Brussel Sprouts. ($2.29)

Unlike Laurie’s steak, my very nice steak didn’t have much extra fat on it plus it was grilled as ordered.  I really liked the Brussel Sprouts but I didn’t finish them because they were so ‘rich’ tasting. (I like my wife’s version better!) Laurie and I both agreed that although we enjoyed them, the steaks were a bit too salty for our taste.

FYI, Longhorn Steakhouse is owned by Darden Restaurants.  In addition to at least 491 Longhorn locations, Darden owns the following restaurant chains: Olive Garden; Cheddars Scratch Kitchen; Bahama Breeze; Eddie V’s Prime Seafood; Capital Grille; Seasons 52, and; Yard House.  In total, Darden owns or franchises over 1,800 restaurants!

This particular Longhorn Steakhouse was located at 11644 Parkside Drive in Farragut Tennessee.  Phone: 865-966-6954.  The Company’s website can be found at www.longhornsteakhouse.com/.

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

World Traveler…

Originally we had a trip scheduled with Dawn Marie spending several days exploring part of Virginia and a bit of the Washington D.C. area too.  However, my bum knee caused us to cancel our adventure.

I’ve known Dawn Marie for many years dating back to ca. 1995 while working at Montgomery Ward.  We met at work, became close friends and then she met Laurie and they became close too.  At this point we are her Tennessee ‘parents’ and Laurie tracks her travels daily.  Unfortunately, Dawn really needed that vacation because she’s always flying somewhere for the IT data security/data mining company that she works for.  With about 200,000 air miles per year, Bogota, Dallas, Washington D.C., New York, London, Berlin, Calgary, San Francisco and Buenos Aires were all recent destinations.  


So…given that schedule, Dawn needed a break!  Hence, a short trip to chill at our home in East Tennessee… What did she end up doing while ‘taking it easy’ at our house?  What else!  Catching up on travel expense reports!  At least she wasn’t on another flight…


We stayed home most of the time that Dawn was here.  A nice home cooked meal was in order.  We started out with a basic salad…local fresh tomatoes on a bed of Romaine lettuce with blue cheese crumbles.  A choice of salad dressings was offered.


You just can’t miss the mark with a braised then slow cooked beef pot roast with carrots and little potatoes!  Fresh bakery bread, Amish butter and beef gravy served in dining ‘support roles’.  I love meals like this, not just because it’s one of my favorites, but rather because there is always enough left over for a satisfying lunch and another meal or so!



On Sunday, for dinner we all decided to go to Wild Wing Café in Knoxville’s Turkey Creek shopping area.  This huge sports bar was really busy and we tracked a couple of football games on the big screen while we dined. (We favor the Saints and the Packers…and they both had great days)



Since I’ve written about Wild Wing Café previously and how many different photos of chicken wings can a person take, I didn’t bother to photograph Dawn Marie’s salad or the Grande Queso and four different flavors of chicken wings we ordered. (24 wings…and I brought 6 home for a late week luncheon snack!)
We did take photos though… Laurie and Dawn Marie as well as Dawn Marie and yours truly.  

The next morning, we dropped her off at the airport at 5:30 AM for a flight to Washington D.C.  A couple of days later, she flew back to her home base in Miami…and then back to Washington again in the same week!  Just thinking about her travel schedule tires me out.

That’s about it for now… Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them.

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Monday, October 14, 2019

Return to Amici – Maryville Tennessee


I rarely blog about a restaurant that was the subject of another post within the last month or even the last year although sometimes I will post a new entrée or featured dish from a recent visit.  However, I’m going to make an exception in this instance and in another in the near future as well…

In this case, both Amici and another to follow, are both ‘different’, ‘innovative’ and a cut above the norm.  In this instance, there were three of us…allowing for a broader sampling of the menu.


Amici is a new Italian Restaurant located on East Broadway Avenue in the Five Point neighborhood which is in the east side of Maryville Tennessee.  They had been open for between 4 and 5 months when we visited this second time.



In case you didn’t read my last post re: Amici, the interior of the restaurant is simple yet eye-catching.  During our first visit, we arrived for an early dinner on a Thursday and the restaurant was fairly quiet with a limited number of customers.  However, in this case it was about 7 PM on a Friday night and Amici was quite busy…with that long communal table fully occupied!  Business was good indeed…


Dawn Marie had flown in from Miami for a short visit and we went straight to Amici after picking her up at the airport.  The ladies immediately opted for a bottle of red wine, in this case it was a 2012 Brunello Di Montalicino, a Sangiovese wine from Tuscany Italy. 

Both ladies enjoyed the wine…as they should have because a little after-the-fact research revealed that most ratings in Wine Spectator and other sources gave this vintage 90 points or better.  It was obvious that our helpful and attentive waiter was a bit inexperienced in opening wine bottles and he missed the mold on the cork… It didn’t seem to have affected the wine though.  FYI, I had a nice specialty ale from Grand Rapids Michigan...


Despite the fact that I’m not crazy about smoked fowl of any type, I decided to order the Hickory Smoked Buffalo Wings with Calabrian Chili Buffalo Sauce and Buttermilk Dressing. ($9.00)

I was right… Despite the positive impact of the Calabrian Chili Buffalo Sauce and the Buttermilk Dressing, I just don’t really like smoked chicken!  Laurie and Dawn had a couple of wings too.  Dawn expected something more with the buttermilk dressing but thought that the wings were good and Laurie liked them quite a bit.  Different strokes…


Dawn ordered the Short Rib Arancini. (I’m not sure of the price as she picked up the bill and it wasn’t on the menu) These roasted balls of garlic risotto were stuffed with meat from beef short ribs, jalapeno, mozzarella and Pomodoro tomatoes.

Dawn thought that they were pretty good and I really liked them.  I considered them to be superior comfort food!  However, both Dawn and I thought that they should be kicked up a notch with some crushed red pepper flakes.  It probably won’t happen as most diners in East Tennessee aren’t into a bit of ‘heat’...favoring less spicy recipes. 


Dawn order the Smoked Chicken Alfredo as her entrée. ($16.00) This version of chicken Alfredo comes with penne pasta, caramelized Cipollini onions, and Pecorino and Taleggio cream. (She skipped the brocolini that normally comes with it)

Unfortunately Dawn didn’t enjoy her dinner.  She said that it was far too salty…taking away from the taste of the chicken, onions and cream sauce.  Laurie had ordered this entrée the last time we visited Amici and she really liked it.  We both tasted Dawn’s pasta and agreed that the salt levels were over the top… Someone in the kitchen had heavy hand with the salt on this occasion. 


For my dinner I chose the Lamb Bolognese. ($18.00) In this dish, lightly sauced ground lamb and pork with pecorino cheese were tossed with terrific restaurant-made tagliatelle noodles.  I was a happy camper for sure but Dawn and I agreed that a little crushed red pepper would have upped this taste treat even more…


Laurie decided to construct a Custom Pizza.  She ordered Georgia Garlic Olive Oil as the base and added house-made Mozzarella Stracciatella, pepperoni and Italian Sausage. ($19.00) It was excellent!  Love the thin crust, the mozzarella and the top notch Italian sausage.  “Sadly” Laurie couldn’t eat it all so we had to bring some home for a follow-up ‘tasting’!

As happened during our last visit, one of Amici’s managers stopped by our table looking for some feedback.  We told him about the overly salty Chicken Alfredo.  We also talked about possibly ramping up the spice/heat level in some dishes, acknowledging that less is probably better with his clientele.  He mentioned that we could request addition of red pepper flakes with our food orders the next time and it would be done.  We had ordered gelato for dessert and he had them taken off the bill as an offset for Dawn’s salty entrée.

Amici is a good restaurant with an interesting menu that’s unlike any others in the greater Knoxville area.  The staff is attentive and friendly.  We will return again soon!  Amici is located at 1420 East Broadway in Maryville Tennessee.  They are open for lunch Wednesday – Sunday from 11 AM – 3 PM and for dinner from 5 PM until 10 PM.  Phone: 865-724-1710.  Website: http://amicimaryville.com/.

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Friday, October 11, 2019

Family, Critters and More…


This rather brief post is all about family…critters…greenery…décor and more family.



We’ll start out with two of Laurie’s great nieces, Charley Kate and Elliot Jane. (Elliot Jane is the younger one) If these photos of the girls don’t bring a smile to your face, then you lack a soul!  On top of their cuteness, their photos herald in the fall season.  The 2 girls are the daughters of Laurie’s niece Kasey, who is one of Laurie’s sister Bonnie’s children.



This chocolate Labrador is Nala…and she’s moved in next door with friends Mike and Sherry.  The only question is whether or not Nala will be a permanent resident!  At the moment Mike and Sherry are fostering/dog sitting her while one of their sons and his family are moving…but there’s a 50/50 chance that this sweet smiling girl will move in for good!  We love other people’s dogs!


We took the back roads home from a recent excursion to a nearby town for dinner.  Along the way we decided to stop and chat with these young calves… They obviously liked the sound of Laurie’s voice!


As we neared our home, we spotted a group of young Tom turkey’s doing their thing…grazing, pecking and digging their way through the neighborhood.


OK…what does this photo/ad have to do with anything?  Well as my wife, Laurie is family…and as the saying goes, “Happy Wife, Happy Life”.  A few years back we hitched a ride on an old Ford Tri-Motor Airplane.  One of Laurie’s wishes is the opportunity to fly in a D.C.-3 but airworthy D.C.-3s are few and far between in the USA.  We recently missed the rare opportunity to fly on one when this aircraft appeared at an airshow/airport open house in Crossville Tennessee. 

A lack of publicity by the airport/sponsors led to uncertainty on our part so we didn’t make the drive.  Now I know the name of the airplane and the related website so the next time they offer rides anywhere within a couple of hours of our house, we’ll make the flight!  The 2019 flying season is complete but you can check out the ‘D.C.-3 Flagship Detroit’ at www.flagshipdetroit.com.


Another neighborhood estate sale…and we have another new plant for Laurie’s plant room!  The best part from my standpoint is that this handsome big croton didn’t sell during the 3-day sale so our friend running the sale, let us know we could come and get it for free. (Everything had to go!) Thanks to neighbor Mike with his truck for helping us with the plant rescue!


Laurie’s very healthy and attractive Christmas cactus was another plant rescue! 


We were looking for fall season mums for our front porch when Laurie and I spotted this very colorful ‘Celosia Intenz’ or Cockscomb at our local garden center.  The bees were all over it!  It’s a bit too late for it this year, but this attractive annual will appear in our flower beds in 2020, adding color to our garden and helping out the honeybees as well…


I came home from a meeting last week and discovered that in my absence Laurie had ushered in the fall season!  Fall weather has been hard to come by here in East Tennessee this year…with temperatures into the 90s even into the first week of October.  Her décor change might have sparked a weather change…with temperatures around the low 70s in the afternoons with pleasant cool evenings.


One last family photo to close out this post to my blog site.  The red-headed 15 year old wearing red tennis shoes and dressed in black at the right of the photo is our grandson, Emmett Lee.  This photo shows his classmates from his Omaha Nebraska high school all dressed up for their big homecoming event.  Emmett’s already over 6’ tall and growing. (But then again, note how tall some of those other kids are!) Emmett is great in school and loves sports too!  In less than 3 years, he’ll be off to college.  Time flies…

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them.

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Small Town Favorite


For quite some length of time we’d talked about having dinner at a local restaurant that seems to be well regarded.  Its owner is even frequently featured on area television stations’ food segments.  


This is Donna’s Old Town Café in Madisonville Tennessee.  This locally owned and operated restaurant is located downtown, right across from the Monroe County Courthouse.  The restaurant occupies a building from ca. 1892 that used to house the old Bank of Madisonville. 


Love the chef statue in front of Donna’s!  It certainly adds character… It’s significant to note that Donna’s has been in business since 1994, impressive longevity for any restaurant!


This is a view of the busy dining room from the front entry area toward the rear of Donna’s.  As you can see, the space is long and relatively narrow with a mix of booths and tables. 

Donna’s was in the local headlines in January of 2107 when an electrical short sparked a fire in the early morning, causing considerable damage to the kitchen and buffet area of the restaurant.  With the community behind her, the owner reopened about 6 months after this near disaster. 




The previous 3 photos show the buffet and its offerings, one of the main draws for Donna’s patrons.  The salad bar is extensive and seemed quite popular.  Second course items included fried chicken, pulled pork, fried fish, fried green tomatoes, fried shrimp, beans and more.  Two different soups were available at one end of this counter.

Despite a fairly extensive menu, given the price of the buffet ($9.99 each), we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to give it a try. 

The iceberg lettuce featured too many bruised/brown marks for me.  I tried the pea salad and didn’t like it.  What was that white stuff in it…perhaps faux crab?  Laurie thought that it was OK but nothing to write home about. 

We moved onto the hot table with the entrees.  We both started out with the broccoli cheese soup.  It was tasty but way too salty for us!  We did agree that the fried fish was a winner!  I tried the fried chicken and it was better than average.  The fried shrimp were decent too.  The fried green tomatoes were just soggy…otherwise OK.  The macaroni and cheese was uneatable… There was so much salt in it that you couldn’t taste the pasta or the cheese!  We didn’t know what to make of the ‘egg rolls’.  They tasted like they came out of a frozen food box with very little flavor…plus there wasn’t any soy, teriyaki or plum sauce to dip them in.



Donna’s is known for their desserts…and they were stacked everywhere on top of the salad bar and on a counter near our table.  Laurie had a small piece of carrot cake and thought that it was OK…but a bit mushy.  I tried an apple crisp or something like that.  It too was OK.


Laurie took a photo of this festive fall season tree at the front of Donna’s near the cashier.  A lot of work went into putting this display together!

To recap… Combining the negatives and the positives (including price), Donna’s was just OK for us.  You do get a lot of food for the money!

Our opinion flies in the face of the restaurant’s obvious popularity with local residents.  In addition to our food negatives, we noted a couple of food containers and a rag stacked along one side of the hot buffet for about 10 minutes…not a positive.  Also, it would be helpful if the food and desserts were labeled as to what they are, as it wasn’t always clear.  On the positive side, Donna’s does have Tabasco on hand for its customers.

Donna’s Old Town Café is located at 100 College Street South in downtown Madisonville Tennessee.  Phone: 423-442-3304.  Donna’s is open from 7 AM until 3 PM Sunday through Wednesday and Thursday through Saturday from 7 AM until 8 PM.  Website: http://oldtowncafe.com/.

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Monday, October 7, 2019

Re-Appraising Fat Stacks Restaurant in Madisonville Tennessee


It had been awhile since we’d eaten at Fat Stacks Restaurant.  It has been one of our favorite ‘cheap eats’ location near us in East Tennessee.  Since it had closed for a bit to remodel/refurbish, and it had been open again for a bit, it was time for us to make a return trip.


FYI…Fat Stacks is attached to a gas station.  The restaurant’s exterior has been freshened up a little with a bit of paint.  In addition, there is a big new sign by TN Hwy. 68 in front of the restaurant (no photo).  It replaced the old one which caught fire and was destroyed.




The first photo shows the area where the biggest changes took place.  The service counter was moved over by the wall that encloses the kitchen plus additional seating was installed. (Apparently the kitchen was also remodeled and upgraded) 

Moving on, the old lights have been replaced by a similar type only the new lights are red.  The braces holding the ceiling panels used to be bright red and they’ve been toned down.  New chairs were brought in to replace the old green ones.
 
In the last photo you can see that our nice waitress is just a ‘little bit’… especially as compared to yours truly.  


Patriotism is a theme at Fat Stacks, that’s for sure!  There are a number of American flags on display as well as this banner supporting our armed forces.  Remember, Tennessee is known as the Volunteer State!


Laurie took this photo of the daily special thinking that I just might be interested!  She is intuitive, that’s for sure…


So this was my early dinner...the ‘Jalapeno Popper Grilled Cheese’. ($6.50) This sandwich is served on grilled sourdough bread with jalapeno cream cheese, melted shredded cheddar cheese and bacon.  Because they’re always grilled as ordered…a bit crispy…I ordered Fat Stacks’ hash brown potatoes as my side.

The sandwich was spicy and messy!  While I couldn’t eat this rich and creamy concoction every day if I intended to live a while longer, it was very good indeed…filling too.  The cook came out to see how I liked it and she was happy to learn that I thought it was not only cleaver and different but very good too.  It turned out that the cook had ‘invented’ this multi-layered spicy treat.


Laurie ordered a sandwich too, another one that we hadn’t tried before.  This is the Sourdough Bacon Burger Melt. ($6.50) The burger is accompanied by bacon, cheddar cheese and parmesan cheese on the grilled sourdough bread.  She ordered the Homemade Ranch Chips as her side. ($1.25)

Laurie really enjoyed this creation but I’m betting that she’ll add grilled onions the next time…just because she likes them.  As for the homemade potato chips, they were so good that if I was to order again, I would have switched, despite the fact that I really like Fat Stacks’ hash browns.

The remodel hasn’t negatively impacted Fat Stacks’ food quality!  It’s as solid as ever.  Breakfast is another great meal we enjoy here.  How about the cost of our meals.  Laurie drank water with lemon but I had coffee…$1.25 with refills included.  Add it up!  $6.50 x 2 + $1.25 x 2 + $1.25 for my coffee equals $16.75 before tax and tips.  Talk about cheap eats and good basic food…wow!

FYI…Fat Stacks serves breakfast all day!  This restaurant is located at 4915 New Highway 68 in Madisonville Tennessee.  Phone: 423-545-9540.  They are on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Fatstacks-Madisonville-2183364905246984/.

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave