Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Comfort Food in East Tennessee for “Yoopers”!

Do you know what a ‘yooper’ is?  You may have to be from the upper Midwest, preferably Michigan, Wisconsin or Minnesota to answer this question…

By definition, a ‘yooper’ is a common term for residents of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  The term is derived from the initials U.P. which is pronounced ‘you-pee’.  U.P. stands for Upper Peninsula, as opposed to the lower peninsula of Michigan.  It is important to note that ‘yooper’ is not a derogatory term.  This slang verbiage is used mainly by residents of Lower Michigan and Wisconsin.

We never expected to see a store named Gramma’s Pasties anywhere in the south or mid-south, much less in Knoxville Tennessee… And yet, here it was, tucked into an out-of-the way strip center about 3 blocks north of I-75.

The British Isles spell this food item “pasty” but for some reason, here in the USA we spell it “pastie”.  Consequently, the older gentlemen who read this posting and who aren’t from the upper Midwest may be confused about the meaning of the word “pastie”.  With the US spelling, it does have two meanings.  For the ‘other’ non-food definition of pastie, the curious can go to a PG Rated Listing at

So…what is a pastie/pasty?  To quote the back of Gramma’s Pasties menu, “A pastie (pass-tee) is a savory meat pie stuffed with meat and vegetables wrapped in a flaky crust.” 

The traditional pasty is associated with Cornwall, the western and southernmost county in England.   There it is regarded as the national dish, actually accounting for roughly 6% of the Cornish food economy!  Back in earlier days, Cornish miners carried pasties into the mines in their shirts to be eaten as their main meal.  As these skilled miners emigrated around the world, they took their pasty ‘habit’ with them…

One makes a pastie/pasty by placing uncooked filling, typically meat and a variety of vegetables, on one half of a flat pastry circle, then folding the pastry in half to wrap the filling in a semicircle and crimping the curved edge to form a seal before baking.  The one on the left is the ‘N’ or ‘Sirloin without Onions” (mine) and Laurie’s is the on right with the ‘O’ or Sirloin with onions.
We purchased 5 different pasties when we dropped in at Gramma’s Pasties.  The menu includes the basic meat and vegetables pasty category, a mid-range upscale grouping and an upper crust variety.  The prices range from $7.50 up to $9.5o each.  To give you an example of the higher priced pasties, there is one that contains portabella mushrooms, pesto, sundried tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, pesto with pine nuts, sweet potatoes, carrots, onions and spices.

This is what Laurie’s ‘Sirloin with Onions’ pasty looked like when it was heated and then cut open to eat.  They were pretty to look at but we thought that these basic pasties were a bit too dry inside plus they were too bland for us as well.  Of course, we like spice and a bit of heat, so ‘bland’ is a matter of personal definition.

One of the owners told us that they’ve been doing a lot of business with take out and with sales to local businesses or for events.  They do deliver but there are tables should you want to eat at the restaurant.  A number of customers were coming in as we left with our order.  We would have purchased a couple of dessert pasties but they hadn’t come out of the oven yet… It will take a true Yooper to put these pasties to the test!

Gramma’s Pasties is located at 465 Park40 North Boulevard in Knoxville Tennessee.  Phone: 865-765-4726.  Website:

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave


  1. I would have been surprised to see this place as well. We need to try making them sometime as the few we've eaten have been bland as well.

  2. Funny with the name of the place, and those pasties look great!

    And Yooper's, for sure! Makes me think of this---we laugh every time we hear it!

    And then there's this:

    Have a good day and take care.