Friday, August 11, 2017

Down Home Cooking in Oak Ridge Tennessee

I’m always looking for a new dining experience here in East Tennessee and when I read about a restaurant that is a local favorite in Oak Ridge Tennessee, we gathered up our friends Linda and Norm and headed out for dinner.  It was about a 45 minute drive…

This is Dean’s Restaurant and Bakery.  It’s located in Jackson Square which is the historic center of Oak Ridge.  The Square is the original town site of the city.

Oak Ridge is also referred to as “The Secret City”.  Oak Ridge was established in 1942 as a production site for the Manhattan Project, the massive operation that developed the atomic bomb.  The Federal government seized 60,000 acres from local citizens and forced them to quickly leave their property.  By the end of WWII, the population of Oak Ridge (aka the “Atomic City” or the “City Behind the Fence”) had reached 75,000. 

During the Manhattan Project, the government built small areas for shopping and entertainment that were designed to serve workers and their families within the secure area in what is now known as Oak Ridge.  Jackson Square is part of the Oak Ridge Historic District as designated in the National Register of Historic Places.  During the war, Jackson Square was open 24 hours, seven days a week and was a common spot to gather when workers had downtime. These days Jackson Square is home festivals, shops, restaurants, the Oak Ridge Playhouse, (established during WWII), and the Oak Ridge Farmers Market.

The kitchen at Dean’s Restaurant isn’t a ‘secret’ to diners.  It’s definitely an open concept.  It’s worth noting that Dean’s grilled foods are among their most popular.  This is because all grilling is done over a wood fire…  

There are specials every day and prices are very reasonable.  Note the meat and 2 sides approach to dining…a true southern touch.

Remember… This restaurant is named Dean’s Restaurant and Bakery!  On this day, Dean’s was offering 9 different cakes, 3 pies, 3 fried pies, cookies, banana pudding, peanut butter brownies and pecan bars. 

Dean’s is spacious with lots of room between diners.  Historic photos and memorabilia decorate the walls.  Dean’s is not easy to find so GPS is very helpful.  However, Big Ed’s Pizza, another local and well renowned favorite is just a block or so away.

Our clean cut, well-spoken and friendly waiter asked us if we’d like some bread with our meal.  Our answer was yes…and the result was this basket of warm rolls, corn muffins and soft butter.  The corn muffins were perfect…crispy on the edges, soft and moist in the middle and just a touch sweet.

This was Laurie’s dinner.  It’s the Pot Roast Dinner with 3 sides. ($11.99) The pot roast with gravy was about as good as this comfort food can be.  Laurie liked her mashed potatoes and gravy.  The sautéed carrots were just right and the wood grilled squash was as good as she’s ever had!

Norm had one of the specials…Hughie T’s Country Fried Steak. ($11.99) For his sides he went for those carrots and the wood grilled squash with coleslaw as his third…just to be different.  He enjoyed his meal but he thought that the meat should have been warmer…  

Linda just went with the meat and two option. ($10.99) This was the wood grilled boneless Pork Loin with the grilled squash and mashed potatoes.  She enjoyed her pork and loved the squash but wasn’t crazy about the potatoes.  She felt that they tasted a little off from what she’d expect from fresh homemade mashed potatoes.  I tasted Laurie’s and, although Laurie liked them, I had to agree with Linda…

For my entrée, I ordered French fries as one of my meat plus 3 components.  This huge order of fries delivered good flavor and they were hot…but they were too soggy for my taste.  They should be crisp on the outside and soft in the middle.

As you can see, I also went for the Hughie T’s Country Fried Steak…with grilled corn and that amazing squash.  I ordered the grilled corn just because I’d never had it cooked that way before.  It was OK and lots of people prefer their corn grilled...but I’ve decided that my preference is steamed corn with melted butter and pepper.

As for the country fried steak, I agreed with Norm…it was just lukewarm…like it had been cooked earlier and was sitting in a pan.  Then someone put gravy over the top when it was served.  It was a big generous tasty hunk of meat but I think that I prefer a traditional crispy chicken fried steak with pepper gravy.

Linda and Norm shared this big slice of Coconut Cake. ($4.99) They thought that it was nice and moist and they enjoyed their dessert.

Laurie loves Coconut Cream Pie…this version topped with meringue. ($3.99) It wasn’t the best she’s ever had but it was very good.

I decided to go with one of the fried pies.  This was the coconut version. ($2.50) I hadn’t had a fried pie in years and now I remember why.  Although it was tasty, for my preference, fried pies have too much crust and not enough filling.

Dean’s also offers 3 large dinner salads to which you can add chicken salad, grilled chicken or salmon. ($9.99 to $12.98) Four sandwiches are also on the menu…included the Southeast’s omnipresent Pimento Cheese.  For the meat and 1, 2 or 3 options, turkey, fried catfish, grilled chicken, chicken ‘tenders’, pulled pork BBQ and salmon patties are on the regular menu.

We will return to Dean’s Restaurant and Bakery.  Despite the issues noted, the food was well prepared and flavorful and the price was right.  We will sample other items on the menu the next time.

Dean’s Restaurant and Bakery is at 239 Broadway in Oak Ridge Tennessee’s Jackson Square.  Phone: 865-481-2071.  Dean’s website can be found at  

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for dinner!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave 


  1. Looks like a good place with my kind of food and I'm with you on the corn. We'll have to give Dean's a try next time we go to Oak Ridge to see Wende.

  2. Laurie's dish looks like something I would have ordered, Dave! I love the ambiance at this place and that there is plenty of space between tables and diners! The food looks great, like old fashioned down home cooking!

  3. Awesome post and pics, friend David ... thank you for sharing ... everything .. as I know nothing about Tennessee as it's still on my bucket list ... but, hey, I know about Tennessee Walkers and I know about The Oakridge Boys ... smiles ... Love, cat.