Friday, March 31, 2017

Revisiting Area Diners…

In the last month or so, we revisited a couple of local diners here in East Tennessee so it’s time for an update…

One of our favorite diners in the area is actually a true diner in the classic sense of the word. (Not counting the increasingly rare dining car format locations around the country)

Hot Rod’s 50’s Diner is located just inside the Alcoa Tennessee City limits right next to the city of Maryville.  As you can see, it’s colorful and there is outside dining available…heated in the wintertime.  On this visit we introduced our friends Jodie and Morrie to Hot Rod’s!

This is the hot rod that is always parked outside the diner whenever it’s open.  It’s a Plymouth/Chrysler Prowler.  The Plymouth Prowler, later the Chrysler Prowler, was a retro-styled production car manufactured and marketed in 1997 and 1999-2002 by DaimlerChrysler.  The Prowler’s overall production totaled only 11,700 cars.  The later model could go from 0 – 62 miles per hour in 5.9 seconds and had a top speed of 126 miles per hour. 

The inside of Hot Rod’s 50’s Diner looks like a ‘hopped up’ diner on steroids!  It’s bright and shiny with lots of retro signs, photos and memorabilia on the walls.

And then of course, there is the diner style menu selection… The first problem that new customers encounter is that the menu is huge!  The burger selection alone is enough to dazzle and baffle diners who haven’t been here before. 

Jodie ordered a Classic Bacon Lettuce and Tomato Sandwich on grilled Texas toast. ($8.49) You might ask what’s with the slices of bacon beside the sandwich.  The fact is that Hot Rod’s BLT comes with ten (10) slices of bacon so those 2 pieces were ‘overflow’!  Jodie had never seen a BLT that was so loaded with one of her and our favorite types of meat…She was happy with her meal & loved the fun atmosphere of the diner!

Laurie went for a 6 inch Italian Hoagie. ($6.99) Her sandwich consisted of ham, Genoa salami, pepperoni, and provolone cheese on a grilled hoagie bun with lettuce, tomato, red onion and mild finger peppers.  Italian dressing was on the side.  All sandwiches come with a side and she chose cottage cheese.  She was loved her meal and she always enjoys the atmosphere…a fun place to eat!

There are no less than 24 different sides that you can choose to go with your sandwich or burger.  This, being the south, diner’s choices include: macaroni and cheese, stuffing, sweet potato fries, fried okra, candied carrots and creamy cheese grits.

After poring over the hamburger menu for some time, Morrie settled on a Kielbasa Burger…a 7 oz. steak burger topped with sliced kielbasa sausage and then topped with provolone cheese. ($8.99)  Morrie thought that this was a great sandwich!

For my dinner, I ordered an 11 oz. Beefster Burger. ($11.99) This huge burger was topped with sliced roast beef and melted cheddar cheese.  It was accompanied by a side of horseradish sauce.  It was cooked medium rare as requested…and it was very good!

Then, as if we hadn’t done enough damage to our digestive system and health in general, Morrie and I both decided to have dessert! (Laurie did too, but her Butter Pecan Shake ($3.99) was positively healthy compared to our desserts…

It was not just any old dessert either!  This is a Fried Twinkie Sundae. ($4.99) A Twinkie is dipped in cake batter, deep fried and then served with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream alongside a heap of whipped cream.  The whole creation is then drizzled with raspberry sauce…

Indecent…Decadent…Sinful…Pure Pleasure!  If I had one last dessert to choose before I died, this would probably be it!

Hot Rod’s 50s Diner is located at 373 Hannum Street in Alcoa Tennessee.  Phone: 865-984-7171.  Their website and their huge menu can be found at:  

Our next diner ‘revisit’ was at Fat Stacks in Madisonville Tennessee.  We’d had a great breakfast the first time we visited but we had noted that they also served sandwiches, burgers and dinners too… We decided to check out what was for dinner.

Viewers may make 2 immediate observations when viewing our dinners at Fat Stacks.  First of all, they look alike.  Secondly, if you added eggs, we’d have breakfast again!  We weren’t very experimental, that’s for sure.  On the other hand, we know what we like… Laurie had the chicken fried steak with gravy and I had chicken fried chicken with gravy.  We both accompanied our choice of meat with those great crispy hash brown potatoes.
We really enjoyed our meals…even if our doctor wouldn’t have approved.  Even better, this is an inexpensive place to eat!  Fat Stacks Restaurant is located at 4915 New Highway 68 in Madisonville Tennessee.  Phone: 423-545-9540.  They are on Facebook at

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…and try not to drool over that fried Twinkie sundae!

Thanks for stopping by to see what we’ve been eating…
P.S. We truly do not eat like this on a daily basis. These meals are "a treat" for eating pretty healthy the rest of the time!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Exploring the Apalachicola Area

We are restless when traveling.  We want to see as much as possible!  When on Maui in Hawaii, we drove 660 miles in our rental car.  On Kauai we drove 440 miles… So it shouldn’t be surprising to anyone that knows us that we’d do a bit of exploring beyond the boundaries of the town of Apalachicola. 

We’d started with St. George Island just to the east of the Apalachicola River…

Immediately upon returning to the mainland from St. George’s Island, we noticed the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve.  We were curious so we decided to check it out...

This is the museum/nature center at the Reserve.  All exhibits are on the second floor but there is an elevator off to the left for those that need it.
I definitely learned something new on this day.  

It turns out that this is just 1 out of 28 protected areas that comprise The National Estuarine Research Reserve System.  These reserves/protected areas have been established through partnerships between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and 22 coastal states plus Puerto Rico. 

These reserves represent different biogeographic regions of the United States. The National Estuarine Research Reserve System protects more than 1,300,000 acres of coastal and estuarine habitats for long-term research, water-quality monitoring, education, and coastal stewardship.

This Oyster fishery boat welcomes visitors on the second floor.  Notice the tongs used for harvesting oysters manually from the floor of Apalachicola Bay.

The Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve protects the biological diversity of the Apalachicola Bay as well as the economic value of the natural resources and pristine conditions.  Between 60 and 85 percent of the local population make their living directly from the fishing industry, most of which is done in reserve waters.  Seafood landings from the Apalachicola Reserve are worth $14–16 million dockside annually.  At the consumer level, this represents a $900–$800 million industry.

The Nature Center is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9AM to 4 PM.  Visitors can view and explore a variety of educational, interactive and live exhibits.  Aquariums stress the interconnection between local fauna from the river, estuary, bay and the Gulf of Mexico.

The Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve encompasses two barrier islands and a portion of a third, the lower 52 miles of the Apalachicola River and its floodplain, portions of adjoining uplands, and the Apalachicola Bay estuarine, riverine, and floodplain systems.  The acreage protected covers 234,715 acres…about the same number of acres that are in Mt. Rainier National Park.

This fine specimen of an American Alligator is available for all to gawk at and get up close to…

Staff at the Reserve conduct and coordinate educational programs for local schools.  In addition, a number of professional workshops and public programs are offered.

I believe that this partial skull and partial rib came from a fin whale.  Its size gives one an idea as to just how big a whale can be! 

Over 25 different species of whales and dolphins can be found swimming, living and traveling through the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.  The warm weather, connecting rivers and waterways and abundant food supply makes the Gulf of Mexico an ideal place for whales and other marine mammals to travel through whether for breeding purposes or to reach another destination. 

Some of the most popular whale species known to inhibit the Gulf of Mexico include the blue whale, fin whale, humpback whale, minke whale, northern right whale, sei whale and the sperm whale.

This rather unusual looking item is a piece of baleen from a ‘baleen’ whale.  The baleen in these whales are keratinous plates.  They are made of a calcified hard α-keratin material, a fiber-reinforced structure made of intermediate filaments (proteins).   

The baleen is crucial in these whales feeding as it is a filter-feeder system inside their mouths.  This system works by whale opening its mouth underwater and taking in water. The whale then pushes the water out, and animals such as krill are filtered by the baleen and remain as food source for the whale.   


·       There are several types of baleen whales.  These include minke, blue, fin, bowhead, gray and right whales.

There are about a half mile of elevated boardwalks that visitors can follow through the natural areas around the Reserve’s Nature Center.  In addition, there is a viewing platform looking out over Apalachicola Bay, a park and a fishing pier with a parking area.

To learn more about this facility, go to  To learn more about The National Estuarine Research Reserve System, go to

Following our visit to the Estuarine Reserve Center east of Apalachicola we headed west along US Hwy. 98 and FL Hwy. 30.  Despite the fact that few amenities such as restaurants, grocery stores, gas stations and the like exist along this route, we were surprised to find a shoreline that contained vacation home after vacation home.  While the area wasn’t packed and it was very laid back, I just didn’t expect many homes or rentals in the area.
At one point we wandered onto Indian Pass Road which followed along what appeared to be an inshore island to its end right across from St. Vincent Island.  St. Vincent Island, a barrier island, is a National Wildlife Refuge.  Access is limited to boat traffic, and the refuge rarely sees large concentrations of people.  The island was purchased by The Nature Conservancy in 1968 for $2.2 million and U.S. Fish and Wildlife repaid them with proceeds from Duck Stamp sales and the St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge was established.


·       Since 1990, St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge has been one of several coastal islands in the southeast where endangered red wolves are being bred.  For more on this refuge, go to

This is the general store located right at the end of Indian Pass Road.  Talk about the look of ‘old’ or ‘lost’ Florida…this is it!


·       For a ride from the end of the road to St. Vincent’s Island or for a charter fishing experience, you can go to 

From Indian Pass Road, we followed FL Hwy. 30 and 30E out as far as we could go on Cape San Blas.  The road ends at the T.H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park.  Wherever there was enough land, between the road, the Gulf and St. Joseph Bay, one could find homes to rent or purchase.  At one point, the space between the road and the water was quite narrow.  The wind was blowing and the light was right so we took these photos of a couple of fishermen sitting on the rip rap looking for dinner…

To learn more about the St. Joseph Peninsula State Park, just go to

Just click on any of the photos if you’d like to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by to see what we’ve been up to!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave 

Monday, March 27, 2017

Historic Apalachicola #4

If you thought or hoped that we were done with our tour of Historic Apalachicola, you were mistaken… There were just too many beautiful historic homes and other structures to stop with 3 posts on the area.  If you recall, this huge National Historic District covers about 4,600 acres and it includes 652 buildings.

This is the Hays House.  It was built in 1908 using black cypress and heart pine harvested from just across the Apalachicola River in East Bay.

I found an old real estate listing for this huge home from back in 2011.  The home has 6,158 square feet of living space.  It has been broken up into rental units with private bathrooms and apparently some have full kitchens as well.  No price was shown as the home was subsequently purchased.  It now operates as a Bed and Breakfast and suites can be booked through   To learn more, go to

This was something different indeed… This is the Fort Coombs Armory.  It is reputed to be the oldest building in continuous use by a National Guard Company anywhere in the USA.  Construction of this building was completed in 1903.

The first armory in Apalachicola was built in 1898.  It was the home of the Franklin Guards, a company of Infantry that was formed in Apalachicola in 1884 by J.H. Coombs and Fred Betterfield.  On May 25, 1900, Apalachicola’s great fire destroyed it and much of the downtown area.  This structure replaced the original armory.  Fort Coombs is a unique example of fortress architecture in Florida, and has served as the military center of Apalachicola for more than a century.  Units stationed here have been mobilized for service in World Wars I and II, the Gulf War and the War with Iraq.  A number of Bronze plaques are mounted on the exterior front wall memorializing the names of Apalachicola and Franklin County citizens who have served their State and Nation.

This attractive home is called the Orman Cottage.  It was built in 2 parts… The first floor of this Greek revival home was built in 1850 by Thomas Orman for one of his sons.  The second floor was added in 1890. 

This home was purchased in 2016 for approximately $385,000.  It has been completely refurbished and updated.  At 2,908 square feet, it has 4 bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms.

Moving from the cottage to the familiar looking but much larger Orman House…  Thomas Orman built this home in 1838.  The wood for this structure was cut to measure in New York and shipped by sailing vessel around the Florida Keys all the way up to Apalachicola.  It was then assembled on a bluff overlooking the Apalachicola River.

This home is now the centerpiece of Florida’s Orman House Historic State Park.  From here, Thomas Orman, could look out over the shipping industry that made his fortune.  When Orman moved here with his family, cotton planting was growing into a booming industry along the Apalachicola River.  In the 1830s the port of Apalachicola was a major beneficiary of this boom.
Riverboats stacked with bales of cotton came down from the upriver landings. The bales were transferred to ocean-going vessels at Apalachicola and they were shipped to the cotton mills of New England and Europe.  Thomas Orman dealt in cotton, buying large shipments as they came down river and then re-selling them and shipping the cotton to the mills. In the process he accumulated a fortune.

To learn more about this Florida State Park, you can go to

Here is one more striking and historic home within Apalachicola’s Historic District.  It’s not specifically listed on any documents that I could find.  However, I’ve included this home because it’s very striking and also because Laurie actually spoke to the owner who was responsible for rehabilitating this classic beauty.  We both love all of the rehab shows on TV!

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

Friday, March 24, 2017

Chinese Food – The Golden Wok

Given the fact that we’ve only found one or two decent Chinese restaurants in the Knoxville area, we were encouraged when we learned that a new Chinese dining opportunity awaited us!

This is the Golden Wok in Knoxville.  Given the obvious small size of this restaurant, I was worried about our experience.  Was the Golden Wok a take-out joint or a ‘real’ sit down restaurant?  Checking this restaurant’s website revealed that they refer to themselves as a “causal (should be casual) dining Chinese Restaurant”.  In any case, we were there for an early dinner after running errands in Knoxville.

Upon entering the Golden Wok, we noted that there were a few tables and booths for those who wished to “dine in…”  There are menus on the counter as well as the lighted menu boards above the kitchen door.
As with most Chinese restaurants, the menu is quite extensive.  There are no less than 31 Lunch Specials listed.  Counting Fried Rice, Chow Mein, Lo Mein, Mei Fun, Poultry, Roast Pork, Beef, Seafood, Vegetable, Egg Foo Young, Sweet and Sour, Moo Shu, Combination Platters, Chef’s Specials and the Diet Specials, there are about 140 different items to choose from on the regular menu!

We started out with our usual…a small Hot and Sour Soup. ($2.00) While it wasn’t as spicy as we like, it was pretty good and the portion was huge especially given the price!  Note that it was served in a plastic container with lid…

Laurie ordered the Szechuan Beef. ($7.95) As with our soup, the portion was huge!  As it was served in a plastic to go type container, it was difficult to eat at the table.  A plate…even a throw away plastic plate would have been preferable.  The flimsy plastic ‘silverware’ was inadequate for the task too.  That said, Laurie thought that her dinner was pretty darn good and she really liked the pork fried rice that accompanied the beef and vegetables.   

I ordered the Orange Chicken…fried breaded white meat chicken in a spicy orange brown sauce with broccoli. ($9.95) Again the portion was huge!  The quality was better than average for East Tennessee and the chef actually delivered the spicy heat that I requested!  He did the same with Laurie’s dinner…

I almost forgot the fact that Laurie’s meal also came with a decent Egg Roll.  Laurie thought that it was pretty good…

Given the quantity of food neither of us was able to finish our meals and we ended up taking leftovers home for a future lunch.  The young man who took our order also prepared our meals.  They do bring the food to your table when it’s ready.

While we’re still hoping for another above average actual ‘sit down’ Chinese Restaurant to open in the area, we both agreed that the Golden Wok provided huge quantities of above average food at bargain prices.  There is no doubt that the Golden Wok is a superior take out restaurant…  They are located at 9253 Kingston Pike (US Hwy. 11) in Knoxville Tennessee.  Phone: 865-539-9201.  Their website can be found at:

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for an early dinner!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Wine Tasting/Dinner Party

Time for another one of our Wine Tasting Parties!  Well, in reality, other than casual conversation about who brought which bottles of wine, these gatherings have really turned into dinner parties preceded by wine and accompanied by more wine…

Our kitchen counter was set up with a couple bottles of red wine to get us started, white wine will go into the big plastic ice bucket, as well as wine glasses for both red and white wines.   

The table was set and the Amish butter was in place.  Our group consists of only 5 couples and one couple was out of town so this was definitely a small intimate gathering.

Larry, (aka Big Dude at and his better half Beverly brought a Gruyere based fondue and a platter of bread squares, vegetables and fruit for dipping.  I ate way too much fondue that’s for sure!  The deviled eggs further up the counter are my wife Laurie’s specialty… Of course I had to have Tabasco to sprinkle on the eggs…

Jill and Paul brought this gorgeous fresh spinach and beet salad with goat cheese and walnuts.  It was a real hit!

Our entrée was an Irish Beef Stew.  It was something totally new for us to make.  We worked together prepping the meat and vegetables, cooking it slowly the day before our party.  When we doubled the recipe, we probably added a bit more water/liquids than we needed so we did have to add some instant potatoes to the mix to thicken it up a bit.  The finished product was well received by our little group!

We basically followed this recipe from  One of the keys to the flavor of the finished product was the addition of Guinness Extra Stout. (  

I took this photo of our group of party animals… In the photo from the left are Larry (Big Dude), Beverly, Jill, Paul, Dick, Susan and Laurie.  Note the nice crusty bread with Amish butter that accompanied and complemented the Irish stew.  The bread was purchased at Fresh Market, a great source for fresh bread and rolls.

Following dinner, we all sat around and discussed life, world affairs, future travels and a plethora of other topics.

Then it was time for dessert!

Susan and Dick brought this over-the-top luscious and decadent dessert.  She got the recipe from Martha…Irv’s better half from our absent couple.

I forgot to take a photo of this cake-like creation while it was still in one piece.  Fortunately, we had a leftover slice to take a picture of… This dessert had a lady finger crust and featured a mousse-like cream cheese/cheesecake filling.  It was amazing!  I was completely guilt ridden after eating a slab of it…

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Owl Cafe Tap Room!

Once again it was time for dinner in Apalachicola.  The first night we ate in the Owl Café.  It was exceptional… So why gamble on your only other night in town when you have already a great experience? The choice for us was easy!

After all, for us this is a ‘new’ restaurant.  The Owl Tap Room didn’t exist when we last visited Apalachicola 17 years ago.  The Tap Room is located in the next attached structure down from the Owl Café, our restaurant of choice and memory for our first evening in town.

I’d checked and noted that the menu in the Owl Tap Room was significantly different than the Owl Café…and that helped us make our decision.  Our waitress helped us choose a couple of pints to go with our dinner.  Laurie had a “Hooter Brown” while I went for something light…it was called a “Happy Pint”.   

The atmosphere in the Tap Room is definitely more informal than the Owl Cafe…and there is no doubt that it is a bar...which also serves food.  The room is nicely decorated and it has a warm welcome feel to it.  It was busy when we arrived for an early dinner and it was packed when we finished. 

We are sure that this appetizer must be ‘illegal’ in some places across the USA!  As per my bill, this starter is named the “Happy Duck Frites”.  It was a Happy Hour Special…normally $9.00 but only $6.00 on this occasion.
On the menu for this item it is listed as “Duck Confit Fries”.  Pulled roasted duck, crispy prosciutto, duck crackin’ and melted gruyere cheese with an unnecessary but tasty dipping sauce make this one of the most decadent and scrumptious appetizers we’ve ever had!   

For her dinner…trying to keep it light after that appetizer…Laurie ordered the Fried Fish Tacos. ($13.00) The fish was nice and fresh as would be expected in Apalachicola.   We love good fish tacos and these filled the bill!

Other options included Chargrilled Alligator Sausage over a fried grit cake, Chipotle and Cilantro Grilled Catch of the Day, a 12 oz. grilled Ribeye steak and Penne Pasta with either chicken or shrimp.  Prices were quite reasonable considering the quality and quantity of the food.  

As for myself, I just plain got lucky!  The menu at the Owl Tap Room is somewhat limited as is the norm in a bar setting.  I was struggling with a decision…trying to decide if I wanted a Cheddar Burger with a Fried Egg and Bacon ($10.50), a Corned Beef Reuben ($12.00) or Fried Jumbo Gulf Shrimp. ($14.00)

That’s when I heard a 'local table' on either side of us order a special…the Short Rib Dinner!  Alas!  The waitress told me that the last one I’d heard being ordered was the last of the short ribs… I slumped down and ordered the burger.  About 5 minutes later the waitress ran up to the table and told me that the chef said there was one order of short ribs left!  Hooray!  So I was served this plate of delicious short ribs and garlic mashed potatoes…and life was good! ($20.00) Just the delightful aroma of this dish was worth ordering it!

The Owl Café Tap Room is another great place to eat in Apalachicola Florida!  We will return!  This restaurant is located at 75 Commerce Street.  Phone: 850-653-1910.  Website:

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

Thanks for stopping by to see what we had for dinner!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave