Wednesday, July 31, 2019

We Revisited a Local Favorite…

Back in early 2016, we’d stopped by a local restaurant that was well regarded by the locals.  We’d had a positive experience on our first visit.  Recently I realized that we hadn’t been there in a long time…and decided it was time to give it another try.

This is Nick and J’s Café and Diner.  It occupies an old Huddle House location at the highway interchange for the Pellissippi Parkway (TN Hwy. 162) and Lovell Road just a couple of miles north of I-40.

I checked the ratings for Nick and J’s before our return just to see how the dining public felt about this diner.  Yelp had 164 reviews with 88.4% of them giving the restaurant 4 or 5 stars.  Only 6.1% gave it 1 or 2 stars.  Then I looked at TripAdvisor.  They had recorded 540 reviews…94% of which graded their experience as excellent or very good and 1.9% rating theirs as terrible or poor.  Similar results were noted on Zomato/Urban Spoon.

I found it interesting that on TripAdvisor Nick and J’s Café and Diner was ranked sixth overall among all 904 restaurants in Knoxville!  

The interior of Nick and J’s hadn’t changed a bit since our last visit.  It definitely has that diner feel.  Considering that it was about 2 pm, the place was quite busy.  Maryville’s East Tennessee Knockouts Girls Softball Team and their coaches and supporters were enjoying a post-game victory luncheon.

Najwan Natour is the owner and operator of this restaurant.  It was named after his children, Nicholas and Jordan.  This is a family affair…with Najwan’s father, mother and wife also assisting with the operation.  This is Najwan’s third successful restaurant in Knoxville.

After a couple of false starts, I ordered a medium rare ‘Hot for the City Hamburger” with Jalapenos, hot mayo spread and cheddar cheese sauce along with a side of French fries. ($8.25) It was an excellent hamburger.  I believe it was Najwan himself who stopped by our table to ensure that my burger was medium rare.  He’d grilled it and it was perfect!  The fries were fine.

However…just a little on the negative side.  My first choice for lunch was a Tuesday special, the Chicken Fried Steak with Sausage Gravy, 2 vegetables and a roll or corn muffin. ($6.99) The waitress told me that they were out of sausage gravy…  So then I went to plan “B” and ordered the Old Style Hot Roast Beef Sandwich on 2 pieces of white bread with gravy and 2 vegetables…one of latter being the oven roasted potatoes. ($8.25) Najwan had rejected his order of roast beef because it was too fatty so it was off the menu for the day.  They had the roasted potatoes earlier in the day but as per our waitress, they’d run out of them.  Double bummer!

Looking back at my previous review of Nick and J’s, I discovered that on that visit, I’d ordered the Pastrami Sandwich.  In East Tennessee, a good pastrami sandwich is hard to find so on this occasion, Laurie repeated my order from the previous visit.  Nick and J’s Pastrami Sandwich is served on grilled marble rye bread with spicy mustard and Swiss cheese.  The keys to the top notch quality of this sandwich are the use of great beef brisket plus the fact that they grill the bread for that extra something.

Laurie was very happy with her sandwich!  There was plenty of pastrami and lots of flavor… I also noted that in the 3.5 years since we last dined at Nick and J’s, the price for the Pastrami Sandwich with French fries had stayed the same…only $7.75!  All of the prices at Nick and J’s are more than reasonable.  Its ‘cheap eats’ with quality food!

I can assure you that we’ll return to Nick and J’s at least one more time this year…  I need to try that chicken fried steak with sausage gravy and the old time open face roast beef sandwich!

Nick and J’s Café and Diner is located at 1526 Lovell Road in Knoxville Tennessee.  They are open from 7 AM until 4 PM Monday through Friday and from 8 AM until 2 PM on Saturday.  Phone: 865-766-5453.  Website: 

Now onto one more food item.  We recently had dinner at Thai Bistro in Loudon Tennessee.  It is one of our preferred places to eat and I’ve written about it before.  However, we’d never tried this dessert so I decided to include it in this posting.

Following a nice dinner, Laurie and I decided to share an order of Sweet Sticky Rice with Mango. ($7.00) It’s a seasonal dessert that is served with coconut milk and topped with sesame seeds.  We were quite pleased with our choice.  This dessert was sweet yet refreshing and it served as a palate cleanser following our spicy Thai entrees. 

Thai Bistro is located at 222 Lakeside Plaza in Loudon Tennessee.  It’s open for lunch from 11 AM until 3 PM and for dinner from 4 PM until 8 PM Tuesday through Sunday.  Phone: 865-657-6440.  Their website is at:

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Monday, July 29, 2019

The Beauty of Nature + More Shopping

As you might have concluded from reading my blog postings, our life lately has been rather laid back with few real adventures…other than an occasional foray to a new restaurant.  I have a knee that’s acting up and that aspect of aging has let to limited exploration with minimal walking mostly on flat surfaces.

We are both slowly going a bit ‘stir crazy’…  FYI, for the uninitiated, the term stir crazy is an adjective (slang) meaning restless or frantic because of confinement, routine, etc.  We aren’t quite ‘frantic’ yet…

Laurie’s 10 + year old orchid…recently featured in one of my posts…continues to produce more colorful blooms and its much fuller this time around.  We believe that it is one of the seventy or so varieties of the Phalaenopisis genus of orchids. 

Orchids of this genus are frequently referred to as moth orchids.  They are native to India, China, Southeast Asia, New Guinea, Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines.

Laurie’s plant room also currently features a 9 year old blooming anthurium plant with its dark-green leathery leaves held on upright stems.  This well-known tropical flower is often used in weddings in Hawaii and on South Pacific Islands. 

That glossy red heart-shaped flower is actually a “spathe”…not a flower per se.  I had to look up ‘spathe’ and it’s a large sheathing bract that encloses the flower cluster.  In this case, the flowers are actually tiny and they cover that spike (spadix) protruding from the spathe.

I also learned that anthurium leaves are poisonous!  The leaves contain calcium oxalate crystals and should be kept away from pets who may play with or chew the foliage.  It suggested that gardeners wear gloves when handling these plants.

The other day, Laurie gave me another ‘opportunity’ to go shopping!  This time we visited a craft and antique mall in downtown Loudon Tennessee.  This is The Shoppes on the Square.  This antique/craft mall features 40 or so individual boutique style ‘shops’ that offer a wide variety of items ranging from furniture to clothing, toys, crafts, beauty products and more.

Scarily for me, these shops or boutiques feature such a wide variety of items that it’s almost a certainty that Laurie will find something that she has to have!  This particular booth or shop featured a lot of antique and old painted furniture.

Fortunately, Laurie uses a series of natural bath and body products from another vendor so she bypassed any purchases from Happy Heart Body and Bath.  In addition to health and beauty products, this vendor also sells hand-crafted soy candles featuring a variety of scents.  To learn more, go to

Some of the booths were a little ‘precious’ for me…but they do draw the ladies in!  About all I ever find that I want in these boutique mall type operations are the occasional interesting old postcard.  

Small booth…but colorful and cluttered with items for the shoppers.

This little shop featured everything from signs to glassware and pottery and from toys to baskets and even a hand saw.  Note the glass flamingo.  I really need one of those!

There are two or three booths at least partially visible in this photo.  I’m not sure if that item hanging from the rafters is a lamp or just a decorative piece…but it sure grabs the eye of the passerby.

This booth was fronted by an old painted and distressed bench.  The space was crowded with signs, crafts, pillows and plenty of decorative items…even a milk can!

I actually recognized the name of this little shop.  I didn’t know that Vickie’s Secret Boutique had a ‘second’ location but I did know that she also has a shop in with Salon Anew, where she is the owner of this beauty salon and my wife frequents for her mani/pedi.  It's located at 101 Cheeyo Way in Loudon Tennessee.  As you can see, this boutique for the ladies features jewelry, apparel, shoes and accessories.  The prices seemed quite reasonable too! To learn more about Vickie’s Secret Boutique, go to

Of course, I only took pictures of a handful of the booths at the Shoppes on the Square.  This accumulation of little shops and boutiques is located at 612 Grove Street in Loudon Tennessee.  They are open from 10 AM to 5 PM Monday through Saturday.  Phone: 865-244-0207.  Their website is at and they are on Facebook at  FYI…I was able to escape with minimal damage to the 

The cone flowers in our front yard are past their prime…but now the feeding frenzy begins!  The female (top photo) and male yellow goldfinches love cone flower seeds and they’ll be on these plants every day until the seeds are eaten or dispersed.

The American goldfinch ranges from mid-Alberta to Mexico depending on the season but many of them remain in the center of the range year around.  Its breeding season is tied to the peak of the food supply…beginning in late July.

The cone flower is a member of the daisy family of flowering plants.  The scientific name for this group of flowers is Echinacea…and many supposed ‘health’ products have been made from these plants although the USDA hasn’t approved it for health related use.

Since we just marked the fiftieth anniversary of man’s first steps on the moon, it seemed appropriate that I end this posting with one of Laurie’s photos of the most recent full moon.  It's the closest thing to a pristine work of nature or a heavenly creation that hasn’t been completely trammeled by mankind…so far! (To date, only 12 men have set foot on the moon)

FYI… The earth is about 80 times larger than the moon.  The distance from the earth to the moon is roughly equivalent to 15.5 trips around the earth at the equator.  The surface area of the moon is just a little bigger than Antarctica. 

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Dave

Friday, July 26, 2019

Miscellaneous – Nature and Its Bounty!

Hey…it is that time of the year.  Nature is in full bloom, greenery is everywhere, critters have had their offspring…and many of the local farmer’s and gardeners are reaping what they sowed!

Laurie has been feeding the bluebirds their favorite food…mealworms!  Papa bluebird has picked one up from the deck that was knocked off the railing…

In the meantime, his baby (actually a full grown teenager) is on the railing looking for something to eat!

But…being a teenager, he still wants dad to feed him.  Doing his own thing is just too much work!

One street over from us, we had to stop to let a couple of wild turkey hens and their broods cross the road.  Laurie scrambled for her phone to take a photo and this blurry picture was the result.  I found it interesting that one of the hens led the group across the road and another one brought up the rear.  

Who doesn’t love fresh fruit and other produce!?  Norm and Linda stopped by after visiting a nearby Mennonite farmers market and presented us with this luscious cantaloupe.  It was really good!

A couple of days later, we had dinner with Linda and Norm and stopped by their house for a nightcap afterwards.  We got our cat ‘fix’ from Morris and Molly!  We didn’t get a photo of Miss Kitty…the latest member of the household.

In any case, Norm loves gardening.  Not only is their yard beautifully landscaped with greenery and flowers, but he has built a number of raised vegetable beds that are very productive.  The first photo shows the harvest that he had on hand when we stopped by…and the second photo shows how lucky our timing was…and how generous Norm is.  The cucumbers were used in a couple of our salads and we steamed those great yellow squash.

But then we were inspired and went on our own foray to the farmer’s market!

We picked up some bi-color corn (terrific), amazing heirloom tomatoes, homemade bread and a great little watermelon for two…

Most importantly, we also stocked up on Laurie’s favorite granola mix.  The Mennonite ladies put a combination together that Laurie really loves.  Most mornings she has yogurt…with the granola mixed in to enhance it.

Well I was thinking… Now we had fresh homemade bread and more importantly some spectacular heirloom tomatoes.  On the way home, we just had to stop by Benton’s store, (Country hams, bacon and more), on US Hwy. 411 in Madisonville Tennessee.  We needed some of their amazing smoked bacon for the ultimate in bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches!

This is what half of one of those purple tomatoes looked like after slicing it up for our BLTs!  Just beautiful!  Unfortunately you’ll have to imagine what our sandwiches looked like as we forgot to take photos…

That’s 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

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Dinner at a National Chain and More

I started thinking about restaurants located relatively close to our house that we hadn’t eaten at since we’ve lived here…10 years in August.  A couple of national chain restaurants came to mind.  So, a couple of weeks ago, we ventured forth, giving one of them a try.

This is the front of Texas Roadhouse Restaurant, which is located in the Turkey Creek shopping complex in west Knoxville and Farragut Tennessee.  Texas Roadhouse is relatively easy to miss as it faces a short subsidiary road in the shopping area.  We’d eaten in a Texas Roadhouse years ago…but it was so long ago, with one exception to be explained later, its memory has faded.   

Upon entering the restaurant, you are greeted by a host or hostess as well as by this refrigerated display case full of various cuts of steak.  For a carnivore like myself, this was a positive sign.  The steaks looked good.

The U-shaped bar is located in the center left of the restaurant’s public area as you enter the building.  Customers in the bar are surrounded by TV screens…

FYI…Texas Roadhouse is based in Louisville Kentucky and it has about 563 restaurants in 49 states in the USA plus restaurants in the United Arab Republic, Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Philippines, Mexico, China, Taiwan and one at a US military base in South Korea.

This is a large restaurant…with mostly booths but some tables for folks like me that aren’t crazy about booths. (Especially for 4 diners) Wood with a touch of industrial style lighting plus a mix of Texan/country décor define the interior.

As we were about to be seated, the hostess asked if we’d like some rolls…a little different than most establishments.  They were stacked near the host’s station and she brought a basket of them with us.  They were just OK and neither of us like the sweet ‘butter’ mixture that they’re served with.  We want real butter!

What we did remember from Texas Roadhouse years past were the peanuts…a fond memory!  There still is a bucket of salted in-shell peanuts on every table.  The only difference is that you don’t throw the shells on the floor like customers used to… Instead, an empty bucket is provided just for the remnants.  As an old loss prevention/risk management guy, I would have been pushing for this change just to prevent slips and falls by customers and employees alike.  

Laurie’s 18 oz. Frozen Margarita with Sangria was very pretty…and she liked it a lot! ($6.25) I did my usual with a pint of Miller Lite. ($3.75) Both drinks went well with those peanuts!

Although there is a lot of variety on the Texas Roadhouse menu, given that meat display case at the entrance with the emphasis on steaks on the menu, the tendency, at least for dinner, is to go for steaks!  It least it was for us.  We both chose steaks and we both went with the side Caesar salad.  We like a lot of salad dressing (although many folks don’t) and this salad was perfect for us.

As I mentioned above, the menu has a lot of variety for diners to choose from.  Beyond the appetizers/starter and salads, it features ribs, combo plates, chicken specialties, country dinners, and dockside favorites, as well as burgers and other sandwiches.

The steaks were tender enough and they were grilled medium rare as requested.  Laurie went for the 10 oz. Ribeye with applesauce on the side ($16.99) and I went for the 12 oz. version with 'loaded' steak fries. ($18.99 plus 99 cents.  In our opinion the steaks just were OK.  Laurie would rate hers a 6 out of 10 and I would rate mine a 5.  While the seasoning gave them flavor, the amount of salt used was a bit over the top.  

Conclusions: 1) The steaks were average for a casual dining restaurant, and 2) The next time we dine at a Texas Roadhouse, we’ll explore other portions of the menu.

The Texas Roadhouse in the Turkey Creek Shopping complex is located at 11001 Turkey Drive in Knoxville Tennessee.  Phone: 865-392-9150.  The company’s website is at

After dinner, Laurie was out of her Tito’s Vodka at home so we went shopping.  For those unfortunates who do imbibe in an alcoholic beverage from time to time, if you don’t have a Total Wine and More in your area, it’s your loss.  Other stores like this exist but few compare in size and available selection of brands and types of beverage.

This photo shows just a part of the fine wine selection at Total Wine and More.  The display also promotes the fact that the company ‘does weddings’! 

Total Wine and More is family owned and is headquartered in Maryland.  The company has over 193 stores in 23 states and it employs over 7,000 associates.  This year, the company’s sales should reach $3,000,000,000!

Our Total Wine and More store has a wine tasting station…a good thing for more than one reason.  Each store stocks roughly 8,000 different wines!
Beyond the USA, they carry wine from (in no particular order) Peru, Armenia, Hungary, Republic of Georgia, Ireland, Canada, Netherlands, Algeria, New Zealand, Chile, Germany, Lebanon, Romania, Uruguay, China, Brazil, Croatia, India, Morocco, Montenegro, Israel, Japan, Cyprus, England, Poland, Switzerland, Greece, Bulgaria, Turkey, Slovenia, Russia, South Africa, Venezuela, Mexico, Denmark, Austria, Portugal, France, Italy, Spain, Australia and Argentina. 

However, on our first visit we had asked if they had any wine from Moldova…and they didn’t have any in stock…although they do carry this country’s wines.  I remember not too many years ago when we had a wine tasting party and the theme was Eastern European wines.  We had a heck of a time finding any wine for the party but Laurie and I lucked out with a donated bottle of excellent Moldovan wine!  If this store was fully stocked, we would have had 12 Eastern European countries to choose from…

Just a couple more photos to give readers who haven’t seen one of these stores…a sense of the enormity of them.  They can encompass as much as 50,000 square feet of space.  In addition to the 8,000 wines, they also carry 3,000 spirits, (bourbon, whisky, Scotch, vodka, tequila, brandy, gin and more), as well as 2,500 varieties of beer!

The net effect of all these choices can be a bit overwhelming but the staff is both knowledgeable and friendly.  One other factor is that high purchasing power equals low prices on competitive products!

Total Wine and More in Knoxville’s Turkey Creek shopping area is located at 11370 Parkside Drive.  Phone: 865-672-5100.  The company’s website is at  

Lost and found!  Laurie went out our front door the other day to check on the yard and to see if she could see any wildlife.  Instead she spotted this miserable and pitiful looking little cockapoo that was just standing there.  When she called the dog…no reaction.  The dog is deaf.  When she picked it up to bring it into the laundry room she also discovered that the dog was blind!  As you can see, despite its problems, it survived its ordeal but it was a smelled too!  It did have a collar with a phone number so we called the owner who came to pick it up.  Happy ending!

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave