For weeks now, I’ve driven by, day after day, on my way home from work: a red building with a black roof and a whiteboard sign out front. The driveway is gravel and dirt. The minimal marquee says there’s live music almost every day of the week.
So, finally, for my father-in-law’s sixty-seventh birthday, we decided to try the Tennessee Smokehouse. And it was, indeed, a happy happy birthday. (Did you know that you get a free pulled pork sandwich or pulled pork dinner for your birthday?)
Inside, it feels like a big old barn (a barn with mounted televisions). The walls are whitewashed and the windows are full-pane with sills low enough for my toddler to gaze outside. Beverages like sweet tea and soda are served in mason jars with straws (be still my heart!), but I forewent the charm when I glanced at the extensive craft beer list. Bell’s Two Hearted (it makes me think of Nick Adams) was sold out, so I tried something new, a Green Flash West Coast IPA. So good. (So good! So good! So good!)
Another happy coincidence happened when I saw that the appetizer menu included fried pickles. I’ve been talking a lot about these lately (no, I’m not pregnant). I’ve even been thinking of including them on the menu for my daughter’s birthday party. I’ve only experienced fried pickles twice in my life; once at The Irish Lion in Bloomington, Indiana, and again during one of our years at the Wanee Music Festival. The Smokehouse’s pickles were good. Really good. The breading was spicy enough to make me thirsty for beer but not too spicy for my kids.
I am by no means a food connoisseur; I don’t know what my tongue is tasting where. But I feel confident enough to say when food is good. And this, my friends, is damn good food. The pulled pork sandwich was so good that my six-year-old finished the whole thing, bun included. (Don’t even get me started on the cole slaw.) My husband said, “Those were the best ribs I’ve had in my life.” He said this twice, so it must be true.
Let’s be honest; taking three small(ish) children out for a sit-down lunch is always a gamble. But I felt comfortable here. Coloring books and crayons were on the tables as soon as we sat down. The background noise of the televisions and the other diners helped to drown out the shrieks of my youngest child when he decided to poke a hole in his pink lemonade and then watch, in surprise, as it gushed onto his pants, his high chair, and the floor. And all three of them devoured their pulled pork sandwiches and chips.
The staff even seemed happy to have us there. They didn’t rush us out the door. There was no one crying over spilled lemonade. The service was fast and friendly. A man (who might have been the owner) came to check on us and then made sure we had cupcakes enough to celebrate a special grandfather’s birthday appropriately. I think my daughter even invited our waitress to her party (I hope she likes fried pickles).