RE: Illinois to South Carolina Roadfood Trip Report
TUESDAY BREAKFAST Old Mill Restaurant, Pigeon Forge TN. Like the Applewood, the Old Mill is a very popular Pigeon Forge institution, a complex of gift shops and restaurant with the theme of being located in the large historic mill, on the river with wheel, waterfall and all. The food theme is of course down home cooking with a specialty of pecan pies, which we unfortunately did not order for breakfast.
The restaurant is huge and so are the breakfasts. When seated I saw the dreaded Country Crock Spread and no real butter anywhere. A bad sign and a disgrace for anyplace promoting baked goods and home cooking (as we had been here before I planned ahead and brought my own personal butter). When seated you get a bowl of little spice muffins, each about 1 1/4 inch in diameter and excellent, a highlight. As you sample them you note the breakfasts are quite the value--starting at $4.99 you get unlimited muffins, biscuits, gravy, grits, AND coffee or tea included. For another $1 you get eggs, for another $2 bacon or sausage, another $1 gets pancakes too.
The food was served extra fast, with barely even time to open the newspaper. The biscuits looked homemade and were fine, the gravy? Well...... no sausage and a processed, out-of-the-can taste. To be kind, not a bad flavor once I mixed in some sausage, but not what you would expect for a home cooking place IMO. All I can say is if you like Cracker Barrel or Hardees gravy this will be fine, if not then??? (NOTE unlike some I like the Cracker Barrel a lot, just NOT their gravy) Grits were yellow cornmeal and good flavor, but as we were late in the morning they had a bit of "skin" and lumps from sitting around.
The eggs were OK, the sausage good and the bacon I thought very good. The pancakes were small and thick, with good syrup but not a highlight. An enjoyable country breakfast in a pleasant setting and worth a stop but could be better with just a few details of improvement.
TUESDAY DINNER The Chop House, Seiverville TN. This is a KY/TN chain of 10 restaurants, and is probably a little "corporate" for some readers. But for us after a day of traffic and crowds the atmosphere was just fine, a quiet, carpet-and-dark-wood-panel, "clubby" feel that I liked. Prices were within a dollar or two of other steak chains.
You start with bread and a honey/whipped margarine mix like the other steak chains. Soup is claimed to be made from scratch and is a highlight. I was here a few years ago and got a shrimp bisque that was over the top outstanding, and this time was an excellent chicken gumbo with okra, andouelle sausage and all, second only to what you would find in N'awlins itself. My wife had the standard salad and said it was definitely above average, with two cheeses, real bacon, chopped cucumbers (on the side to mix in yourself) and ranch dressing that could be homemade. Very nice.
The steaks came and they were prepared PERFECTLY as ordered, a pleasant treat. We ordered a rib eye and a small filet, both were excellent cuts, and at first we found the flavor very subtle and mild, almost a bit lacking. I then realized our perceived lack of flavor was actually lack of heavy salt as used by other steakhouses, also a nice change in the end. The ribeye was very good, but the (medium well) filet OK but not great. We wanted french fries and they were average or just slightly better, but also not highly salted or seasoned. The house specialty is a baked sweet potato that was very popular, or giant battered onion rings. Service was atttentive too, we would say this place is good for a couple or small group wanting a nice steak dinner in a quiet setting.
Thanks again everyone for the kind words for our reviews, and maybe our next series will include photos, but not this time. We are off to the Carolinas tomorrow, see you all then, Todd