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OUT to LUNCH: ‘Grand Canyon’ view at McCloud Mountain

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By Bethel Poston

“Out To Lunch” readers know that my articles are about food, people, and sightseeing. Today’s adventure qualifies in every area.

Over two years ago our Knoxville furniture friends, Jerry and Mickey Pease, invited us to go eat with them at McCloud Mountain Restaurant, near LaFollette, TN.

“I’ve got to come back here in the fall, when the leaves are changing and write about McCloud’s,” I told our group.

“This is Tennessee’s Grand Canyon view, with soaring cliffs, chimney rocks, majestic arches, and of course colorful leaves. Mt. Cloud Mountain is an awe-inspiring place to visit. It may be one of the South’s best-kept secrets.”

Located on a 1300-acre tract of land at an elevation of 2700 feet, atop the Cumberland Mountains, it’s just a few miles to the northeast of LaFollette, Tennessee.

From the top you can get a breathtaking view of the valley below, Norris Lake, House Mountain, Clinch Mountain, the Great Smoky Mountains and Knoxville, Tennessee.

My wife, Carol, and I invited our Midtown Heights neighbors, Leroy and Louise Turbyville Shipwash, to enjoy this adventure with us.

Both are Harriman natives, and are involved in many community events. Louise is one of Carol’s bridge club players and retired from Harriman and Roane County Schools. Leroy owns Shipwash Construction in Rockwood.

On this outing we observed that the leaves were just beginning to turn vibrant red, yellow and orange as we traveled up the mountain. When you read this the colors should be great.

The barbecue smoker outside the restaurant might have influenced Carol’s order of a pulled pork barbecue sandwich with fries. She passed on having the barbecue served on a Kaiser roll with a pickle spear. I had to affirm that it was very tasty.

Riding in wheel chair, and sporting an orange cast on her foot due to bone spur and Achilles surgery, didn’t affect Carol’s appetite.

My sandwich of golden fried, batter-dipped codfish, filet was so large it stuck out around the edges of the Kaiser roll. It came with lettuce, tomato and tartar sauce, plus I added some fries.

On the recommendation of another customer I ordered a plate of fried green tomatoes for our group to share.

Leroy was caught by the daily homemade special written on the dry erase board as we entered - half a chicken with a choice of two sides. He had side choices of green beans, vegetable medley, rice pilaf, asparagus onion rings, homemade coleslaw, baked sweet potato, parsley new potatoes, fries, baked potato, broccoli casserole, cheesy potatoes, and of course –fried green tomatoes.

Louise went for the Hot Brown Platter of baked turkey breast, dressing with gravy, and served with a congealed cranberry salad.

“I don’t know which impresses me more, the cranberry Jell-O salad with apples and marshmallows; or the fresh made yeast roll,” she said.

Our server and hostess, Loretta Livingston, is related to the Crass family in the Oliver Springs area of Roane County.

Blue-plate lunch specials vary with catfish on Friday, and maybe meatloaf. Others are chicken and dumplings, Philly cheese steak sandwich, spaghetti, or soups.

McCloud Mountain Restaurant and Lodge is located about 12 miles off of I-75. Take the Caryville, TN exit #134; bear right on Hwy 25W toward LaFollette; in LaFollette turn left at stop light #9 (N-Indiana Ave.); go five miles and turn right at the sign for McCloud Mt.

The road up is steep and has hairpin turns. There is a gated entrance with a guard and you need reservations to enter. It’s about 2 1/4 miles up to the restaurant and lodge.

Opal Lambdin of LaFollette was celebrating her 92nd birthday at the restaurant, enjoying the chicken special, with baked potato and broccoli casserole.

Her daughter, Leann Sharp, is a physical therapist in Indiana. For several years she has brought her mother to McCloud’s for a birthday lunch. Leann also had the special and both passed on desserts. Maybe a birthday cake later at home.

When I called for reservations, I was told about a group of fifteen arriving at noon, and advised to drive slowly up the mountain. We did notice a helicopter pad on the way up, if want to fly in.
It was a Beta Sigma Phi group from Corbin, KY. My computer research revealed that Mildred Sanders Ruggles, daughter of Colonel Harland Sanders (founder, Kentucky Fried Chicken), was once a member of the group.

One of the ladies was having a Nest of Grilled Chicken Salad. Described as, “Hand cut tossed salad mix with tomatoes, red onions, croutons and cheese topped with a juicy grilled six ounce breast of chicken.

“The made-on-site raspberry vinaigrette dressing added a delicious taste,” she said.
Many of the group had salads that included Chicken Salad Salad, with a scoop of homemade chicken salad spread over mixed greens; or the Waldorf with grapes, apples and walnuts.

I did notice all the ladies ordered desserts, but won’t mention names. The Brownie in the Clouds is described as, “A layered delight – a huge fudge brownie on ice cream, covered with whipped topping and a cherry on top! (Easily enough to share…if you want to!)

There was a wedding engagement group of 25 seated in another area.

My serving of famous fried apple pie, prepared by dessert chef, Rita Jordan, was the size of a Calzone. “Prepared the old fashioned way, on a black iron skillet, topped with cinnamon sugar and drizzled with caramel.” I enjoyed the takeout half of it the next day.

Louise also had the fried apple pie with a scoop of ice cream added; and Leroy chose a slice of pecan pie.

Carol went for the pineapple upside-down cake, half of which I enjoyed later at home.

Restaurant manager, Darryl White, mentioned other made-on-site desserts of spice, chocolate, and toasted coconut pecan cakes.

He and his wife, Missy, oversee the food preparation. “I’ll be doing the cooking tonight,” Darryl told me.

Jim and Bette Failor live in Clearwater Beach, FL and have a summer home at Cove Point on Norris Lake. I wonder if we could find it below as we marvel at the panoramic view looking out the restaurant windows.

On one of several visits, Bette was having the Hot Brown special, and Jim the chef salad.
With them, on their first trip to McCloud’s, from Warner Robbins, GA, were former college classmates Charles and Sharon Utrias.

Sharon also had the Hot Brown special, while Charles selected the New York strip steak burger, loaded with fixin’s.

Developer Paul Fields purchased the McCloud Mountain property when owner Jim McCloud died in 1991. He also developed Campbell County’s Deerfield Resort on Norris Lake.

The lodge, adjacent to the restaurant, has eleven luxury guest rooms available. Guest can choose to eat in, and the attentive staff will gladly deliver breakfast, lunch and/or dinner.
Paul told me the restaurant could accommodate 130 guests. “We’re open 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week. Reservation are required because if it’s bad weather, we close down completely; or may be hosting a private party; or be totally booked.” Call (877) 575-2555.

He said the hickory-apple, smoked on-site, baby back ribs, with a secret barbeque sauce is the most requested entrée; followed by prime rib and filet mignon. All meat is fresh cut.

During the holidays, a buffet is served on Sundays and Thanksgiving Day.

In addition to standard beverages, domestic and imported beers are available. You can also bring your own wine.

Computer search www.facebook.com/mccloudrestaurant, and see photos of McCloud’s, including the new 175 foot board walk on top of the chimney rocks (Grand Canyon?)
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Bethel Poston is a Roane County businessman and entrepreneur who writes about places of interest in our area. E-mail suggestions and comments to postonplace@bellsouth.net.