OUT to LUNCH: Alice’s is Roane’s ‘Cheers’: Everybody knows your name

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By Bethel Poston

Several “Out to Lunch” readers have told me they have missed reading my articles in the Roane County News.

I needed a writing break to devote more time to my job as executive director of Furniture Buying Group.

In 1987, I convinced four other desperate furniture dealers to join me and form the Tennessee Buying Group (now known as The Buying Giant).

Our Group has now grown to more than 300 members and associates in 36 states.

I have really missed writing these articles, and with this (228th) adventure, hope you will again regularly see my “Out to Lunch” articles in the Roane County News.

I first wrote about Alice’s Restaurant in Rockwood in December of 2014. Since then, Alice Langley moved her business across the street, to the former NAPA Auto Parts building, at 123 N. Gateway Ave.

The move provides seating for 75 folks (40 previously); and parking for many more customers.

On our latest adventure, I left my wife, Carol, in a booth to study the five-page menu.

Well-known Rockwood lawyer, Polk Cooley, and his son, Jim, a Rockwood Electric Utility employee; were seated in a booth closer to the front of the restaurant.

My son, Bryan, and Polk’s son, Pat, were part of a group of Roane County guys who rented a house together while attending Tennessee Tech in Cookeville.

The Cooleys told me they are Alice’s regulars who enjoy many menu items – particularly the fresh vegetables.

So I wasn’t surprised that on this visit Polk had the “Polk Cooley Special.” (It’s on the menu under ‘Local Favorites).

It’s a cup of pinto beans (cooked daily), with onions and hot sauce on the side. Polk added mashed potatoes with gravy.

Jim also had a cup of pinto beans and added fried okra as his side dish. Of course, cornbread came with their pinto beans.

I also selected a Local Favorite (at a bargain price) – Mama’s hot roast beef plate of tender roasted and shredded beef, piled between two pieces of bread, with mashed potatoes and covered in brown gravy, then served with side cup of homemade coleslaw.

I ate half of it before heading off to interview other customers. On return I had what was left reheated, and still could not finish the large serving, although it was very tasty.

Another item that caught my eye under the Favorites was a loaded baked potato: flavored with butter, loaded with homemade barbecue, and topped with slaw.

Carol landed on one of the $5 Luncheon Specials on the menu page (11 a.m. to 2 p.m.) and chose the Philly steak quesadilla, french fries and a drink. She devoured it.

Other $5 Lunch Specials (all come with a drink and includes sales tax) are three barbecue sliders, and fries; chicken quesadilla and fries; slaw dog and fries; two hot dogs (with mayo, mustard or ketchup) and fries; small hamburger and fries; and fish sandwich and fries.

“I’ve eaten here three times this week,” said Bonnie Beck, who lives in Midtown.

A volunteer with Rockwood Ministerial Association and Food Pantry, Bonnie’s plate was filled with the $5 Lunch Special of the three barbecue  sliders and fries.

I was surprised that Carol passed on one of the salads. “The Shop” is described as mixed greens, tomatoes, cucumber, onion, egg, green pepper, cheese, plus ham and bacon.

Mona Fulmer is a teller with Regions Bank in Rockwood. She said she eats at Alice’s at least one or more times a week.

“Every day, Alice has daily special written on a white dry-erase board,”  she said. “I had the special of the day, Salisbury steak, green beans and sweet potato casserole.”

I’m showing my age by not recognizing Linda Cheek when I visited with her. Linda’s husband, Calvin, and I served on the Roane County Industrial Board together for several years. They were also good Poston Furniture customers. Calvin also operated several businesses in Rockwood.

“I recommend the hamburger steak special of a half pound beef hand patted and grilled with onions, peppers, then served with baked potato, house salad and Texas toast,” said Linda, another Alice’s regular.

“All their desserts are made on site,” she added. “You ought to try the chocolate pie.”

As it turned out, Carol and I shared a slice of cherry cheesecake, although I slid all the cherries to Carol’s side of the plate.

We could have chosen peach, cherry, blueberry, lemon, blackberry, chocolate or diabetic-friendly chocolate, or strawberry; plus freshly made banana pudding, a warm brownie with ice cream.

On our previous visit, Carol and I shared a fried apple pie.

Owner Alice Langley went to school in Rockwood.

She told me she cuts up the apples, adds the seasonings, then puts a cinnamon and sugar glaze on the piecrust, plus an egg white brushing before serving hot.

“‘We serve real food, not fast food’ is my motto,” Alice said.

“We do a big breakfast business,” she added. “Plus our soup-of-the-day is very popular, plus the cheeseburger and club sandwich.”

Soups available change daily, depending on the mood Alice is in. You may find chicken noodle, tomato, chicken corn chowder, taco, vegetable, potato, macaroni amd tomato, pinto bean or broccoli and cheese. Soups are served with crackers or cornbread.

Homemade chili is served as regular or black furnace; plus a pickle spear and crackers.

Kasey Rich of Oakdale has been a cook at Alice’s for eight months. She brings in several years of experience from Denny’s and Petro’s in Knoxville.

Wayne Hamby eats at Alice’s several times a week. He is retired from Rockwood Electric Utility and was having breakfast for lunch on the day of our visit.

“It’s called Eggs in a Basket, but not on the menu,” he said.

I saw his plate with two pieces of toast covered with melted cheese; large circles were cut out of the middle, with the toast cutouts were served on the side; and each basket (cutout) was filled with a fried egg. Sausage was also served on the plate.

Eating with Wayne was Tim Comer, an employee at Y-12 Oak Ridge Nuclear Facility. He had the $5 Lunch Special of chicken quesadilla with fries.

“I eat here at least one to three times a week,” Pat Vizueth said when I visited at her booth. She lives in Grandview and works at Walmart.

On this visit, Pat selected roast beef with sides of pinto beans, cornbread and corn from the “Daily Hot Bar Specials”.

Alice’s Restaurant is open from 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday; from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday; and from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday. Call 214-5404 for daily specials or take-outs.

Carol said, “Alice’s reminds me of the TV show Cheers, where everybody knows your name.”
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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.