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Have you ever driven by a restaurant on a busy highway and thought, “Wonder if that would be a good place to eat?”
When talking with folks for my “Out To Lunch” articles, I always ask if they have other lunch places to recommend.
Linda Coker lives in Oliver Springs, and while we were having lunch at a restaurant there, she said, “Have you ever tried Perkadeli’s in Clinton?”
A little research revealed that Perkadeli’s is a café my wife, Carol, and I had passed and talked about in Clinton, between McDonald’s and Burger King.
One favorable Internet review called it “a cross between a tea room and a deli,” but with one difference:
“Tea rooms usually leave me still hungry since I am a fairly large man that has a healthy appetite,” the reviewer admitted, “but I always leave Perkadeli’s satisfied.”
As I have for previous articles, I decided to assemble our Oak Ridge High School reunion committee at Perkadeli’s to plan our June 20 reunion barbecue, scheduled during the week of the Secret City Festival.
Committee members Jean and Benny Houser live in Clinton, so I asked them to make arrangements for our group. We had 15 who showed up for our lunch meeting.
On this “Out To Lunch” adventure, I was told Perkadeli is a contraction of perka (for perked coffee) and deli (for sandwiches).
Owned and operated by Darlene and Mike Hamock, the café has a sign out front that reads, “Hamock’s Perkadeli.”
Jean told me that where you place your orders is the antique judge’s bench from the old Anderson County Courthouse.
On the day of our visit, people were lined up back to the colorful leaded glass doors at the entrance to place and pay for their orders.
Food is served on paper plates with plastic forks and other disposables. Your number is called for pickup when your selection is ready.
Jean ordered Darlene’s chicken salad on a croissant, described on the large handwritten menu board as, “creamy chicken, bits of dill pickle, onions and pecans in mayonaise base.”
Carolyn Moore, Darlene Hamock’s sister-in-law and the day’s manager, told me they do so much call-in and take-out business that they often sell out of daily specials early into the lunch hour.
Benny wanted the Wednesday vegetable soup special with cornbread, but at 12:45 p.m. it was sold out. He instead enjoyed some homemade potato soup.
Jean and Benny also shared a large slice of German chocolate cake.
Ted Fletcher, Anderson County School’s education coordinator, was in front of me in the line to place our orders.
He is a regular customer, and he carried out two orders of Darlene’s chicken salad sandwiches, plus an assortment of three large slices of cake to share with others in his office.
Carolyn told me they sell 20-30 pounds of Darlene’s chicken salad every day. It is also sold by the pound.
My wife and I usually wait until everybody else has ordered so readers will have varied reviews of the many different items available.
Carol couldn’t finish her “Salad Trios” offering of three generous selections. She chose “gourmét chicken salad,” described as “chunky chicken, apples, celery, almonds, onions and green peppers in a dijon/oil base”; pasta salad and potato salad, all served on a bed of lettuce. Her other options were Darlene’s chicken salad or pimento cheese.
An Internet review boasting of the broccoli cheese soup convinced both Carol and me to have half a bowl (8 ounces). We agree — it’s the best we’ve ever had.
I stuffed myself with a ham and Swiss cheese croissant sandwich with lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise. Other meat choices were roast beef and turkey.
Both too full for dessert, we took home a large slice of carrot cake that we have sampled for three days. The slice was 3 inches tall and 3 inches wide at the large end.
Jan Harlan, who lived three houses up the street from me in grade school, had a homemade pimento cheese sandwich on wheat bread, accompanied with potato salad and potato soup.
Marjore and Conner Matthews, Dan and Kathy Tuxbury and Barbara White were among the several who went for Darlene’s chicken salad. Choices of bread were wheat, sourdough or croissant.
Barbara added a half bowl of potato soup to her order and sampled some homemade peanut butter fudge.
Sue Stansberry ordered only half a chicken sandwich, while Don Cobb had the gourmét chunky chicken salad on a croissant.
I noticed Dan and Kathy split a slice of chocolate pie.
“This brings back memories of my mother’s pie,” Dan said.
Ken Brady selected a roast beef and cheese sandwich on wheat bread. His wife, Barbara, chose the spinach salad.
Terry Stansberry seemed to enjoy his bowl of chili on the very cold day of our visit. He passed on the chili pie.
Perkadeli’s has daily specials and daily meals to go. I was going to order the Wednesday special of Parmesean crusted tilapia over rice, with steamed broccoli and a cheese biscuit, but it was already sold out.
Daily specials change every month. I did hear someone order a meal to go of chicken burritos, Mexican rice and Mexican vegetables.
Carolyn told me Friday’s special of chicken and dumplings is one the most popular items. The “meal to go” for Friday was chicken with cornbread dressing, gravy, mashed potatoes, green beans and roll.
Friday’s special of taco soup with chips sounded good to me, as did the dessert special of Boston cream pie.
Other daily specials are meatloaf, macaroni and cheese, and green beans; barbecue chicken breast with cheesy garlic potatoes; and lasagna with garlic bread.
Another popular item is chicken casserole, red potatoes and green beans.
Perkadeli also serves breakfast featuring a country breakfast casserole, Canadian sandwich, croissant sandwich, BLT on sour dough, cinnamon rolls, muffins and bagels.
Standard beverages, along with gourmét coffees of the day, are offered.
Hours are from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays, and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.
Their menu invites customers to check out Hamock’s Perkadeli on Facebook. Call 865-457-0024 for additional information.
The front of the building at 321 S. Charles Seivers Blvd. does not face the highway; the side does. There is ample parking all around the building.
About 40 people can be seated in the cozy dining area. A glass front display case is filled with tempting desserts and take-out salad boxes.
It would be difficult to choose between a slice of cheesecake, chocolate silk pie, strawberry cheesecake or turtle cheescake.
Hamock’s Perkadeli will celebrate its 15th year anniversary on May 12. Darlene has operated Hamock’s Cakes and Catering in Clinton for more than 32 years.
Both businesses provide box lunches for business and social events and are known throughout the area for their wedding cakes.
For my next visit, I’ll know to call ahead if I want the special of the day.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org.