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OUT to LUNCH by Bethel Poston: Archer’s brings Memphis-style barbecue to Farragut

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By Bethel Poston

When my longtime friend, Nick Drewry, suggested Archer’s BBQ for an “Out to Lunch” visit, I had to ask where it was.

Nick lives in Farragut, where you’ll find Archer’s. He’s the former publisher of the Roane County News, and a member of my Kingston First Baptist Sunday school class.

Driving east on I-40 from Roane County, take the Campbell Station exit and go to Kingston Pike. Then head left toward downtown Knoxville; Archer’s is 0.6 mile on the left in a strip mall at 1151 Kingston Pike. When you pass Wendy’s on the right, turn left into Archer’s parking lot.

Research at tripadvisor.ca found one reviewer noting, “Archer’s has it all ....pulled pork BBQ, dry rubbed ribs, BBQ chicken, wings and beef brisket. The six BBQ sauces that are brought to your table certainly cover everyone’s preference. I like Archer’s original sauce the best. ... A variety of delicious sides and sandwiches help to make everyone satisfied. The fresh cut fries and sweet potato chips are hard to resist.”

My wife, Carol, and I invited our son and daughter-in-law, Buddy and Faye, to meet us for this “Out to Lunch” adventure. They live in West Knoxville, not far from Archer’s.

Near the counter where customers place their orders is a blackboard featuring the “Special of the Day.” It was smoked meatloaf with pepper and onions, mashed potatoes with gravy and stewed green beans on the day of our visit.

Buddy immediately said he was going to order the “special,” before looking at the menu.

Faye selected the barbecue salad with chicken, cheddar cheese, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, onions and firecrackers (spicy seasoned saltine crackers) over a bed of lettuce.

Carol went for the pulled-pork plate with fries and slaw as her choice of sides. She also ordered a serving of fried green tomatoes for all of us to share.

The menu describes them as “Fresh sliced  and buttermilk dipped, coated in a classic cornmeal breading.”

I again waited for the others to order so I could make a different choice. I found several items very appealing before I landed on the fried catfish po’ boy, which the menu says is “French bread dressed with onion, lettuce and tomato. A hushpuppy with tangy horseradish mayo on the side.” I passed on the onion.

It was a big fish on a large bun, but I finished almost all of it, plus most of Carol’s slaw and my share of the fried green tomatoes. I had dessert on my mind.

If you visit with people long enough, you’ll find that you have a connection. Our server, Josie Brooks, attended Midway High School in Roane County.

From Carol’s large pulled-pork serving, we took home enough barbecue for a later meal of two sandwiches. I won’t be able to resist ordering the barbecue on my next trip.

I strongly considered the fried-green BLT, described on the menu as “smoked bacon, fried green tomatoes and lettuce, served on thick toast with barbecue ranch on the side.”

Brisket and beer chili would be tempting on a cold winter day. The menu says it’s “topped with cheddar cheese, sour cream, and diced onions.”

Archer’s lunch manager Linsey Stewart pointed out Chris and Kelly Sharp, as regular customers. Chris is a civil engineer at Urban Engineering, with offices on Kingston Pike, and Kelly is a nursing student and works with Chris.

The day of our visit, they had their favorite and usual order: a pulled-pork plate each. Chris had sides of Southern greens and fried okra, while Kelly chose barbecue baked beans and hushpuppies.

They recently had a birthday party for Chris at Archer’s with about 30 people, including their three children, friends and other children.

“We almost set the place on fire with the cake we brought in for the event,” Kelly said. She did not say how many candles were on his cake to be a fire hazard.

Archer Bagley III opened Archer’s BBQ in late February 2010. He grew up in Memphis during the 1970s and 1980s and frequented many of the famous barbecue establishments that Memphis offers. You could say that good barbecue is in his blood — probably in his DNA, too!

Archer is a University of Tennessee graduate and says he is proud to call Knoxville home, where he and his wife, Yvonne, can raise their family and share his homemade barbecue recipes.

He also relies on chief executive chef Jay Burton, a Memphis native with 28 years of barbecuing experience, including 12 years with Corky’s Barbecue.

Knoxville-based Home & Garden Television employees Brent Cantrell, Chuck Edwards and John Markham were introducing Bill Schehl to his first visit to Archer’s the day we were there.

Brent had the smoked chicken wings. A Yelp.com reviewer from Marietta, Ga., said they are “fantastic, but beware — they are HUGE, and a “wing” is really both the flat and the drum, so each wing is really two wings.”

I didn’t stick around to see if Brent finished his  six wings — or 12, because they were indeed huge. Servings are available with three, six or 12 wings.

John and first-timer Bill had the special,” and Chuck did a good job of polishing off his pulled barbecued chicken sandwich — also huge — with fries.

I hurried over to Stuart and Leslie Row’s table when I saw they were being served dessert. Stuart, a UT graduate with a degree in horticulture and landscape design, operates Stuart Row Landscapes.

My computer research revealed that his firm had previously won several Knoxville House and Garden awards.

On the day of our visit, Stuart had the combo of pulled pork and smoked wings, with sides of slaw and barbecue baked beans. Leslie chose the sliced beef brisket barbecue

My interest was centered on their shared dessert of Nana’s banana pudding. I had already told my family that we should share an order.

“You got to have some of the banana pudding,” Leslie told Carol as she and Stuart passed by our table to speak to a couple seated near us. We did, and it was delicious.

The couple they visited, Mike and Kathy Allee, are Stuart’s landscape customers. Mike is an optometrist, operating Family Vision Care on Western Avenue in Knoxville; Kathy is a pharmacist at Fort Sanders Regional Hospital.

Both had pulled-pork barbecue sandwiches, which Archer says is about 17 percent of the restaurant’s sales.

I didn’t see anyone eating baby back ribs that the menu describes as “dry rubbed, Memphis style, served with two sides and toast.”

They’re available as a half or full rack. Maybe ribs are an evening meal.

Go to www.archersbarbecue.com for a complete menu, bulk and catering information.

Michael Scott, a Pellissippi State Community College student on his second trip to Archer’s, did a good job on a Tennessee cheesesteak. The menu says it’s “sliced brisket on a hoagie roll with grilled onions and pepper jack cheese.”

“I had the same thing on my first visit and remembered how much I enjoyed it before,” he said.

In addition to standard beverages, Archer’s has a full complement of domestic and imported beers, bottle or draft.

I counted 84 seats in the clean and roomy dining area, which is open from 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday to Thursday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and noon to 8 p.m. on Sunday.

I later read on the menu about desserts of orange pineapple cake, and fudge or pecan pie. I wonder how they compare to the delicious banana pudding.
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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.