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Out to Lunch: Big Dog calling for a return to Jake's Tavern and Grill

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By Bethel Poston

An Oxford dictionary, edited in 1946, describes a tavern as a public house for supply of food and drink.

More recent editions of Webster’s dictionary expand to include whatever the proprietor wishes to advertise.

This “Out to Lunch” adventure to Jake’s Tavern and Grill in Rockwood tells about some of the varied lunch items we and other customers enjoyed.

Jacki Hill and her daughter, Kris, opened Jake’s in March in Shoppes at Walden Ridge, the center next door to Fowler’s Furniture and behind Goodwill Industries.

Husband and father, Kevin Hill, handled remodeling. He owns Pelican Construction Co. Kevin previously worked with Godfather’s Pizza for several years.

If you have the time, ask why the restaurant is named Jake’s.

Since my wife, Carol, and I had played a part in bringing Fowlers Furniture to Roane County, my first thought was to invite Don and Bonita Fowler to join us for lunch next door.

During my 10 years as a buyer and ad manager for Fowler’s out of the Knoxville headquarters, and with Carol opening and managing the Roane County store, most of our meals with them were devoted to furniture discussions.

On this visit, we could talk about food and family.

I started us off by ordering an appetizer platter of fried green beans. They were lightly breaded and fried. I added some ranch dressing for dipping.

Don and Bonita had never tried them. I probably should have ordered a second platter, because we devoured them.

Don ordered the tavern burger with sweet potato fries.

The 8-ounce Angus patty with lettuce, tomato, red onions and pickles was served on a toasted bun. He added a side salad.

Bonita went to the pasta section of the menu and chose the Flying Alfredo.

The menu describes it as “grilled chicken, sautéed mushrooms, Parmesan cream sauce over penne pasta and served with toasted garlic bread.”
Carol landed on the Tucson chicken pasta dish, which the menu says is “grilled chicken, sautéed baby spinach, green peppers, chives, penne pasta and cream sauce, served with toasted garlic bread.”

Bonita and Carol both had take-out boxes for their leftovers.

Readers know of my fondness of hot dogs. One of Jake’s most-ordered meals is The Big Dog, touted on the menu as “one foot (more or less) all Angus beef hotdog, char-grilled, nestled in onions and fresh-made chili on a roasted hoagie roll.”

There’s also the Big Kahuna Catch, which the menu describes as “lightly breaded and deep fried tilapia, dill tarter, lettuce and tomato on a toasted roll.”

I settled on the Rock’n Reuben and fries. It was one of the best Reubens I’ve had in a long time. Ample corned beef, Swiss cheese and sauerkraut are served on toasted marble rye bread, with Thousand Island dressing on the side.

I ate all of the sandwich and left a few of the sweet potato fries. I should have added them to Carol’s take-out box.

A late arrival for lunch was Sammy Stephens, general operations manager of Fowlers Furniture and Bonita’s son. He had no problem devouring an 8-ounce mushroom Swiss cheeseburger and waffle fries.
Server Kelsey Hardin of Kingston handled our hot dishes and kept our well-flavored iced-tea glasses filled.

Jake’s is filled with booths, tables and window-view, bar-height tables. Including seating at the full-service bar, it can handle 110 customer. The outdoor patio seats 16.

The walls behind the sports bar have numerous flat-screen TVs that can be viewed from many of the booths and tables.

Four women carrying gift-wrapped packages were seated in the booth next to us. They were Martha Bennett, Karen Lane, Kim Inman and Donna Mann.

I jokingly asked if they were going to be noisy and disturb us. Almost in unison they said, “We’ll sure try to.”

They are members of a book club and were celebrating Donna’s 83rd birthday on her first visit to Jake’s.

Donna found the Oh Julius Caesar Salad in the “rabbit food” section of the menu. Its classic Caesar dressing is blended with Romaine greens, croutons and Parmesan cheese. I don’t know if she had the optional chicken strips.

Kim, who works with Mountains to Lakes Real Estate in Harriman, was also on her first visit to Jake’s. I saw her order of the Special Chicken Quesadilla and would have been surprised if she cleaned her plate.
It’s made with grilled chicken and cheeses on a toasted tortilla with lettuce, fresh pico de gallo and sour cream.

Martha Rivers Bennett graduated from high school at Kingston with our youngest son, Bryan. I assumed she steered the group to Jake’s, because she was a return customer.

She also chose “rabbit food,” a berry spinach salad with seasonal berries, tree nuts and grilled chicken. It comes with vinaigrette or a choice of dressing.

Karen, office manager for Dr. William Bennett’s practice, also had the Special Chicken Quesadilla.

She and Martha have both had the office staff’s favorite Jake’s carry-out order, Flying Alfredo.

Dr. Bennett came in as the women finished their meals, and I suggested maybe they were waiting for him to pay the check.

Kris told me the most-ordered items are the quarter-pound Jake’s Burger, the Rock’n Reuben, the Big Dog and fish and chips. The latter is three breaded and deep-fried fillets.

Steve Anderson of Kingston and Pat Frank of Cookeville work with Alba Health in Rockwood. They must have overheard Kris mention the most-ordered items, because Steve had the Jake Burger on his second visit; while Pat agrees with me on the Reuben.

A customer posted on the Internet, “You got to try the white chicken chili with grilled chicken, white beans, corn, celery, carrots and onions.”
Menu descriptions of loaded potato soup and two-bean chili also looked tempting.

Kevin told me 80 percent of the food is cooked on site, including homemade soups and sauces. You’ll find side selections of “natural mashed taters,” haricot beans, natural-cut sweet potato fries, waffle fries, baked apples and spinach Maria.

Hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Visit Jake’s Tavern and Grill Facebook page or call 245-8348 for information.

I haven’t forgotten desserts. I just resisted Kelsey’s suggestion of cheesecake with strawberry or chocolate drizzle, rich chocolate chess pie with whipped cream, apple cobbler with vanilla ice cream, or hot fudge walnut brownie.

The thought of passing on that foot-long hotdog is still bugging me. I’ll be back.

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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.