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OUT to LUNCH: The Cabin back on list, and the eating there is fantastic

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By Bethel Poston

When the well-known Log Cabin BBQ & Restaurant at Loudon burned in August 2010, I removed it from my list of “Out to Lunch” possible places to visit.

The location, just off Interstate 75 at 10058 Hwy. 72 heading toward Loudon, is now occupied by The Cabin Restaurant.

It went back on my list last December, when I was told Wade Morris became owner-operator of the restaurant.

Wade brought his previous restaurant experiences from Baker Peters, Ruby Tuesday, Gondolier and O’Charley’s to add to the history of the long-time Loudon eating destination.

“I really got into this business at Big Mama’s Karaoke Café in Seymour,” he told me.

For our latest adventure, my wife Carol, and I asked my former boss and friend Don Fowler (Fowlers Furniture) and his wife, Bonita, to join us.

I also wanted Bonita’s parents, John and June Moreland, to be part of our group.

They wouldn’t have far to drive, because their houses are just across I-75, off Hwy 72. Don owns land in Loudon and Roane counties, where the family lives.

“The Cabin Restaurant is my parents’ favorite place to eat,” Bonita said when I extended the invitations.

When John and June went into the restaurant, several employees and some guests greeted them like they were family.

Don ordered appetizers for our group to share. They included servings of sweet potato strips deep- fried and tossed with brown sugar and butter, plus a large plate of delicious whole green beans, batter dipped and fried to a golden brown and served with homemade ranch sauce.

With the added treat of Parmesan-garlic cornbread, we had to be careful not to fill up on appetizers.

I later saw Wade and assistant manager Kendra Rice sampling fried cheese sticks.

Don went for the Tuesday special of the day.

The special, written on a blackboard, was ½-pound smoked ground beef, barbecue sauce, cheese, bacon and a thickly cut onion slice with mayo, lettuce and tomato. It came with an order of fries.

Bonita ordered half of a grilled chicken salad, prepared with fresh greens and veggies, topped with cheddar cheese and boiled eggs and served with The Cabin’s made-on-site ranch dressing.

When we saw the serving, we thought they made a mistake and brought her a full salad.

She later asked for a carry-out box to take home her sizeable leftovers.
John had the Cabin’s chili, made fresh in the kitchen and lightly seasoned.

I didn’t notice if he added cheese and onions. He had a side salad with the well-known ranch dressing.

June chose the homemade hearty vegetable beef soup and a grilled cheese sandwich on buttered Texas toast.

Carol and I were both thinking barbecue, particularly after Wade told us that, due to demand, he was adding a third smoker.

“We cook everything at least eight hours,” he said.

I thoroughly enjoyed my lunch serving of barbecued chicken, fries and delicious homemade cole slaw.

Remembering a previous non-writing tasty barbecue lunch experience, I knew what Carol would select when I saw the menu. She chose the smoked pork barbecue baked potato, smothered in cheddar cheese and topped with barbecue sauce. She added a side salad.

When I told our server, Casay Vann, that I was writing an article for the Roane County News, she said, “You probably know my mother, Rhonda Smith, who works at RCN.”

I do.

My visit with Julie Ellenburg, the Cabin’s executive chef, revealed the most-ordered items: the made-fresh-daily award-winning meatloaf, a chopped sirloin steak dinner, and hickory smoked baby back ribs smothered with the Cabin’s own signature barbecue sauces. Mild and hot barbecue sauces are on the tables for added flavor.

Greeter Anne Graham told me I needed to visit with a group of ladies who had been loyal customers for several years. On the day of our visit, they were celebrating Brenda Bright’s birthday.

Brenda works in the Loudon County Mayor’s Office. She had the homemade vegetable beef soup, saving room for a generous serving of hot fudge (birthday?)cake.

All desserts are made on site.

Tammy Reynolds works in Loudon County’s human resources. She had a large baked potato topped with homemade chili and cheese. She opted out on the hot fudge cake and had apple cobbler with vanilla ice cream.
Linda McNabb is retired from Loudon County government. She had a sandwich of a half grilled chicken breast with honey mustard, lettuce and tomato.

“Everything I’ve had here has been extremely good,” Judy Smallen said. Retired from Maremont Co. in Loudon, she was working on a grilled cheese sandwich and a bowl of vegetable beef soup.

We did not hear them sing “Happy Birthday” to Brenda.

The Cabin Restaurant has maintained the interior rustic look of the original log cabin. There are chairs to seat 82 folks, but the restaurant can handle 99 customers.

Hours are from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Wednesday; and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.  Thursday through Saturday.

Daily specials are all you-can-eat farm-raised catfish fillets, fries, slaw and corn fritters on Monday; smokehouse burger on Tuesday; butterfly jumbo breaded shrimp on Wednesday; meatloaf on Thursday; barbecue dinner for two with smoked meatballs, garden salad, rack of ribs, pulled pork, barbecue chicken and dessert on Friday; and New York strip or rib-eye steak with baked potato and salad or surf and turf on Saturday.

All steaks are hand cut.

Choices of homemade chicken salad, smoked pork barbecue, Philly steak, Reuben, club and hot roast beef sandwiches are also available.

“This is our second time here this week,” said Nathan and Lori Scott. He operates Home Pro Construction in Loudon.

They were joined by their niece, Catie Morgan, a student at Loudon County High School.

Nathan had the smokehouse burger special, while Lori and Catie each went for a barbecue chicken sandwich and potato wedges with sour cream and chives for dipping.

“My grandmother worked here years ago, and her favorite was a bowl of pinto beans and cornbread,” Lori added.

We almost stood and saluted when seven uniformed members of the U.S. Air Force entered the restaurant.

They were traveling from Robbins Air Force Base in Georgia and stopped because they had found good ratings on the Internet for The Cabin Restaurant.

Sweetwater residents Charles and Ellen Sapp told me they had eaten at The Cabin a couple of nights previous to our visit.

Before retiring, they operated Valley Pipe & Fittings in Knoxville. It is now operated by their son.

Charles finished a lightly breaded catfish sandwich served on a hoagie bun with fresh potato chips. Ellen had a farm-raised catfish fillet, slaw, and a side of potato wedges with sour cream and chives for dipping.

“I’ll bet you know my dad, Albert Armour,” Steve Armour said when I sat with him in his booth.

Ab was on the Roane County school board for several years and a good customer of Poston Furniture in Kingston.

We had many “important” community and political discussions in my store.

Steve is retired from the Oak Ridge facilities and lives just down the road in the Paint Rock area of Roane County.

After his meal of chili and a salad, he was taking home some apple cobbler.

Gosh! I missed one of my favorites — a big all-beef frank cooked on a char broiler and served with chili, onions and mustard.
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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.