Out to Lunch: East Tennessee’s best can be found at Copeland’s

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By Bethel Poston
I was surprised when our niece, Linda Norman, asked when I was going “Out to Lunch” at Copeland’s. I had to ask where it was, because I’d never heard of it.

Linda lives on River Road and is a dental hygienist in Rockwood. I’ve always had a problem talking when someone was cleaning my teeth, but evidently her patient mentioned the new Kingston restaurant after a treatment.

Copeland’s is on Martin Street across from Piggly Wiggly in the former Pizza Hut location.

For this “Out to Lunch” I asked Linda, her gentleman soulmate Kim Sitzler, and our daughter-in-law, Faye Poston, to join my wife, Carol, and me.

Linda had already eaten at Copeland’s and didn’t need long to study the menu. She and Kim were already seated when we arrived.

Linda chose the 6-inch Italian sub made with ham, salami, pepperoni, and Provolone cheese topped with lettuce, red onions, Italian seasoning and Copeland’s homemade vinaigrette.

All subs are served with homemade potato chips and a pickle.

Kim went for the hot 12-inch Chicago Italian sausage sub. It’s served on Chicago’s own Gonnella bread with tomato sauce, hot giardiniera and green peppers.

Faye selected a 6-inch turkey-and-Swiss sub with lettuce and mayo. Subs are available in either 6- or 12-inch.

Since our group was cooperating with each ordering different items for me to write about, Carol decided on the hot cheesesteak sandwich. It’s made of sliced beef with grilled onions and green peppers. She passed on the options of mushrooms and jalapenos.

She didn’t even know it was nominated on urbanspoon.com as one of the best cheesesteak sandwiches in East Tennessee, or that she could have substituted chicken for the beef.

Readers are aware of my fondness of hot dogs. It’s hard to believe I passed on choosing from a selection of eight different styles of Vienna beef dogs. I later found out that Copeland’s was voted on WBIR-TV as the No. 2 spot in East Tennessee for hot dogs. I’ll be back.

I passed on the Maxwell Street with Polish sausage and kraut; super with two dogs, chili and slaw; Jersey style with diced potatoes; New York cart; Southern chili dog; Kansas City with barbecue; and Under the Boardwalk.

The Chicago dog was almost my choice. It’s an all-beef Vienna frank with tomatoes, yellow mustard, neon relish, onion, sport pepper, a dash of celery salt and a pickle spear served on a poppy seed bun. I still passed.

I couldn’t resist going for Jim’s corn beef Reuben. When server Erin Briggman put the plate in front of me, I thought she had brought me two sandwiches overflowing with corned beef, Swiss cheese and sauerkraut, topped with dressing and served on toasted marble rye bread.

Our microwave did a great job the next day on what was really half a sandwich, plus some leftover tasty homemade potato chips. I ate the pickle spear at Copeland’s and had to raid my refrigerator for another one.

Jeremy Copeland, with the help of his parents, Dwight and Deborah Copeland, and evening cook and cousin Jeff Copeland, opened Copeland’s last May.

Jeremy lives in Midtown and graduated from Roane County High in 1996. He left his job with Pepsi for this opportunity.

He brings his previous experience as a grill cook at the Midtown Drive-In theater to present food in this retro-feel diner that takes you back to ’50s and ’60s.

The background music seemed to come from the restored Rock-Ola jukebox that played 33 1/3 rpm records of that period. We sat at a table covered with black-and-white-checked oilcloth, facing a 1956 poster of Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash advertising their concert in Amory, Miss., with an admission of $1.25.

Mike “Brillo” Miller, a former three-time Rockwood mayor, and Wayne Hamby were seated at a nearby table. Brillo is now office manager with Rockwood Electric Utility, and Wayne does C&D for the utility.

For their first visit to Copeland’s, Brillo was enjoying a half-pound classic hamburger with fries, and Wayne had a cheeseburger with homemade chips.

Anthony Miller, Scott Hoch, and Mick Mikulesky, all employees of Harriman’s Sexton Automotive service department, were all back for a repeat visit to Copeland’s. Anthony was working on a half-pound spicy melt burger with pepper jack cheese, sautéed onions, jalapenos with a spicy sauce. Scott and Mick both had the T-Bucket’s Hawaii Five-O – a half-pound hamburger with a fried egg,. They passed on the pineapple.

The kitchen at Copeland’s looks larger than the 24-seat area that includes four stools at a ’50s-looking soda fountain bar. Jeremy has plans to add patio seating and expand into the back half of the building.

Joyce Nall has worked in the Roane County Executive’s office since 1993. She’s eaten at Copeland’s four or five times and once found all seats were filled.

“I really enjoyed my sub of homemade roast beef, Swiss cheese, lettuce, red onions and horsey sauce on my last visit,” she said.

Heather Stooksbury, who works in the Roane County Purchasing Office, sat with Joyce at the bar. She had a basket of hand-battered chicken tenders with homemade chips.

I noticed a chicken wings basket on the menu. Choices of hot, medium, mild or barbecue are served with ranch or bleu cheese dressing for dipping.

“On my last visit, I had a tasty handmade pizza,” Heather said. “We love this place.”

Not that I had room for a dessert, but the only thing I saw on the menu was a deep-fried Moon Pie, with an option to add peanut butter.

Jeremy pointed to a glass-fronted corner ice cream cooler that he plans to stock with Bluebell ice cream for hand-dipped banana splits and sundaes.

I noticed three customers wearing Kingston Fire Department shirts sitting at one of the bar-height tables. I already had more information than I needed to write my article, so I passed by their table on my way out — until I saw their transportation.

Parked across the street by the Piggly Wiggly was a Kingston fire truck.

Firefighters Ruthie Fadnek, Robin Sheldon and Lisa Crawley, with permission of the fire chief, made sure the truck was operating properly by driving it to Copeland’s.

Ruthie had the traditional BLT; Robin the Yellow Jacket Melt hamburger stuffed with cheese; and Lisa was enjoying a Southern chili dog. Lisa said the club sandwich she had or her previous visit was excellent.

I’ve previously written about talking with folks who connect with my past. Lisa is Jim Crawley’s (we knew him as Jimmy) daughter. Jimmy grew up living next door to my parents on Byrd Circle. Carol and I lived four houses up the street.

Watching Paul Hicks of Rockwood finish his Superdog keeps popping up in my mind. It’s made with two dogs on a split bun, smothered with chili, slaw, cheese, onions and mustard.

Do you think maybe I have a hot dog addiction?

Copeland’s open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from noon to 7 p.m. Sunday. Go to www.copelandsofkingston.com to see a menu showing kids corner, salads, beverages and other sandwiches. Call 376-6766 for take-out orders.

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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.