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Again I have combined writing this “Out to Lunch” article with another committee lunch meeting.
As executive director of a furniture-buying group, I scheduled a meeting with the president and treasurer of the group at Forte’s Restaurant on The Square, in Crossville.
TBG executive committee members have previously enjoyed lunch at Forte’s.
In 1987 I brought together four other struggling retail furniture stores, and we organized the Tennessee Buying Group. The purpose of the group was to let each individual member take advantage of volume prices, like the “big boys.”
Over a 40-year period I operated Poston Furniture stores. In 1958 we opened our first store in Kingston, and expanded into Crossville, Rockwood, Oak Ridge and Harriman
As new members from other states joined the group, we began calling it “The Buying Giant,” keeping the TBG initials. Folks from Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky etc. did not feel comfortable using “Tennessee.”
Today TBG represents 100-storefronts in eighteen states.
James Mayberry, Mayberry’s of Crossville, is current president of TBG, with his store is in the same building Poston Furniture occupied in 1966. Mayberry’s was also one of the original five TBG members.
On this visit James ordered, from the lunch menu, the chopped sirloin steak. For one of his two sides he wanted mashed potatoes, which was not offered. He settled on a small house salad and vegetable of the day, which was a mixed vegetable medley.
Don Blalock, treasurer of TBG, operates Morgan Furniture Center in Sparta, TN. On this visit he was highly complimentary of his turkey club sandwich with sweet potato fries.
Described on the menu as “oven-baked turkey breast with bacon, tomato, lettuce and mayo, served on white bread.” He cleaned his plate
We all read the daily specials written on a board at the entrance and the Italian panini intrigued me, although there were several other sandwiches and burgers on the menu.
The panini wasn’t on the menu, but Wikipedia described it as, “ typically a roll of ciabatta of rosetta bread, filled with salami, ham, and cheese and served warm after having been pressed by a warming grill.”
I’d order it again, although I left a couple of bites, but very few of the generous serving of fries.
“Forte’s Restaurant – on the Square,” is located just off Main St., at 27 E 4th St., in a restored old brick building, with a tin ceiling and exposed brick walls inside. Being next door to the Cumberland County Court House, I’ll bet a bunch of legal matters have been discussed at Forte’s over a tasty lunch.
The families of Ken and John Forte, and their staff, moved Forte’s to the “Square” in April of 2009, after operating for four years at the Lake Tansi area of Crossville.
John Forte has been cooking and catering since he was 16 years old, and Ken Forte worked in the baking business for seven years in New Jersey prior to moving to Crossville.
Ken said seven family members work at Forte’s, a steak house with an Italian flair. One of his sons was our server, but I forgot to get his name.
Jane Powers wrote as a review on Urban Spoon, “Forte’s is the best restaurant between Nashville and Knoxville, without a doubt. All the salad dressings and sauces are fresh made in house. The beef, seafood and chicken are never frozen. You MUST give it a try.
“There are Chef Specials at each meal that include dishes like Sea Bass in beurre blanc (French for “white butter”), oyster poor boys, soft shell crabs and crawfish Etouffee (means stuffed or smothered). Simply the best!”
On the day of our visit there was a large group of “Red Hat Ladies” at a table in the rear area of the dining room.
I wish I could have visited with some of them but was involved in furniture discussion at my table.
Reading Forte’s lunch menu really stimulates an appetite with descriptions such as, “Potato Chip Crusted Mahi Mahi, fresh cut and breaded with potato chip and fried to perfection, served with lettuce and remoulade on a Kaiser roll.”
I was surprised to see “surf & turf” on the lunch menu at a very reasonable price. “4 oz. Filet tips with 3 grilled shrimp served with salsa Verde-pureed cilantro, olive oil, capers and mustard, plus your choice of two sides.
From another online comment, “When I travel, I prefer non-chain restaurants. Forte’s is one that has a very broad menu, from steaks to seafood.
My wife had the salmon salad with generous portions of grilled salmon and topped with ginger soy dressing, served over mixed greens, tomatoes, carrots, and cheese. ( It’s also available over a Caesar salad, and with chicken or steak).”
He continued saying, “ I had the Chicken on the Square, ”a sautéed chicken breast with sun dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts and Asiago cheese cream sauce. It was very tasty.”
Owner Ken Forte said Chicken on the Square is probably the most-ordered item on the menu. Another favorite is the fresh-cut North Atlantic salmon, grilled and served with a side of apricot Dijon sauce, plus a choice of two sides.
For lunch, the Philly cheese steak sandwich of thin sliced Angus beef, grilled with onions, peppers, mushrooms, topped with cheese and served on a hoagie roll, is also very popular.
Ken also told me that the chips served at Forte’s are made on site with a special secret seasoning.
L.G. Puckett, a member of TBG’s board of directors, Puckett’s Furniture, Livingston, TN, and his wife, June, told me they were impressed by the meals they enjoyed at Forte’s.
They were in Crossville last December to view the First National Bank of Tennessee’s “Parade of Christmas Trees.”
Every year the bank’s very large lobby is filled by a display of trees decorated by local schools, churches and civic associations.
Both confirmed the food was exceptional and only remembered how good it was and they had each ordered one of the daily specials, each sampling a bite off the other’s plate.
Forte’s, with an Italian flair, for lunch offers spaghetti and homemade meatballs and sauce; chicken parmesan prepared with chicken breast freshly breaded and topped with Mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce, served with Penne pasta; and Shrimp Vera Cruz – six large shrimp sautéed with white wine, tomatoes, capers, Spanish olives and served over Penne Pasta.
On the dinner menu you’ll find filet mignon, New York and ribeye steaks; double cut pork chops with Granny Smith apple gastrique; baby back ribs; gulf grouper, pan grilled with a Citrus Beurre blanc sauce. All come with soup or salad, baked potato, rice or pasta and vegetables of the day.
It sounds like my wife, Carol, and I could split the dinner offering - “Signature Dish of Seafood Symphony.”
Described as, “sautéed shrimp and scallops served with lobster ravioli in a creamy crab sauce.”
Still we probably wouldn’t have room for the very popular dessert of French cream-filled cream puffs or a choice from dessert tray. I didn’t on this lunch visit.
Forte’s is closed Sunday and Monday; open for lunch 11 a.m. to 2 (Central time) Tuesday through Friday; and open for dinner from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday only. They also serve cocktails.
Carol is the first editor of my articles and I just realized before asking her to proof this “Out To Lunch” article at Forte’s …. she’s never eaten there. After she reads this, it won’t long until we’ll be making a trip to Forte’s for lunch.