OUT to LUNCH: Gibson Girls a great place to celebrate a 92nd birthday

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This recent “Out to Lunch” adventure was a celebration of the 92nd birthday of Marjorie Hicks, formerly of Rockwood and now living at Jamestowne Assisted Living in Kingston.

Her appearance and personality makes it hard to believe she is not in her 70s.

She moved to Rockwood when she was 7 years old. Her father, Dave Smith, moved his family from Florida to be a pharmacist at George’s Drug Store, which he later owned.

Her late husband, Rockwood native Dr. Robert Hicks, was a well-known Rockwood physician for many years.

My wife, Carol, made arrangements for her Rockwood Ladies Lunch Bunch to join the celebration at Gibson Girls on Third Street in Kingston, in the location she still calls Pennybacker House.

Pennybacker House Restaurant was Carol’s brainchild in 1996. She presented her ideas to potential investors and spearheaded the effort to buy the house and create the restaurant.

After five years of successful operation, Pennybacker House Restaurant closed because it was unable to retain key employees.

The Pennybacker family built the original house. Augusta Neergaard, daughter of a Danish nobleman, purchased the mansion in 1869.

Augusta preferred a country lifestyle and gave the house as a wedding gift to her daughter, Henryetta, upon her marriage to Joseph Augustus Muecke, Jr., in 1872.

The home passed to one of their daughters, Adelaide Muecke, in 1920. It is through Adelaide that most of the home’s history is known.

Michael Blanchard moved his Gibson Girls Southern Goodies operation in November 2010 to 411 N. Third St., Kingston, and opened Gibson Girls at Adelaide’s.

Michael, son of Byron and Virginia Blanchard, grew up in Kingston and learned to cook in his Grandmother Gibson’s kitchen. He uses his mother’s and aunt’s recipes in the restaurant.

A picture at the restaurant shows the Gibson Girls when they were growing up. See if you can recognize Michael’s mother and aunts.

I wrote an “Out to Lunch” article about the move on Jan. 10, 2010.

Sue Kelly who has been with Gibson Girls since opening, seated our group. Sierra Triplett served us.
Birthday Girl Marjorie chose tuna salad on wheat bread from the menu’s gourmét sandwich selections. She could have ordered a half-sandwich, but went for a whole so she could take half home for a later meal.

Because of the ample presentation, she ate her sandwich open-faced, leaving one side of the bread.
Her son, Bob, is a retired pharmacist. He worked for George’s Drug Store until it closed, and later moved to Live & Let Live Pharmacy in Rockwood. He now lives in Kingston.

He did a good job on his ham-and-Swiss sandwich on sourdough bread, with leaf lettuce, tomatoes, spicy brown mustard and a dill pickle.

His beverage was Nashville tea, a combination of lemonade and tea.

“I’ll never be able to eat such a large salad,” said Bob’s wife, Phyllis, upon seeing her  Mayme’s Fancy Chicken Salad.

The salad of mixed greens topped with fried chicken tenders, bacon, spiced walnuts, cheddar cheese, carrots, croutons and grape tomatoes was served with honey mustard dressing.

Other salads available  include the chef with ham, turkey, cheddar and Swiss cheeses, pepperoncini peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers and homemade croutons; girl’s sampler of chicken, pimento cheese, tuna, turkey or pasta (choice of two) on greens and tomatoes; Southern of homemade chicken salad on salad fixings with almonds and Craisins, served with cheddar biscuits; house; and Greek salad.

I could have ordered for Carol as we entered Gibson Girls. Hand-written at the top of the white Dry Erase board as one of the daily specials was South-of-the-Border quiche; below that was French onion soup. Both are made fresh made on-site.

Carol and I didn’t sit at the same table: the guys had a table, and the ladies pulled two tables together. As I thought, Carol had the quiche special and French onion soup.

Her quiche was presented in an individual baking bowl, topped with a thick crust, with the look of a chicken pot pie.

Other daily changing quiches are Mediterranean, bacon and three cheeses, and spinach.

Melba Hutcherson, seated next to Carol, had the same quiche and soup, adding spice tea as her beverage.

We thought her husband, Floyd, a longtime Rockwood lawyer, would make a fourth at the guys table, but he had to pass on the birthday lunch.

From the Southern Goodies section of the menu, I chose a half sandwich of homemade chicken salad with almonds and Craisins on sourdough bread and a cup of French onion soup. I passed on wheat and rye bread, plus having a whole sandwich because I know about the special desserts.

“Inspired by authentic family recipes and remembrances from the turn of the century, The Gibson Girls brings you the true taste of the Old South,” said the website, www.gibsongirls.com.

“Our collection of delicious baked goods and cakes, fresh-baked quiche, home-style soups and fresh gourmét sandwiches are sure to delight your senses. Step back in time as we welcome you to stop in for one of our daily lunch specials.”

The business also offers catering, and its bakery includes wedding cakes, holiday cakes and gift baskets. Breads, cookies and brownies are baked daily.

Two wedding are currently booked.

Gibson Girls is open for lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays. You just missed a St. Patrick’s Day Sunday brunch; another brunch is planned for Easter, March 31. Call 376-0150 to confirm future brunches.

When we were involved in the operation of Pennybacker House Restaurant, I had to fill in as a bus boy one Easter.

I cleared the tables of the overflow crowd seated in the gazebo and the front porch.

Wilma Walker and her late husband, Bobby, operated an insurance and real estate business in Rockwood for several years. A lawyer’s office separated their business from our Poston Furniture store.

Wilma had what I almost ordered, the Down South Reuben. It’s turkey and smoked ham, melted Swiss cheese, slaw and Thousand Island dressing on grilled rye. She also had coffee.

I think of a Reuben sandwich as corned beef, Swiss cheese and sauerkraut with Russian or Thousand Island dressing. Maybe that one is the Up North version.

Tennessee Caviar in the Southern Starters section of the menu caught my eye while I was writing this article. It’s black beans, shoepeg corn, tomatoes, green onions, and red and yellow peppers served with corn chips.

Charles King was administrator of the Rockwood National Guard unit for several years. His wife, Marilyn, was a nurse for Dr. John Snodgrass in Rockwood.

They both had the cranberry walnut turkey sandwich, served with a cranberry cream cheese and horseradish spread. Each had a cup of French onion soup.

Instead of the traditional birthday cake, Michael prepared some special delicious strawberry cupcakes with pink icing. I noticed Marjorie took a couple home for a later birthday treat.

A chocolate layer cake and a cherry almond crostata were also on the specials-of-the-day board. I had to research to find that a crostata is an Italian baked dessert tart, and a form of pie.

What a great place to have a birthday party or special event!
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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.