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By Bethel Poston
While Bryan Thompson and Samuel Lee checked my car at Thompson Radiator in Harriman, I asked where they liked to eat.
Samuel said they have increased their visits to Harriman Pizza Station after trying the recently added barbecue that is slow-cooked in the smoker in front of the restaurant building.
Seeing smoke coming out of the cooker is sometimes better advertising than a sign. If the wind is blowing in the right direction, I’ll bet the inviting aroma tempts the folks at Jerry Duncan Ford a few steps down the street.
The day of our visit, in fact, Keith Adcock, a 12-year sales veteran at Jerry Duncan, was having lunch with Roger Armstrong, who is retired from Norfolk Southern Railroad and lives in Kingston.
They both had the four-rib special. Keith had sides of potato salad and slaw. I missed recording Roger’s side selections because we got to talking about his attendance at a Kingston First Baptist Church breakfast I helped organize.
“I eat here almost every day and highly recommend all the food, particularly the Cajun-spiced chicken and Philly steak sandwiches,” Keith said. “Plus, the salads are great.”
This “Out to Lunch” adventure added a surprise for me when my wife, Carol, ordered a calzone stuffed with beef, mushrooms and black olives. She added a small salad on the side. I can’t remember her previously ordering a calzone.
The leftover half of the calzone sure tasted good the next day. No telling how big a carry-out box we would have needed if we had ordered the supreme version.
Carrying out a large portion of her small chef salad, we were assured we had not received a large size in error. Carol finished it later as I attacked the calzone.
Both of her selections were made fresh after the order was placed.
The smoke signal from the smoker and Samuel’s advice directed me to choose the (misnamed) small pulled barbecue sandwich. I passed on sides of potato salad or baked beans and opted for fries and slaw.
Owner Jack Wiseman Jr. had a surprised look on his face when I told him I had a “complaint:” I had to use a fork to get the barbecue, overflowing off my bun, to my mouth.
My plate was clean, and I didn’t ask about desserts.
Jack has a long background serving good food. Trained by his dad, he worked at Burger Barn in Rockwood from 1986-92.
His brother, Todd Russell, operates Pizza Station in Rockwood. They operate independently and with different menus.
Carol remembers buying three tacos for $1 from Burger Barn when she ran Poston Furniture in Rockwood. I think she just wanted to check on her Homecoming ’86 projects in that area.
Jack opened Harriman Pizza Station in March 2009. He prepares all the dough on site, as well as his pizza and barbecue sauces.
The barbecue smoker was added three and a half months ago and is secured with a lock.
After marinating the meat in his secret sauce, he cooks it 14-15 hours, sometimes at night.
Jack’s son, Zachary, was hard at work in the kitchen with Melinda Eaton from Rockwood.
Regular customer Brian Frost owns Mr. Clean Carwash, two lots down from Pizza Station. He had hot chicken wings and cheese bread stixs the day of our visit. From a distance, cheese bread stixs looks like a square pizza without any toppings.
Sugar cinnamon and bacon cheese stixs are also on the menu. I’m told they are a popular item, and I recommend them from a taste test on a previous visit.
“I sometimes have the ham and cheese or the Cajun-spiced chicken sandwich,” Brian said. “I eat here a lot.”
Spunky and Amie Brown were seated nearby and affirmed his choices. Spunky had the Cajun-spiced chicken sandwich with fries; Amie chose the ham and cheese sandwich with fries.
Spunky works for Harriman Public Works Department and says his wife comes in early to place their orders so his food is ready for his 30-minute lunch break. Pizza Station cooks everything to order.
Seated with the Browns was Joe Freels, who works at Sexton Automotive.
“It’s the best food around,” Joe said. “I sometimes have the smoked bologna sandwich and really like the barbecue.”
The customers at tables in the area where they were seated visited like family because they all eat at Pizza Station several times a week.
Part of the family-group were Logan Adcock and Dustin Hamby. Dustin is a Harriman Utility Board employee and was having cheese stixs along with a pineapple, bacon and ham baby pizza (about 6 inches).
Pizzas are freshly prepared and baked in baby, medium and large sizes with a wide assortment of toppings available. The ranch grilled chicken or a barbecued chicken pizza might be an interesting change.
Other regular or large oven-baked sandwiches available are meatball, roast beef, pizza or Italian, all on a hoagie bun and served with dill pickle and pepperoncini.
Go online to www.pizzaharrimantn.com for a complete menu.
Hours are from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday, and now open from noon to 8 p.m. Sunday.
Harriman Pizza Station, at 701 N. Roane St., can seat 33 customers inside. Jack said that probably 70 percent of his business is drive-through pick-up. During our visit, there was a steady bell-ringing alert as cars circled the building to pick up their orders.
I wandered outside and approached a car at the pick-up window. Judy Bailey Jones was picking up two large chef salads for her and her husband, Joe. They both work at Sexton Automotive and are regular customers.
Joe ought to know about good food. He owned Shack’s Restaurant in Rockwood for 25 years.
“It’s not unusual for the Walnut Hill Elementary School teachers to call in (882-0408) a pickup order for 10 salads,” Jack said.
Seeing the rib slabs on Keith and Roger’s plates made me take home an order to enjoy later at home.
I generously topped the ribs with Pizza Station’s secret barbecue sauce, and enjoyed them with a home-baked potato and slaw. The meat fell off the bone at the touch of my fork.
Dessert after the ribs was an added surprise. Carol had the high score at her ladies bridge group and won an apple pie baked by hostess Alice Sweeney. The basket-weave top looked like Grandma’s, and the taste brought back some fond memories.
Our “Out To Lunch” adventure to Harriman Pizza Station just kept on filling.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org.