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Out to Lunch: Have your doughnut with your meal at Wendell’s Diner

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By Bethel Poston

I wrote an “Out To Lunch” article on Wendell’s Market & Deli in Oakdale in February 2009. It was a visit my wife, Carol, and I really enjoyed.

When I saw the Roane County News article announcing the Feb. 3 opening of Wendell’s Diner in Midtown, I was pleased. It’s now the closest restaurant to my house.

This second operation for Wendell and Debbie Ruppe is in the former location of Good Ole Days Diner at 2807 Roane State Hwy.

It’s between Mike’s Body Shop and the former bread store (known by old-timers as Davis Diner) on Hwy. 70,.

We invited our Kingston First Baptist Church Sunday School classmates Gary and Myra Humphrey, and class members, Jimmy and Luci Bell, to meet us for this adventure.

“I was born at the site of Roane Medical Center,” Gary told me. (You have to realize this was a few years before the new hospital was built.)

Gary’s family was part of the former Hill & Humphrey’s Grocery & Gas Station at Hwy. 70 and Pine Ridge Road. The business was approximately where Tennessee Eye Care is now.

I see Midtown becoming Roane County’s Turkey Creek of the future.

Myra’s maiden name was Melson, and she also grew up in Midtown.

The sign at Wendell’s Diner says, “The best of times ... the 1980s.

You’d have to remember the ’80s to recognize the heading on the menu – CawaBurger.

“Our burgers are made of 100-percent USDA fresh ground beef, with your choice of mayo, mustard, lettuce, tomato, pickles and onions,” the menu boasts. “Veggies are fresh daily.”

While I was visiting other tables, Carol studied the menu and suggested I order the Donkey Kong burger.

“Dare to try this happening cheeseburger with bacon and American cheese between a grilled Krispy Kreme doughnut cut in half,” the menu tempted.

Instead, I decided to order a Boss Hog ham and cheese sub on wheat bread.

Then I found out Gary was going to order the Donkey Kong burger but changed his mind when Myra mentioned the Krispy Kreme doughnut.

He ordered the Rambo cheeseburger with two all-beef patties and cheese of his choice.

Wendell told us the Donkey Kong was one of the most-order items. I wanted the No. 1, so I went to the kitchen and changed my order to the Donkey Kong, with fries.

It was one of the most amazing food choices I’ve ever made. I really enjoyed it but later passed on dessert – must have been the Krispy Kreme doughnut.

Prior to making this wild choice, you’d have had a hard time convincing me to even consider it. I still can’t believe I did.

Carol had a large serving of fresh tossed salad greens, tomatoes and carrots topped with fried chicken and homemade croutons. Half is now in our refrigerator.

She added a cup of homemade vegetable soup.

We weren’t surprised that Wendell declined to share his mother’s secret recipe. Extra spoons were provided for our friends to sample.

I understand their homemade chili and potato soup are also crowd favorites.

Myra did a good job on her choice of the nine-piece fried shrimp basket, served with fries, slaw and a slice of Texas toast.

I noticed Gary helping himself to her fries.

Decorations for the restaurant include Cabbage Patch Dolls, E.T., Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and images from the popular “The Dukes of Hazzard” television show.

This cozy and friendly diner can accommodate 36 customers. There were few empty seats during our noon Monday visit. In fact a group of six was waiting for our table.

Our good friends, Jimmy and Luci, have been mentioned in my previous articles.

Today Luci went for the classic Wendell burger with onion rings, while Jimmy selected the eight-piece hot wings basket with fries, slaw and Texas toast.

Wendell’s daughter, Mikiah, did a great job of flowing our food and beverages

Carol made a morning visit to Lowe’s before our lunch adventure. Pam Simpson asked her where our next “Out to Lunch” going to be.

“I’ve already eaten at Wendell’s five times, and it always been good,” said Pam, who has worked at Lowe’s for eight years.

Steve and Kendra Inman both had the Mr. T, which the menu says is “for the tough guy … bacon cheeseburger with grilled onions and A1 sauce.”

Kendra is principal at Midtown Elementary, across Hwy. 70 from Wendell’s, and Steve is a remodeling contractor.

Kenyon and Buffy Mee were on their first visit to the new Wendell’s Diner. Kenyon is in management with PermaFix and a member of The Roane Alliance board of directors. Buffy is office manager for Dr. Miriam Tedder and Roane Pulmonary Group.

Kenyon, going with the name, had just “gobbled up” the awesome Pac-Man cheeseburger, and Buffy spoke well of her Philly cheesesteak sub.

I didn’t realize until reviewing the menu while writing this article that Pound Puppies are hot dogs, until I saw a corn dog listed at the bottom of several options offered.

Also on the menu are baskets featuring a hamburger steak with peppers and onions and a three-piece chicken strip meal.

All baskets are served with fries, slaw and Texas toast.

Seated near us were Jason and Candice Peacock and their 8-year-old daughter, Jensen. Jason and Candice work for Planet Inc., a painting contactor in Rockwood, and Jensen is a student at Ridge View Elementary School in Rockwood.

Jason had the Wendell burger with a side of deep-fried jalapeno peppers; Candice had a Boss Hog sub with onion rings.

Boss Hog subs are available with ham and cheese. The Rubik’s club has turkey and cheese.

Jensen was doing a great job on a Cabbage Patch Kids grilled cheese sandwich with fries and a drink.

Everybody at our table eyed Jensen’s hot fudge cake as it passed. Nobody had the courage to order it, though.

Although tempted, we also passed on homemade Heath ice cream pie, butterscotch pie, cheesecake and several other desserts.

Wendell’s Diner is open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Saturday. The breakfast menu offers a wide selection of items, including sausage biscuits, biscuits and gravy, omelets, country ham and tenderloin.

While engrossed with my food, Wendell came by to tell me some ladies in a booth up front, in the other dining area, said they knew me.

I had included Mary Ann Van Dan and her mother, Mona Pahl, in one of my previous “Out to Lunch” articles.

Mary Ann’s husband, Danny, had been our contractor when Carol and I, along with Jimmy and Luci Bell and other investors, remodeled and opened Pennybacker House Restaurant on Third Street in Kingston a few years ago.

Both had an item that also caught my eye on the menu — a Hacky Sack of fresh pocket bread filled with meat. Mary Ann ordered chicken, and Mona had steak.

“Our tasty milkshakes (nine flavors) are great for a dessert or with your meal,” the menu said. “Mayfield ice cream made creamier with whip cream and a cherry on top. If you ask, we may drizzle a little extra chocolate syrup or caramel on top.”

Fountain drinks, tea and coffee are also available.

Jimmy Bell said he would go back at 4 p.m. for his hot fudge cake.
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Bethel Poston is a Roane County businessman and entrepreneur who writes about places of interest in our area. Email suggestions and comments to postonplace@bellsouth.net.