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Out to Lunch: Lefty’s is the right choice for top-notch barbecue

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By Bethel Poston

It’s been a few years since my wife, Carol, and I had the pleasure of eating at Lefty’ Bar-B-Que on Peavine Road in Crossville, and being entertained by Lefty and his puppets.

Maurice “Lefty” Sanders and his wife, Nancy, opened the business on July 3, 1982, on Peavine Road.

The Sanderses are no longer with us, and the original restaurant building was taken by the Tennessee Department of Transportation to expand the highway.

Bill Sanders, son of Lefty and Nancy, reopened Lefty’s Bar-B-Que on July 3, 2013, in a newly constructed building with an eye-catching orange roof, at 2565 Genesis Road. It’s next I-40 Exit 320 going west. Telephone number is 931-787-1227.

Like his dad, Bill has a story to tell about the dates of both openings, although 32 years apart. The acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree.

“Lefty’s barbecue meats are basted with our mild sauce and slowly cooked to perfection on our hickory pit,” Lefty’s website at www.leftysbbqtn.com boasts.

“Lefty’s special barbecue sauce is prepared in both a mild and hot blend and is available at your table and on sale by the bottle.”

Barbecue ribs, pulled pork, chicken and brisket are on the menu. Other items include pork chops, catfish and burgers, turkey, grilled cheese, breaded fish, tenderloin, BLT and a Cumberland Country Club sandwich.

Longtime Kingston friends, Cliff and Sue Nunley, joined us on our latest “Out To Lunch” adventure. They have been included in my previous articles.

Our server, Kelsey Daugherty, is a student at Crossville’s nearby Roane State Community College. I kidded her that her pretty smile melted the ice in my tea.

She brought us an appetizer basket of made-on-site potato chips, suggesting that we flavor them with barbecue sauce. She also brought us more ice for my tea.

Cliff and Sue both zeroed in on barbecued pulled-pork sandwiches served on a large bun and garnished with dill pickle slices.

For sides, Sue had cole slaw; Cliff chose potato salad.

We would’ve had to eat somewhere else if I hadn’t shown Carol that Lefty’s menu on the computer still featured a loaded baked potato.

She added pulled pork (with mild barbecue sauce), cheese, butter and chives. She passed on sour cream and an option of barbecued chicken.

The large serving filled her plate, almost causing her to miss out on dessert because she couldn’t eat all of it.

As usual I waited for the others to order so I could select something different for writing purposes.

I don’t remember ever ordering a barbecued chicken sandwich before. Of course, I added the hot barbecue sauce, plus a side of Lefty’s famous homemade baked beans.

The generous serving of chicken so overflowed the large bun I had to use a fork to clean my plate.

At this point, I thought, “If I take enough time interviewing other customers, maybe I’ll be able to handle dessert.”

“I’m still using the same recipes Mom and Dad developed over the years,” Bill said. “We may be a new location but it’s stil ... mmmm ... delicious.”

Six-year-old Kara Perry caught my eye because she was as cute as a bug. Plus, she had one of my favorites – a hot dog. She had fries as her side, with a lot of ketchup.

Kara was visiting from Bristol to see her grandmother, Fran Hunter, who lives in Crossville and is a regular customer at Lefty’s.

“I order a lot of takeouts, and everything is always good,” Fran said as she enjoyed her pork barbecue sandwich.

At their table, working on his barbecue chicken sandwich was Fran’s son, Andy Perry, a teacher at Anderson Elementary School in Bristol.

Grandsons 12-year-old Kolbe Perry and 14-year-old Cameron Perry were doing a good job on pork barbecue sandwiches.

I asked to speak to the owner when we went in. I didn’t know I was talking with the owner’s wife, Terri Sanders.

“Right now, he is delivering a catering order, and when he gets back, we’re expecting a bus load of 30 teenagers from California for lunch,” she said.

I later found out they had 400 pounds of meat cooking to handle three catering jobs scheduled for the next day, Saturday.

We watched as the bus parked, and 30 well-mannered, YMCA Youth and Government students filed in and took their seats.

Lefty’s can seat 105 customers.

Before meeting him, I assumed it was Bill who brought trays of buns for the young folks to pass around.

Soon, large bowls of barbecue pork and chicken, cole slaw, baked beans and potato salad followed.

It was like eating at home – pass the baked beans, please.

One of the beverage servers for the group was the owner’s daughter Brooke, a student at Stone Memorial High School in Crossville.

Only standard beverages are available.

“Why Lefty’s?” I asked the leader of the group from the bus.

“I did a computer search for barbecue between Nashville and Knoxville and was intrigued by Lefty’s website and computer comments,” he said.

“After a brief telephone visit with Bill, I decided we would receive good food and quick service here,” he added. “We’re lucky to have found a one-of-a-kind barbecue place with a terrific barbecue sauce.”

Barbecue ribs are, of course, very popular at Lefty’s, with a choice of half rack St. Louis style spare ribs or three-bone rib portion.

There’s also a barbecue half chicken platter.

A hearty eater can order a sampler platter that includes ribs, a quarter chicken (white or dark meat), and lean pulled pork.

If you’re not into barbecue, the catfish platter with hushpuppies — or the ground beef steak platter — might be for you.

Other sides available include green beans, corn, fried okra, pinto beans, and onion rings made with Lefty’s own special batter.

For lighter fare there is a tossed house salad of iceberg lettuce, carrots, red cabbage, green bell peppers, boiled egg, shredded cheddar cheese and bacon bits.

Nuggets of grilled chicken breast can be added on the house salad.

Lefty’s Cumberland Country Club is a popular item. The triple-decked sandwich is packed with ham, bacon cheese, lettuce, mayo and tomato.

Some folks might enjoy a hamburger, a breaded tilapia fish sandwich or sandwiches of baked ham, smoked pork tenderloin, grilled cheese and grilled or fried chicken.

Until I met Crossville Wholesale Carpet employees George Jones, Jared Swafford and Danny Ferguson, I didn’t realize barbecue sandwiches also came jumbo-sized.

I really didn’t need to know, because I’d already stuffed myself with the regular-size barbecue.

George had the regular size, but his nephew Jared had the jumbo size. Please note: he is a muscular, healthy-size guy.

Danny had loaded nachos of pork, cheese, sour cream, diced onions and jalapenos.

I had an enjoyable visit with Bob Ramsey and Dr. Lloyd Hassler, owners of Stonehaus Winery across the street. Both had pork barbecue sandwiches.

Bob is an attorney and president of Stonehaus; Lloyd is a retired Cookeville physician.

Cliff made a serving of Mrs. Lefty’s made-on-site blackberry cobbler, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, sound too tempting.

He split a serving with Sue. Carol and I shared a large serving, too.

Other desserts were apple, peach and cherry cobbler; plus fudge and pecan pie.

Summer hours at Lefty’s are from 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. CDT Monday through Saturday. It’s closed Sunday.

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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.