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Out to Lunch: Riverside Grille proof that change is a good thing

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By Bethel Poston

You may think of this “Out to Lunch” article as déjà vu (French for already seen).

One year ago, I wrote about this restaurant location, 100 Melton Lake Peninsula, in Oak Ridge when it was called Flatwater Grille. Locals may remember it was originally called Gregory’s.

In February of this year, it became Riverside Grille, managed by the Knoxville folks who operate Lakeside Tavern on Concord Park Drive and Parkside Grille on Peters Road.

Riverside Grille’s menu says, “Our passion is to provide our guest with a winning combination of great food, friendly and efficient service, uncompromising quality, and a dining experience to suit all occasions. Offering our guests an incredible view of Melton Lake on the best patio in Oak Ridge.”

This most recent “Out to Lunch” adventure was another of my Oak Ridge High School Reunion Committee meetings.

We were finalizing plans for our Christmas reunion lunch at the Oak Ridge Elks Club on Dec. 6.

Former classmates Jan Harlan and Jean Davis Houser both ordered the Southern-fried chicken tender, described on the menu as, “fresh, specially seasoned, hand-breaded chicken tenders fried crisp and golden, served with fries and creamy cole slaw, accompanied by barbecue or honey mustard dipping sauces.”

When I saw the servings, I knew they would be asking for a take-home box and passing on dessert. I was right.

Jean’s husband, Benny Houser, went for the sirloin chili. The menu says it’s “homemade with sirloin steak, flavored with classic taste of Budweiser, and topped with aged cheddar cheese.”

Three other former classmates, Marjorie Card Matthews, Terry Stansberry and Don Cobb, went for the fish and chips prepared like the chicken strips, but served with homemade remoulade sauce.

Riverside Grille manager Eric Hux has worked with this restaurant group for 12 years and is a graduate of West High School in Knoxville.

He told me that all the dressings, sauces and desserts are made on site.

He also said the fish and chips is one the more popular lunch items.

Others are blackened grouper, grilled salmon and teriyaki fillet ka-
bobs.

My wife, Carol, selected one of Riverside’s signature dishes, the spicy shrimp and chicken pasta.

It’s described as, “Bowtie pasta tossed in a spicy cream sauce with sautéed chicken, shrimp, sun-dried tomatoes, green onions and mushrooms.”

I quickly scanned the menu and ordered the po’ boy, thinking I was getting shrimp.

The menu, however, clearly said, “golden-fried fish fillet on a toasted hoagie with homemade remoulade sauce, lettuce and sliced tomatoes. Served with cole slaw”

I devoured half of the sandwich and finished the other half later at home.

(Are restaurant servings getting larger, or are our appetites less? Carol took home over half of her order, too. Possibly ordering our meals from the starters section of the menu would solve our problem.)

One person reported online that she couldn’t decide which starter was best — Southwest egg rolls or the ahi tuna wonton stack.

Egg rolls are made of “seasoned grilled chicken breast, sweet corn, black beans, red pepper, onions, melted cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses rolled inside a crispy wanton wrapper and served with a cool avocado-ranch dipping sauce.”

The wanton stack is “Sashimi-grade Ahi tuna, encrusted with fresh black pepper, lightly seared and sliced thin, stacked high on crispy wontons with cucumbers, soy ginger glaze and wasabi.”

Maybe we were just saving room for a shared
slice of two-layer Key lime pie.

We were hooked by the description: “Our twist on the classic. One layer of traditional custard Key lime pie with a layer of whipped Key lime cream cheese in a deep dish, hand-crafted graham cracker crust, fished with homemade whipped cream and topped with fresh toasted coconut.”

We didn’t take any pie home.

Kendall Brady knew he might be running late and was meeting his wife, Barbara Herrell Brady, at the restaurant.

To avoid a wait, he gave his order to her by cellphone for a 6-ounce grilled Atlantic salmon, which the menu boasts is “crowned with our special mustard dill sauce, served with white cheddar mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli.”

Barbara chose the sandwich combo of half a club sandwich with a cup of corn chowder soup. (I’ll bet she had a taste of Kendall’s salmon.)

They shared a serving of Crème Bruleé, made with fresh baked vanilla custard, topped with a caramelized brittle sugar layer and garnished with fresh strawberries.

Sue Stansberry had fresh grouper pan-seared and blackened with Cajun spices. It was served with mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli.

To complete our group, Mimi Small Brock had a grilled-cheese sandwich and a salad, and David Willey had a club sandwich.

The teriyaki fillet kabobs description was a temptation for me: “Choice cuts of Black Angus fillet mignon marinated in a sweet teriyaki sauce, skewered with sautéed sweet onions, mushrooms and green peppers. Served over shiitake mushroom rice pilaf with steamed broccoli.”

Before ordering, I almost tried to convince Carol that she should split the kabob signature dish, and add a salad.

Other tempting signatures dishes on the menu are grilled cilantro-lime chicken, 4-ounce fillet medallion, pot roast, baby-back rib platter and fish taco.

During my 10 years as buyer for Fowler’s Furniture, I always accepted an offer from a manufacturer’s salesman for a lunch treat at Parkside Grille, within walking distance of my Knoxville office.

My favorite was the classic burger of 100-percent grand champion Angus beef, hand-patted and cooked to order, served on a toasted bun with leaf lettuce, sliced tomato and pickles. Plus, all burgers come with fries.

I was surprised nobody in our group ordered the Mediterranean chicken salad of “roasted, marinated chicken breast over crisp mixed greens with aged cheddar cheese, Granny Smith apples, raisins and caramelized pecans. Served with apple vinaigrette dressing.”

The strawberry chicken salad also sounded interesting, as well as the salmon avocado or ahi tuna salads.

For a complete tasty menu viewing, go to www.riversidegrilletn.com.

In addition to standard beverages, Riverside Grille has a full bar with selections of beer, wine and mixed drinks.

It’s open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.

There is a Sunday brunch buffet offering 20 entrée items, plus you can order from the menu.

Since I didn’t have shrimp in my po’ boy, next time I’ll order (from the starter section of the menu) spicy shrimp of “tender Gulf shrimp lightly battered then fried, tossed in a sweet and spicy Asian sauce and served with crispy wontons.

Then I’ll still have room for a chocolate mousse cheesecake served over a hand-crafted Oreo.

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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.