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Out to Lunch: Taters, Maters & More makes a mighty fine lunch

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By Bethel Poston

Many of my generation have memories of going into a small country grocery store and buying a thick, freshly sliced bologna sandwich on “light bread.”
You might have also added a dill pickle and picked up a cold drink bottle sitting in a cooler filled with water.
This picture popped into my mind when I entered Taters, Maters & More on South Roane Street in Harriman.
Hearing Jeff Cooper, manager of Auto Zone in Harriman, ordering a fried bologna sandwich with tomato and mayo, added to my flashback.
“I’m in here almost every day,” he said. “The food is great, and I like the people.”
I know the tomato was fresh, because Taters, Maters & More owner Amy Crowe said they only served fruits and vegetables when she opened the business in January 2010.
Four tables and chairs are surrounded by selections of fresh vegetables, fruits, jars of chow-chow, relish, bread and butter pickles, honey, Amish jams and jellies. There’s also Tennessee River barbecue sauce, made in Kingston by Don Colyer.
One deli case displays Troyer Amish cheese and meats you can buy by the pound and sliced. Choose from Colby, Swiss, pepper jack, havarti, marble, sharp Cheddar, smoked provolone and habanero jalapeno cheeses.
Meat selections are smoked turkey, chicken breast, corned beef, ham and roast beef.
Another cooler has eggs, thick-sliced bacon and other items, just like a small country grocery store.
This was my third visit to Taters, Maters & More. They originally only did carry-out food. On my first visit, I suggested they add tables and chairs, and maybe picnic tables outside.
Seeing the picnic table out front later, I stopped again and found they had listened to me — and others — and added seating for customers.
Rena Parham, who helps run the place, told me that Friday is chicken, dumplings and dressing day.
My wife, Carol, is a big fan of chicken and dumplings, so I arranged to schedule our “Out to Lunch” adventure on a Friday.
She didn’t consider ordering anything else.
“It was a nice surprise, and delicious,” she said as we left.
Amy’s mom, Jonelle Blankenship, does the cooking. She varies the daily specials by preparing dishes such as lasagna, chicken casserole, meatloaf and barbecue chicken.
“I’m glad I made it to Friday,” said Noah Howard as I approached his table. “The food is great, and the dressing is out of this world.”
He later asked for seconds on the dressing.
Grandma always said it’s a compliment to the cook to ask for seconds. I only talked with one person at Taters, Maters & More eating there for their first time.
Jonelle should be pleased with the compliment of so many repeat customers.
Noah is retired from Union Carbide and has been active civically and politically in Roane County. While operating Poston Furniture, I had a banking relationship with Noah’s son, Nathan who is now with United Bank.
I asked Amy what she would recommend.
“Our hoagies and sandwiches are very popular,” she said. “Our chicken salad and pimento cheese is made on site. The ham and Swiss cheese is probably the most-ordered hoagie, followed by roast beef. If you like corned beef, ours is the best in the area.”
I went for the corned beef, heated in steamer from a former New York City deli.
With the addition of Swiss cheese, sliced tomatoes, mayo and mustard, I had a feast. I’m sure my tomato came from the large basket for sale by the pound across the room.
I could have added chips, Fritos, Doritos, Sun Chips or vegetable medley chips.
“I eat here three or four times a week,” said Larry Goldston, owner of next door’s Out of the Past Antiques. “My favorites are chicken and dumpling, plus their chicken casserole.”
Brandon Pryor, who works at the antique store, had a chicken salad sandwich.
“I order the lasagna when it’s available,” he said.
Amy previously worked down the road at Harriman Produce, and Rena worked in concessions at Roane State Community College.
Along with Mama Jonelle’s cooking, they serve some very tasty food.
Visiting with Benjamin Blankenship, Amy’s brother, he told me about his southern gospel group BEN*JAM. Maybe he could add gospel music as entertainment for customers.
Taters, Maters & More is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays. Call 882-3969 to check on daily specials and place take-out orders.
In addition to sweet tea, a new soda fountain machine was added two months ago and dispenses Coke, Dr Pepper, Sprite and Mello Yello.
Penny Newberry, a Rockwood LPN, and her son, Steven Clabo, were leaving as we came in. Penny had a grilled cheese sandwich and said she had previously had a chili dog. The chili is made on site.
It was Steven’s first time to eat at Taters, Maters & More, and he was complimentary on his barbecued chicken sandwich.
“It had a better flavor than the barbecue I had while I was working in South Carolina,” he said.
Signs at the order counter describe many of the items available.
I asked about the homemade soups, and Amy said they are not offering soup during the summer months.
She did volunteer that salads are made to order. You can check out the fresh vegetables displayed in baskets around the room to stimulate your appetite.
Tim Smith and Mike Matzok are physical therapists at Roane Medical Center and Genesis Therapy Center at Victorian Square in Rockwood. Tim ordered a corned beef and Swiss cheese on white toast with spicy mustard, lettuce and tomato.
Mike, on his first visit, went for the turkey and habanero jalapeno cheese on toasted wheat bread. They were doing a take-out.
Carol ordered some homemade banana pudding for me and freshly baked chocolate chip cookies for herself.
The pudding was a large serving, but I forced myself and cleaned my bowl. Carol said the cookies were good and chewy.
She could have ordered peanut butter cookies, brownies, peanut butter pie babies and, sometimes, fried pies.
“This is the best place in town to eat,” said David Kelly as he picked up a chicken breast sandwich with smoked provolone cheese, plus a brownie. He works next door at Verizon Wireless.
I look forward to eating outside at the picnic table on my next visit to Taters, Maters & More.
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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.