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Out to Lunch: Corner Café builds a mighty good sandwich

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By Bethel Poston

Always looking for new places to go “Out to Lunch,” I was pleased to receive an e-mail from Ray Collett, Rockwood City Councilman, telling me that a new restaurant, Corner Café, was opening in Rockwood.
My wife, Carol, and I visited Corner Café when it had been open for less than a week. It’s on the corner of Rockwood Street and Front Avenue, across from Homecoming Park.
Carol was one of the Rockwood merchants who spearheaded the park’s development during Tennessee’s “Homecoming 86” celebration.
You’ll tell your age if you admit that you remember when Dixie Meat Market occupied the Corner Café location in the 1940s and ’50s.
A younger generation will remember when Jack Wiseman opened his Burger Barn there several years later.
This was developing into a nostalgia trip. Going into the Café in front of us was Jim Smith, a Rockwood attorney and our landlord when we operated Poston Furniture next to his office on Rockwood Street.
Time flies — it doesn’t seem that long ago when we opened the store in 1973.
Susanne Fischer, his sister and a paralegal in his office, joined him for lunch. This was also their first visit to Corner Café.
Jim ordered a pastrami sandwich with round-sliced, pan-fried potatoes that I’ll bet were cooked with some onions for flavor. I didn’t know that an Orange Crush drink was still available, until he asked for one.
Susanne selected a tuna salad sandwich.
That sounded good to me, so I had a tuna salad sandwich with lettuce and tomato on sourdough bread and Sun Chips.
I knew what Carol was going to have when she saw the daily special written on the Dry Erase board outside by the entrance. It was Kielbasa sausage cooked with peppers and onions with a choice of pan-fried potatoes or served on a sub roll.
Carol wanted it on a sub roll plus the potatoes.
I took some time visiting with other customers before placing our orders, only to discover that we would have to wait awhile on the potatoes.
Corner Café business was good the day of our visit. They had sold out of all the potatoes that had been prepared.
Having to sit and watch other people enjoy their food, Carol had worked up an appetite and did not want to wait on another batch of potatoes. She went for some chips.
Jennifer Ashburn, who works at Just Kuttin Up Salon, said she had eaten at Corner Café three days in a row. Grandma always said the food must be good if you went back for seconds — or thirds, in this case.
On the day of our visit, Jennifer ordered the Kielbasa sandwich and was taking a barbecue sandwich back to a co-worker. She had a roast beef sandwich with nachos the previous day.
Debra Poland, another Salon employee, also had the Kielbasa. She spoke highly about a turkey sandwich she enjoyed on a previous visit. She also was taking a cup of coffee back to work.
I hadn’t yet seen the menu, or I would have asked if she selected the 12-, 16- or 20-ounce size.
Lena Bennett, manager of Regions Bank down the street, was the designated “go-fer” to pickup three carry-out boxes of the Kielbasa special.
She said that on a previous visit she was impressed with her ham and cheese on Texas toast.
She told me Christie Carr, another Regions employee, was very vocal about her satisfaction with her slaw-dog earlier in the week.
Susan Walker, with the help of Tammie Jones, opened Corner Café, the first Friday in November. You’ll find Susan’s mother, Linda, on site at times to fill in when needed. Mother was missed on the day of our visit.
The Café seats 15 customers, but it may be increased. It is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. Credit cards are accepted.
Breakfast was in the original operation plans, but it has been eliminated for now.
Specials are changed daily. On the week of our visit, it had been homemade chili and pinto beans with homemade cole slaw and cornbread.
For daily specials, call 332-1870 or check the board outside by the entrance.
Sandwiches, like a house, are built to order. Select your flooring and roof from sourdough, rye, wheat, onion roll, white, Texas toast, sub roll or multi-grain bread.
Furnish it with ham, roast beef, salami, turkey, pastrami, barbecue, tuna salad or chicken salad, and accent with provolone, Swiss or American cheese.
Decorate with lettuce, tomato, onions, green and banana peppers, jalapenos or pickles.
Paint it with mayo or mustard, and Corner Café will present you a “turn-key” constructed, one-of-a-kind delight.
Add chips or other available side dishes to complete the landscaping. With the meal you have designed, you won’t leave hungry.
All-beef hot dogs and BLT sandwiches are also available.
Cookies are the current dessert, but Susan is working with a bakery to provide desserts and breads. Remember, we visited on their fourth day of operation.
Coffee, hot chocolate, cappuccino, tea and soft drinks are available.
Virginia Evans was seated at the table next to us. She is retired from the Tennessee Department of Employment Security and told me she is the mother of Butch Evans, who operates Evans Mortuary.
I reminded her that her late brother-in-law, George Evans, at one time managed Poston Furniture in Rockwood for me.
On her first visit to the Café Virginia selected a ham-and-cheese sandwich with lettuce and tomato, served on wheat bread.
“It was so good,” she said when leaving.
During our visit, there was a steady stream of people picking up call-in orders. Must be why the fried potatoes were sold out.
We shared with Susan some of the experiences Carol and I had when we opened Pennybacker House Restaurant in Kingston several years ago: Running out of food, not enough seats for the crowd, having to send out for ice, etc.
As we were leaving, a lady came in and said, “I’ve just had my hair cut at the Salon down the street and they told me I should go to the Corner Café for a late lunch.”
With satisfied customers spreading the word for you like this, Corner Café had better cook more potatoes.
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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.