28 September 2010

Big Orange - Part 1

Those of you who know me probably know of my Tennessee heritage already, but for those of you who don't, my parents are both native Tennesseans and alums of the university thereof.  Daddy earned an electrical engineering degree there, and Mother worked at the school to support them.  Memorial Day week was my family's annual reunion at Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  While there earlier this year, Tom and I decided that we wanted to attend a UT (the original UT) football game in the fall, and we asked my parents to "chaperone" us and share the traditions of UT football.

We arrived on Thursday, checked into the hotel, and headed out on foot to get lunch and do some sight-seeing in historic downtown Knoxville.  From our Internet research, we knew that Market Square was the place to go, and we were not disappointed.  The four-block area bustles with restaurants and bars of all flavors and shops of all wares.  And it is all housed in original structures from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  The hub of the square is a wide pedestrian plaza with gardens, sculptures, fountains, and a make-shift movie screen (the only new structure in sight) where they show free "walk-in" movies weekly.  The only blight on the landscape is the unfortunately large yellow "Subway" sign above what I believe is the square's only chain restaurant.

We ambled into Cafe Trio for a late lunch.  It's a burger and sandwich spot with a simple, but effective, menu.  My blue cheese burger was good, although they refused to serve it rare, and the medium-rare on which I compromised came out a bit beyond medium. The fries were excellent.

We headed over to the "back side" of Market Square on Gay Street and found Mast General Store.  Imagine all this under one roof:  outdoor clothing, fashion clothing, over-alls, shoes, camping supplies, specialty foods, old-fashion bulk candy, old-fashion toys, cast-iron cookware, Fiesta dinnerware, cutlery, linens, books, and most importantly, orange Moon Pies and orange Nehi soda!  (This is Big Orange Country, after all.)  This place is more fun than an amusement park, and admission is free!

Dinner was at Cafe 4, so named because its address is 4 Market Square.  It's an upscale blue plate kind of place; I had fried chicken and waffles, and Tom had lobster mac and cheese.  Both were comfortable, simple, reasonably priced, and delicious.

Friday, we headed south to spend the day with my parents, who were camping at Cades Cove inside the park.  We stopped for breakfast at the Waffle House in Alcoa (town named for its largest employer), close to the Knoxville airport.  While there, Tom wondered, "Is the mascot of Alcoa High School the Fighting Foil?"  I LOVE the WH, and seek them out whenever we're on the road looking for breakfast.  This location was especially clean and as entertaining as any we have visited.  (WH staff is always entertaining, even if they don't mean to be.)  Breakfast was predictably filling, and the experience was priceless.

We headed on to Cades Cove and had a great time reminiscing with my parents.  We returned to Knoxville in the evening and walked to Nama Sushi for dinner.  This would prove to be a RICH evening.  (Stay tuned...)