Local Restaurants, Can't You Change and Also Stay the Same?

Chez Liberty, Everything Mushrooms, Steamboat Sandwiches, Dead End BBQ, I am talking to you

People who know me well would tell you I’m an extrovert—and an introvert. I like late night and early morning, Kafka and Nancy Drew, country music and rock ’n’ roll.

I guess in this jumbled, contradictory, but heartfelt mess I call my personal preferences, it only makes sense I would like it when restaurants change it up—and when they stay the same.

There’s been a lot of the former lately. Seems like everywhere I turn, something’s different in the local food world, and it often catches me by surprise. I made lunch plans a couple of months ago at Patin’s Field of Greens, for example, only to find it closed. Forever. And I’d only eaten there twice, and admired the bountiful and frost-defying impatiens in the window boxes outside, but still I pouted. No more pulled pork panini; no more of the sort of orange-cheesecake tasting salad dressing they put on this one salad with coconut and dried cranberries and stuff.

Other recent changes are most welcome, but they still give me a start. Dead End Barbecue has been doing a rollicking business since opening last October on Sutherland, and I am quite partial to both their onion strings and Bacon Wrapped BBQ Shrimp. Yet every time I drive down Sutherland, past West High School where I chauffeured these many years, and it’s there in its glittering silvery glory instead of the gas station with the pock-marked parking lot, I am surprised—kind of like taking a sip from a cup of coffee and it turns out to be tea.

Another good example: Everything Mushrooms. The other day, I passed the familiar green sign, not on Broadway near Central, but on my way home, right there on Sevier, a skinny minute from downtown. The move is good news, as they now have space for a demonstration farm and will sell fresh mushrooms. But I dunno, it still seems out of place. Same with Steamboat Sandwiches, which relocated to Market Square mid-January. I can walk there at lunch, yay, and my favorite sandwich has not changed at all. But I’m just going to delude myself that the old place is still bustling on Central; I like when things stay put.

Is it Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz who says, “Things change so quickly here?” I’m all for that, too, especially when the new French eatery, Chez Liberty in Bearden, which opened in mid-March, brought Mussels en frites and Spring Pea Soup to the Knoxville menu. And Chill Custom Creamery on Northshore, which joined us mid-December, is sneaking into my decadent indulgence repertoire. I’ve also liked being able to order fresh brown-bag lunches from The Parlor off Chickamauga, some with ingredients they grow themselves, these past five months. They may initiate a sit-down option soon, but for now access to The Dad Meatloaf sandwich via brown bag—even with the requisite 24 hours’ notice—suits me fine.

More changes, good ones, are on the way. Knoxville’s Native Son Bruce Bogartz is opening RouXbarbecue practically as we speak, in the Rocky Hill location of a defunct Hardee’s—movement in a good direction, for sure.

Sometimes, though, I just want the tried-and-true, which is what drew me to Chandler’s Deli on Magnolia a few weeks back. It was delightful. I’m pretty sure the seasoned flour on the jumbo pork chops is the same stuff that was used on fried chicken at the now-shuttered Tic-Toc across the street. My mashed potatoes were creamy and hearty; the 55-cent yeast roll aromatic and tender. Ah, Chandler’s, I thought. Please, never change.

On the way out, though—Wait, what’s this?—a note: Beginning April 1, Chandler’s would be closing Mondays at 3 p.m.

Well, I guess I can deal with that. But it’s going to take some getting used to.

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