PIKEVILLE, Tenn. - Wanda and Jack Carver, a retired pastor, were walking around downtown Pikeville one April day in 2018. The couple, from Hendersonville, Tennessee, were spending a long weekend at the Lodge at Fall Creek Falls right before it closed down for renovations.
(READ MORE: Tennessee Gov. Lee opens new $40.3 million Lodge at Fall Creek Falls)
It was a good getaway for the couple who had been struggling to find the ideal place to retire. They knew what they wanted: a peaceful place with woods and a place to walk and pray.
"We were hiking around Fall Creek Falls when it started to rain," Wanda Carver says. "So we decided to go find a place in Pikeville for a sandwich. Neither one of us had ever heard of Pikeville before."
But before the month was out, they'd sold their house in Hendersonville and were the new owners of a historic, 150-year-old home along Pikeville's Main Street with a 200-year-old cabin out back.
"The perfect prayer cabin," Wanda Carver says.
Now, four years have passed since they made the decision to move out of suburban Nashville to this small town on the Cumberland Plateau. Timing was good.
"There's not much property for sale. A lot of people are moving here, even from as far away as California," she adds.
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With new residents come new restaurants.
"As Bledsoe County has seen a real population growth from people moving in from other states, our restaurants are responding to the growing need," says Ruth Sapp Burton, a Bledsoe County commissioner and author of "The Benefit of Grace: A Novel of Pikeville, Tennessee. "When you add in our existing restaurants, our locals as well as Fall Creek Falls, visitors can find something to suit their taste."
Here are some tasty suggestions of old-time favorites and new eateries that have found the perfect fit around the Pikeville area, including a short detour to the restaurant at the new Lodge at Fall Creek Falls.
THE BUTTER DISH
3651 Main St., Pikeville
Turning into the parking lot at The Butter Dish provides a sense of welcome with its wide front porch just beckoning for you to come, sit and get a view of the mountains. Walk inside and the ambiance is just as warming with its rough-hewn pine walls and wood-paneled ceiling, not to mention the tempting bakery case filled with homemade cakes and pies.
Partners Shelby Pfleiger and Brent Stewart took over ownership of the restaurant in January 2022 from Stewart's aunt, Julie Vance. Also on board is Stewart's dad, Jim Stewart, who was in the restaurant business in the Washington, D.C., area before the family moved to Pikeville in 2018.
"I learned to cook from my mother," Jim Stewart says. A big man with a warm smile, he tells of hunting with his dad when he was young and learning to cook wild game and seafood plucked from the Chesapeake Bay.
It's this same love of cooking that he, his son and Pfleiger offer diners at The Butter Dish. Plates are filled with Southern comfort food: open roast beef sandwiches with freshly cut onion rings; liver and onions; big salads, a daily soup and always a $12 meat-and-three from among three meats and a bevy of vegetables, including bowls of slow-simmered pinto beans or fried okra.
"There's really no other place around here to get a home-cooked meal and maybe do a little business or gather on Sundays for dinner," Jim Stewart says.
The Butter Dish is open 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Wednesday-Friday, 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday. Pikeville is in the Central time zone.
THE RESTAURANT AT FALL CREEK FALLS
2009 Village Camp Road, Spencer, Tenn.
The new restaurant in the new Lodge at Fall Creek Falls, just 30 minutes outside Pikeville, offers breathtaking views of the lake from every table. And on nice days, the views get even better with large windows that open behind the bar and a big wraparound porch with tables overlooking the lake and no walls between you and Mother Nature. It really is a spectacular transformation for the old restaurant.
"We're hearing a lot of wonderful things from people about the lodge," Burton says. "It's a gorgeous facility with delicious food, and Bledsoe County is looking for some increased traffic now that the lodge is open."
The menu is limited at this time as the lodge is going through its soft opening and, like many restaurants and businesses, is suffering staffing shortages. But there's still a nice selection of options to fill hungry stomachs after a day of hiking the trails, canoeing the lake, fishing the streams or playing 18 holes of golf.
Favorites include the carb-loaded Frito Chili Pie and the Low Country Pasta with linguine, chicken and big, fat shrimp in Alfredo sauce. On the light side, there's a massive house salad, turkey or chicken sandwiches and fish tacos. Burgers, fish and chips, chopped steak, soup of the day and fried pickles or mozzarella sticks are typical finds on the scaled-down menu. Expect more offerings as the soft-opening menu solidifies and expands with more offerings.
At this time, overnight guests at the park are treated to a simple continental breakfast of complimentary muffins, bagels and yogurt. That will change as full breakfasts will again be served at the restaurant at the Lodge at Fall Creek Falls in the coming months.
Breakfast is served for guests only beginning at 6:30 each morning. Lunch is served daily from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and dinner from 4 to 8 p.m.
3211 Main St., Pikeville
Every small town needs a diner, and Scottie's answers that need beginning at 6 a.m. six days a week, taking Sundays off. This is a place the locals love, and for good reason. Other than a smattering of fast-food places, Scottie's is the only place in town to get a hot breakfast and friendly table service.
It's small - just five booths and five bar stools overlooking the grill area.
As expected, this diner has a lot of fried favorites on the menu, a fact that hits you as you walk in the door, with the smells from the deep fryer and onions on the grill smacking your olfactory senses.
There are several versions of biscuits, from plain with jelly or gravy, to ham, sausage, fried chicken, tenderloin or cheese. Add eggs most any way you want them, crispy bacon and some hash brown or home fries and you should have enough to keep you going until lunch when the menu changes to burgers - small, large or jumbo - a club sandwich or Philly cheesesteak. The dinner menu, served five nights a week - not on Wednesdays - expands with big salads and dinners that come with potato, salad and Texas toast, such as hamburger steak, chicken strips, fried shrimp and a grilled chicken dinner.
If you arrive past 10 a.m., the biscuits will be sold out and the grill turns to burgers rather than omelets. So time your visit, and you're in for a treat, the kind any Southerner knows a diner should offer, including a really good glass of sweet tea.
Scottie's works on a cash-only basis, so leave your credit cards in your wallet. Prices are excellent, though, so they won't break the bank. The most-expensive items on the menu are the hamburger steak and two-piece grilled chicken dinners for $8.50.
Scottie's hours are 6 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, 6 a.m.-2 p.m. Wednesday and Saturday.
MORGAN BROS. BBQ
38408 Highway 127, Pikeville
Barbecue fries, barbecue tots, smoked pork salads, loaded barbecue baked potatoes, barbecue nachos get the picture? This favorite house of smoke serves its 'cue in so many ways it may be hard to choose how you want to enjoy it. Or go the uncomplicated route and order a rack or ribs or fork-tender brisket. On Friday night, the brothers, Tom and David Morgan, offer all-you-can-eat catfish from the Mississippi Delta. There's always a crowd waiting for that feast served from 4 to 8 p.m. for $15.99.
The Morgan brothers opened their house of 'cue along Highway 127 in August 2019, not expecting it to take off like it has. In fact, their original plan was to offer takeout only.
"Back when barbecue was just starting to get a foothold, you'd see guys along the side of the road selling their barbecue, and I thought, "Wouldn't that be something we could do? I could run the kitchen and David could smoke the meat," Tom says. "It'd be easy."
But that all changed within months, responding to customer demand. Then a bar - selling beer only - and pool tables were added, and its popularity has only grown.
David does the smoking, not adding much to his meats besides a little salt, pepper and perhaps some garlic. "I want the flavor of the meat to come through," he says.
Tom makes all the sauces - from mild to hot and even really, really hot when someone requests it. That's the Grim Reaper sauce. 'Nuf said.
The building housing Morgan Bros. BBQ has been several things in its life, most recently a furniture/junk store. Before that, it was the Stone House restaurant, named for the mountain stones used in construction. The interior has two dining areas, one of which is in the bar area. There's nothing fancy about the décor - sports and various other signs on the walls. It's kind of a mishmash of things, but it works.
Morgan Bros. BBQ is open 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday.
BANKWALKER BREWING CO.
405 Spring St., Pikeville
Just as Tom Morgan didn't plan on his barbecue restaurant taking off like it did, he says he never thought a brewery would do as well as it has, either. But it has, too.
"I had some buildings sitting empty downtown, and at first we were just going to open some of the space as a venue for parties and things. Have some bands. Just a place people could rent out," Morgan says.
People loved it. So The Venue now occupies a space along downtown Pikeville's Spring Street. But there was still space to be filled, so Morgan partnered with a home brewer, Mark McClellan, bought a brewing system from Monkey Town Brewing Co. in Dayton, Tennessee, practiced till they got the right recipes and opened Bankwalker Brewing Co.
(READ MORE: Dayton food scene evolves with Monkey Town Brewing Co.)
In addition to craft beer, Bankwalker, named for Tom Morgan's love of walking the banks of the Sequatchie River, makes some pretty good pizza with handmade artisan crusts and all the toppings you'd ever need. There's also a full bar serving wine and liquor, in addition to a handful of Bankwalker brews, such as Hazy Valley IPA and Song of the Stout.
Bankwalker is open 4-10 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday.
Contact Anne Braly at email@example.com or annebraly.com.