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Photo by Barry Courter / Uncle Larry's prepares to open on Brainerd Road

Fried fish lovers in Brainerd, get ready to get smacked.

Uncle Larry's Restaurant, known for "Fish so good it will smack you," is opening a drive-thru store at 5203 Brainerd Road next to Station 13 Firehall in a space that was once home to Central Park, Guthrie's and Time-2-Eat eateries.

While it is good news for Brainerd, it is not so good for folks in the Apison area as that store will be closed because of rising rent costs, owner Larry Torrence said.

"I do plan to open another one out there after the holidays," he said, adding that he was able to buy the Brainerd property, "so, God has a plan. It's a blessing."

A third location is located 4850 Highway 58.

Torrence opened his first Uncle Larry's at 736 E. M.L. Blvd. in March of 2013 at the urging of his wife, Terilynn, family members such as his brother Kevin, who will run the Brainerd store, son Terrell and friends Jermale Massett, Eric Roberson and Deunte Hardy.

They are the ones who convinced him there was something special about his fish, and several of them are the people who greet every customer with a smile.

"I was a warehouse manager and logistics guy," he said. "That's what I did in the military. My wife especially. She said 'I'm not trying to toot your horn, but you've got something special.' But those guys have meant so much to this."

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Staff Photo by Tim Barber/Chattanooga Times Free Press / Restaurant owner Larry Torrence prepares a whiting fish plate at his original Uncle Larry's Restaurant on M.L. King in 2013.

Torrence said he doesn't use any special kind of seasoning in his blend of spices and breading. But the mixture, and the fact that he changes out the cooking oil twice a week and keeps the fish between 32 and 35 degrees before cooking it, makes a difference.

"It's just got its own taste, man. It's like your mom's potato salad, I guess. You know it's got potatoes and mayonnaise like everyone else's, but there is something different about it. Even though we are only open five days a week, we change the oil and that ensures it's always golden and not greasy. With the okra and the fries, we change it once a week."

Uncle Larry's is known for its fried catfish, whiting, tilapia and perch, served either hot or regular. The restaurant also serves pork chops, hot dogs, fried okra, fried green tomatoes, chili, turnip greens, macaroni and cheese and homemade desserts and Torrence said the Brainerd Road kitchen will allow him to cook everything on the menu on site.

He hopes to eventually create a space on the premises for on-site dining, but for now it is all drive-thru.

Five employees from the Apison store will be relocated to the new place, which should open Dec. 1, and he plans to hire three new employees.

Plans are for the store to be open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday and until 8 p.m. on Friday, though he said he will likely keep the Brainerd story open until 10 p.m. on the weekends.

Contact Barry Courter at bcourter@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6354.

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