If you go
› Where: Davis Wayne’s, 9454 Bradmore Lane, Ooltewah
› Hours: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday-Saturday, closed Sundays
› Prices: $5-$16
› Alcohol: Full bar
› Phone: 423-269-8969
During the three years that Antonia Poland and Cynthia Wood have operated their catering company, Dipped Fresh, a common suggestion the women hear when people compliment their food is, "You should open a restaurant."
So they have.
The two women opened Davis Wayne's in Ooltewah's Cambridge Square in mid-October. The name is derived from the names of Wood's father and stepfather. Their photos hang on the restaurant's wall.
Davis Wayne's is in the former location of Ceniza. It's a two-story, white-brick building with blue shutters. The downstairs dining room is one large space with open ceilings, black concrete floor, pendant lighting and roll-up doors that lead to a patio facing Old Lee Highway.
The dining room is centered by a large, semi-circular bar that is surrounded by blue, mid-century modern, high-back bar stools. There are about 20 small tables (which are configured as needed to seat parties of two to eight), and a large, semicircular banquette fills the wall opposite the roll-up doors.
But the best-kept secret is the wonderful event space on the second floor. The large room can comfortably handle 100 guests up to a max of about 140. It has a wood floor, built-in banquettes around three walls, an open space for tables or dancing, hookups for DJ, built-in kitchenette and pendant lighting.
A set of doors opens onto a second-floor veranda with seating and its own fireplace. The event space has its own entrance and set of restrooms.
The upstairs venue has several different price options depending on what the client needs, and customers may choose to have Davis Wayne's cater their event or pick from an approved list of restaurants.
The two owners plan to continue catering through Dipped Fresh while also operating Davis Wayne's.
The menu is what makes Davis Wayne's unique. Instead of individual prices for dishes, Davis Wayne's offers package prices. A meat with three sides is $16; meat and two sides $14; meat and one side $12; kid's plate for ages 12 and younger is $6.
The menu lists five meat choices: slow-cooked pot roast, oven-roasted chicken, pork tenderloin, Parmesan-crusted chicken and grilled pork chop. There are 14 vegetable sides that range from sweet potato casserole to pinto beans to collard greens.
Diners just choose their meat and sides from these lists.
It took 35 minutes for my friend and I to get our orders, but we were talking so much we didn't realize that amount of time had passed. Once served, though, I found that the food was made from fresh ingredients, as advertised, which accounts for the delay.
"You won't find a can opener in the place," Wood told us when she stopped by our table while out meeting diners.
My friend ordered the slow-cooked pot roast, which was fork tender. She declared it "just like mama made." I ordered the Parmesan-crusted chicken, which had wonderful flavor but was dry enough to need a sip of tea to help wash it down.
We both got bourbon-maple-glazed carrots — delicious and so tender that a fork could slide through them as easily as a pat of butter — and Brussels sprouts, which were roasted with extra virgin olive oil and just a sprinkle of salt.
For my third veggie, I went with roasted potatoes, but was mistakenly served collard greens. The mistake was immediately corrected and I was served sizzling, bite-size cubes of potatoes that had also been roasted with EVOO.
Wood told us that the goal of Davis Wayne's is to take old-fashioned dishes and prepare them in a more healthy manner. For example, my friend's collard greens were flavored with smoked turkey tail instead of salty ham hocks.
Although it took our order longer to arrive than we would have expected, the food was worth the wait.
Our server was friendly, answered all our questions about the menu knowledgeably and kept our drinks topped off. No complaints.
The one drawback we found was that the high ceiling and concrete floor amplified sound in the dining room, so when the room was full, conversation was difficult.
Davis Wayne's will remind you of Sunday dinners when you were a kid: pot roast, home-cooked vegetables and cornbread on the table. Its menu of soul food and old-fashioned Southern cooking is a welcome addition to the Tex-Mex, Italian and fast-food choices in Ooltewah.
Contact Susan Pierce at email@example.com or 423-757-6284.