Apple Cake Tea Room has been around for more than 25 years now, and such a milestone was enough to prompt me and The Grub Spouse to pay our first-ever visit to the restaurant, which sits just off Campbell Station Road near Interstate 40.
The tearoom occupies a rough-hewn log cabin made up of two dining rooms separated by a central foyer. Although the shell of the structure is primitive in appearance, the interior is softened considerably and imbued with character by the addition of decor such as heirloom quilts, faux flowers and country-influenced knickknacks.
We were surprised to find ourselves put on a waiting list on the Saturday we visited. The place was bustling, and eventually, we were seated at a corner table for two. Menus in hand, we set about culling through ACTR’s selection of specialties, sandwiches, salads and more.
Specialties include a quiche of the day and a hearty-sounding roast beef or turkey with beef gravy accompanied by a half potato and a layered salad. The Spouse ordered the Tea Room Medley — chicken salad, glazed fruit and a banana nut bread sandwich with cream cheese filling.
I decided to look through the sandwich options, which include chicken salad on croissant or whole wheat; the Deli Tea Room Sandwich with ham, roast beef or turkey on wheat; the melted ham and Swiss; and an open-face Reuben. And no, I actually did not get a Reuben this time, going instead with the Tea Room Club, a classic featuring turkey, ham, Swiss cheese, and BLT makings, all on toasted wheat with mayo.
The menu also offers salads (chef, taco, fruit, spinach and more), soups and several combo meals integrating soup, salad, a half sandwich and a half potato.
We started with a couple of bran muffins, which were still fresh and warm. I remember thinking that the two tiny little muffins would do little to stave off a mighty hunger until the main course, but my theory was moot since our food was delivered in an amazingly quick turnaround.
There’s little I can say to tarnish the impression our selections made. The club sandwich was textbook, bolstered by generous piles of deli meat, crisp bacon, fresh veggie toppings and bread, which was toasted just right. I was barely able to polish off the four triangular slices, leaving me grateful that I hadn’t filled up on tiny bran muffins.
The Tea Room Medley likewise struck a sweet note. The chicken salad may be considered a little on the dense side by some, but this variety’s inclusion of almond slivers and poppy seeds was distinctive. The banana nut bread was fresh, moist and delish — practically a dessert in itself — and the cream cheese filling really sent it over the top. Even the pineapples in strawberry glaze was no throwaway.
Naturally, we couldn’t escape Apple Cake Tea Room without its signature menu item, apple cake. I typically don’t go out of my way to order spiced desserts, but this one certainly inspired no regrets, especially with the blob of ice cream we tacked on for good measure.
Now I have firsthand confirmation of why this West Knoxville eatery has lasted more than a quarter-century. And for me, it was definitely worth the wait.
© 2009, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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