Grub Scout: Firefly Cafe in Townsend focuses on Southern comfort foods

Firefly Cafe

Townsend

7967 E. Lamar Alexander Parkway

865-738-3507

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The Grub Spouse and I heard good reports from multiple sources about a new restaurant in Townsend, so we headed for the peaceful side of the Smokies to check out Firefly Cafe. It's set back off the main road in a small retail plaza near the IGA market and BP station.

I thought the atmosphere made a good first impression. There is some amount of Christmas decor cheering things up at the moment, but underneath is a colorful space that has lots of character. The furnishings and accents offer touches of the whimsical and make for an inviting setting for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

The one server covering the smallish dining room had his hands full when we arrived, so one of the proprietors greeted us and got our drinks. She also gave us a tutorial on the printed menu as well as the daily specials written on the chalkboard.

The basic breakfast menu offers staples like eggs, bacon, sausage, grits and biscuits, but their specialty is the Firefly Crunchy French Toast, made with Texas Toast dipped in vanilla cream sauce. You can also get a morning rib-eye steak and eggs, country ham or a breakfast burrito.

We were there for dinner, however, and were presented with a main menu that emphasizes fried baskets (chicken, fish, shrimp), soups and sandwiches. The sandwich of the day is served on focaccia bread with your choice of turkey, roast beef or ham. Others include a veggie wrap, burgers, fried green tomato BLT, fried bologna, country ham, country-fried steak and rib-eye steak sandwich. The chicken sandwich features a breast cooked in white wine, fresh sauteed mushrooms and bacon, topped with Swiss cheese.

We focused more on the dinner specials, a rotating assortment that includes a 12-ounce rib-eye steak, rainbow trout, pork tenderloin, frog legs, fried catfish, and baked ham and pineapple. Side-item options include mashed potatoes, pinto beans, green beans, turnip greens, fried okra and pineapple walnut salad.

The Spouse ordered the jumbo shrimp dinner — eight large pieces prepared fried, grilled or blackened. The Spouse chose grilled and went with a baked potato and fried apple wedges as sides. I picked another daily special, the chicken enchiladas served with Spanish rice. We skipped the appetizers, because we were saving room for one of their many homemade desserts.

Our dinners were prepared and delivered in a reasonable amount of time, and we found them both to be quite good. They certainly didn't skimp on the cheese on the two chicken-filled tortillas, and the sides of rice, lettuce and diced tomatoes were enjoyable accents. Meanwhile, the hefty shrimp were plump, tender and full of flavor, and neither side item disappointed.

However, for the second week in a row, we had service issues after food delivery. In this case, the lone server was simply overloaded with too many tables to cover on a busy weeknight. We never got a follow-up visit, and I was not able to request a drink refill until he came to present the check. I kept hoping the owner might step in to take up his slack, but she didn't.

And by the way, we were simply given a check without dessert being offered. We still forged ahead with our original plan by getting a fresh, delicious slice of homemade German chocolate cake, which we were not even able to finish, because it was so big and rich.

So while I can give Firefly Cafe glowing marks based on the food and atmosphere, the quality of service we received on our visit, while friendly, didn't exactly light up the night.

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Firefly Cafe

Food: 4

Service: 3

Atmosphere: 4

Overall: 3.5

Address: 7967 E. Lamar Alexander Pkwy., Townsend

Phone: 865-738-3507

Hours: 7:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays; 7:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Sundays and Mondays; (closed December 23-25)

Beer service only

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Bottom Line: This charming cafe on the peaceful side of the Smokies serves up generous portions of Southern comfort foods.

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