Wild Plum Tea Room
555 Buckhorn Road
Critic's star breakdown
- Food: 4 stars (out of five)
- Service: 3
- Atmosphere: 4
- Overall: 3
Another writing assignment recently took me to Gatlinburg, so while I was there, I thought I'd get in a little Grubbing action during the lunch hour. I met a Sevier County friend of mine for lunch at a little spot in the Arts and Crafts Community that I'd long heard about but never tried — The Wild Plum Tea Room.
We met at the eatery, which is on Buckhorn Road, not far from the Glades Road intersection. The primary parking lot was nearly full on my arrival, and my friend had to park across the street in an auxiliary lot.
However, while I was still waiting on her to arrive, I stepped into the restaurant, at which point one of the women on duty looked at me and asked, with a twinge of annoyance, "May I help you?" Upon informing her that I was there to dine, she pointed me outside to the patio entrance, where I evidently had overlooked the sign-in book. Silly me. I went back out, signed our duo in, took a seat on a patio bench and enjoyed the pleasantness of the still-cool morning.
Soon afterward, a party of four walked up (also bypassing the all-important sign-in book, I might add), walked inside and requested a table, whereupon another server promptly seated them out on the patio. I then approached that same server and informed her that I had already been waiting for a table and that I would like to go ahead and be seated. Acting very put-upon, she pointed out a table on the patio where I could sit and wait for my guest. At that point, a very genial male server greeted me and brought me an ice water.
Shortly after that, however, the first woman I encountered came back to my table and informed me that their policy was not to seat guests until the entire party has arrived. She then told me that I would need to go back and wait on the bench in the sign-in area. I politely obliged. Just a couple of minutes later, I was joined by my friend, and we were seated at the same table I had occupied just moments earlier.
Had the rest of my experience stood on its own, I would have nicer things to say about The Wild Plum Tea Room overall. Our tiny walnut muffins with jam were a tasty appetite whetter. For the main course, I had one of the daily specials, lobster pie ($13.95), served with an arugula salad with feta cheese and strawberry vinaigrette dressing. My friend had a muffaletta sandwich ($8.95) made with corned beef and smoked provolone cheese. As a side, she chose the Yukon gold potato salad.
The lobster pie was quite tiny (about the size of a soup cup), especially for $13.95, but it was also quite good. The puff pastry shell led to a bisque-like broth that was filled with generous portions of delish lobster meat. My friend's muffaletta sandwich was decent but not remarkable. The corned beef was on the sinewy side, although the potato salad was very enjoyable and distinctive. The bread pudding we shared for dessert rated average in my book.
We did enjoy our surroundings, however. The interior dining rooms are marked by tastefully rustic ambiance, the abundance of frilly lace tablecloths catching my eye in particular. Our patio setting was well shaded by nature and umbrellas, and we enjoyed our meal in laid-back fashion, receiving courteous, attentive service.
However, my opinion is that whatever policies a restaurant may have, it is their responsibility to clearly convey those policies to customers and not punish those patrons for any ignorance of them. It was totally inexcusable for one employee to seat me in violation of a policy and then for another to remove me from that table — much to my embarrassment — in the interest of upholding a policy.