Critic's star breakdown
- Food: 3.5 stars (out of five)
- Service: 3.5
- Atmosphere: 3.5
- Overall: 3.5
My Blount County sources keep feeding me tips, so I keep heading to Maryville and Alcoa to feed my face. Our most recent sojourn was to Gracie's in Maryville. It's one of those mom-and-pop, home-cookin'-type places that the locals seem to eat up with a spoon — or, more often, a fork.
You won't find Gracie's near any of the town's commercially developed areas. It's in more of a residential neighborhood a few blocks off East Broadway. We arrived on a weeknight to a nearly full parking lot and dining room and were allowed to take the seat of our choice. The Grub Spouse, The Grub Sprout and I claimed a window-side booth and gave the menu a gander.
The Big Ol' Meals section focuses on traditional, Southern-style meals like fried shrimp, country ham and chicken strips, all of which come with two veggies and a bread. Similarly, The Classics lineup offers up liver and onions, chicken livers, meatloaf, grilled ham and a salmon patty, to mention a few. The Favorites showcases the likes of turkey and dressing, veal Parmesan, pork chops, and steak and gravy. Pricing for Classics and Favorites includes meat-and-two or meat-and-three options.
Speaking of the vegetables and sides, there are nearly 20 from which to choose, including green beans, buttered corn, pinto beans, turnip greens, mixed fruit and cinnamon apples.
Rounding out the selections are several sandwiches and burgers. The burgers are half-pounders, and the other bunned items range from a grilled chicken and a classic Philly to fried bologna and a club sandwich (although I asked, and it's not prepared in the traditional toasted, quartered, three-bread-slice manner).
The Spouse ordered barbecued pork from The Classics, with fried okra and cornbread salad as sides. The Sprout went for the chopped steak from The Favorites with fried okra and mac and cheese as sides. I had heard the Reuben was quite good, so I got one of those with onion rings as my one side item.
Aesthetically speaking, Gracie's is pleasant enough to look at but not remarkable with an interior design approach that suggests hominess and comfort. In terms of service, we certainly had no complaints. Our waitress got to us quickly, despite what seemed like a heavy load, and she did a good job of answering questions, getting food delivered and taking away dirty plates. She was also quite friendly and engaging.
I have to say that I was indeed pleased with the Reuben, which one might not expect a country-style restaurant to do well. But they did. From the thickly layered corned beef to the dressing and slaw to the thick, fresh marbled rye bread, this very filling sandwich was right on target.
But I'm saving even bigger raves for the onion rings, which are made with my preferred method of batter dipping (instead of breading). They were hot, greasy (that's OK for onion rings) and also bursting with flavor.
The Spouse's and Sprout's meals were pretty good, but they didn't wow me like the Reuben did. The barbecue was savory and smoky but too mushy for my taste. The cornbread salad was dressing based and way too heavy on that ingredient. The mac and cheese was a nice effort, and I have to abstain from an okra verdict, given that I am not a fan.
We did take advantage, however, of two of their many homemade desserts — the coconut cream pie and the chocolate pie. To this day, I measure these two against my sister's, and I have to admit that Gracie's slices ranked right up there with the family recipe.
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
Want to use this article? Click here for options!