The Grub Spouse was not able to accompany me on my recent drop-in at The Happy Badger Cafe on Clinton Highway. But the elder Grub Sprout was free last Friday, so he and I made it a parent-child lunch outing to this catering company that serves lunch five days a week and dinner on Fridays and Saturdays.
We arrived right as they opened for lunch, so we were the first customers of the day. We snagged a corner booth, from where I quickly picked up on the eatery’s Irish-heritage theme, most notably a large wall mural. Overall, however, the dining space struck me as spartan and uninspired.
I found quite a few things of interest on the menu. One page offered a hodgepodge array of items such as a balsamic chicken pasta salad, a personal pizza, a kids’ menu and a meal-deal option that offers various soup-sandwich-salad bar combinations.
After learning that the breakfast menu is only available on Saturdays, The Sprout and I focused our attention on the burger and sandwich page as well as the hot plate page. The latter offers lunch or dinner options like country-fried steak, fried chicken, fish and chips and chicken speidies, an upstate New York dish made with grilled, marinated chicken.
I also noted that they serve a shepherd’s pie, which would have been appropriate for St. Patrick’s Day dining. The Sprout chose the Chicken Alfredo, prepared with fresh broccoli.
Meanwhile, the sandwich and burger section has several beef burgers as well as a patty melt, a Reuben, a turkey sandwich made with raspberry cream cheese, egg salad, roast beef and a BLT. I was tempted seriously by the Italian sausage burger on a roll, but I finally succumbed to the wild game burger of the day, which that day happened to be lamb.
I got the impression that the lady on duty was the owner, and she seemed to be covering all the bases — handling the table service as well as preparing the meals (we could see back into the kitchen and never spotted another worker). She managed to keep all the plates spinning well enough with three tables occupied, but I did wonder what would have happened had the dining room been at capacity. Overall, I’d say the service was efficient though perhaps lacking in affability.
I was very pleased with both food selections. The Sprout’s chicken Alfredo was tender and flavorful, although the mixture of meat, broccoli and bow-tie pasta was very light on the creamy Alfredo sauce. This could be a plus for those trying to eat more healthily.
The lamb burger was juicy, distinctively flavored and served on a fresh, soft bun. It came topped with a unique yogurt sauce that made for a truly fresh take on the traditional burger.
Both portions were average in size although still sufficient for a single diner. In turn, I thought the prices were accordingly reasonable. At $8.95, the wild game burger was the most expensive sandwich (most were around $6), and the Alfredo dish was $7.
We ended by sharing a slice of homemade chocolate mousse cheesecake, which left me thinking that one probably wouldn’t have to badger me at all to go back for more of this North Knox eatery’s grub.
Happy Badger Cafe
Food: 4 stars (out of five)
Address: 6356 Clinton Highway
Hours: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays; 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Fridays; 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturdays
No alcohol service
Dept. of Health score: 90
Bottom Line: Hopefully, the luck of the Irish will stay with this Clinton Highway catering business and cafe, which offers the flavors of the British Isles, Italy and more.
© 2013, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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