Good food, wonderful views, and a great place to crash

2 Jan

I’ve been traveling and visiting family a lot the last several months.  In my travels I’ve found some spots that I would definitely recommend to fellow travelers.

First, I want to mention one place I wasn’t able to visit this time.  Alas I just can’t be everywhere at once!   It is the Atkinson Steak House near Smithville, MS.  I was there last year in December.  We went with family and were told the steaks were huge, so we ordered one with extra sides and split it.  It was still really more than enough.  I’ve had lots of good steaks in my life, but the one at Atkinson’s is the best I have ever eaten.    It just melted in my mouth.  Love, love it!!!  Sides are good too.  I would almost make a trip to MS just to have their steak.

You may remember Smithville as the little town where the big tornado hit in April of 2011.  If I remember correctly it destroyed or damaged all but a couple of the 20 some businesses.  A few businesses have rebuilt.  Atkinson Steak House avoided damage since it isn’t located directly in town.  It is on the Parham Store Road a few miles away, out in the country.

Mel’s Diner, the local cafe, is one of the businesses that rebuilt  in about the same location as before, just further off the road.  It is a friendly spot where locals gather.  This year I tried the famous “Mud Hole” for breakfast.  It is a sausage, egg, and cheese biscuit smothered in sausage gravy.  I’m not a huge fan of biscuits and gravy, but this one was very tasty.   And very filling.

Here is s a pic of one of my brother’s Mud Holes. IMG_0564He put jam and ketchup on top of his.  Sounds very weird to me but he liked it.

On a recent trip to Chattanooga, we took some back roads.  I enjoy doing that, especially when someone else is driving and I can enjoy the views and take pics.  We came across a little town in southern KY, Franklin.  Since it was well past noon, we had been on the look out for a cafe.  We drove into the downtown area, around the courthouse square and spotted the Hollywood Grill.   Although it wasn’t very busy at this time of day, we were hungry and decided to take our chances.

Thai Shrimp Curry

Thai Shrimp Curry

Hibachi

Hibachi

The menu wasn’t extensive, and we were surprised to see Thai and Japanese dishes.  Being a big fan of  Thai food I decided to try the Thai Shrimp Curry.  I usually don’t love curry, but I enjoy spicy food and wanted Thai, so it seemed the best choice.   I thought that even if I didn’t like the curry I could eat the shrimp.  My son and I agreed to try each others food.  He had Hibachi chicken and beef.  Well, I am now sold on Thai curry, at least at the Hollywood Grill!  It was so good.   Interestingly, the shrimp was the part of the dish I liked least.  The Hibachi was good too, but not as good as the curry.  I noticed the others cleaned up their burgers too.  A few miles out of town we passed the Kentucky Downs–the famous Kentucky horse race track!  Well, now we knew why a town so small would have that type of restaurant.

A ways further on we saw a tall monument.  Wanting to get to our destination before dark,we didn’t have time for more than a quick look at the sign.  We were surprised to learn it was a monument to Jefferson Davis.  I later looked it up and found out that it is the tallest unreinforced concrete monument in the world.  It is in a state park and marks Davis’ birthplace.

It amazes me how much there is to find and savor it this country.  Places that, had we been on the interstate highway, we would have never seen.  The interstates are great for covering the miles in less time.  I’ve used them many times, and will again.  But how wonderful when we aren’t in such a hurry and can spare some moments to discover more of our country!

KY and  TN scenery

KY and TN scenery

Somewhere past the monument we turned south.  We drove on some two lane and some four lane highways.  We also took a couple of state or county roads. One was a very windy, hilly road.  One time we came over a hill and the road turned so sharply it seemed to disappear.  We saw little farms, some on the hillsides and others nestled in the bottoms.  Part of the road ran beside a full-to-the-brim rushing creek.  Beautiful views!  And we had the road nearly to ourselves.  But I wasn’t able to get many pics.  Too many hills and curves to catch anything.

I usually come into Chattanooga from the west on I24.   This time we came from the north.  I had mapped out approximate roads to take on my iPad.  But now since we were wanting to get their before dark, when a road looked more direct we took it.  Again, I’m so glad we did because if we would have come in to town the way we had planned we would have missed a breathtaking experience.  At least for someone raised on the plains.  We veered off the road we were on and took W road.  This took us down what I found out later was Signal Mountain.  Windy, down, down, down.  And curves so tight that the traffic coming up (or down, depending on the direction you were going) had to stop a ways before the curve to let the oncoming traffic swing into the other lane to navigate the curve.  We happened to be following a patrol car, so at least we realized that  this is the accepted thing here.  We laughed about that afterwards.  One of the occupants of our car hated the heights but the rest of us loved it.   Again, no time to take any pics going down.  There was such a view–so much just to see!   Although it wasn’t yet dark,many of the town lights were on.  And we could see for miles.

We had arrived and quickly found our destination for the night the Crash Pad, an ecological hostel:   www.crashpadchattanooga.com.  My daughter had noticed it in an online search earlier and we had even went into the office part in the summer.  So now we were here.  We really liked the laid back attitude as well as the courtesy and friendliness of the staff and other travelers.

That evening after all of our party had arrived we walked in the windy, chilly night over to a local pub for our meal.  We had asked at the Crash Pad and they had told us of several places within walking distance.  We were cold and ready for the first one we came to which was the Terminal Brewhouse.  After checking to see if they admitted minors–they did–we went in.  It was a busy place and we were seated upstairs.  I liked that better anyway.  The atmosphere was the traditional pub although the building had a retro look.  Food was not spectacular, but good.  Then a quick walk back to crash–in our Crash Pad.

Crash Pad kitchen

Crash Pad kitchen

(We ended up staying both nights here.)  The next morning we enjoyed the complimentary, cook-your-own breakfast of eggs, toast and coffee.

We only had once day here and it was cold and very windy.  There are a lot of outdoor type activities we could have done but decided instead on a leisurely day.  After our relaxed Crash Pad breakfast and a few hours on the computer, we decided to visit a kitchen store,  Mia Cucina:  http://www.theplaceforcooks.com/.

We enjoyed browsing..  My son purchased a coffee pot like the one he had gotten in Switzerland.  As is often the case with me, I didn’t pay enough attention to remember the name of it.  It goes on top of stove and has two parts, a top and bottom.  When heated it creates kind of a vacuum,  somewhat like a pressure cooker.  The one he purchased at Mia Cucina is larger than his one cup one.  He had treated us to some coffee from his smaller one at the Crash Pad earlier, but it could only make one cup at a time.  Now he can make larger amounts.

Then we browsed the area, walking along, trying to stay out of the wind.  Feeling hungry we checked out the eating spots.  After checking a few we were drawn to the  Brewhaus, a German restaurant:  http://www.brewhausbar.com   The front part was very busy with every table filled and what looked like one waitress rushing around.  But the smell were so good we decided to wait.  Then we noticed an outside eating area and asked if we could go there.  A great choice.

It was a covered deck at the back of the building.  They had clear plastic sheeting that blocked the wind.  And the sun was shining through and warming us and we had a view.  Also we had the place completely to ourselves.  We just hoped they wouldn’t forget us out there.  We started off with water,  soda for the kids, and the sampler platter appetizer.  It was a huge pretzel with brats and sausages and 3 different relish type dips.  After quickly finishing it off, we asked the waiter about their beer, only to have him disappear.  He returned in a few minutes with 3 samples.  We each liked at different onea and ended up getting all three.

So now we had to decide on our main dishes.  We again agreed to share–except for the kids who tend to like their own.  I ordered the cherry ale chicken, mostly because it sounded different.  Others got the brats and spaetzle.   I didn’t love my chicken, tho it was interesting. But the Sides.  Soooo good!  We ordered the Brussels sprouts appetizer as a side to split.  I can now honestly say I love Brussels sprouts.  German potato salad was good and the Bier Cabbage was divine!  We were glad two of us had ordered that.  On my next visit I plan to have just sides and brats!  Although the chocolate cherry cake sounded yummy we were just too full.  Maybe next time.

After leaving the Brewhaus some of us braved the cold wind enough to walk nearly to the top of the old bridge (now closed to vehicle traffic)

cold walking

cold walking

only to hurry back down.  We then went to the park at the foot of the bridge, behind the restaurant.

Park below walking bridge  Chattanooga, TN

Park below walking bridge Chattanooga, TN

Carousel Chattanooga, TN

Carousel Chattanooga, TN

We admired the statues that are fountains in warmer weather, and rode the carousal.

After browsing a few more shops we headed back to the Pad for a leisure evening.  A few of us brave souls walked several blocks to the Hot Chocolatier.  It is chocolate from here that the Brewhaus Bar uses in their cherry chocolate cake.  After purchasing a few sweets and some hot chocolate we returned to our pad for a game of monopoly (courtesy of the Crash Pad)while enjoying the smells of the apple pie my son was baking in the communal room.  monopoly game at Crash Pad

We were joined for a few hours by a group of “end of the world day” party goers.  They offered their snacks and we some of our pie.  After finally conceding the game to the would-be winner, we turned into our bunks.

The next morning we walked to the Bluegrass Grill.  Some of our group had visited there a few years ago.  But, as is often the case with good places, it was full with a waiting line.  After waiting awhile I decided to say goodbye and get on the road.  So my son offered to go back to the Crash Pad and cook breakfast for me.  He used his new coffee pot.

After such a good breakfast I drove steadily home–and, yes,  I 24 most of the way.  In just a few days I had so many rich experiences.  It is so good to enjoy being with loved ones while savoring the things around us.  Life can be as rich as I choose to make it.  In this world of so much horrible things happening, I love the beauty of my precious moments!

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