August 16, 2018
The Upper Cumberland region of Tennessee is one of those crowning jewels you just can’t stop exploring. With attractions like Big South Fork National Park, Fall Creek Falls and Foster Falls, you’re sure to work up an appetite, well beyond your stash of trail mix and jerky. Hit an Upper Cumberland trail of a different kind by eating your way through the area at these establishments.
100 East Locust Street
Lafayette, TN 37083
Miles and Ginger Gibson hung their hats on Lafayette’s square more than 10 years ago when they bought the old 1850s post office and turned it into a home for themselves and a restaurant for the community.
Walk in the front door of Gibson’s Cafe and you’ll feel like you’re in a pop culture museum of sorts with the walls covered in old concert posters and photos from the couple’s private collection. You can find Miles at the front of the house, while Ginger follows up in the back with her made-to-order menu. She comes from a family of New York restauranteurs, the inspiration behind her Reuben sandwich chock full of house-cured pastrami. Even if you don’t save room for dessert, you might order a slice of her seasonal New York Cheesecake to-go. Friday nights are when Miles entertains with his original “easy, breezy songs” as he likes to call them. Make sure to get there early, or you’ll miss the steak and seafood feast. You’re also invited to bring a bottle of your favorite adult dinner pairing, as the county remains dry.
104 3rd Avenue East
Carthage, TN 37030
You might know Carthage as the hometown of Al Gore, the nation’s 45th Vice President. This river town is getting a bit of a renovation, too, with new folks like Erica and Cole Ebel moving in. These aspiring politicians bought the turn-of-the-century building along Carthage’s main drag in 2017. Kim’s Frame and Art remains at street level, while the Ebel’s Tavern is in the penthouse above.
It’s down below where things are starting to shake up a bit with the town’s first liquor-by-the-drink tavern since prohibition. Cole makes the tavern’s popular River City Rum Runner from behind the bar.
The cave-like swank of this place incorporates touches of old cabin wood, copper and other hints from yesteryear coupled with modern touches like Edison light fixtures and polished surfaces. A well-traveled couple, they’ve introduced some of their favorite dishes, mostly with Southern and Cajun influences. Enjoy a dozen of chargrilled oysters prepared by Chef Johnny Murphy, a Carthage native. While you’re devouring those smoky bivalves, feel free to pull up a bar stool and strike up a conversation. You can also feel free to sip local with Del Monaco and Cellar 58 wines on the list, as well as Jig Head and VonSeitz Theoreticales craft beers brewed not too far away.
3130 Muddy Pond Road
Monterey, TN 38574
In the heart of Monterey’s Mennonite community, amongst the hills and valleys of Muddy Pond Road, you’ll find this charming general store known as, Country Porch.
Muddy Pond is known for its sweet life. In fact, you might recognize Muddy Pond’s iconic sorghum molasses bottles that spring up across Tennessee during milling season, as it’s a primary economic resource for the community. You’ll find plenty of the molasses at Country Porch, along with various sundries and gifts. But, it’s the baked goods you’ll crave long after your visit to the store.
Each morning, the women at Country Porch roll up their sleeves and bake fresh cinnamon rolls and other pastries for the day. They also bake fresh bread three days a week, the show stopper to their made-to-order deli sandwiches. As the motto of this little corner of the world is to share good food amongst friends, you’ll need more than a few of those rolls for the road. Or, maybe you need to rock it out a little while in one of the comfy front porch rockers. Just make sure you allow time for a peaceful country drive.
Highland Manor Winery and Vineyards
2965 South York Highway
Jamestown, TN 38556
Fay Wheeler started making wine in his Jamestown home’s basement more than 30 years ago. It wasn’t long before several of his followers joined forces and opened Tennessee’s first winery since prohibition in 1980, Highland Manor Winery and Vineyards. These days, Rhonda and Fred Moody own the 75-acre estate featuring hiking trails, blueberry patches and Niagara and Concord vineyards once planted by area high school students during the 1970s which are currently in the midst of restoration.
There’s wine to suit every palate with winemaker Bill Tinch’s 14 styles including six dry, three semi-dry, three sweet and two dessert wines. Still, the winery’s best-seller continues to be the Cab Berry named after a family dog. It’s sweet and full of blackberry and concord juice.
The tasting room not only offers a taste of the vine, but shares a bit of retail therapy for good measure. One of the retail rooms is fully devoted to horse lovers, as the winery is just 4.5 miles north of East Fork Stables, a 12,000-acre equestrian facility. You can take your turn at the cellar’s vintage record player, too, spinning a few tunes with your favorite vintage of the vine in hand. If you want some fresh Tennessee air, take a walk along the grounds.
The Pour House Bistro and Wine Bar
1269 West Avenue
Crossville, TN 38555
What is considered the “Golf Capital of Tennessee," Crossville is also home to a smattering of cultural attractions such as the Cumberland County Playhouse. So, when Dustin and Rebekah Mullinax opened their bistro and wine bar, they wanted to “start slow and grow organically.”
Rebekah, the chef of The Pour House Bistro and Wine Bar, named some of her favorite dishes after their children. Her daughter inspired Alexander’s Chicken Flatbread featuring grilled chicken, goat cheese, scallions, sun dried tomatoes, and sun dried tomato aioli on a piping hot flatbread. In honor of their son, the Juddah Buddah sandwich has sun dried tomato aioli, bacon, avocado, tomato, provolone, cheddar. The Southern Scarlett is named after their baby girl -- a sandwich of provolone, cheddar, house roasted pulled pork and barbecue sauce.
“All the way down to my sauces we make everything,” she explains.
The Pour House burgers are voted best in the city with Hidden Valley Farm as their local beef source. You’ll want to head back over for Saturday brunch, when one “nasty biscuit” hits your plate. It’s a cat head biscuit with fried chicken gravy and fried eggs.
Calfkiller Brewing Company
1839 Blue Springs Road
Sparta, TN 38583
What do you get, when you put two brothers from Wisconsin in the middle of Sparta next to some of the most pristine flowing waters? Calfkiller Brewing Company.
Dave and Don Sergio have been Spartans since they were two years old, but the brothers got that Wisconsin beer gene all the same. Sparta was dry in 2010 when they first opened this countryside brewery and became the first brewery with their own distribution outside of their county.
Dave pours a small taste of Smokey Treat, a smoked barley ale finished with peat. “It’s one of the most unique polarizing beers we make,” he explains, “It’s hard for us to recommend a beer, because we don’t really think about styles when we make our beers.”
Rest assured, you’ll find one that suits your fancy and will feel right at home in the Calfkiller beer garden dappled in shaded light from the many trees on property. Situated in a sharp curve along the Calfkiller River, the Sergios transformed a 1970s ranch, split-level home into the oasis it is today. The rotating list of unfiltered beers is unique because of the Calfkiller’s water and a specific Belgian Trappist Monk’s yeast.
“We had the haze before the craze,” Dave smiles.
The taproom is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. You’ll want to linger while the great outdoors is hollering your name. Grab yourself a growler full of your favorite brew for a post-hike, thirst-quenching treat.
Collin’s River BBQ and Cafe
1117 East Main Street
McMinnville, TN 37110
(931) 507- 3663
There’s a coin-operated piggy ride hanging out in the front window of the downtown McMinnville barbecue joint, Collin’s River BBQ and Cafe. It’s the kind of place you might expect to find in small town America with hardwood floors, exposed brick and charm running out its ears.
Pitmaster and restaurateur, Joe O’Neal owns the building where the main floor is dressed in vintage booths, old photos, artwork and other fun memorabilia. Upstairs, a bar, dance floor and stage invite you to cut a rug with the locals.
You’ll want to start with some of those wings. He smokes them and then flash fries to keep them crispy, served with a side of house-made Ranch dressing. Actually, everything is house-made at Collins River. The hickory-smoked ribs are basted in honey harvest just a few miles up the road. The brisket is served with his mother’s Alabama White Sauce recipe. You’ve got to try the cornbread salad, also a Collins River family recipe. All belts are loose with his hickory-smoked salmon on the weekends and monthly prime rib specials. You’ll want to grab a Family Pack picnic to-go for your river adventures.
17 West Spring Street
Cookeville, TN 38506
“I’ve always loved coffee and started roasting for myself three ounces at a time in a popcorn popper,” says Zach Buckner, Cookeville’s only master roaster and owner of The Broastery.
Just beyond the square in an up and coming part of Cookeville, Buckner opened his storefront February 2018. Along the back walls are large bags of beans ready to roast in Buckner’s state-of-the-art roaster.
You’re not going to find sugary sweet syrups or piles of whipped cream in this premier roastery. What you will find is a host of fair trade, roasted-to-perfection beans worth more than a sip or two.
Broast conducts regular cuppings so that you can taste the difference and learn what beans are right for you. Everything on the shelves is less than five days old, ensuring optimal freshness with gourmet coffees available by the cup or by the bag all day, every day. Cold brew and cider are on tap with a growler station available. And, if you’re into the health trend of bulletproof coffee, Broast has you covered. If that’s not enough, you’ll be pleased to know there’s a pale ale using Broast beans down the road at Red Silo Brewing Company called “Broast Yoself.”
The Turn Around Juice Bar
213 North Peachtree Avenue
Cookeville, TN 38501
(931) 651- 2336
148 West Jackson Street
Cookeville, TN 38501
(931) 651- 2336
Former missionaries in Mexico, Rihanna Lizarraga and her family are interested in helping you live your best life in good health at The Turn Around Juice Bar.
“This is our passion to make an awareness of holistic health and that eating right is actually a modality of good health,” Rihanna says.
As she offers a “Drop the Beet” juice of beets, apples, ginger and lemon, she smiles, “For some reason, I just know you needed this one.” She’s spot on. She explains the power of positive thinking and how “our minds are everything.”
Studying to be a naturopath, Rihanna offers regular health and wellness seminars which include different modalities of healing such as chiropractic, massage and reflexology for $20. “What is life if I don’t deliver it?” she asks.
Speaking of life, you’ll love the daily buffet of healthful options sold by the pound, or maybe a three-day cleanse is more your speed. There are also sandwiches, soups and salads with homemade bone broth. You can even pre-order for those days you just can’t slow down.
Seven Senses Food and Cheer
32 West Broad Street
Cookeville, TN 38501
Chef Chad Combs learned the culinary ropes in Nashville, so he could come back to his roots. The Cookeville native is at the helm of this downtown Seven Senses Food and Cheer and takes pride in butchering all the meat and cleaning all the seafood along with selecting the freshest produce that comes through the kitchen. Needless to say, quality is top of mind.
“When Chad came in with his expertise, it has made all the difference,” says owner Jay Albrecht. “Now, we may have ranch dressing but you can bet it doesn’t come in a bottle.”
There’s optimal people watching right in the heart of downtown Cookeville where Seven Senses Food and Cheer is all a bustle. Start with the Bacon Cheese Grit Puppies with dijonnaise and sweet chili served in cast iron skillet. The warm melted gouda and green onions offer a fried cheese feel to these deep fried concoctions. You’ll love the fresh Grilled Atlantic Salmon with roasted garlic herb rice, spring vegetables and lemon dill rub. Finish with a homemade dessert made daily. You’ll be glad you used all those senses with this meal.
Tennessee Legend Distillery
323 East Spring Street
Cookeville, TN 38501
(931) 854- 9004
The family-owned Tennessee Legend Distillery first opened in Gatlinburg a couple of years ago and recently expanded to Cookeville and soon to be in Nashville. The Cookeville location is in the old Maddux Hardware Store right on the square where head distiller, Justin Holeman, captures the legendary recipes of the Great Smoky Mountains in 24 different products ranging from bourbon, moonshine, vodka rum and flavored liqueurs. There’s 50-proof moonshine to taste, and if you’re feeling brave, the 100-proof White Lightning Moonshine you. You’ll want to taste some of the others, too. Holeman’s vodka, for example is charcoal distilled six times and is what general manager, Kyla Anderson likes to call “80 Proof Water” and is smooth as a Tennessee Sunday morning. Save some room for those liqueurs, because that’s where you can get creative mix and matching. Ask Kyla to pour you a thimble full of her “cinnamon roll” cocktail and enjoy letting your creative juices flow.
Red Silo Brewing Company
118 West 1st Street
Cookeville, TN 38501
(931) 651- 2333
Elijah Thomen, Mark Van der Bleek and Jim Helton opened Red Silo Brewing Company in 2016 as Cookeville’s first brewery. Located in the historical WestSide downtown neighborhood, you can enjoy one of their 80 rotating recipes on the dog-friendly patio or head inside where you can watch the brewing process in real-time as the brewery boasts an open brew haus concept.
All three owners brew the beer with Jim as their head brewer. Thomen says that their “Skinny Bikini” is what they refer to as their “gateway beer” for guests looking for a brew to stand up to a light domestic. Don’t stop there. Try the “Honey Bear Blonde” brewed with wildflower honey from Buffalo Valley and a Nashville Predators Craft Beer Festival award-winning beer. Another beer with local influence is the “Broast Yoself Pale Ale” dry hopped with Broast’s Ethiopian TriBlend.
There’s live music Friday and Saturday nights with bands like “Few Miles On” and "The Lovers." Twice monthly on the first and third Wednesday, you can grab a pint as area musicians take the stage for the Cookeville Blues Jam. Of course, you can always grab a growler to-go.
37 Cedar Restaurant and Bar
37 North Cedar Avenue
Cookeville, TN 38506
(931) 400- 0137
Cookeville natives, Kevin Maxwell and Chris Batty have been friends their entire life. The restaurant has been a dream for the boyhood friends for more than 10 years and became a reality Feb. 14, 2018.
“Our vision here centered around the fact that we wanted it to be different than other places in Cookeville and most important that you felt relaxed and could enjoy a good meal,” Kevin says.
There’s lot of repurposed, antique architectural details in this hip space. Make your way to the bar made of former slate roofing from the Tennessee governor's mansion where 37 Cedar proudly mixes an array of craft cocktails.
Chef Dustin Dishmon works to share new ways to savor Southern fare. His smoked and braised pork belly served atop a crispy potato cake dressed in turnip green slaw is a great way to start your meal. Whereas, the meat of the matter is entrees like Dustin’s seared filet finished in red wine, garlic and thyme. One of Cookeville’s newest foodie destinations, 37 Cedar is open until 2 a.m. on the weekends with live music.
Where to stay: Wildwood Resort and Marina
7316 Granville Hwy
Granville TN 38564
Just an hour’s drive from Nashville International Airport, Wildwood Resort and Marina sits on Cordell Hull Lake. Back in the 1950s, this lake was created when the Cumberland River was dammed. Still considered a new lake, eagles, otters, beavers and tons of deer can be found coexisting with their human neighbors. Two couples, John and Natasha Deane and Kevin and Donna Jones ponied up and bought the place Spring 2018 and have embraced every ounce of lake living.
Donna and Kevin will happily show you around the lake on a sunset pontoon cruise each Saturday night; or, you can rent one by the hour or day. Granville Paddle and Board is also on-site for kayakers and SUP lovers.
The marina’s restaurant, Timberloft at the Marina specializes in Tex-Mex and barbecue. Top your meal off with a local craft beer or cocktail and soak up the beauty on the patio. Staying the night is a glamper’s dream and highly encouraged. There are four dolled-up Airstreams at the campground from different eras and named after Southern icons, with water and electricity hook-ups included. Kevin will even get your campfire going.
Down at the lodge, the rooms are decked out in what you would expect in luxury accommodations – walk-in showers and the highest of thread count for the sheets. There are also cabins for those times you need a little more room. If you’re traveling from upstream, they’ll even rent you a boatslip. Check the calendar of events, because there’s always live music showing up on the schedule. Now, cozy up by the campfire, look up at the stars and consider yourself home.