What determines “favorite” status involves location, staff experience and professionalism, how clean and tidy the restaurant is and most important, the kind of food and its method of preparation. Our friend the Dieter’s favorite is Rooster Rob’s. The dine-around bunch decided that we would dine at the Dieter’s favorite restaurant last weekend in honor of her birthday.
Rooster Rob’s is on Tennessee Highway 81 N near the Sulphur Springs community, and is accessible from Exit 50 South (the TN-81 exit) on Interstate 81, and head south about five miles. Alternatively, you can take TN-81 North from Jonesborough, which gives you a scenic country drive of about 12 miles through northwest Washington County.
Rooster Rob’s is in a white frame house on the side of the road next to a good-sized gravel parking lot, a big sign advertising their hours and specials and a big colorful statue of their rooster mascot. As we arrived, the sign out front read “Chicken Thieves Repent,” about the same time the Dieter noticed that the rooster statue was missing.
Inside, Rooster Rob’s looks like what you’d expect: somebody’s neat-as-a-pin home that was converted into a restaurant. The oak flooring has its original patina, as does the chair rail. Pictures dot the nicely wallpapered walls, and the windows are sheer-curtained and clean. The rooster memento-ed living room is the central core of the restaurant, with the comfortably converted parlors and bedrooms serving as the dining areas.
As Deanna showed us to our table, the Dieter asked her about the message on their sign. Deanna said that Rooster Rob’s rooster statue had been “bird-napped by chicken thieves” about three weeks before, and that there had been no break in the case yet. While the Dieter continued her discussion with Deanna, the rest of us were deciding on what to have for our supper.
The Retiree decided that Rooster Rob’s grilled salmon entrée ($11.99) was to her liking, particularly when it came with a side salad ($1 extra) and an order of the hash brown casserole. Since all meals are made to order at Rooster Rob’s, the Retiree’s salmon was the first entrée to reach our table. The 8-ounce salmon steak was char-grilled over a low fire on the restaurant’s outdoor grill, and properly seasoned with Rooster Rob’s proprietary blend of spices. I had a bite, and could taste not only grilled salmon but a delicate hint of fresh rosemary in there. Just heavenly.
Meanwhile, the Carnivore was in his element, ordering some of Rooster Rob’s luscious pork tenderloin platter ($9.99) accompanied by a side of hash brown casserole, some freshly-steamed green beans and a separate house salad ($2.49) together with some in-house prepared blue cheese dressing. The kitchen did an excellent presentation of the pork tenderloin, cutting the portion into thin slices and then overlap-fanning the slices along the plate’s perimeter, placing the green beans and the has brown casserole just so, and then drizzling a tangy pork sauce over the pork so that it correctly complemented every morsel of food on the plate.
My dining partner liked the look of the Carnivore’s order, but wanted to avoid the bother of scraping the pork sauce off her entrée, so her choice was a six-ounce Rooster Rob’s pork chop ($9.99) sided with some scratch-made macaroni & cheese and a side salad for a buck extra. Her savory pork chop was correctly grilled and so tender it could be cut with a fork.
My partner’s entrée and that of the Carnivore’s arrived together at table, which allowed both of them to trade bites of pork chop and tenderloin with each other, while dispensing the merest tastes to the rest of us. I myself got some of the smell and a good look-see at their entrees, but that was it.
All of the discussion about Rooster Rob’s missing rooster got me wanting chicken for my supper.
Accordingly, I ordered the Smothered Chicken ($9.49) with some corn casserole and a dollar-more side salad with the blue cheese dressing. As prepared by Rooster Rob’s, you take a boneless breast of chicken, do a butterfly cut on it and then spread it out on the grill. Mop the top surface with the house barbecue sauce and continue to grill the meat for another eight to 10 minutes. Then flip the sauced side face up, apply three smoked slices of lean bacon, and then top with melted Monterey jack and mild cheddar cheeses, plus a good dash of the house spice recipe. Transfer to plate along with the corn casserole with the side salad nearby. Then bring it to the table and set it in front of me. I promised I would eat everything on my plate, and did just that.
Having finished getting “just the facts, ma’am” from Deanna, the Dieter ordered the daily special for her supper, in this case the house Meat Loaf entrée platter ($8.99) with a side order of baked beans and another dollar side salad.
Rooster Rob’s has taken this humble family main course and turned into one of their signature creations. Their mixture of beef and pork gives the meat loaf extra body and flavor without adding a lot of extra fat, and uses oat flour instead of wheat flour, stale bread crumbs, or the crushed saltine crackers that my dining partner’s meat loaf has.
This means that Rooster Rob’s meat loaf retains moisture and therefore cooks completely without drying out. The Dieter’s portion looked to be eight inches long, four inches tall and two or three inches thick, all of it cooked to perfection. I usually put ketchup on my meat loaf, and suggested that to the Dieter. Our friend declined with a smile, stating that she had all the sauce she needed with her side order of baked beans.
Since we were celebrating the Dieter’s birthday, it followed that the dessert menu would be consulted by the five of us.
Deanna said that the day’s desserts included strawberry cobbler with vanilla ice cream (Retiree’s choice for $2.49), a chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream (my choice for $2.49), and the star of the show, a thick-cut wedge of peanut butter pie ($2.99) with a lit candle for the birthday girl. Everybody had some of each dessert, especially the peanut butter pie, which was too scrumptious for words.
As the five of us waddled our full tummies out Rooster Rob’s front door, the topic of the purloined rooster statue came up again.
My dining partner said it had to be done by somebody who liked roosters and wanted a pièce de résistance for their collection. The Carnivore’s theory was that the bird-napped rooster would soon be a hood ornament for a chicken-selling food truck. Deanna nixed this line of detective reasoning, stating that when the thieves stole the Rooster Rob’s mascot, they left his custom-built rooster feet behind. At first, the five of us didn’t believe it. That is, until my dining partner took a picture of two forlorn rooster feet still attached to the statue’s base.
How about it, dear readers? Who do you think stole the Rooster Rob’s rooster?
2544 Tenn. Highway 81N
Thu-Sat 7 a.m.- 8 p.m.
Available on Facebook
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Credit cards accepted