When we go on vacation, we usually like to patronize the local restaurants. We don’t want to be the people who go to Manhattan and eat at the Olive Garden in Times Square. When we went on our big road trip of 2020 and ended up in Pigeon Forge, TN, we did what we always try to do when we travel. We reached out to friends who lived nearby in Knoxville to reconnect (While this was only a few months ago, I’m not sure we would have done the same with COVID-19 cases rising. We’re in a time of constantly re-evaluating risk).
When we knew we would be in the area, we asked if they’d be willing to get together for dinner. Since they were locals, we asked that they do the recon and find a place to eat outdoors. We left the choice of the restaurant up to them. FWIW, it helps to have a friend who also happens to be a chef when asking to find a place to eat. When he came back with a selection that had outdoor seating on a porch with heaters, we were in. All we asked was the address.
We left our cabin in the mountains and plugged the address into Waze. It was about a 45 min drive to the location on the outskirts of town. As we got closer, we left the highway and then left the main road to traverse some local streets. When we were only 2 miles away, we questioned if we were going to the right place. Our final turn took us onto RUBY TUESDAY DR.
We thought, “If we’re eating at a Ruby Tuesday, we’re no longer friends!” 🙂
Instead of finding an endless salad bar, we entered what could only be called a compound.
Our destination was the RT Lodge.
The History of RT Lodge begins in 1932 with the arrival of Susan Wiley Walker to Maryville from her native Pennsylvania. Mrs. Walker relocated to Tennessee to be near her sister, who was married to the Maryville College Chaplain. After seeing her sister’s home located in the woods adjacent to the college, Mrs. Walker decided she wanted her own residence in set amongst the trees as well.
She persuaded the administration to allow her to build on the property, as long as she willed the home to the college upon her death. She named her 26-room home Morningside.
The 26 room home and the surrounding buildings were willed to the college after Mrs. Walker’s death (at the age of 98). It was the home of the college president for a while, but was eventually leased out and operated as a restaurant and event space. In 1997, Ruby Tuesday, Inc. acquired Morningside. It developed the property as a corporate retreat, restoring the grounds and residence to their present grandeur and adding two additional buildings for guest accommodations.
Approaching the main building, it definitely gave off the vibe of a mountain retreat. Somewhere that people with money back in the day could come to get away from it all and relax. For us, the most important thing was the covered porch.
The menu was nothing like you’d see at a Ruby Tuesday.
We enjoyed our dinner sitting at a well worn wooden table. The massive space heaters kept us warm in the brisk Tennessee evening.
While we all enjoyed dinner, dessert might have been the best part of the meal. We could have had a selection from the menu, but we were given the option to make s’mores on the fire pit. Guess which one we chose?
We’d brought the supplies for s’mores to both of our Airbnb cabins but somehow never managed to have them. It was nice to get the chance after dinner at Ruby Tuesday. I’m also not going to deny that we thought the fire built by the hotel was insufficient for our needs and added additional logs to build a fire that met our requirements. That’s just how we roll!
When I saw the credit card bill from dinner, the funniest thing was that it was from “Ruby Tuesday.” I doubt that Chase has ever seen a bill from the restaurant chain like the one we racked up at dinner :-).
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary