Category Archives: USA: East of the Mississippi

Travel: The Great West Virginia Pepperoni Roll Trail

Guys, I had so much fun reliving this adventure for this post, so I really hope you have fun reading it.

A couple weeks ago, work took me Athens, Ohio. The only photos I took there were of food, so I’m afraid I can’t really show it to you. But, suffice it to say, Athens is a funky little town that were it not 6 hours away, I’d love to go back to.

What does this have to do with pepperoni rolls and West Virginia? Quite a bit, actually.

See, my coworker and I had 6 hours together in the car. Thankfully, we get along wonderfully, but 6 hours in a car with anyone is a challenge, and as most people do, we were looking for ways to make the drive more exciting.

We also needed a lunch plan.

One of my favorite things about traveling is eating things I’d never get to eat otherwise. So, when Kristin asked me if I’d indulge her desire to find and try an “authentic West Virginia Pepperoni Roll,” I didn’t hesitate. What happened next was an adventure of epic proportions.

Ok, not really, but we did have fun, and if you ever find yourself in West Virginia and in need of lunch, I suggest you give The Great West Virginia Pepperoni Roll Trail a try.

About the West Virginia Pepperoni Roll

Pepperoni rolls – not pizza rolls, as I kept mistakenly calling them – are a bit of a thing in West Virginia. I mean, they’re considered the state food. In the 1920s, coal miners needed a portable, filling, easy lunch option that didn’t require refrigeration. An Italian immigrant named Giuseppe “Joseph” Argiro is credited with creating the first pepperoni roll in 1927, as a solution to this problem. Basically, a pepperoni roll is bread with some pepperoni stuffed inside and then baked. The oils and fats from the pepperoni soak into the bread, giving it that wonderful pizza-like flavor.

Modern pepperoni rolls have branched out quite a bit, and now have cheese and other meats (like salami or sausage) inside, but you can still get a traditional pepperoni roll if you look hard enough.

The Great West Virginia Pepperoni Roll Trail

According to the Interwebs, the best pepperoni rolls are all found in the Eastern part of West Virginia – Fairmont, Clarksburg, and Morgantown, to name a few. Unfortunately, our travels only took us as far as Huntington before we had to turn north. So, Huntington it was.

There was a significant lack of information on Google about just where in Huntington to find pepperoni rolls. I managed to come across an article from 2015 about the outcry surrounding Sheetz gas stations’ change in pepperoni roll supplier. From that, Kristin and I deduced that Sheetz had pepperoni rolls.

According to Yelp, there was also a place in the Huntington Mall that sold pepperoni rolls. Never having tried one before, we knew we needed a decent sample size to be able to fully critique the rolls. We decided to swing into Sheetz, then head over to the mall for a second variety, creating our own little pepperoni roll trail.

Our First West Virginia Pepperoni Roll

First stop, Sheetz. For those who don’t know, Sheetz is a gas station, albeit a rather nice gas station. They have a made-to-order food counter with, you guessed it, pepperoni rolls. Never having done this before, we each ordered two pepperoni rolls with both marinara and garlic butter sauces.

After what felt like hours but was in reality about 8 minutes, our made-to-order pepperoni rolls were ready. Turns out, you get two in an order….so we ended up with four each. No matter. We took our bounty out to the car, and ripped those babies open.

If this picture looks terrible, it’s because the pepperoni rolls were precariously balanced on my lap and I was trying to hurry so I could shove them in my mouth.

Pepperoni Rolls from Sheetz

Made-to-order Pepperoni Rolls from Sheetz

Here’s where I have to admit – we were both starving by the time we rolled into Sheetz, so a piece of cardboard probably would have tasted great. But, seriously, they were quite good. I ate one and a half of mine – I preferred the garlic butter because duh – and saved the rest to bring home to Jimmie. It reminded me of a thin calzone. The pepperonis were enormous, and it had just a little bit of cheese. You definitely tasted the pepperoni a lot, which I liked.

Our Second West Virginia Pepperoni Roll

As we waited for our rolls to be cooked, Kristin found a stand of pre-packaged pepperoni rolls. They’re probably the ones referenced in the article. Truth be told, we weren’t exactly inspired by the sight of them, but eventually I convinced Kristin we needed to try one. We settled on the “original” variety, just pepperoni and bread.

Sadly, we didn’t try it because neither of us thought it looked appealing. Kristin took it home to her husband, who thought it was better than the one from Sheetz. I thought it looked like a Slim Jim stuffed in a dinner roll, which now that I think about it, probably isn’t that bad.

Our Third West Virginia Pepperoni Roll

Next up was the Huntington Mall and Big Loafer. Except, I couldn’t remember the name and kept calling it Big Fluffy. I recognize this is probably only funny to Kristin and me. That’s ok.

Anyway, Big Fluffy Loafer is in the food court of the Huntington Mall, and was nominated for the best pepperoni roll in West Virginia this year. They didn’t win, but according to their Facebook made it to number 12. Respectable!

big loafer

Big Loafer’s pepperoni roll was round, and cut into four sections like a pie.

big loafer pepperoni roll

This one was super doughy. It also had a lot more cheese, and the pepperoni oil really soaked into the bread. It didn’t come with marinara, though I probably could have asked for it. I liked this one a lot, but then, I like soft bread a lot. Interestingly, this one also reheated really well. (I had it dipped in Brie when I got home and shared it with Jimmie. Best decision ever.)

Our Fourth West Virginia Pepperoni Roll

When we got to the food court, we realized Cosimos Pizza is right across from Big Loafer, and being a pizza place, also sells pepperoni rolls. A fourth option just magically dropped in our lap? Of course we had to try one from them too.

cosimos pizza

Cosimos’ pepperoni roll most resembled pizza.

cosimos pepperoni roll

This was my least favorite of the bunch, though it’s probably because by this point I was feeling a little ill. Cosimos had the most cheese of any of the rolls, and the least pepperoni. It came with a healthy cup of marinara, and reminded me of cheesy bread. Good, just not what I was expecting. I think this was Kristin’s favorite, though. The bread was baked well, with a crispy edge and doughy middle.

So Which is the Best West Virginia Pepperoni Roll?

Well….at the risk of sounding like I’m taking the easy way out…that depends.

If you like a lot of pepperoni, go with the made-to-order from Sheetz. If you like a lot of cheese, go with Cosimos. And if you like a lot of bread, go with Big Loafer.

Me? I’ll take Big Loafer.

pepperoni rolls

Kristin and I enjoying our West Virginia Pepperoni Roll adventure!



Travel: An Evening in Charleston, WV

I’m fortunate to have a job that lets me travel. Sometimes that travel is exotic- I’ve been to Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico, all for work. Other times the destinations are less exciting, but often turn out to be just as beautiful – Montana and Utah fit the bill there. And sometimes, occasionally, I travel somewhere that my expectations are fairly accurate.

Charleston, West Virginia, turned out to be one of those places. I expected a cute little college town, and that’s pretty much what I got.

I spent two nights there, but as anyone who travels for work will tell you – that gave me approximately 4 hours of exploring. Long enough to eat dinner. Work trips aren’t glamorous, friends. They’re grueling, often 12+ hour days where you’re lucky to see anything besides the inside of a hotel room or conference facility. I wouldn’t trade any of my trips though, because the stories and experiences are worth every bit of stress and exhaustion.

Plus, as I mentioned a few weeks ago, work trips are great ways to scout out places you’d like to return to.

Downtown Charleston, or at least the part I saw, reminds me a little bit of Asheville, actually – the architecture has a similar feel. It’s all cute boutiques and local merchants; you won’t find any chains or big box retailers on Capitol Street. The buildings are all funky colors, the streets are fairly narrow, and the walkways could use a little love and care. But, the drivers are patient, the shops varied, and the vibe incredibly low key. My kind of place.

The Block Restaurant and Wine Cellar

Our first night, we had a lovely dinner at The Block. It’s an upscale restaurant with over 500 different wines. The menu was thankfully manageable, and had a lot of eclectic pairings. If I had to label it, I’d call it Hipster American – think Alfredo pasta that’s got handmade noodles, sauteed kale and Brussels sprouts, and lots of Artisan cheeses.

I had the Braised Short Rib and a local West Virginia Beer (the Almost Heaven Amber Ale from Mountain State Brewing Co.).  According to the menu, my short rib should have had fried leeks (nope), whipped potatoes (yep), sauteed kale (yup, with little pieces of hot dogs?), shallots (nope), and garlic with rosemary demi-glace (possibly, though I didn’t taste any rosemary). It was tasty, but the kale was too bitter and overall, the dish was overpriced. I liked the beer, though.

Service was good, even though the guy had no idea about the beer – he told us Ayinger was brewed in Colorado, and that the Almost Heaven was a wheat beer – but to be fair, it’s a restaurant known for the wine. So I take the fault on that one. And, since we were staying in a hotel, we got a slight discount off our meal. block wv

Pies and Pints

Our second night, we headed over to Pies and Pints, a West Virginia franchise, on the advice of about 500 people. They’re known for their beer selection, but surprisingly, only had a small handful of WV brews. And they wouldn’t do a flight. What self-respecting beer place doesn’t do flights?

I ended up ordering the Wild Wonderful West Virginia Wet Hop Ale from Big Timber Brewing, and a sample of The Loud from Black Sheep Burrito and Brews. While I enjoyed both, I should have done them the other way around. The Wild Wonderful was mild, but the Loud was super hoppy. (I like hoppy beer!)

As for the food, there were three of us, and we were all kinda curious about the Black Bean pizza. Not being one to shy away from a weird food combination, I ordered it. The other two girls had the Heirloom Tomato and the Grape and Gorgonzola pizzas, and we ended up sharing them all.

I was a big fan of mine, and plan to recreate it next time we make pizza, though I might leave off some of the jalapenos. The grape and gorgonzola was only saved by the rosemary – without it, the pizza would have been bland. The heirloom was a little heavy on the pesto, but the tomatoes had great flavor so it balanced out. Overall, I wasn’t crazy about the crust. It might have just been overdone, but to me there’s a fine balance between a good thin crust and a bad one, and it all depends on the level of chewiness. Pies and Pints had a crunchy crust, and I ended up not eating most of it.


Ellen’s Ice Cream

Never ones to pass up ice cream and coffee, we headed across the street to Ellen’s Ice Cream after Pies and Pints. There we sampled a handful of the ice cream flavors, settling on mocha almond, pumpkin, and oreo espresso. Mine was the oreo, and even though I couldn’t eat much of it, the flavor was divine and left me wishing I could buy pints of the stuff.


Taylor Books

Our final stop on our quick Charleston tour was Taylor Books. An independent book store, that also has an impressive coffee shop and art gallery, I could have spent hours in there. As it was, I practically had to be dragged out….but not before snapping a dozen photos, lamenting the fact that beer couldn’t be ordered to go, and buying a book just because.


I’d have liked to have more time in Charleston to explore beyond Capitol Street. Have you ever been? What are some of your favorite spots for an evening in Charleston?

Travel: Flying Saucer in Nashville, TN

Ready for the last post about our recent trip to Nashville? First, we had Sammy B’s, then we had Crawdaddy’s. After that it was Mantra Artisan Ales. And rounding out the Nashville posts, I bring you…Flying Saucer.

We also saw a concert while we were in Nashville, but it wasn’t all that exciting. It was One Republic, their third show of the tour. We were there to see Fitz and the Tantrums, who either pulled out of the tour or were never supposed to be on it in the first place….even though I’m 99.99% positive they were listed when I bought the tickets. I’m still bitter about it.

Moving on. Here’s photo proof that we did do something besides eat. And drink.

Nashville Flying Saucer

One of our friends recommended we stop in Flying Saucer while we were in Nashville (he knows us well). Since the concert was over at 10:00pm and neither of us was tired, we made the stop! It turned out well, since we were also both hungry. (We’d grabbed a quick Aldi chicken salad dinner in between Mantra and the concert. While yummy, it didn’t have much staying power!)

We parked in the lot behind the building, and I snapped a few photos of the back side of Union Station Hotel . The light hitting it was breathtaking. I didn’t actually know what the building was when I took the picture – just that it was beautiful!

The back of Nashville’s Union Station Hotel

The inside of the Flying Saucer is a beer lover’s dream, with dark wood, lots of saucers (more on that in a moment), and a tap wall that made me swoon.

Inside the Nashville Flying Saucer

Closeup of the Tap Wall at the Nashville Flying Saucer

The Beer

I’d never been to a Flying Saucer. Jimmie had, and I guess they’re all fairly similar. Tons and tons and tons of beer. 200 beers, to be exact. There’s so much beer that it gets its own double-sided menu.

  Beer menu at Nashville Flying Saucer

If you’re a hardcore beer fan, you can join their UFO club and they’ll track your progress. Once you’ve had all the beers, you get a fun reward – your very own saucer on the wall. If you make the rounds more than once, you get a fancier saucer. We saw some that said people had done all 200 beers….9 times. Impressive.

UFO Club Saucers at the Nashville Flying Saucer

UFO Club Saucers at the Nashville Flying Saucer

We ordered a Ghost Flight, which is 4 unknown beers. You rate them on the restuarant’s website, and then whichever beer ends up getting the highest rating gets added to the taps. We weren’t super impressed with any of them. We knew we had a Mexican style lager, and one of the others was a honey pale ale, but the third was pretty unremarkable. (They ran out of the 4th ghost beer, so gave us more gose.) Regardless, it was a fun experience, and yes, we did rate our beers! Our second flight had a Scotch ale, a Gose, and two IPAs. The Anderson Valley Gose was our favorite.

Ghost flight at the Nashville Flying Saucer

Ghost flight at the Nashville Flying Saucer

The Food

The menu at the Flying Saucer has about a million delicious-sounding things on it, all of them designed to pair extremely well with beer. Pretzels, brats, cheese…I wanted all of it.

Eventually we settled on a pepperoni and mushroom pizza and the Saucer Bratzel, which is a pretzel topped with cheese and beer brats. The pretzel was definitely the star of the show. The pizza wasn’t terrible either, but don’t go for the pizza. Go for the pretzel.

Pizza, beer, and saucer bratzel at Nashville's Flying Saucer

Pizza, beer, and saucer bratzel at Nashville’s Flying Saucer

I’m sorry I don’t have a picture of just the pretzel because you really should see that in all its glory. Guess you’ll just have to take a trip and try it yourself!

That wraps up our two-day Nashville trip – hard to believe we ate so much in two days, huh?! I’m sure we’ll be back that way soon, so where else should we try?

Travel: Mantra Artisan Ales in Franklin, TN

If you’ve been here a while, you know I’m a big beer fan. If you’re new (welcome, friend!), I write about beer a lot – some of these posts are really old, though, so be gentle. Check out our trips to Yazoo, Jackalope, Asheville, Asheville again, and Asheville a third time. Better yet, search my page for “Beer” (there’s even a tag at the bottom of this post), and enjoy.

Anyway, surprise! Here’s another brewery post!

A few months ago I discovered Mantra Artisan Ales when I had their Guru Gish at a book club meeting. It tasted like a Reese’s cup in a pint glass. I immediately decided I was in love with Mantra. I tried their Saffron IPA at a local beer garden, and from that moment on, knew it was just a matter of time before I’d make it to the taproom. So, when we traveled to Nashville recently and found ourselves with a few extra hours before our concert, we made the 30ish minute drive south to Franklin to check it out.

Mantra Artisan Ales

Mantra Artisan Ales is in perhaps the most unassuming location I’ve ever seen. It’s a business park. And then there’s this little brewery.

Outside Mantra Artisan Ales in Franklin, TN

We weren’t really expecting much on that first glance, but as soon as we walked inside we realized you should never judge a taproom by its location.

The Taproom at Mantra

They’ve got all their beers (all 20-something of them) listed on televisions above the bar. It made for terrible photos, sorry.

Tap Wall at Mantra

I loved everything about the taproom, from the tap handles to the bathroom mural.

Mural at Mantra Brewing

And yes, they have lots of t-shirts with that fantastic Mantra logo. They’re super soft and I bought a tank top.

Merchandise at Mantra

The Beer

We didn’t know before we got there, but Mantra is known for their sours. Roughly half of their taps were sour beers when we visited. I’m not a huge sour fan, but Jimmie is. We started with two flights, one each.

Jimmie had the Cherry Love (sour red), Tacenda (sour), Cassis (sour red), and ReinCOWnation (milk stout). Cherry Love was my least favorite – it tasted like medicine. Cassis was reminiscent of wine, so I enjoyed that one. ReinCOWnation was yummy, and Tacenda was very heavy on the muscadine.

I had Annika (wild ale), Chocolate Wit, Randall (IPA), and Roots (IPA). Annika was one of our favorites. I was really disappointed I couldn’t taste the carrots in the Roots IPA. Randall was ok, and the chocolate wit wasn’t my thing.

For our third flight we had Imli (sour), Noueveau (Belgian Dubbel), La Tian (peppercorn saison), and Big Juicy Dank (IPA). I liked La Tian, and Jimmie liked Imli. We were three flights in, so I forgot to take a picture until after we’d finished.

Tasting all the beers at Mantra

We really enjoyed our afternoon tasting at Mantra. We sat in the taproom and played Valley of the Kings, a fun little card game, and drank beer after beer. They know their beer at Mantra…even the ones I wasn’t crazy about, I could tell they were done well. And the atmosphere was perfect, laid back and friendly. I’d go back in a heartbeat.

What other breweries do you know and love? I’m always on the hunt for a good one, so let’s hear your recommendations!

Travel: DelMonaco Winery & Vineyards in Baxter, TN

All the best people were born in July.

I can say that, since both Jimmie and I are July babies. We also happen to have a dozen or so friends who were also born in July. It’s a good month for a birthday.

A few weeks ago, a couple of our July-birthday friends invited us to take a wine tour for a joint birthday celebration. Turns out there’s a wine trail not too far from us (two, actually), so we loaded up the car and headed west to DelMonaco Winery and Vineyards in Baxter, TN.

We had a great day with friends new and old!

For those not familiar with the area, Baxter is one exit past Cookeville on the way to Nashville. Remember Cookeville from my Crawdaddy’s post? Anyway, I’m not sure there’s much in Baxter, though apparently there is a really good restaurant that we didn’t get to. Next time. (For those interested, DelMonaco is part of the Upper Cumberland Wine Trail.)

DelMonaco Winery & Vineyards

DelMonaco is one of the few wineries in Tennessee that grows their own grapes. In addition to the wine, they’ve also got an incredible event space. It’s genius, really, since as our tour guide told us, they make just as much money from their events as they do from their wine. If you live in Middle or East Tennessee and need a wedding venue, definitely check them out.

We paid $15 each for the tour and tasting, which got us a 45 minute tour and samples of all 14 wines. Yes, that’s a lot of wine. Most of DelMonaco’s wines are sweet wines, typical for the area. I learned that for the most part, the grapes we’re familiar with (Cabernet, Merlot, Chardonnay, etc.) don’t survive in the U.S. Only the West Coast and a few places in New England have any real luck with them. Bad soil, pests, fungi, and inhospitable climates cause problems everywhere else.

But, that just means American winemakers have had to get creative. Some wineries purchase those more elusive grapes. Others grow America-friendly grapes like Muscadine and Concord. Still others make wines out of fruits, such as strawberries, blackberries, and peaches.

Needless to say, this wine drinker learned a lot on the tour.

The Tour

First of all, it was hot as blazes. Our tour guide took us through the venue first, showing us their different event spaces. I loved the Grand Bella, the main room. It’s got these gorgeous glass doors all around. You’ll have to take my word for it, since I failed to turn around and take a picture.

The Grand Bella at DelMonaco Winery

The outdoor areas are very nice too, and have killer views of the vineyard.

I absolutely adore this picture of us in front of the vineyards.

Next we walked down to the vineyard, where we learned a little more about the history of the place and some of the fun events they host. There’s a wine train – the train tracks run right by the winery – that brings people in from Nashville. You ride a train (drink wine), tour the winery (drink wine), and have a party (drink wine). It sounds like it might be one of the best things ever.

Concord Grapes at the DelMonaco Winery

We didn’t wander the vineyard (we were all melting), but we did snap lots of photos.

Another good one!

And some of us might have tried the grapes.

I’m thinking about framing this one and hanging it in my kitchen. That’d work, right?

Concord grapes are divine, friends.

Where the magic happens!

After the grapes, we went into the blessedly cool air-conditioned wine-making room (I can’t remember the proper term, sorry). There we got to hear about how they make the wine, how they bottle the wine, how they label the wine, and how they store the wine. All I remember was that it’s very similar to making beer, and that they do only about 4,000 cases of wine a year. I should have taken better notes, but I’ll just go back for the wine train and update you then.

On a side note – I was very disappointed to know that they don’t actually crush grapes in a giant vat with their bare feet. I’ve wanted to do that ever since watching the (albeit terrible) movie, A Walk in the Clouds. Anyone with me??

The Tasting

We actually did the tasting before the tour, since we were waiting on another couple to meet us there. Fourteen wines is a lot, and since you taste from dry to sweet, it quickly becomes A LOT.

DelMonaco Winery Wine Tasting List….side A.

Jimmie and I are dry-wine drinkers, so for the most part, we had a hard time with the wines. We could appreciate the flavors, and there were a few that we would have been able to drink a glass of if we’d needed to. There were a couple that I’d have added carbonation to, and a handful that I simply could not finish my taster of. But, we also liked some – the Chardonnay was quite good, and I typically don’t like Chardonnay. It’s got apricot and fig flavors, and oddly enough, you can actually taste the fig. The Merlot and Noiret were also good, though slightly too fruity.

Don’t let our experience put you off though – our sweet-wine loving friends bought like 8 bottles. They loved the wines.

I took like 8 pictures before I’d let anyone drink it. I’m that person.

After our tasting, we bought a bottle of Chardonnay and took it to the patio for a picnic lunch of cheeses, fruits, veggies, and meats. It was a wonderful meal, despite the heat, and the wine paired perfectly with the food.

Our glorious picnic

It was a fun-filled (HOT) day, and despite not loving all the sweet wines, wine is wine, so we left happy. It’s nice to know we have such a beautiful, relaxing place here in Tennessee, and I can see myself going back with a group of girlfriends to spend some lazy Saturday.

I believe you can order DelMonaco’s wines from their website, or if you’re local, it’s a quick day trip. And if anyone does that train, I want to tag along.

Travel: Crawdaddy’s Restaurant in Cookeville, TN

Last week, I shared our lunch date at Sammy B’s in Lebanon, TN, on our way home from Nashville. The type A personalities will be annoyed to know that we also had lunch on the way to Nashville – but I wrote the posts out of order, so you’re just now seeing it. *Grin*

The drive from Knoxville to Nashville doesn’t have a whole lot of large towns with food choices that aren’t chain restaurants, but so far, we’ve managed. On the drive out, we stopped in Cookeville with the intention of eating at The Cooke House. We’d tried to make it there on a previous trip, but the restaurant was closed for a private event. Wouldn’t you know – it was closed this trip too.

Cookeville is roughly halfway between Knoxville and Nashville, and it’s probably the biggest city you’ll pass on the drive. It’s home to Tennessee Technological University, and has an adorable downtown area. Since the Cooke House was closed, we turned to Crawdaddy’s.

Crawdaddy’s West Side Grill

Crawdaddy’s is a Creole-American restaurant in Downtown Cookeville. It’s housed in a 100-year-old building with a spacious patio.

Crawdaddy's Entrance Cookeville

Entrance to Crawdaddy’s in Cookeville, TN

Crawdaddy's Patio Cookeville

Patio at Crawdaddy’s in Cookeville, TN

In the 1930s and 40s, that patio was home to the Fox Cafe. A fire destroyed the building in the 1960s, and the space stayed vacant until Crawdaddy’s incorporated it into their restaurant.

History Crawdaddy's

History of Crawdaddy’s Patio

Crawdaddy’s prides themselves on being a friendly, welcoming establishment. Our service was adequate, though I wouldn’t go so far as to call it exceptional. Staff were courteous, and our food was delivered quickly.

The Food

I wanted everything with goat cheese, but eventually settled on the Mango Mahi Wrap with seasoned fries. Jimmie had the Citrus Glazed Salmon, which came with mashed potatoes and fried green beans.

Mango Mahi Wrap with seasoned fries at Crawdaddy’s

The wrap was stuffed full of grilled mahi mahi. So much so, in fact, that I couldn’t finish it. The mango added a nice flavor. The wrap was your standard wrap, though it ended up getting a little soggy. I’m not sure how that could be avoided unless they grilled it. The fries were good, and reminded me of Arby’s curly fries.

I forgot to get a picture of Jimmie’s salmon. The portion was a little on the small size – 4 ounces, which is great for lunch. Not sure if it’d be enough for dinner. The citrus glaze was reminiscent of an Asian marinade, but the goat cheese threw it off a little. Here’s where I have to admit that goat cheese does not, in fact, go with everything. His mashed potatoes were cold, and the fried green beans were actually roasted. Despite all this, he enjoyed it quite immensely.

Tree at Crawdaddy’s

My favorite thing about Crawdaddy’s was the atmosphere. I loved the patio’s New Orleans vibe. The downside was the number of flies relentlessly attacking our food, but I suppose that happens when you dine al fresco.

I’d like to go back and try more of the menu, but there are a couple other Cookeville restaurants I might try first. But, if you’re a fan of Creole or Cajun food, definitely add Crawdaddy’s to the list of restaurants to consider when making the drive between Knoxville and Nashville!

Travel: Sammy B’s Restaurant in Lebanon, TN

We recently spent the night in Nashville as part of a quick trip to see a concert. The next morning we woke up a little early, but neither of us felt like exploring the city. (We missed our pups!) Rather than waiting around until restaurants in the Nashville area started serving lunch, we decided to hit the road. When we saw the sign for the Lebanon outlet mall, we figured it’d be a good place to stop and grab some lunch. And some shopping, obviously.

Lebanon is about half an hour East of Nashville. I’ve been there once, and that was to pick up the shark puppy last year. I’m pretty sure we ate McDonald’s for dinner that time.

Turns out there are actually quite a few non-chain restaurants in Lebanon. Jimmie wasn’t feeling Mexican or sandwiches, so we ended up at Sammy B’s.

Sammy B’s


Sammy B’s is a casual upscale American restaurant located right next to City Hall in the Castle Heights area of Lebanon. It’s in the former home of the Castle Heights Military Academy’s President. The place has both a patio and an atrium, as well as plenty of room for private events. The food is classic with a twist, and everything is homemade. They even cut their own meat.


The attention to customer service and detail shows in both the service and the food. While we had a dedicated server, each staff member came by to check on us as they walked by. If they saw we needed a drink refilled, they refilled it. When a server brewed a fresh pot of coffee for another table, she topped mine off. The staff were courteous and friendly, and though it may sound cliche, the place oozed Southern hospitality.

The Food

Both of us had a hard time choosing because the menu is enormous. Our server recommended the Fish and Chips, Lobster Roll, and the Rajin’ Cajun sandwich. I had my eye on the Reuben, and when she said she’d already put in two orders for it that morning, I knew it had to be good. Jimmie chose the Trifecta and Chips, which was fish, shrimp, and chicken (and fries). I chose sweet potato fries for my side; he wanted to sub out the coleslaw on his platter, but that wasn’t an option.


I’m a sucker for a good Reuben, and this one didn’t disappoint. My biggest complaint with Reubens is usually that there’s too much dressing and not enough sauerkraut. Sammy B’s has the perfect ratio, and their sauerkraut is nice and tangy with a hint of sweetness. The marbled rye was toasted perfectly, the cheese melted just enough, and the corned beef (thankfully) wasn’t too salty. The only thing they could have done differently was slice the corned beef a little thinner. I had to do a lot of chewing, but then again, it just meant I ate more slowly. Not a bad thing.


The Trifecta had the fattest fried shrimp I’ve ever seen, and the strangest looking chicken tenders. Both tasted delicious, with slightly peppered breading. The fish was a little on the thin side, resulting in more batter than fillet, but was still packed with flavor. I stole Jimmie’s coleslaw, and appreciated the subtlety of the dressing – again, not too overpowering, with just the right amount of tang. Clearly, the chef knows how to balance flavors.

After lunch I snapped a couple photos of the Castle Heights Military Academy (now City Hall) because look at that gorgeous building.

Castle Heights Military Academy in Lebanon, TN

Castle Heights Military Academy in Lebanon, TN

Next time you’re in the Lebanon or Nashville areas, make sure to stop at Sammy B’s!

Travel: Walk the Moon at Nashville’s Marathon Music Works

I’m kind of in love with Nashville.


I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ve been living under a rock for most of my life. No doubt, this is not news to some of you.


A couple weekends ago we ventured out to Nashville to see Walk the Moon play (yes, different from Walk Off the Earth, but also very very good – I know, confusing) at Marathon Music Works’ Blocktoberfest Block Party. I had a free Marriott night so we snagged a hotel room and made a date weekend out of it.

We had a blast. We ate, we drank, we walked, we shopped, and we talked. We saw live music. We toured breweries. We slept in. It was glorious.

Out hotel was the Fairfield Inn and Suites – Downtown/The Gulch. It was brand new – it opened the Tuesday before we arrived. I thought I got a picture of the outside, but apparently I did not, so here’s Marriott’s photo. It pretty much looks like this.

Fairfield Inn & Suites Nashville Downtown/The Gulch (from Marriott)

Our room was fine – a little small, but since we were only there one night it was more than adequate.

Fairfield Nashville Gulch

The bathroom was pretty good sized, and I loved the shower (can you see it in the mirror?).

Fairfield Nashville Gulch 2

Fairfield Nashville Gulch 3Service was excellent throughout our entire stay. I have to highly commend the breakfast ladies….there was a “bacon thief” who literally took the entire dish of bacon as soon as the ladies brought it out. Crazy person. So the nice ladies brought me my own bacon. And checked on me during breakfast. (This was quite impressive, since I’m not known for being a morning person.)

What made this hotel even more exciting was that when I looked out the window, staring back at me was the Yazoo Brewery. Uh…….

Blocktoberfest was scheduled to start at 3:00pm. There were 7 bands playing…. Tristen, *repeat repeat, Scars on 45, Vinyl Thief, Boom Forest, Self, and finally, Walk the Moon.

Lightning 100's Marathon Village Blocktoberfest Fall Block PartySo when we got to Nashville that afternoon, we were early enough that we could have gone over to Marathon Music Works for the opener. But there was the brewery. We made the call to wait for Walk the Moon. That left us plenty of time to explore, have dinner, and relax a little before the show (I even took a nap).

We ended up touring Yazoo and Jackalope, both local Nashville breweries. Afterwards, we walked to dinner at The Pub, which is a British gastropub chain restaurant. I’ll admit that I was not entirely sober (ok, not even close) by this point, but OH MAN IT WAS DELICIOUS. Jimmie had fish and chips, and I had Shepherd’s Pie. I ate the entire thing and didn’t feel the slightest bit guilty. They had a really awesome beer selection – which we skipped since we’d just toured 2 breweries – that I can’t wait to go back and try. All sorts of beers I’ve never heard of. English beers, Scottish beers, Irish beers…yum.

Here is where I should probably apologize for my photos. This is what happens when “not entirely sober” Casey gets hold of things.

The Pub Nashville

The Pub Nashville interior

You can’t really tell, but all the waiters wore kilts. I kept looking for Jamie Fraser. Never found him.

Shepherd's Pie at the Pub NashvilleMarathon Music Works is this little courtyard in between all these old brick buildings. They had projections on the brick that reminded me of that scene in Batman with the spotlight. If it hadn’t been gravel, or if the ground had been sloped, or if the stage had been higher….it’d have been better. I spent most of the show not being able to see a thing. (To their credit, though, the sound was really good.)

Marathon Music Works BlocktoberfestJimmie actually turned me on to Walk the Moon. We’d be driving somewhere, and a song would come on, and without fail I’d ask who it was. It was always Walk the Moon. It kind of got to be a running joke that the only way I knew who the band was was the fact that I had no clue who it was. Does that make sense? If I had to ask, it was automatically Walk the Moon. (Eventually I learned all their songs, but it took a while.)

They were awesome. So much energy, so much fun, and I was simply amazed by how GOOD they were. I keep wondering if the singer has been professionally trained. His voice was just so on pitch, and so clear…for a while I thought he was lip singing because he was so good, but then he sang something differently than the album track. If you ever get the chance to see them, take it. (In the meantime, listen to their music!!!)

I tried to take video, I tried to take photos, but I’m too short, and I couldn’t see a thing when I was holding my phone above my head, so they’re all blurry and full of heads. You’ll have to settle for a video instead. This is Iscariot – which might be the most beautiful song I’ve ever heard.

With that, I’ll leave you to listen in peace….


Travel: Greenville, South Carolina

This summer has been full of travel, which makes me incredibly happy. Sure, it’s tiring, but it’s also exciting. I love new places. If I had my way, we’d jet off to exotic locations at the drop of a hat.

Sadly, while we now have passports, we don’t quite have the funds to be true jetsetters. (If anyone would like to change that for us, my contact information is in the “Get in Touch” tab above…..) So, we took our big Mexico trip, and then managed to squeeze in a couple smaller, local (i.e., driveable) trips.

Jimmie’s best friend lives in South Carolina, and while we’ve been to see him a few times, we haven’t always gotten out to enjoy the area. That changed this summer! We packed up the car, including Lucy, and drove the 4 hours for a quick SC weekend.

We started out on Lake Greenwood. Greenwood is a small town about an hour from Greeneville, and its main claim to fame (so far as I know) is the lake. With good reason…

Lake Greenwood, SCThat picture’s not edited, folks. No filter, either. Just straight up blue. And the water…so clear. So unlike the lakes here in Tennessee, that look more like you’re swimming in sewage. Shudder.

So we prowled around the lake for a while, and eventually came to a railroad trestle. We drove under it, and found the entrance to Hidden Lake – which is really just another part of the same lake, but it’s kind of an adventure getting there. Worth checking out, definitely.

Hidden Lake TrestleFind the trestle, then take a right after you go under it. You’ll see this:

Entrance to Hidden LakeKeep going through the channel (you’ll have to be at the really slow speed – I forget what it’s called) and you’ll eventually see Hidden Lake.

Hidden Lake, Lake Greenwood, SCOne thing we discovered on this adventure is that Lucy does not like boats. She hid under the steering wheel the entire time. Guess huskies and water don’t mix….(sadly, I don’t have a picture of this). The day was gorgeous, and it was really nice to just relax on the water.

After a few fun games of Hoopla and an incredibly boring game of Scrabble, we called it a night. I spent more time playing with my letters than I did actually playing the game. Words with Friends has ruined me.

ScrabbleThe next day we hit Greenville to check out Total Wine and a street festival. Total Wine is this amazing liquor and wine store that has everything you could ever want at crazy good prices. We don’t have them here, and it breaks my heart. Needless to say, we stocked up.

I couldn’t tell you the name of the street festival. There were a few tables with things for sale, but nothing we were really interested in. There was beer, though. We had some, then headed over to Falls Park to check out the Liberty Bridge. It’s a suspension bridge, and only slightly nausea-inducing.

Falls Park - Greenville, SC

Liberty Bridge - Falls Park - Greenville, SCDinner was at Smoke on the Water, whose tagline is “a saucy southern tavern.” I highly, highly, HIGHLY recommend it if you’re in the Greenville area.  I had the prime rib, and OMG yum. Yum yum yum. I was too busy stuffing my face to take a picture….I’m so sorry. Just go there and eat it.

While we were walking around, we also came across the Peace Center, the performing arts hall. They’ve got The Book of Mormon coming in November and Wicked in February, so I think we’ll be making another few trips to Greenville in the near future.

Where else should we go for a quick weekend getaway? Any suggestions?