I can’t even remember how I first heard about this barbecue joint in Rocky Top (nee Lake City). But the more advance research I did on it, the more excited I got. They’ve received numerous accolades, including a ranking as the No. 8 Hole in the Wall in Tennessee, according to the Only In Your State website.
The Grub Spouse and I decided to make a Memorial Day outing of it. And Coal Creek Smokehouse is indeed a hole in the wall. We found it in downtown Rocky Top, set back off Main Street in a former house, between two street-front businesses. You can walk to it from the street or from the side parking lot. We ordered at the counter, where we first had to spend a little time with the menu before pulling the trigger.
Starters include wings and bacon cheese fries, but I had to try the pork rinds with beer cheese ($5.75). I’ve been a fan of beer cheese since that post-college summer I worked in a restaurant that served it as a soup. Entrees include a pulled chicken or pork platter, St. Louis ribs (they were out that day), a chicken tender dinner and a burnt ends platter. I got the brisket platter ($14.50), which came with two sides. I got potato salad and baked beans. It also came with a choice of bread. I chose the jalapeño cornbread over the regular cornbread or the spoon bread, which is similar to a corn casserole.
The Spouse looked at the sandwiches, which include a pulled pork BLT, the Oh Baloney! sandwich, the Big Belly sandwich (pork belly, onions, pickles) the Big Yum (rib meat, onions, pickles) and a fried chicken sandwich. There’s even the I Can’t Believe It’s Not Pork vegetarian sandwich. The Spouse got the Granny’s Old Fashioned ($7.25): skillet cornbread piled with pulled pork, cole slaw and tomato.
The menu says sandwiches come with a side, but the lady taking our order did not prompt The Spouse to choose, so it’s possible that particular item does not. Other sides include dirty beans, green beans, hash brown casserole, fries, mashed potatoes, potato wedges, cheesy grits, mac and cheese, and turnip greens. For what it’s worth, Coal Creek also offers a trio of burgers that come with one side, and they have an eight-item kids’ menu. Smoker meats like pork, chicken, wings, ribs and baloney are also available for bulk purchase.
More Grub Scout:The Bohemian offers relaxing vibe in cider-house setting
We had a choice of sitting in the small interior dining space, outside in the shaded patio area or at an unshaded picnic table. It was sunny but a little cool and breezy that day, so the picnic area felt great. The owner brought our meals out on metal trays after a reasonable wait.
I’ll go ahead and say up front that everything was fantastic. Everything. I’ve eaten at a blue-million barbecue places in the last 18 years, and I can easily put this one in my top three. Its accolades are well deserved. The pork rinds are similar to what you’d find someone selling from a rural roadside stand — light and crispy and very large. The beer cheese dip was the perfect accompaniment for these crunchy treats.
The Spouse’s Old Fashioned was awesome. The cornbread was topped with pulled pork, which was topped with slaw and slices of onion and tomato. It was delicious, a wonderful combination of flavors and textures.
My thinly slice brisket was very tender, cut-able with a plastic fork, and the house-made sauce had hints of kicky sweetness. I loved the mayonnaise-based potato salad, and the baked beans were quite good too. I was most surprised by the jalapeño cornbread — a large wedge topped with cheese. The cornbread was cooked to perfection — moist with a slightly crusty bottom and just greasy enough to be worth it. I’d never had cornbread with cheese, but this was a good embellishment, and the spicy jalapeño flavor brought the whole thing home.
Speaking of bringing things home, we had to box up a good bit of food to save room for the homemade banana pudding ($3.50). The servings appeared generous, so The Spouse and I split one. The filling was sweet and creamy, and it’s layered on top of a base of banana slices and vanilla wafers. I personally like my wafers either mushier or ground up, but we relished every bite nonetheless.
Rocky Top isn’t exactly home sweet home for most of you. In fact, Coal Creek Smokehouse was a 45-minute drive for us, but I thought it was totally worth it. And one way or another, I’ll find a reason to ‘cue this restaurant up again before summer’s out.
Coal Creek Smokehouse
Address: 211 S. Main St. Rocky Top (Lake City)
No alcohol service
Hours: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Fridays; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays
This Rocky Top barbecue restaurant is totally worth the extra drive thanks to delicious fare from the smoker and some creative ways of presenting it.
Read More: Rocky Top’s Coal Creek Smokehouse is worth the extra drive