Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, May 21, 2021

Favorites dishes return to perennial favorite Pucketts

Puckett’s Farm Boy Burger, a new addition to its menu. - Photographs provided

Picture this: You’ve had a long day and you’re famished. No one wants to cook so you suggest eating out. You’re thrilled when everyone agrees because the only thing that’s going to slay your hunger are the baby back ribs at your favorite restaurant.

The drive there seems longer than it really is, and your stomach growls at every red light. When you finally arrive and are seated, your mouth is already watering at the thought of biting into that smoky meat and tasty sauce.

But when you place your order, your server coolly responds, “I’m sorry, we longer serve baby back ribs. Might I suggest a pulled pork sandwich?”

And just like that, the floor disappears and you’re plummeting through a dark pit of crushed expectations.

You’re generally a soft-spoken person, but you can’t stop yourself from blurting out: “Why on Earth would you stop selling your ribs?? They were fantastic! Everyone loved them!

“It’s like McDonald’s stopped selling the Big Mac!”

If you can relate to this scenario, you’re not alone. For what are likely perfectly good reasons, restaurants often modify their menus. And I’m sure they hear about it when they nix someone’s favorite selection.

Puckett’s must have heard about it when they took their baby back ribs, along with a slew of other mainstays, off their menu. The ribs back, and so are other mainstays that disappeared along with them.

Returning breakfast items include The King’s French Toast and sweet potato pancakes. Patrons who enjoy lunch and dinner at Puckett’s can once again order Bubba’s Bones (the baby back ribs), the country fried steak and the smoked chicken.

It’s hard to image any self-respecting Southern-style restaurant taking those items off the menu, but I’m just here to report the news, not explain it.

Two choice appetizers also are back: Fried green beans and the smoked sausage and cheese plate.

Puckett’s didn’t stop there. In addition to resurrecting several classics, the restaurant is also introducing a few new items, including the Farm Boy Burger (a juicy-looking bacon cheeseburger topped with a fried egg), the Fresh BLT, Jan’s Chocolate Cobbler and cinnamon roll bread pudding.

So, there you have it, breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert, all featuring a returning favorite or something new.

If you’ve ever been to Puckett’s, then I don’t have to tell you how good it is. But if you’ve never graced the doors of the restaurant, which is located a block away from the Tennessee Aquarium in the old TGI Fridays space, then a brief primer is in order.

Puckett’s Grocery and Restaurant’s roots stretch back to the 1950s and a little grocery store in Leiper’s Fork, about 25 miles southwest of Nashville, that specialized in comfort food classics and Southern hospitality. Six restaurants later – Nashville, Franklin, Columbia, Murfreesboro, Chattanooga and Pigeon Forge – that’s still the case.

Although some Puckett’s also sell groceries, the Scenic City version does not. This surprised me, since the sign outside sports the abbreviation “Groc” before “and Restaurant,” but it made sense once I learned the history of the company. (Besides, there is a drink cooler and a few condiments for sale, so they technically have groceries.)

Essentially, if you can picture a Cracker Barrel without the store and a higher class of food (not that Cracker Barrel’s food isn’t good), then you have an idea of what Puckett’s is like.

That’s all well and good, you say, but how do the returning classics taste?

I tried the Smoked Chicken at Puckett’s invitation soon after the company launched its revamped menu, and it’s fantastic. Included on a platter with three generous sides, it’s rich with smoky flavor, and the bones hold a lot of tender meat.

Best of all, the skin is crispy, so there’s a nice crunch before you bite into the juices underneath. It’s one of those rare chicken dishes that requires extra napkins.

My wife, who joined me, assures me Bubba’s Bones also are phenomenal. This is rare praise. We’ve eaten our share of ribs in the Chattanooga area, and she’s liked just one other place.

We tackled our meats after devouring a heaping plateful of fried green beans. Included with a tangy house Ranch, they were the perfect starter – tasty but not heavy.

The only sour note of the meal was the Cinnamon Roll Bread Pudding. I was expecting a heavenly coupling of a Cinnabon and Famous Dave’s bread pudding, but was instead served a lukewarm mass that was cold and mushy in the center.

Clearly, that’s not how it’s meant to be served, so I chalked it up to being an off batch.

Before I wrap this up, here are a few odds and ends to allow you to go in prepared:

The chicken-fried steak is chicken fried RIBEYE steak

If you like mayo on your BLT, you’ll need to order it with the sandwich because it comes dry

A fellow diner raved about the sweet potato pancakes, so keep that in mind if you’re hankering for breakfast.

Finally, my wife and I visited Puckett’s before Mayor Kelley dialed back some of the city’s COVID-related restrictions, so every staff member was masked, there was ample room between tables (it appears as though they removed several tables to give patrons space to distance) and outdoor dining was available.

If you’ve ever been to Puckett’s and found yourself falling through a dark pit of crushed expectations after the server told you they no longer served your favorite dish, then you don’t need me to tell you it’s time to go back.

But if you haven’t tried Puckett’s, then this is a good to consider doing so. Everyone loves a classic, and there are several Southern favorites to try.

If you go...

• Located at 2 W Aquarium Way

• Open Sunday through Thursday, 7 a.m.-9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 7 a.m.-10 p.m.

• 423-708-8505