Green Expectations: New Mooresburg eatery draws a crowd
Brett and Tammy Hadley, owners of The Green Tomato Grill in Mooresburg, have found success in offering a menu of southern favorites, with a ‘mater twist.
The first thing one might notice about the new restaurant in Mooresburg is the exterior’s bright hue. Owner Brett Hadley admits it is unique in nature, even eye catching to passersby. His mother was an instant skeptic.
“She asked me, ‘Did they have a special on that paint?’’’ Hadley said.
Once The Green Tomato Grill’s namesake appetizer hits the taste buds, however, the last thing on a customer’s mind is paint color. “Tennessee Maters” are four thick slices of nothing-but-green tomato, lightly breaded and fried, then topped with fresh herbs and parmesan cheese and served with a Dijon mayo sauce conjured up by Hadley.
Hadley, a former manager at the Morristown Cracker Barrel, has 16 years of experience in the food industry, including seven years as a corporate chef. He opened the grill in January in part to get off the road (he ran the Fats Café in Bristol) and spend more time with his family in Morristown.
The other part may have been to spend more time in the kitchen.
As the front of the house manager, Hadley visits every table to check on the food and service and jokes around with his staff, several of whom are his former employees and applied for jobs as soon as they found out he would be running things inside the green building. On March 14, he was spotted in the parking lot helping a customer out with a car problem.
“We’re a full service restaurant,” Hadley quipped.
Yet, the back of the house still has a hold on the restaurateur. Even though he’s promoted a sous chef in just three months of operation, Hadley keeps tinkering with recipes and works as the head chef on the weekends.
“He’s a great manager, but he’s an even better chef,” Hadley’s wife, Tammy said.
That fact might account for the remarkable success of the restaurant that opened Jan. 19 during the off season. The weather that ensued over the following weekends was eatery doom: heavy rains, ice storms and snow.
Yet the customers came.
For the locals who seemed willing to wait for seats outside in the elements, Hadley took their phone numbers and called them at home when their tables were ready.
“Anyone can call ahead on a weekend,” he said. “In fact, we advise it.”
Front house greeter, Debra Purkey, said the success has soared above and beyond.
“I believe he’s exceeded his expectations,” she said.
The numbers speak for themselves. More than 400 signatures on the waiting lists for the weekend of March 8-10, more than 1,500 lbs. of potatoes used by March 11 to make Hadley’s American fries and an average of five cases of to-go boxes used per week.
“We have been well received by the community,” Hadley said. “We love the area.”
The Green Tomato Grill is located on Old Highway 11W, a block behind the Exxon Station — the original site of the post office and a grocery store. Pictures of the original building and other historical Lakeway Area sites, including a photo of downtown Morristown without the overhead sidewalks, are displayed along the back wall of the dining room.
The restaurant’s interior design is cool, crisp and modern, featuring red and green walls and a black painted ceiling, painted motifs and retro touches, like the vintage bed springs hung on wires from the ceiling and decorated with a hanging vine.
Best sellers on the menu at the grill include the Hawaiian Ribeye (not on the menu but offered as a weekend special), ribs with Hadley’s secret sauce, chicken tenders, Peanut Butter Pie and Sweet Potato Pecan Pie.
Hadley is generous with his serving sizes, accounting for all those to-go boxes.
“I want people to feel they’re getting their money’s worth,” he said. “And if they take our food home with them, that’s even better.”
The Rocky Top Chicken entrée, for instance, is a hunk of boneless chicken breast, lightly breaded, topped with honey mustard, ham, provolone and bacon. The Mooresburg Chicken dish features honey mustard as well, but the chicken is grilled, and then topped with cheddar and Monterey jack cheeses, “mater” and green onion.
The Hamburger Club is a mountain of beef, cheese, and thick sliced, toasted bread with toppings that include red tomatoes.
Sides include items like really deep-fried corn on the cob, the American fries, baked yellow squash (casserole style — not the frozen-then-steamed circular slices found at chain restaurants) and a parsley cole slaw that had March 11 guest, Debbie Collins, of Russellville, a formidable kitchen connoisseur, wanting the recipe.
The restaurant also offers a full line of “Appeteasers,” fresh cut salads and homemade soups; entrees served with two sides for an average price of $8.99 (more for ribs and steaks); nine “Handwiches” selections, served with one side for an average price of $6.99; pastas include New Orleans, Meatloaf Marinara and Chicken Parmesan, served with soup or salad for around $9. The 13 sides on the menu can be purchased a la carte for $1.75. There is an eight-item kids menu, $3.99 with side and drink for children 10 and under. The homemade desserts are offered daily, by availability.
So far, Hadley has hired 45 employees and is still interviewing cooks and servers for the anticipated busy summer season.
The Hadley children include Brian, 25, Megan, 23, Brandon, 19, Jacob, 17, Nate, 12 and Faith, 10. The newest Hadley, Bristol Grace, arrived seven months ago —
“This year has been something else,” their father said.
He celebrated his birthday early, due to the anticipated weekend rush.
The staff gave Hadley a framed art work that now hangs on the wall at the right of the entrance announcing, “You say tomato, we say mater.”
The Green Tomato Grill, is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday-Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. To-go orders can be placed by calling 423-921-8282.
The restaurant is a participant in the Big Deal Tennessee promotion. For their deal go to www.bigdealtn.com.
-By Glenna Howington, Tribune Staff Writer