Monday, February 21, 2011

Go Sell It On the Mountain: Sewanee Restaurant News

Posted By on Mon, Feb 21, 2011 at 6:15 AM

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Since Nicki is a proud graduate of the University of the South and I have a cabin nestled in the woods close to campus, you may notice quite a bit of restaurant news from on top of Monteagle mountain arriving here on Bites. With the weather improving for outdoor activities and spring break coming up, the mountain makes a great destination for a day trip or a nice weekend getaway.

Apparently, we're not the only Nashvillians interested in the dining scene up there. Former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ward Cammack has maintained a residence in Sewanee since 2005. After his political ambitions were dashed by the McWherter Mafia and the Haslam Express in late 2009, Ward and his wife Shelley started to consider moving permanently. They also began to seek out business opportunities to keep themselves busy in their new home.

Their first move was to buy Shenanigans, a venerable Sewanee favorite located in a house that has only recently been shored up to stop the decades-long slow collapse that caused patrons to keep an eye on the front door for two reasons. First, it was always important to track the trapezoidal door opening for signs of recent settling and impending structural failure. Secondly, you needed an escape route if the aforementioned catastrophe actually happened while you were emptying your mason jar of Sweetwater 420 Extra Pale Ale.

Fortunately, after an extensive rebuilding effort, the Cammacks won't have to worry about those sort of things anymore. Not that they are neophytes to the restaurant biz. In fact, Ward's college job at Tulane was working as a waiter at the famous Commander's Palace. Shelley spent some time working at Houston's, so she knows her way around a kitchen and dining room as well. Since purchasing the restaurant, the Cammacks have worked their way through every job in the place, including washing dishes, baking desserts, learning the voluminous sandwich menu which covers an entire wall and paying the bills.

They have also made a commitment to purchasing more local ingredients such as Sequatchie Cove beef and Falls Mill grits to use in their dishes. A small gallery at the back of the building showcases local artists, and of course University of the South students make up most of the staff and the musicians that entertain the patrons.

The Cammacks' second venture was to buy a Sweet CeCe's franchise and open their new frozen yogurt shop two doors down from Shenanigans in the space which originally housed the Blue Chair Cafe. You can still enjoy the Blue Chair right next door between the two Cammack restaurants, so that's a regular Restaurant Row for such a small town.

Also relatively new to Sewanee is Julia's Fine Foods, a gourmet sandwich shop with a wide selection of paninis, pizzas, salads and sandwiches. More upscale is Ivy Wild, a fine-dining establishment with a zen-like atmosphere and really creative locavore menu incongruously opened in the former home of the local dry cleaner. It's BYOB, so you might want to call ahead to find out the evening's menu to help choose your wine pairings.

There's a lot more going on in the culinary department in this sleepy little mountain college town than you might expect. Plan a weekend visit that includes a Fiery Gizzard hike to burn off the calories and let us know what you think.

Shenanigans
12595 Sollace M Freeman Highway
(931) 598-5774

Sweet CeCe's
41 University Ave.
(931) 598-5500

Julia's Fine Foods
24 University Ave.
(931) 598-5193

Ivy Wild
36 Ball Park Road
(931) 598-9000

I love how in Sewanee, you still only have to give someone the last four digits of your phone number. "Sarah, ring up Aunt Bee for me please."

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