Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Hello and Goodbye on the Mountaintop

Posted By on Tue, Oct 23, 2012 at 7:51 AM

The new bar at Pearls
  • The new bar at Pearl's
I may pay a little extra attention to the restaurant scene in Sewanee and Monteagle since I have a vacation cabin up there, but there are plenty of other Bitesters who spend some time up on the mountain. Of course, I have to admit to paying shorter shrift to Murfreesboro than I should, even though I drive right through it on the way to the mountain. Feel free to keep giving us tips on Rutherford County food news, and I'll try to do a better job.

But two iconic Sewanee restaurants recently went through some major transitions, so it's worth a few bytes here at Bites. Shenanigans, home to the famous rhomboid door and the hangout of generations of University of the South students, closed earlier this month after owner Ward Cammack listed the property for sale. It's not the first time the restaurant has changed hands in recent years, and locals and alumni hope that someone will open that crooked front door again soon. At least, they do have a new option to purchase a cold beer as Jackalope Brewery partners Jimmy and Sarah Wilson have opened the Blue Chair Tavern at 41 University Ave. which previously housed a Sweet Cece's, which was also owned by Cammack. The new Tavern focuses on microbrews, many of which come from Jackalope.

The other big restaurant news on the mountain is the reopening of Pearl's Foggy Mountain Cafe after four years of looking for a new owner after the latest in a series of fires shut the place down in 2008. Dan and Joy Hickey leased and refurbished the building for a soft opening in August, and now they are starting to hit their stride in time for homecoming weekend at the university. The Hickeys added a large new deck for outdoor seating and moved the entrance to the rear of the building. Now diners enter through a warm bar area (wo)manned by Jane Borden, a talented mixologist who aims to bring craft cocktails to an audience that has had little access in the past.

Borden has developed an intriguing menu of signature cocktails and classic recipes, and hopes to expand the offerings to feature monthly specials as she strives to build a cocktail culture from the ground up in Sewanee and Monteagle. She is also an accomplished author who will surely find some good new material making the transition from Manhattan to the mountain.

In the kitchen, the Hickeys have hired a 1990 Sewanee grad, George Stevenson. Chef Stevenson actually ran Shenanigans during his time in school and worked briefly for Randy Rayburn in Nashville before spending the past decade cooking in the Seattle area. Joy Hickey also has years of culinary experience all over the country, and together with Stevenson has developed a new menu for Pearl's that retains some of the old favorites and introduces some new classics.

The Beaufort Style Shrimp and Grits, which were a staple during Sunday brunches and whenever Sewanee students' parents were paying for dinner, have returned to the menu, along with the Pearl's Salad, topped with Maytag blue cheese and candied almonds. New dishes include trout almondine and a delicious chorizo/apple-stuffed Quail.

Pearl's has introduced a happy hour with a small plate menu from 4 to 6 p.m. on weekdays if you're not planning to enjoy a full meal. The opportunity to sample Stevenson and Hickey's cooking and Borden's cocktails makes this an appetizing proposition. Heck, it's only five minutes off of I-24, so it could make for a great pit stop on your next trip to Atlanta.

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