Tamale Express

We heard about a new restaurant at 1354 Dolly Parton Parkway, in the small strip mall east of Sevier County High School. I had heard good things about it so Lisa and I decided to give it a try on Thursday after work. I liked Tamale Express very much and recommend it for foodies and people who like to try new things. This is not a typical Mexican restaurant that has chips and salsa as soon as you sit down. No Margaritas and maybe no tamales on a regular basis. However, Tamale Express brings something new to the local food scene.

We entered the restaurant and ordered at the counter. I ordered a #1 and Lisa ordered a #2. Be ready because the portions are generous and filling.

Birria is a meat stew or soup made with meat (beef in this case) and marinated with adobo made of spices, dried chiles, garlic, herbs, vinegar and cooked in a broth. It was excellent and not too spicy at all.

To our great regret, the restaurant was out of Choco-Flan. Next time! Also, we will try the street corn next time as well.

The fresh add on station was very nice with two kinds of salsa, cilantro, and more. We admired the beautiful tiles on the side of the of station.

The cashier remembered me saying that I had a late afternoon snack so he cut the sandwich in half and thoughtfully put the other half in a to-go box. My barrio torta had the softest bread—delightful! Dipping it into the liquid reminded me of another favorite sandwich: the French Dip. Very nice and not too spicy. The sandwich was quite thick so half for me was perfect.

Lisa’s tacos were excellent and she was able to dip them into the broth as well. Order a Jarritos soft drink! We ordered lime soda as a treat.

We loved the small little add-ons on the fresh bar. A little bit of lime and cilantro makes it extra good.

Of course, we loved the Frida Kahlo art displayed in the restaurant.


Screenshots from Google Images had given me ideas of what to expect at the restaurant. Choco-Flan!

In summary, Tamale Express offers something special for those who crave Mexican food that is different from the other places in town. We arrived around 5:00, probably earlier than the usual dinner time so the restaurant was not busy. We enjoyed a quiet, very authentic dinner just yards away from the high school. We plan on going again soon—but next time we will make sure that they have some Choco-Flan waiting for us!

2022 Bama Million Dollar Band Pre-game Practice at SCHS

Music fans got a treat on the third Saturday in October when the Bama Million Dollar Band held their pre-game practice at the Sevier County High School stadium. As a former ‘band kid’ in high school at Morristown West, I knew that it was ‘a must visit’ to enjoy the sound of this amazing, collegiate band.

A number of tour buses and trucks were already in the high school bus loading area upon my arrival. I always like looking at this 18 wheeler.

We got out of our cars and followed the sound of music to the stadium.

It was a perfect fall morning for spectators to take in the sights and sounds.

The band itself is enormous while in field position so I had to ‘do a stadium’ and stand at the top to get a full shot.

I worked with Doc Ramsey ‘ back in the day’ at SCHS so I decided to go up and give him a quick greeting during a break.

Conducting practice from the press box.

Retired band director, Doc Ramsey, hosted the Bama band during his years at SCHS and continues the connection today. Pictured are retired SCHS band director, Doc Ramsey, (left) and director of the Bama Million Dollar Band, Dr. Kenneth Ozzello.

Here is ‘time hop’ via screenshot of Russell ‘Doc’ Ramsey as Drum Major for the University of Tennessee Pride of the Southland Band. Go Vols!

The Million Dollar Band practices an entrance to the field. I always enjoy the entrance!

Cotton Eyed Joe

After the practice and lunch, the band begins the journey to Neyland Stadium. It is quite thrilling to see the motorcade lead buses up Chapman Highway to the game. If you happen to be nearing an intersection on Main Street, I can testify that it is particularly exciting when you hear sirens and see local police stop traffic within a split second.

These musicians have put in the practice and are quite a delight to see in person. Try to see the band practice and motorcade in a couple of years when they return for a home game with the Vols. It is truly a Million Dollar Band and we got to see it in here in Sevierville.

Buc-ees is on the way!

The Buc-ees super convenience store/gas station will arrive in Sevierville around summer 2023. You can see the building going up now, located on the hill on the right before exit 407. There are 40 Buc-ees stores so the Sevierville site is an important location as they expand through the Southeast. My friends and I could not wait until next summer, so we decided to see a play at the Cumberland County Playhouse and stop by the Crossville Buc-ees to see it for ourselves on the way home. Here are my impressions from the visit and what we may expect at the Sevierville store.

  1. Lots of gas pumps. I have heard Buc-ees may have 90 pumps or more.
2. Lots of super clean restrooms. Guaranteed that you will never have to wait.

3. Any snack that you can think of can probably be found at Buc-ees.

Notice the Little Debbie Cakes that you can buy individually and the wall of treats.

4. A huge selection of jerky—a keto snack.

5. The famous Buc-ees brisket. I first saw this from a Youtube influencer who visited Buc-ees and bought several snacks, plus brisket in Texas. Brisket is one of my favorites so that was what we got for supper. There is a ‘grab and go’ area for food to choose chopped or sliced brisket. I opted for chopped, which was very good, but I will try the sliced version next time. We forgot to take a picture of our sandwiches.

6. Healthy food choices too

7. Seasonal decor. I was not expecting to find seasonal decor at the convenience store, but there was quite a bit there and it was fun to browse.

8. The Buc-ees beaver mascot is everywhere. It must be one of the most successful examples of marketing / branding in the travel industry at this time.

9. Unique gifts and souvenirs.
10. The best coffee and drink area along the U.S. interstate system. It is a coffee lovers dream!

Lots of choices and any kind of sweetener or creamer that you could think of.

Anyone need any ice?

After spending an hour browsing, I made my way to the cash register.
Buc-ees will be a great resource for travelers and locals alike with their selection of things to eat and drinks, gifts, and gas. However, there was one thing that was very confusing to me. With all the fresh food and snacks ready to eat—there is nowhere to sit and eat. No dining area. No picnic tables. Nothing. Travelers must eat on the go, carry it to your destination, or go to a rest area to eat, which is what we did on our trip. On the other hand, no dining areas must save the company money in regard to cleaning and trash so it may be a good idea for them.

We enjoyed Buc-ees and I know that I will stop by frequently to buy coffee, drinks, and brisket. It is a very clean and efficient place for visitors coming in or going home. We look forward to this mega-convenience store at the gateway to the Smoky Mountains. See you at the coffee fill up area!

A Fourth Mural in Downtown Sevierville: Country Music Legends at the Pines Theater

A new mural can be found in downtown Sevierville at the corner of Court Avenue and Joy Street on the side of the old Pines Theater building. The mural depicts famous country music artists who once played at the old theater, including a young Dolly Parton. I was lucky to catch the mural artist in the last stages of his work.

On September 8, 2022, I found Seth Bishop outlining the figures for the mural. He is also the artist who painted the second mural in Seveville. The Red’s Cafe Mural is on Bruce Street, across the street from the gazebo and by the Appalachian restaurant.
Truly, it is a fascinating process to see the shapes become figures on a large wall.
I dropped by three times because it is always interesting to follow the progress of a large
public artwork.
Roy Acuff
Archie Campbell
June Carter Cash
Chet Atkins
A young Dolly Parton performed at the Pines for her first paying gig.

I always like to watch an artist put their signature on a finished mural.

The artist is based out of North Carolina, but has recently been living in Oaxaca Mexico. Find Seth Bishop on Instagram at the address in the picture above
s.bisho.p You can see more of his art, including work in Oaxaca, on his Instagram page. It was really interesting to see his work in both countries on Instagram.

Public art creates a vitality within a community. This mural will make visitors wonder why these country music legends are featured on a wall in downtown Sevierville. Visitors and locals alike will enjoy learning about the history of the Pines Theater and the artists who once played music within those walls. Seth Bishop and the building developer, Austin Williams, have brought that history back to our attention with this mural of country music legends at the Pines Theater.

Certainly, we are excited to see a fourth mural in our town!

Kyker Farms Corn Maze = October Fun!

Having never been to Kyker Farms before, I was looking forward to a trip there on Tuesday. I had always heard great things about the farm and found that it lived up to the recommendations. In my opinion, Kyker Farms is the best place for October fun!

First, the farm is only minutes from downtown Sevierville on 938 Alder Branch Rd. It is not very far at all from Highway 66.

The farm is beautiful and immediately put us in an autumn state of mind.

There are cute places to take a photo. This one was great for our group of 22 fun loving friends.

The kids playground area is excellent and worth at least an hour or two of fun.

Kids can jump on the Korn Hopper, a large inflated area that can handle dozens of kids. There are many benches for parents to rest and watch the fun.

I learned that there is much more to do there than corn mazes. Clearly, this farm is worthy of a whole day trip.

The left side of the trail shows several swing sets with endless rows of sunflowers. The right side shows swings for very young children, small and individual teeter totters, and other playground fun.

Don’t tell anyone…but I got very lost in the kids corn maze. To use Kyker Farm’s word, it was very ‘kornfuzing.’ 🙂

Of course, the main event is the pumpkin patch! Beautiful pumpkins are everywhere.

It was just a few minutes ride on the hayride to the pumpkin patch. So fun to ride this vehicle on a pretty fall day.

Perfect pumpkins are everywhere you look at Kyker Farm.

The restroom and diaper changing facilities are quite impressive. They are clean and can handle large groups of people. You are never far from the facilities…unless you are in the corn maze. Be prepared!

We brought lunches and found plenty of room to sit and refresh.

Then you can go back and play some more!

Our time at Kyker Farms Corn Maze came to an end all too soon, but there are still several weeks left to go back and enjoy it again.

In conclusion, I am a fan of family owned/local businesses and have a great appreciation for agri-tourism so I knew that it would be a good day trip. I was more than impressed with the wide range of things to do and convenient facilities. There were even more activities than I showed here, including the petting zoo. Make sure that you enjoy that too.

Truly, Kyker Farms Corn Maze offers serious October fun. Go while you can!

Here is a link to their Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/kykerfarmscornmaze

Also, here is a screenshot of their hours.

See you at the corn maze!

Penny’s Cafe in Downtown Sevierville

There is a new place to find coffee, smoothies, breakfast, and lunch in downtown Sevierville. Penny’s Cafe offers all those things and more. In addition, local artists display their work in this spacious area. I went by this summer and noticed that the cafe is already quite popular. Here are some quick observations.

First, Penny’s Cafe is located across the street from the gazebo on Bruce Street—an excellent location. In the picture above, you can see the cafe is located to the right of the old post office building. Park in the parking lot across the street, on the street, or down the street near the courthouse and just walk a short distance for a really nice cappuccino.

We got a friendly greeting as we walked into Penny’s Cafe. The menu is located on the wall to the left.

This is a nice little area to wait for a friend if you are early. The view across the street of Sims Barbershop may fo a local coming or going after a nice cut.

Young people have discovered the nice coffee and more at Penny’s Cafe. This sofa is a comfortable place to catch up with friends and refresh.

The new espresso machine makes one of the best cappuccinos that I have had this year in the U.S.
I learned to love avocado toast on a trip to California so I was excited to see several variations on the menu. I ordered “Everything Avocado Toast” on rye bread, but you can order it on two other kinds of bread as well. It had the Everything Bagel seasoning and was quite substancial. I was not able to eat both pieces and was not hungry for hours.
Penny’s Cafe is spacious and visually attractive, displaying work from local artists on the walls and in display cases. You will surely find a gift or personal treasure there.
I found myself browsing the art and wondering what would look good on my walls.
If you need a gift, one can be found in this display case…

Or this …

… or this display. I love the horse painting on the back wall and wonder where it could go in my home.
There is so much art to see at Penny’s Cafe so it would be a good idea to plan extra time to do so.

In closing, Penny’s Cafe in downtown Sevierville brings coffee, food, and art to Bruce Street that has missing for a while. The cafe has already been embraced by locals and visitors alike. Drop by and enjoy a morning drink or meal to start the day. See you out and about in Sevierville.

Here are some screen shots of the coffee menu from the Penny’s Cafe Facebook page. Go to the Facebook page to see more. Here is the link.


Bon appetite!

Red’s Cafe: Second Mural in Downtown Sevierville

The second mural in downtown Sevierville seemed to pop up quickly and quietly in the summer of 2020 during the pandemic. Finally, I am finally writing about this interesting piece of public art downtown. Here is a look at the second mural in downtown Sevierville: Red’s Cafe.

According to local historian, Carroll McMahan, ‘Red’ Clevenger was named for his red hair. He grew up in Newport and worked for the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) before buying the Rainbow Inn Restaurant on Chapman Highway. Later, he married, sold his business, was drafted into the army during WWII and fought in the Battle of the Bulge, receiving a Purple Heart. Clearly, Red Clevenger lived quite a life up to that time!

McMahan tells how Red returned home and built a cafe on Bruce Street in downtown Sevierville. Click the link and scroll down to # 3 to read more of Carroll McMahan’s stories about Red Clevenger, his kindness, generosity—and a keen sense of humor. It is so appropriate that this local citizen was memorialized on the second mural in downtown Sevierville. Here is a link to Carroll McMahan’s writing about Red Clevenger.

The Red’s Cafe mural in downtown Sevierville is facing the courtyard of the Appalachian Restaurant on Bruce Street. It is also located on the brick wall of Wanderlust Spa and Salon. This photo captures an interesting aspect of the mural, visible through the gazebo on Bruce Street.

Red’s Cafe depicts local businessman Paul “Red” Clevenger serving one of his famous hamburgers to a young child sitting at the counter. The child is Dolly Parton, who came to the cafe with her father and enjoyed Red’s special hamburgers during her youth.

Click this link from the Visit Sevierville Youtube webpage to hear Dolly tell the story herself.

In honor of this special place, Dolly added a Red’s Cafe eatery at her Dollywood theme park to memorialize one of her favorite places to eat in Sevierville. Everyone who has visited Dollywood since 1995 has strolled by Red’s Cafe in the Jukebox Junction area of the park. Naturally, the specialty at this Dollywood restaurant is hamburgers!

Visitors can read more information about Red Clevenger on the walls of Red’s Cafe in Dollywood. One story recounts the kindness of the cafe owner to families who would sometimes buy a hamburger and cut it in half for their younger children. In a generous move, Red would remark that the child looked “big enough to eat a whole burger by themselves” so he would throw an extra hamburger on the grill.

I was lucky to observe the artists in action on August 17, 2020. You can see the preliminary work and the ‘doodle grid’ that helps artists create murals on large areas.

The artists are from Asheville, North Carolina.

You can see more art from Smoky Mountain Mural Company on Instagram.

Here, the illustration of the young Dolly Parton begins to emerge on the mural. The artists usually begin a mural at night by projecting an image on the wall, but it did not work for this mural so they used a second technique called a ‘doodle grid.’ For that, the artists determined the area, designed a square grid by chalking out lines, drew the base prime image and circled them. The swirls and graffiti help to anchor the mural spaces visually, then the artists take another picture of the wall, use an overlay and mark the spacing of the subjects.

See the artists explain their process on the Visit Sevierville TikTok app page. Here is a link.

The Dollywood blog also has stories about Red and his cafe. You can see a picture of Red and his wife Lois in that article as well. Click the photo below to link to the Dollywood blog.

The mural had been finished for 11 months by the time that I visited again on July 17, 2021 when I visited the downtown Sevierville Farmer’s market to do some shopping. A favorite, the Sevierville Cruze Farm store had a table set up with milk and ice cream. One of the Cruze Farm helpers was dressed in the unique Cruze Farm dress so I asked if I could take her picture in front of the mural and they kindly obliged. This cute young lady posed with cup of ice cream as if to to toast Dolly, Red Clevenger, and a favorite place to eat in downtown Sevierville decades earlier.
It was perfect.

There are now three murals located on Bruce Street: two outdoor murals and one mural inside 10 Realty. Bruce Street is certainly an exciting place to explore art and more. See you out and about in Sevierville.

Third Mural in Downtown Sevierville: Sevierville Shuffle

There is a third mural in downtown Sevierville—but you must enter a gallery to see it on an interior wall. Come into the welcoming office of 10 Realty at #118 Bruce Street to see this new mural. I was excited to see the third mural in downtown Sevierville called Sevierville Shuffle. Come take a look!

First, enter Realty 10 on Bruce Street. Randy Babel, the owner, encourages visitors to come inside to see the mural and other paintings, pottery, and carvings on display in his business. Babel incorporates a realtor’s lounge with an art gallery so the public can browse, shop, and enjoy.
As you enter 10 Realty, you will notice the mural on the right.

Created by local artist, Crystal Lynn Sharp, the mural presents a map of Sevier County with local iconography. Locals will know all of them!

Crystal chose the name Sevierville Shuffle because “we (and our visitors) all tend to shuffle through our area, almost rhythmically. Sometimes we jot from place to place or glide smoothly. We always have so many choices and, like sticking your hand in your pocket and not really knowing what we are going to get, we so often are surprised by something that we did not anticipate—then, we are doing the ‘Sevierville Shuffle.’ ” Thus, this is how the artist named the mural.

Here is the technique that Crystal Lynn used to begin the process of painting the mural on a 9′ X 24′ section of wall.

Post-It Notes with the names of places and things helped to plan spacing for imagery in the mural. Truly, I think that the first process in planning a mural is quite fascinating.

In this photo, the body of the mural is falling into place. You can recognize local places and nature in the Smoky Mountains.
The owner of 10 Realty gave the artist free rein over the project. Crystal definitely kept the viewers in mind. We can gaze and guess, using our imaginations in regard to the icons. Look in the right corner in the picture above for one of the most important icons in our area. Well done!
Here is a photo that captures the Sevierville Shuffle mural as a work in progress.

Crystal recalled how Randy Babel contacted her about creating a mural inside his business. “Randy had a passion for art and he knew that we needed a space to display artists’ work so he offered up his walls in 10 Realty. It all seems to be blossoming and I was glad to help.” Indeed, it is quite impressive!

In a further description, Crystal told of painting “iconic places by using characters and representations of our well known spots as we meander down the parkway and local roads.” It is quite an enjoyable trip for the eyes.

The finished project looks perfect on that section of the wall. The Sevierville Shuffle mural will visually carry you from Exit 407 to Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains. It is delightful!

Randy Babel asked for Crystal’s help in finding artists willing to hang their work in the office. There is an abundance of beautiful paintings and more… and all are for sale. I took quite a while looking at everything. You need to to plan on 30 minutes or more to really take them all in.
Many thanks to artist Crystal Lynn for letting me use many of her photos which show the development of the mural from the beginning to the end. To see more photos of 10 Realty/ Gallery 10, check out my previous blog story.
Come to browse or even take an art class in the evening. It is definitely one of the best things now in downtown Sevierville.

Here are links to Facebook pages for more details and upcoming events.



Here is the Facebook link for the artist of the Sevierville Shuffle mural, Crystal Lynn Sharp. https://www.facebook.com/mountainwingsstudio

10 Realty / Gallery 10 Art Gallery in Downtown Sevierville

A new space has opened in downtown Sevierville that combines a real estate office with an art gallery. Located in the previous Crust and Crumb bakery location at 118 Bruce Street, 10 Realty offers local artists a place to display their work in a gallery enviroment. If you are in the downtown area from 9-5 during the week, you really need to walk in and see this unique space! Here is a quick view.

The focal point of the room is a beautiful mural of Sevier County with local icons, painted by local artist Crystal Lynn.

This is significant because it is the third mural painted in downtown Sevierville. I am working on a story about this mural soon as it deserves a story all its own.

The wall spaces in 10 Realty make a perfect display area.

Randy Bable, the owner of 10 Realty, had a vision for his office to sell real estate, to serve local artists, and to provide a community space.

The interior communicates an upscale, outdoorsy vibe. Make note: Randy Bable made the table that you see on the right. It is an amazing piece of furniture!

Every space is well used. Each frame seems to be perfectly placed!

Each piece of art is accompanied by a QR code with information about the artist and the work. Just open your phone camera and place it close to the QR symbol to open the information. ( Wouldn’t you like for someone to come to your home to hang your pictures with such perfect spacing?)

10 Realty offers art and work spaces. Follow their Facebook page to keep up to date on future activities. For example, there are going to be some painting classes very soon. Here is a link to the Facebook page.


Certainly, 10 Realty will be an asset in downtown Sevierville area with all it offers to the community. Indeed, it is good to have art and artists back on Bruce Street!

See you out and about!

Barbecue in the Mountains: Preacher’s Smokehouse

After visiting a friend in the area, we decided to try a little barbecue place that we found on our drive to Pittman Center. Located on 2929 Pittman Center Rd., the restaurant serves locals and visitors alike. As it turned out, we found some of the tastiest barbecue in the mountains.

A place to gather together and eat meat. A meat eatery.

Preacher’s Smokehouse

You will notice the gravel entrance and parking lot with a beautiful view of the mountains in the background.

Preacher’s Smokehouse is appropriately located in a cabin with a nice little front porch. The woodpile on the right side lets you know the authenticity of the food. In addition, I think that I remember some picnic tables outside to the right of the building.

I got a pork meal combo with two sides. Next time, I will try the brisket or burnt ends from the menu. I have never tried burnt ends, but they sound so good. We thought that the prices were reasonable too.

Step up to the window. Ordering is easy.

If you get here at the right time, then you can have what appears to be the ‘best seats in the house.’

The sides were excellent and the sizes were quite generous. If you have a light appetite, you could easily share with a friend. Later on, I realized that I had not taken many pictures of the food so the following are screenshots that I found online from other happy customers.

According to the Preacher’s Smokehouse Facebook page, it may be a good idea to check before you drive out there because they frequently sell out of barbecue— and that would be a monumental disappointment!

Here is a link: https://www.facebook.com/preacherssmokehouse

Limited hours and limited days open make Preacher’s Smokehouse a particularly special place to get barbecue.

Monday:CLOSED, Tuesday:CLOSED, Wednesday:CLOSED

Thursday:11:00 AM – 7:00 PM

Friday:11:00 AM – 7:00 PM

Saturday:11:00 AM – 7:00 PM


Phone number: (865)332-9731

Writing this story has whet my appetite and I look forward to a return trip soon to Preacher’s Smokehouse.

Save some burnt ends for me!