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Traveling Along U.S. 49 This Weekend? Make a Stop at Smokey Mountain Grille


The long Memorial Day weekend is fast approaching, and many of us will be headed south to the beach or other vacation spots. At some point on the journey, the need to stop, stretch our legs, and enjoy a meal outside the realm of fast food arises. Here’s a tip to use this weekend or anytime you’re on U.S. Highway 49 near the Mendenhall exit: Smokey Mountain Grille and Rib Shack. It’s my go-to spot whenever I’m in the area and craving a juicy grilled burger, pulled pork sandwich, or potato or thick BLT.

Twelve years after opening Smokey Mountain Grille on the highway just steps away from where her family-operated Cline’s, a popular Mendenhall restaurant, chef and owner Sheila Daniels continues to expand the menu of traditional barbecue and burger dishes to meet the changing culinary landscape.

For example, one of the restaurant’s signature moves is to place a loaf of homemade bread and honey butter for diners to sample while waiting for their food to arrive. Nowadays, the wait staff asks in advance if the bread is desired due to the increase of patrons on gluten-free and limited carb diets.

And, besides the regular lineup of pulled pork sandwiches and ribs, Daniels has expanded the menu to include more upscale offerings. Pork loin club is one example. A pork loin is smoked on-site and sliced thin, topped with smoked bacon and other dressings and placed and served with slices of grilled homemade bread.

Smokey Mountain Grille offers to-go meals that can be called in as you’re traveling and picked up at the convenient location just off the highway. If you have a little time to spare, I recommend stopping in and enjoying a leisurely meal at the cozy, family-owned restaurant featuring large windows overlooking the highway.

Once you’re seated, the hard work of narrowing down the menu choices begins. Since this is a restaurant I regularly frequent, I’ll share my favorites and provide a little information on the remainder of the menu.

For starters, I highly recommend the pulled pork nachos. In fact, this is a shareable dish if you’re traveling with others and are not ravenously hungry. A plate of crispy, seasoned tortilla chips is topped with tender, slow-roasted pulled pork, house barbecue sauce, diced tomatoes, jalapenoes, green onions, and melted cheese. As an appetizer or meal, it really doesn’t get any better than this dish.

If you’re saving room for pulled pork, the cheese fries are a worthy build-up. It’s a place of fresh-cut fries topped with barbecue sauce, cheese, smoked bacon, and house spices. With a dollop of sour cream and other toppings, it’s the perfect appetizer or side dish to the main event.

Speaking of the main course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t start with the barbecue dishes. After all, it’s the primary reason Smokey Mountain has earned such a