I didn’t realize why the Chow Hall was called the Chow Hall until The Grub Spouse and I arrived on the premises for a dinner outing last week. The front sign mentions “honoring and supporting our veterans” and bears the insignia of all our nation’s branches of service.
The theme is even more prominent inside the facility, which once served as a lawnmower repair shop. These days, the interior walls are replete with photos and other military memorabilia. Otherwise, the aesthetics are rustic but executed with an intentional sense of style.
The Spouse and I seated ourselves in the smaller of two dining spaces, but the wife half of the proprietary team warned us that a large to-go order had just been placed ahead of us and that it would be a half-hour or more before they could begin preparing our meal. Since we had driven so far – to the hinter regions of northeast Knox County – we decided to double down on our sunk costs and wait it out. However, the owner lady did take our food orders, deliver our beverages and repeatedly apologize for the delay.
The menu represents a classic lineup of American fare, beginning with appetizers like nachos, cheese sticks, wings, and chili cheese fries. Sandwiches include pulled pork, a BLT, chicken salad, and a Philly cheesesteak. I got the fried bologna sandwich ($7.29), made with two slices of beef bologna, two slices of cheese, mustard, mayo, tomato, and lettuce on grilled Texas toast. I ordered onion rings as a side for $3.99.
They also have several entrée salads, a hot dog, and a smoked sausage option available, as well as wraps made with chicken salad, chicken tenders, grilled chicken, and more. The Chow Hall seems to be known for its burgers, however, and based on the owner’s recommendation, The Spouse ordered the bacon cheeseburger ($9.99), garnished with mayo, lettuce, tomato, onion, and pickles. The Spouse chose a kiddie order of French fries for $1.29.
Our wait did turn out to be in excess of a half-hour, as we had been advised. Evidently, the order ahead of ours was for a large group of Boy Scouts. But the owners checked in on us periodically, chatted, and made sure our drinks were topped off.
When the logjam finally cleared and our food showed up, we dug right in, and I was pleased with both orders overall. The half-pound patty on the burger was well prepared and embellished nicely by the bacon, cheese, and other condiments and garnishes. The fries were standard-issue frozen crinkle fries, but they were nothing to complain about.
It had been ages since I’d tried a fried bologna sandwich, and the one they serve at the Chow Hall is quite a creation. The two slices of meat had thinned out and curled up some during the grilling process, as fried bologna tends to do, but the flavor was well complemented by cheese and veggie toppings, and the thick Texas toast was amply buttered before grilling. The only thing I would have tweaked about this sandwich was the amount of mustard, which struck me as being on the heavy side. By the way, the onion rings were superb – battered and deep-fried to greasy perfection.
We both went all in on our sandwiches and didn’t save any leftovers, but that left us both pretty stuffed. The Chow Hall doesn’t serve desserts now anyway, although the owner mentioned that their daughter may be a future source of homemade pies.
I hadn’t minded our wait for the food, but I was less patient with the inexplicable delay in our check being presented; we’d hung around there long enough. I finally tracked the owners down and got proactive with the payment process. Otherwise, they had been very gracious and accommodating.
That neck of the woods is simply too far-flung for The Spouse and me to justify becoming regulars. But those residing in the Halls/North Knox region might want to give the Chow Hall a try. I’m not sure it measures up to its 4.9-star Google rating, but the food is solidly good, the prices are more than competitive, and the hospitality is genuine. In that regard, I’m happy to thank this restaurant for its service.
The Chow Hall
Address: 5706 E. Emory Road, #5704
No alcohol service
Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Fridays; 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays
This mom-and-pop eatery in North Knox County serves a classic but tasty lineup of American comfort foods.
This article originally appeared on Knoxville News Sentinel: Knoxville restaurant review: The Chow Hall offers tasty comfort food