Restaurant review

Calloway’s Tennessee Kitchen is gas station food

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably noticed how many old Pilot stations are converted into Casey’s stores. Casey’s is a Midwestern convenience store chain known for its pizza, among other things. A couple of Knoxville locations already serve pizza (with more to come), and I plan to check that out in the not-too-distant future.

Interestingly, the Calloway family-owned EZ Stop Markets in Blount County appear to be taking a similar approach, founding a restaurant operation called Calloway’s Tennessee Kitchen in two of its stores so far. What makes Calloway’s unique is that it attempts to transcend institutional cuisine with dishes inspired by and prepared with local and regional ingredients. Benton’s Bacon, Sweetwater Valley Cheese, and Swaggerty’s Sausage are just a few of the brands they’ve incorporated into their quick order model.

Calloway's Tennessee Kitchen is a small, growing chain of convenience restaurants offering fresh, local dishes with fast food sensibilities.

The Grub Spouse and I were curious about this concept, so we went to the Maryville EZ Stop (the other is in Morganton) to check out what might end up being part of a burgeoning trend in gas station cooking. .

There is no seated service, as one might guess. You order either at the drive-thru or inside the store, at one of the two kiosks set up near the counter dedicated to catering. The spouse and I found the kiosk to be user-friendly and guide customers through the ordering process in an easy and intuitive way.

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The breakfast menu has many cookie creations, as well as a cinnamon roll and hash browns. For lunch and dinner, the fare consists mainly of chicken fillets, burgers, salads and a few sides. I ordered the three-chicken meal ($10.90), which consisted of hand-breaded Springer Mountain chicken tenderloins and a choice of side. I chose onion rings over crinkle fries, their homemade chili macaroni and cheese, and fried pickles. Spouse volunteered to order a burger, getting a regular burger meal ($9.49), which also comes with a side. Spouse went with the mac and cheese.

Offerings from Calloway's Tennessee Kitchen in Maryville include burgers and homemade chili mac and cheese.

The kiosk printed out a scannable order form, which we took, along with our beverage choices in the store’s cooler, to the main EZ Stop counter for payment. After a brief wait, an employee called our order number from the food counter. We went to get our meals – a box of food for me, a bag for The Spouse – and claimed one of the two dining tables set up near the convenience store’s cooler. It was fancy dining at its best.

For convenience store food, our meals really weren’t that bad, although I had a few minor issues. My chicken fillets were flavorful and chewy, but the breading was more gooey than crispy (fried chicken skin). I actually found it difficult to hold the fillets without the meat slipping out of the fried breading. But the taste was good. The BBQ sauce I asked for was a nice embellishment, but the runny Buffalo sauce I dipped in tasted like Tabasco sauce straight from the bottle. The onion rings were a solid effort.

I enjoyed my samples of The Spouse’s burger more. It was well built with a thick beef patty (although The Spouse asked for it to be well done, it was closer to medium well), and the vegetable toppings and buns looked fresh. I’m not the biggest fan of macaroni and cheese or chili cheese, but The Spouse gave that side a thumbs up, and based on the bites I took, I must have been to OK.

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Since this particular EZ Stop also had a built-in Baskin Robbins, The Spouse and I feasted on ice cream, a double cup, and a small shake, respectively. (I have to admit, Baskin Robbins still makes my favorite milkshake in the universe. I’ll grab a BR shake over Chick-fil-A, Bruster’s, Cookout, or anything any day of the week.)

Calloway’s Tennessee Kitchen won’t be a place I regularly go to for dinner, but I think anyone in this area looking for a counter meal at fast food prices might want to give it a try. It’s reasonably fast and affordable, and there’s something to be said for taking a locally-only approach to gas station grub.

Calloway’s Tennessee Kitchen

Food: 3.5 out of 5

Service: N / A

Atmosphere: N / A

Globally: 3.5

Address: 2428 E. Lamar Alexander Parkway, Maryville

Call: 865-380-1551

No alcohol service

Hours: 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Friday; 7am-7pm Saturday and Sunday

This small, growing chain of convenience store restaurants offers fresh, local dishes with fast food sensibilities.