Sewanee, TN is a sleepy little mountain hamlet between Nashville (see our top places to eat there) and Chattanooga with a quaint collegiate atmosphere thanks to the presence of the University of the South. Since 1974, both town and gown have been feeding their need for cold beer and good food at an eclectic café known as Shenanigans. It is the kind of restaurant where food is still served on paper plates and the beer comes in mason jars. Generations of initials are carved in the wooden tables, and students contribute some of the most erudite graffiti ever to the walls of the restrooms.
The restaurant is housed in a building that was constructed in 1874 to serve as a general store for the community, and not much had been done to the structure in the century since. Locals smiled at the rhomboid front door that took an extra tug to open thanks to the constantly leaning and settling foundation of Shenanigans.
Then one night, the building shifted so violently that it literally blew out half of the windows. Suddenly it wasn’t so charming anymore. New management bought the establishment and remodeled the building and the menu. The new owner was Ward Cammack, a Nashville businessman who had been defeated in the Democratic primary for Governor and was looking for a place to relocate his family to get away from the trials of the campaign.
After moving from Nashville to Sewanee, Cammack drew upon his experience working at Commander’s Palace in New Orleans as a student at Tulane, and began to add some interesting Louisiana cuisine to the menu to augment forty years of old favorite dishes.
One item that made the first cut was a monster of a sandwich called “Skinny Bob’s Meat Melt.” Named after a long-since retired employee named Bob who was anything but skinny, this sandwich features mounds of ham, turkey, swiss, cheddar, roast beef, sautéed onions and mushrooms piled high on thick slices of sourdough bread.
The Skinny Bob is so hearty that it must actually be served on two of those paper plates to keep it from hitting the floor on the trip from the counter to your booth underneath the Elvis shrine. They are best served with a side of fries that are so addictive that Sewanee alumni have been known to drive up the mountain in the middle of the night for a blast from their past.
They’ve replaced the crooked old door since the restoration, but the original is still hanging on the wall of the dining room as an homage to the restaurant’s history. The Skinny Bob’s Meat Melt is a little, scratch that, a HUGE piece of history that Shenanigans fans will remember for a long time.
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