Taste of the Town: A Guided Tour of College Football's Best Places to Eat

Taste of the Town: A Guided Tour of College Football's Best Places to Eat


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781455547296
Publisher: Center Street
Publication date: 09/03/2013
Pages: 206
Product dimensions: 7.50(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Todd Blackledge was a three year starting QB for Penn State before being drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs in 1983. After seven NFL seasons with the Chiefs and the Pittsburgh Steelers, he began a career as a college football analyst, working for the Big East Television Network, ABC Sports and CBS Sports. Since 2006 he has worked for ESPN calling Saturday Night Primetime games with Mike Patrick and currently Brad Nessler, and launched "Taste of the Town" in 2007. Todd lives in Canton, OH with his wife and four sons.

JR Rosenthal has a master's of science in journalism from Northwestern University and has written eleven book, including Nolan Ryan's Pitcher's Bible, Randy Johnson's Power Pitching, Don Mattingly's Hitting is Simple, Pitch Like a Pro with Leo Mazzone and Tony Gwynn's Total Baseball Player. He also is an accomplished chef and is currently working with Nolan Ryan on a cookbook/cattle ranching memoir.

Bryan Jaroch graduated from Hamilton College with a bachelor's degree in Psychology in 1997. He is currently a Producer at ESPN, where he has worked since 1999. He produced "Taste of the Town" segments during the 2008 and 2010 college football seasons, and took hundreds of behind-the-scenes still photos. The photos from the 2008 season were featured in an article on ESPN.com. Since then he has published several photographs in travel guides and continues to expand his photography portfolio. Bryan lives in West Hartford, Connecticut, with his wife and son.

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Taste of the Town

A Guided Tour of College Football's Best Places to Eat

By Todd Blackledge, JR Rosenthal, Bryan Jaroch

Center Street

Copyright © 2013 Todd Blackledge JR Rosenthal Bryan Jaroch
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4555-4729-6




Bud Ford, the longtime sports information director at the University of Tennessee, introduced me to this restaurant, and I am forever grateful, because it has that down-home quality that makes dining in the South such a pleasure. It's customary, particularly in the South, for the SID to invite the TV production crew to a dinner on Friday nights. The dinner is typically a gathering of school officials, bowl-game representatives, and other media people. Normally I prefer to lie low the night before the game and not go out, but Bud has always been so helpful that I felt obliged to attend at least one of his get-togethers. On this Friday night I had the pleasure of dining at Ye Olde Steak House, and years later I knew it would make a perfect place to tape a segment of "Taste of the Town." This is a steakhouse well known in the South, with dinner guests often traveling as far as two hundred miles to enjoy porterhouse, prime rib, sirloin strip, or rib eye. The Iowa grain-fed beef is hand-cut and cooked to order, and all the excellent steaks come with Woodshed Potatoes—thick-cut fried potatoes that are outstanding—as well as homemade hot bread and broccoli-and-cheese casserole. I go for a twenty-ounce strip steak that's cooked in vegetable oil in a cast-iron skillet and finished on the grill with salt and pepper.

Cheryl Wilson and Nancy Ayres (daughters of Bunt and Helen King, who opened the restaurant in 1968) work the front of the house, and their brother David King handles the kitchen with the confidence of Peyton Manning under pressure in the pocket.


Litton's is a Knoxville institution and a favorite spot of two of my favorite stars, Peyton Manning and Kenny Chesney. Barry Litton and his son Erik have built a business based on serving the community with an array of delicious fresh meats, baked goods, and spectacular desserts. The current version of Litton's evolved from Litton's Meat Market, which Barry (a butcher by trade) opened in 1980. One year later, the legendary Litton Burger was first cooked on the market's three-legged electric skillet, and that's when the best burger in the state of Tennessee was born. In planning this segment for "Taste of the Town," I managed to get lost driving to the Fountain City neighborhood of Knoxville, where Litton's is located. I'm terrible at following directions, and really, Litton's is not that hard to find, but it is well worth the trip. The meat is ground fresh daily, the buns are freshly baked, and the fries are hand- cut. The onion rings (another favorite of mine) are breaded and cooked to order. I love the bacon cheeseburger with grilled onions, and my son Eli swears that Litton's has the best sweet tea in the country! After you finish your burger and fries, it's time for one of the enormous desserts, such as the red velvet cake made from scratch.

DEAD END BBQ (Knoxville, TN)

This is a relatively new restaurant that was recommended by John Chavis, former defensive coordinator at Tennessee and now the defensive coordinator and linebackers' coach at LSU. John was very good friends with the owner of Dead End BBQ, and he told me it was a great place for authentic southern BBQ. It has a sports bar ambience and a clean and modern vibe in the kitchen. The backstory on Dead End BBQ is that the owners were guys who lived on the same dead-end street and cooked for all the neighbors out of their home kitchens and on their BBQ grills. They started cooking in competitions and immediately garnered a good reputation for their BBQ; in fact, the dish I tried in the segment was George's Competition Chicken, along with some beef brisket and house-smoked sausage. The BBQ at Dead End is really tender and comes right off the bone. You don't eat it with a knife and fork! The first time I stopped at this restaurant, my youngest son, Owen, was with me, and he was crazy about the homemade banana pudding to cap off the meal.


Charles Chandler and his wife, Gwen, opened Chandler's Deli in 2000, and it's one of those family-run places that just gives you a good feeling the moment you walk in the door. The building was previously a familiar-looking Taco Bell restaurant, but the cuisine at Chandler's is not Mexican. This informal neighborhood spot serves home-style southern dishes based on secret family recipes. My favorites include the chicken—both fried and rotisserie; the ribs; macaroni and cheese; chicken tetrazzini; meat loaf; green beans; broccoli- and-cheese casserole; and corn bread. My broadcast partner Mike Patrick kidded me about eating everything on my plate when I went to Chandler's, but once I'd polished off a slab of ribs after the chicken and three sides, I barely touched my gigantic piece of corn bread and melted butter.

Recipe from Ye Olde Steak House


Serves 4
4 Idaho potatoes
1 small onion
2 to 3 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1. Cut the potatoes into roundish, thick pieces.

2. Dice the onion into small pieces to easily sauté.

3. Heat a cast-iron skillet, melt the butter, and sauté the onions until they're caramelized.

4. Add the potatoes, salt, and pepper and cook until soft, about 10–15 minutes.

Recipes from Litton's Market, Restaurant & Bakery


Serves 6 to 12
4 to 6 jumbo sweet onions
1 cup all-purpose flour seasoned with 1 teaspoon black pepper
1 quart buttermilk
¼ cup hot sauce
Cracker meal

1. Cut the onions into ½-inch slices (discard the centers).

2. Toss the onions in the seasoned flour.

3. Combine the buttermilk and the hot sauce. Dip the onions in the mixture.

4. Line 2 sheet pans with wax paper.

5. Dredge the onions in the cracker meal and lay them in a single layer on the lined sheet pans.

6. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

7. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Bake the onions until golden brown (about 15–20 minutes; keep an eye on the oven while cooking).


Makes three 9-inch layers
3 teaspoons cocoa
2 ounces red food coloring
¼ pound (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
2 ¼ cups cake flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon white vinegar

1. Combine the cocoa, red food coloring, butter, and sugar and cream until fluffy.

2. Add the eggs and buttermilk and mix.

3. Sift together the cake flour, salt, and baking soda and stir into the cocoa mixture.

4. Blend in the vanilla and vinegar.

5. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

6. Bake in three greased 9-inch cake pans for 25 to 30 minutes. Do not overbake!

Cream Cheese Icing

2 pounds confectioner's sugar
½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter
8 ounces cream cheese
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 teaspoons whipping cream

Cream all the ingredients together until smooth and ice the top and sides and between the layers of the cake.

Recipes from Dead End BBQ


Serves 4

For the Ribs

2 racks of St. Louis ribs
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 to 2 teaspoons butter, melted

Rib Rub

1 to 2 cups brown sugar
½ cup granulated garlic
½ cup sea salt
½ cup paprika
2 tablespoons granulated onion
1 tablespoon dry mustard
1 tablespoon Creole seasoning
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper

Spread the brown sugar on a sheet tray; put the tray in the oven on very low heat (150°F) for about 15–30 minutes or until it dries out. Then combine the brown sugar with the remaining rub ingredients.

Preparing the Ribs

1. Pull the back membrane from the ribs.

2. Trim the ribs to equal length.

3. Coat the meat lightly with the vegetable oil.

4. Lightly sprinkle the black pepper on both sides.

5. Sprinkle about ½ of the rib rub on both sides and allow the ribs to sweat, meaty side up, for 2 hours.

6. Place the ribs in the smoker at 276°F and smoke for 2 hours, adding a squeeze of butter every hour.

7. Remove the ribs from the smoker, spread another ½ of the rib rub over the entire surface, and wrap the ribs in foil.

8. Place the wrapped ribs in the smoker, meaty side down, for 90 minutes. 9. Remove the ribs from the foil and add the rest of the rub.

10. Place the ribs back in the smoker for 30 minutes.

11. Remove from the smoker and transfer to a platter.


Serves 8 to 12

For the Brisket

1 whole 9 to 11 pound brisket
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 can beef broth

Brisket Rub

½ cup paprika
1 cup salt
½ cup ground black pepper
½ cup sugar
½ cup chili powder
2 tablespoons garlic salt
2 tablespoons cayenne pepper
Combine all the ingredients.

Preparing the Brisket

1. Coat the brisket with the olive oil.

2. Sprinkle the rub on the brisket and let the meat sweat for 1 hour at room temperature.

3. Cook the brisket in the smoker at 224°F for 12 hours, or until it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F.

4. Remove the brisket from the smoker and wrap in foil, pouring the beef broth over the brisket and sealing the foil tightly.

5. Return the wrapped brisket to the smoker until it reaches an internal temperature of 190°F.

6. Remove the brisket from the smoker and let it rest for 2 hours.

7. Slice the brisket and serve.

Recipes from Chandler's Deli


Serves 4 to 6
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 jar pimentos
½ cup diced celery
½ cup diced onion
½ cup diced green bell pepper
2 cups diced cooked chicken
1 cup milk
1 pound linguine
8 ounces shredded American cheese

1. Combine all the ingredients except the pasta in a medium saucepan.

2. Simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.

3. Cook the pasta according to the package instructions and add the other ingredients; mix well and top with the shredded cheese.


Serves 6 to 8
3 pounds ground chuck (20% fat)
3 eggs
1 medium onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
½ cup chopped celery
1½ teaspoons salt
1½ teaspoons ground black pepper
1 can tomato sauce

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2. Combine well all the ingredients except the tomato sauce. Shape into a loaf, place in a loaf pan, and bake for 1 hour at 350°F. Brush with tomato sauce when done.


2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons nutmeg
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1½ cups vegetable oil
2 cups carrots, grated
4 eggs

1. Preheat the oven to 325°F.

2. Mix all the dry ingredients together, then blend in the oil, carrots, and eggs. Pour into a greased 1-inch tube pan. Bake at 325°F for one hour.

Cream Cheese Icing

8 ounces cream cheese
¼ pound (1 stick) margarine
1 pound confectioner's sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon extract

1. Mix the cream cheese and the margarine until smooth.

2. Blend in the sugar, vanilla extract, and lemon extract and spread over the cake.


Running Through the T

Since the 1964 season, the Tennessee Volunteers have entered the stadium moments before kickoff by leaving the locker room, gathering in the orange-and- white-checkerboard end zone, and running onto the field through a giant T formed by the Pride of the Southland Band. In a perfectly timed sequence, the base of the T opens and the team sprints out behind the cheerleaders and the team mascot, Smokey, the Blue Tick Coonhound.

The Vol Navy

Because of Neyland Stadium's location along the banks of the Tennessee River, many Volunteer fans travel to the game by boat, and on a football Saturday hundreds of boats of all shapes and sizes form a floating tailgate party before and after the game. (FYI: Tennessee and the University of Washington are the only two major college football schools with stadiums adjacent to bodies of water.)

"Rocky Top"

It's not even an official school song, but the familiar tune of "Rocky Top" has been the unofficial Volunteer anthem since the UT band first played it in 1972. It's one of those songs that you can't get out of your head long after the game has ended!

Checkerboard End Zones

I mentioned this briefly above, but the end zones inside Neyland Stadium are painted in an orange-and-white checkerboard design, which is unique and is immediately associated with the Tennessee Vols.



YESTERDAYS (Five Points Area of Columbia, SC)

This was the first place in South Carolina where I did a "Taste of the Town" segment. Yesterdays is in a fun neighborhood called Five Points, which has lots of good restaurants, shops, and bars. Two brothers from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, moved down to South Carolina to open Yesterdays, and it's one of the most significant places in the history of "Taste of the Town." Mike Patrick, my broadcast partner at ESPN at the time, loved to give me grief about eating tons of gravy for "Taste." My dish of choice at Yesterdays got the ball rolling for this gravy thing (whatever I ate after this episode, Mike would ask me if it was served with gravy). At Yesterdays, I went with an entrée called the Arkansas Traveler: a base of corn bread topped with lots of country gravy, thinly sliced roast beef, black-eyed peas, and then even more gravy! Of course, I enjoyed the Arkansas Traveler with a side of rich and delicious macaroni and cheese. Classic southern goodness!


Pimento cheese, a uniquely southern variety of pâté, is a simple cheese spread made with white cheddar, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, and roasted red bell peppers. This is a go-to house specialty at the Blue Marlin, which is one of the most upscale restaurants featured on "Taste of the Town." I don't usually step out into these fancier restaurants for the segment, but when I do, it's because I've heard a lot of good things and I know it's going to be pretty special. What I like most about this place, despite its white-tablecloth ambience, is that it has a bustling Friday-night pregame atmosphere that is absolutely electric. We shot the segment on a Friday afternoon and it was exciting, but I have also dined at the Blue Marlin on Friday nights before a game, and that energy is something I really like. As for the food, it's authentic and extremely well prepared.

The Blue Marlin has been around for more than fifteen years and is located in what used to be a train station. Besides the pimento cheese, the shrimp and grits are a house favorite. The grits are stone-ground and milled locally (right down the road) and are cooked for three hours in chicken stock, milk, and a touch of cream. The chef-owner, Brian Dukes, then sautés local shrimp and sausage, and the dish is finished with delicious tasso ham gravy. I like to start the meal with pimento cheese on toast, along with she-crab soup; follow that with fried green tomatoes; and finish with the shrimp and grits.


This is a meat-and-three (three side dishes, that is) buffet place that offers authentic, down-home, inexpensive southern classics. It's a bit of a drive from campus and not that well known in Columbia, but I had to give it a try, and it was an inspired last-minute choice for "Taste of the Town." All the food is excellent, especially the macaroni and cheese, fried chicken, pork chops, homemade potato salad, and cole slaw, not to mention the famous chocolate cream "stuff" dessert. All the cream pies are baked from scratch and are really good, but the side dishes (macaroni and cheese, in particular) are what sets this restaurant apart from the many other meat-and-three spots I've tried throughout the South.

Recipe from Yesterdays


Serves 4

Per Serving

2 squares fresh corn bread (see recipe below)
3.6 ounces black-eyed peas (prepared as directed below, with ½ ham hock)
2.8 ounces sliced Angus beef, cooked medium rare
4.6 ounces brown gravy—you can use any recipe you like to produce a brown gravy or a dark roux


Excerpted from Taste of the Town by Todd Blackledge, JR Rosenthal, Bryan Jaroch. Copyright © 2013 Todd Blackledge JR Rosenthal Bryan Jaroch. Excerpted by permission of Center Street.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Taste of the Town: A Guided Tour of College Football's Best Places to Eat 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
carol223CS More than 1 year ago
Love Todd's " Taste of the Town " segment during the Saturday football game. So I was super happy when he came out with this cookbook!!! Yummy...Yummy recipes plus describes the college town and restaurants where he dined. Todd describes his experience at the eatery's. A great eating experience for all ages from appetizers to desserts. A great addition to anyone's kitchen whether a football fan or just a hungry mouth!! Go “Penn State”…
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago