It’s been referred to as, “A place that didn’t exist”, but its secluded location was the very thing that made it possible for the U.S. government to carry out a secret project between the ridges and valleys later to be officially named Oak Ridge, Tennessee. This rural and agricultural area grew from a population of about 3000 to a workforce of 75,000 to complete The Manhattan Project, and literally saved the world, engulfed in war, in 1945.
“It’s in Oak Ridge, it’s called The Other One,” two of my guests tried to explain to me. There is always a lot of talk about restaurants on the Knoxville Food Tours. Many times it will be guests asking me to divulge the name of my favorite restaurant, other times I might be asking them theirs, or I overhear guests discussing different restaurants around town and their experiences there. But this eatery being described, this Other One, seemed so fantastic I wondered if it, like its clandestine Secret City, really existed. “It’s fresh, made to order. They have a burger this big!” They gleefully continued. “We like to eat there.”
This, of course, led me to doing some research on The Other One. I easily found TheOtherOneDiner.com which described the business as a Diner, Deli, & Dive, and listed a large menu of burgers, sandwiches, salads, and side items. I saw a large variety of interesting combinations such as a peanut butter bacon burger, a fried mahi and pineapple sandwich, grilled crawfish with chipotle mayo and cilantro, zucchini fries, but then I saw it – Nacho Doritos – Doritos, chili, cheese sauce, jalapenos, pico de gallo, sour cream, and diced avocado. “S#*! gimme that,” was my first thought. I occasionally see or hear about chefs using Doritos in dishes. The nectar of the gods…so good, but so bad…so bad, but so good! To me it’s a secret signal – this is a place where I can get some really good food, because it is run by someone who likes to eat.
Despite its high stature in U.S. history, Oak Ridge is a very unassuming city. It is easy to navigate, it’s meant to be, as a planned city, with numbered traffic lights and alphabetized streets. There is a Tennessee Avenue and a Pennsylvania Avenue, but the signs Centrifuge Way and Administration Road remind you that you are in the Atomic City. Other streets are named for states all over the U.S., but this is still East Tennessee, after all, and most of the time you are going to encounter friendly, down to earth folks. My inquiry into The Other One was answered the very next day by owners Jim and Amanda Long.
A friend of mine recently shared this quote, “Blessed are the poets, the artists, the writers and music makers, the dreamers, and the outsiders, for they force us to see the world differently.” This is a sentiment that has lasted through the years, from O’Shaughnessy, who wrote in 1873, “We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams, wandering by lone sea breakers, and sitting by desolate streams, world losers and world forsakers, on whom the pale moon gleams, yet we are the movers and shakers of the world for ever, it seems.” To a little more recent quote that I refer to from time to time, “They’re the In Crowd, we’re The Other Ones, it’s a different kind of cloth that we’re cut from. We let our colors show, where the numbers ain’t, we’re the paint where there ain’t supposed to be paint.” Dreamers, Artists, or The Other Ones, Jim and Amanda Long are definitely moving and shaking the food world.
“We’re foodies,” Amanda tells me. “We find things we like, then put our twist on them, to make them even better,” Jim concurs. From the Bangkok – chicken, cabbage, mayo, peanut sauce, sprouts, cilantro, carrots, jalapenos, and peanuts on a white hoagie, to the Great Gaddis – 1/3 pound mix of ground chuck and pulled pork bbq, lettuce, tomato, onion, fried pickle, and special mustard bbq sauce, a Bahn Mi, a French Dip, Cosmic Chicken, or Monkey Surprise – roast beef, smoked cheddar, grilled onion, fire bites, Slim Jim slices, spicy brown mustard on toasted hoagie, Jim and Amanda are continually working to create fresh, new, dynamic dishes for their guests. (The name Monkey Surprise was written as a joke on their menu board by a guest and they turned it into a best selling sandwich.)
Jim and Amanda were both born and raised in Oak Ridge, and Jim has worked in the food industry for over 30 years, in the corporate world and franchises, but considers being self employed the best work environment for him. They have had The Other One for 4 years. “Jimmy owned the original Time Out Deli, then this was his other restaurant, so it was The Other One,” Amanda explains. She is a licensed massage therapist and runs a studio in the same shopping center. She started out doing the books at The Other One, but now she can handle most of the day to day operations.
The Other One has been a big hit with the local community. “Customer service is the biggest thing in Oak Ridge,” Amanda states. “You can have good food, but if you don’t have good service, you won’t make it here. We have excellent food, but excellent service too.” They usually do 150-200 lunches a day between 11:15-1:30. Dinner service is spread out over a longer time period and they see more families. They can cater lunches and parties. “He had a hot dog cart and it was called The Other Bun,” Amanda tells me. “It was not,” I reply, teasing her a little, and we both break out into laughter over the play on names.
They are also building their breakfast business. “We have what we call the Big A** Burrito – 8 eggs, hash browns, sausage, bacon, cheddar cheese, pico and diced jalapenos – and we serve it on a pizza pan,” Jim says. More laughter. It feels good to laugh, and have fun with food, with these dream makers, poets, priests of nothing. “And if you can’t handle it, we have the Half A** Burrito, half the size of the Big A**.” There’s a Cyclops Burger – 1/3 pound patty, bacon, egg, cheese, and mayo, breakfast biscuits and sandwiches, pancakes, corned beef hash, breakfast casserole and bowls, omelets, and heuvos rancheros.
Quality is very important to Jim. “We get the beef for our burgers ground fresh twice a day at the local butcher, J&M, we hand patty them, we make all our sauces ourselves, we get the highest tier of meats and roast our turkey and smoke our meats. We are flexible and meals can be made to order. Any deli sandwich can be made into a salad. Burgers can be made with a black bean patty or turkey. We have a good vegetarian selection. We pay attention to allergies and offer gluten free and dairy free options for our guests.”
In warm weather things get even livelier at The Other One, when their seating capacity more than doubles with an outdoor patio that is dog friendly. Guests can get a Pooch Patty and a free bowl of water for their canine friends. They deliver free to the pool across the street.
But wait, want more fun? Why not go by and try the Fat Man Burger Contest – 4 half pound burgers, 8 slices of cheese, 12 slices of bacon, with a bun in between, lettuce, tomato, onion, mustard, mayonnaise, 2 orders of fries, a pickle, and a drink – finish this in less than 10 minutes and 46 seconds to beat the record. The Fat Man is too much? Try the Little Boy, the slider version. Where do the names Fat Man and Little Boy come from? This is where your Secret City research comes in!
Attention to detail and customer desires and service have helped Jim and Amanda build this successful business. “Word of mouth, social media, online reviews, we are listed as the number one restaurant in Oak Ridge on Yelp,” Amanda says. “We have a lot of regular customers. We have one guest who has eaten every item on the menu,” she continues. “People who work at other restaurants in town come here to eat,” Jimmy reveals. “Oh…yeah,” I automatically reply, not doubting it for a minute. “And now you’ll come back.” “Oh…yeah,” auto reply kicks in again, as I have already planned out in my mind my next several meals at The Other One.
Future plans for The Other One? “We are looking at franchising, we would like to eventually franchise, so that we can retire at some point,” Jim says. For now, visit them at 178 Randolph Rd., Mon.-Thurs. 10:30 a.m. til 9:00 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 8:00 a.m. til 10:00 p.m., and Sun. 10:30 a.m. til 4:00 p.m. Breakfast is served Fri. til 11:00 a.m. and All Day Sat. & Sun.
So go ahead now, support our historic cities, eat, laugh, have fun, eat some more, with the dreamers, artists, music makers, world shakers…The Other Ones.