The folks at the Copper Cellar Restaurant group (Copper Cellar, Calhoun’s, Cappuccino’s, Smoky Mountain Brewery, and Cherokee Grill) recently invited us out to visit a relatively new member of the family, Smokies Baseball Stadium. This is a recap of our lovely evening watching baseball, eating great food and drinking good local beer.
Bart Fricks, COO of Copper Cellar, says they were not looking to get into stadium food service when the University of Tennessee approached them about placing a Calhoun’s outpost in both Neyland Stadium and Thompson-Boling Arena. They did, however, find it was a unique opportunity to reach a new audience as well as help to bring stadium food to a new level. After four years of service with UT, they were approached by the Tennessee Smokies to assist them in reaching the same goal. Two years ago, Tennessee Smokies Baseball and Copper Cellar Restaurants came to an agreement that would continue to change “ballpark” food in East Tennessee for the better.
The two companies started with a concept called Calhoun’s at the Yard in which they offer the traditional hamburgers and hot dogs as well as Calhoun’s famous pulled pork as a sandwich or piled on nachos with their delicious beer cheese. Yes, I said “BBQ Nachos!”
New to the park this year, Smoky Mountain Brewery Bullpen, a full-service restaurant serving up many of their classics as well as some “ballpark” staples with a twist. It occupies the space that once held the Double Play Cafe. Copper Cellar had interest in taking over the space to expand its brand around the park and the full kitchen wasn’t bad either. When the decision was made to move the Bullpen from the luxury suite area to the new space, the old Bullpen site on the suite level transitioned into the Copper Cellar Clubhouse. Thirty five games during the season, seats in this space are sold as individual tickets and is an all-inclusive experience for fans including food, alcoholic beverages and non-alcoholic beverages. The other 35 games the Clubhouse is reserved for groups and members.
The Bullpen keeps with the theme of the other Smoky Mountain Brewery stores only with a limited menu and some elevated ballpark staples. We happily dined on those aforementioned pulled pork nachos complete with fresh jalapenos, a barbeque chicken sandwich with potato salad, and a hot dog topped with cole slaw and BBQ beans. Are you a craft beer fan? Smoky Mountain Brewery has 4 of their most popular East Tennessee brews on draft throughout Smokies Park. Most of the food they provide at the park is prepared freshly on site. They even have a portable smoker that wafts the smell of hickory through the air. If that doesn’t make your mouth water, it needs to. It should also be mentioned that any of the food available inside the Bullpen is also available to those wishing to be a little closer to the baseball action via a walk up window.
Groups are a big deal to this establishment. Craig Jenkins, director of corporate marketing for the Smokies, tells us that patrons can create any range of experience from a picnic style affair in the outfield to higher end food that might grace the menu at Copper Cellar in Knoxville. Two outfield spaces, a party porch on the suite level, the Copper Cellar Clubhouse and Smoky Mountain Brewery Bullpen are all available for group reservations. Whichever you fancy, they want to make you happy and they want you to come back.
According to Bart and Craig, the goal of this partnership is to solidify the stadium as a true destination and a place where fans can go to spend an entire evening start to finish. It appears they have done just that. Well done gentlemen.