With the influence of both Austin Peay State University and Fort Campbell, the people of Clarksville, Tennessee are treated to a wide variety of cuisines and cultures. Southern specialties compete with Cajun dishes, German baked goods and rotisserie chicken flavored with an array of international spices and sauces. Plus, an iconic diner has drawn college students for generations. Here are brief descriptions of nine eateries that are highly recommended.
1. Liberty Park Grill
Liberty Park Grill is situated perfectly to take in the beauty and activity of the Clarksville Marina and the nearby walking trail, fishing pond and playground. Also, inside Liberty Park, visitors can view the statues and tributes to Pat Summitt, an Olympic athlete who became a legendary basketball coach at the University of Tennessee and to Wilma C. Rudolph, a Clarksville native who was said to be the fastest woman in the world in the 1960’s and went on to win three gold medals in the 1960 Olympic games.
The menu at Liberty Park Grill features a wide array of sandwiches, salads and sides at lunchtime and adds steaks, ribs, seafood and pasta for dinner. Personnel at Fort Campbell particularly appreciate the discount they receive on Mondays. The strawberry chicken salad, offered for lunch is large, fresh and filled with goodies such as a grilled chicken breast, fresh strawberries, caramelized pecans and bleu cheese crumbles over colorful greens.
2. The Catfish House
Owned by the Ellis family since 1978 and now under the management of daughter Cindy Kerns, The Catfish House has a long-established and well-deserved reputation for serving great Southern favorites in a family atmosphere. The lightly-battered catfish fillets and the hushpuppies formed one at a time are, of course, the stars of the menu, but fried okra, white beans and slaw are favored accompaniments. Don’t worry if you’re craving something other than catfish. Steak, chicken, other kinds of seafood and Fettuccine Alfredo are also offered.
Desserts are made inhouse. Cindy personally makes the carrot cakes and caramel pies, but the Key lime pies are also outstanding.
The Catfish House is open seven nights a week for dinner and for lunch on Sundays.
3. Silke's Old World Breads
The international influence shows up heavily when you walk through the doors at Silke’s Old World Breads. Silke’s is considered by many to be the best bakery AND the best German restaurant in Clarksville. They cater to those with special dietary restrictions such as vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free and dairy-free. Pizza and sandwich varieties are numerous, as are the German specialties of bratwurst, brotchen and leberkase.
Silke’s is open for breakfast, lunch or an early supper, but many come to buy fresh loaves of bread and pastries. The gingerbread at Christmastime is exceedingly popular, but the apple strudel is sought after year-round.
4. Johnny's Big Burger
Directly across the street from the campus of Austin Peay State University, both the menu and the prices at Johnny’s Big Burger are student-approved and very student-friendly. Even the faculty members give this diner an A+ for deliciousness. The burgers are fried on the grill right in front of eager diners who fill every booth, table and counter several times over throughout the day and into the night. Johnny’s is closed on Sundays, but the other six days a week it is open from 6:00 a.m. until 11:00 p.m.
Since 1965, students and townspeople have enjoyed the burgers, shakes and fries, and for an extra-decadent treat, Johnny’s cooks will fry a honey bun in butter on the griddle and then top it with vanilla ice cream. That dessert has been the allure for many late-night runs from the campus to the diner.
5. Roux Americajun Restaurant
With the tagline “New Orleans is just a bite away,” diners at Roux Americajun can enjoy the specialties and the familiar seasoning of that iconic city full of great Cajun and Creole cuisine. The location inside a repurposed, vintage downtown building with brick walls and wood floors adds to the allure.
Boudin balls, crawfish bread and corn maque choux leap from the appetizer list as being typical of New Orleans, but the menu continues with Po’ boys, red beans and rice, muffalettas, jambalaya, shrimp etouffee and boudreaux pie adding to the theme. Desserts also include beignets and bananas foster pain perdu. There are other items offered that are less Cajun in nature, but you’ll probably want to stick to what the owners and chefs know best.
Roux Americajun is open for lunch Mondays through Fridays, dinner Mondays through Saturdays and is closed on Sunday.
6. The Looking Glass Restaurant and Bakery
Pleasing to the eye as well as the taste buds, The Looking Glass provides an Asian outdoor garden space and a koi pond for added ambiance.The whimsical art inside adds a light touch, as does the pleasing, clean lines of the decor.
All of the bakery items are prepared in-house using the freshest possible ingredients, and the menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner ranges from omelets and pastries to sandwiches, burgers, shrimp and grits, pasta and steak. The Looking Glass Restaurant smells amazing.
7. Smokin Chikin
Smokin Chikin is the brainchild of a couple from Trinidad and Tobago and another couple with roots in India and Pakistan. The four owners have traveled extensively and learned to cook using the flavors of the world. They found themselves in Clarksville, Tennessee, developed a friendship and decided to open a restaurant with the focus on rotisserie chicken using many marinades and spices, along with exotic side dishes. Their clientele and reputation have grown to the point that a second location will soon be opened a few miles away from the first one.
The succulent chicken can be ordered in a range from mild to hot with such names as Caribbean Barbeque, Chimichurri, Peri Peri and Tandoori. Sides include island fried rice, Mediterranean pasta salad and chopped tabouli salad, along with less-adventurous ones such as fries, coleslaw and potato salad.
Each chicken is marinated for at least 24 hours so the flavor comes through to the bones. Smokin Chikin is popular with Fort Campbell customers and does catering for that military installation and other large corporations in Clarksville.
8. Strawberry Alley Ale Works
Strawberry Alley Ale Works has a great location only a couple of blocks from the courthouse square. It is open 7 days a week for lunch and dinner and for brunch on Saturday and Sunday. Strawberry Alley’s interior is a mixture of old and new with original brickwork, combined with eclectic light fixtures. Diners can watch the brewery’s operation through glass walls as they sip on samples.
Popular starters are the southwest eggrolls, and you’d do well to save room for one of their mason jar desserts which come in chocolate with peanut butter, banana pudding and Key lime varieties.
The blackened fish tacos are especially appealing with several cheeses, black beans, rice and jalapeno remoulade, but plenty of other menu choices are available as well. Jagerschnitzel is another menu standout and consists of pork loin, apple kraut, red cabbage and mushroom gravy, but if you are less adventurous, you’ll find plenty of chicken, burgers, sandwiches and salad options, too.
9. La Michoacana Delicias
Tucked into a strip mall not far from the Cumberland River is the Mexican ice cream shop known as La Michoacana Delicias. The ice creams and popsicles are made on site and are bursting with flavors. Spanish Americans are naturally drawn to their familiar favorites, while the rest of Clarksville’s citizens and visitors are discovering it, also. The only challenge you will face is making your choice from the large variety of options. This is the perfect place to beat the heat of the Tennessee summers.
For birthdays, consider one of their tres leches cakes or maybe a fruit-filled watermelon.
Eateries to satisfy all tastes and preferences
Clarksville, Tennessee, has eateries representing a vast number of international cuisine, but it also has good Southern comfort foods in abundance. In addition to the restaurants mentioned above, numerous others are waiting to be discovered. Yada Yada Yada Deli and Edward’s Steakhouse are also in the downtown area, near Strawberry Alley Ale Works and Roux Americajun, for example. There are plenty of attractions in this interesting Southern city, but the food has to rank near the top of the reasons to visit. Take your appetites and give Clarksville a try.
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