Serving comfort food on a daily basis

From left: waitress Pam Bailey, regular customers Jim Cornett, Wrease McMahan and Bobby Idles, and waitress Misti Beard, who is also owner Terri Russell’s daughter. (photo:Crystal Huskey )
Order up!

Terri Russell and Kim Kennedy opened up the Little Vols Diner in Rocky Top earlier this month. It’s a larger, little more upscale version of a restaurant they owned before.

They, along with a big group of friends and family, spent long days getting the new location remodeled and up to par, according to Russell.

Russell, by the way, could pass as the counterpart to the “most interesting man in the world.” Not only has she been in the restaurant business for going on four decades, but she is also a licensed private investigator. And runs an irrigation company. And a bar.

And she was Miss Knoxville at a pageant at the Bijou Theatre in 2008.

And last weekend, she took a short trip to Cherokee for some much needed R and R. Harrah’s casino offered her a free room, along with a bunch of other free stuff.


“Because I’m a seven-star player!” she laughed.

She won over $20,000 on a penny-slot machine a while back, so they like to encourage her to come back.

Russell is originally from Claiborne County but has spent the last 19 years in Rocky Top. Kennedy, who does most of the cooking, came to the area in 1978.

Their past restaurants, which also included Fox Diner, were much smaller, but the food has always been basically the same.

“Everybody loves the food,” she said. “Especially the hamburger steaks and catfish on Fridays.”

Their homemade desserts — made locally by a retired schoolteacher known affectionately as Mrs. Keys — are also very popular.

The restaurant has been packed most days, and especially on Friday nights.

“Friday nights people are sitting on the bench waiting to get in,” Russell said. There is a small gameroom in the restaurant with a pool table and a few games for kids. She also plans to host karaoke on Thursday nights for families. Everything is always fresh, according to Russell, and never pre-cooked.

Little Vols Diner is located at 711 S. Main Street in Rocky Top.