Poor Richard's was the place Rick Simek visited for 10-cent beer during his college days at East Tennessee State University.
Po'Richard's, on the other hand, will be the type of place people visit when they're in the mood for a "big-ass delicious sandwich" in downtown Knoxville, he told Knox News.
Simek and longtime friend Donnie Rudder will start out serving four steak sandwiches and four po'boys when they open Po'Richard's inside Marble City Market, the downtown food hall scheduled to open soon.
This will be their first Po'Richard's location, although they hope to open the concept inside other food halls.
"Each one of the sandwiches are handmade," Simek said. "I want each one to look like a work of art.”
Finding inspiration in other food halls
When the opportunity to open inside Marble City Market arose, Simek began his research — first, visiting food halls to see which concepts worked best. Steak sandwich shops seemed to have the longest lines, Simek said, but he wanted to offer more.
The decision to add po'boys ended up working great for the brand name, which also incorporates Simek's first name and pays homage to the now-closed restaurant and bar in Johnson City.
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Simek's food background includes catering for the Atlanta movie industry and operating food trucks in Florida.
“To me, this is a food truck gathering, but it’s permanent and we don’t have to worry about the weather," he said about the food hall.
Simek said his girlfriend benefited most from his research, as he began crafting the menu while they were staying at a cabin in western North Carolina.
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'Massive' sandwiches on the menu
The steak sandwich menu includes a traditional Philly cheesesteak with peppers and onions, as well as a French-style steak sandwich with mushrooms, Swiss cheese and au jus.
The Argentinian sandwich is a "garlic lover's dream," Simek said, and the Korean-style barbecue sandwich with kimchi is a "banging one."
The po'boy menu will include one option featuring a "massive" amount of shrimp, he said. There also will be a BLT po'boy with fried green tomatoes, a Cuban-style po'boy and the classic "debris" po'boy from New Orleans, which includes pot roast and gravy.
"This is the kind of stuff we like to eat," said Rudder, who has owned and worked in multiple restaurants in East Tennessee.
What else will be offered?
Simplicity is key moving forward, the partners said, especially if they hope to recreate the Po'Richard's concept in other markets. Simek said he should be able to make the sandwiches within minutes.
Chips from New Orleans and Philadelphia will be available as sides, and the restaurant likely will start out with a salad.
"The immediate thing is when (the customers) get it, the 'wow' factor," Simek said. "And for them to be coming back. Because you're going to want another one."
Marble City Market is located 333 W. Depot Ave. and will be comprised of 11 food vendors, a full-service bar and Topgolf Swing Suites. Vendors include Fantail Fish & Frites, a new sandwich concept from Paysan and The Corners Pizza.
A second food hall with separate ownership is scheduled to open next year at the former Kern's Bakery location in South Knoxville.
Check back regularly at knoxnews.com for more stories about Marble City Market as the opening date approaches. As always, Knox News is the best source for downtown development and restaurant news.
Ryan Wilusz: Knoxville's downtown explorer and urban reporter
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Source : https://www.poconorecord.com/story/news/2021/10/24/po-richards-poboys-sandwiches-downtown-knoxville-marble-city-market-food-hall/8444681002/1312