Tammy fries tomatoes three days a week.
The typically vacant parking lot, an extension of the space intended for AMVETS Thrift Store customers, welcomes the food truck and influx of cars Thursday through Saturday. While the menu of this mini-restaurant offers other fried dishes, "Tammy and Mike's Fried Green Tomatoes" indicates the namesake with large green letters on both sides of the truck.
Tomatoes, of any and every color, have been battered and fried since the late 1800s. Recipes published in a range of cookbooks, predominately North Eastern and Midwestern, indicate the popularity of the easy entrée.
Green tomatoes, which are easiest to fry because of their firm texture, are simply unripe tomatoes. Either plucked from their vine intentionally or removed to avoid the destruction caused by frost, the green tomato finds itself in kitchens frequently.
Two things brought the sliced green vegetables to Tammy's kitchen: the loss of her husband to cancer in 1997 and the desire to do things differently.
Before cancer, her husband operated a dry cleaning business. On the weekends, Tammy would organize a fish fry in hopes of acquiring more money. After her husband's death, Tammy increased her frying rates to provide for her children.
In the midst of her frying business, Tammy decided she needed something new.
"It was just a God gift," Tammy said of her green tomato idea. "I said I wanted to do something different. I was selling three slices of tomato for a dollar, but then one day I just thought, 'I want to do something that nobody around here has.' Then green tomatoes came to my mind.
"It must have been in my spirit. The recipe was in my spirit too."
Customers said they regularly appreciate the spirit of Tammy's tomatoes.
"My favorite thing to get here is the fried green tomatoes," said Brandon Meade, a neighborhood resident. "They're the bomb. She hand breads hers. I don't buy them anywhere else but here because they're that good."
The green fruit is sliced uniformly before a coating of cornmeal covers both sides. Tossed into the deep fryer, the slices gain a golden hue. After a shake to drain the oil, a polystyrene container lined with multiple paper towels is stuffed to capacity.
Eight slices constitute a serving, which is more than enough to satisfy a grumbling stomach. The ideal compliment to this entree is a cup of Tammy's "Mango Tango Tea," a sweet and flavorful combination of tea and mango juice.
While the food truck is a community staple, it draws crowds from places further away than walking distance.
"I have people come from Oak Ridge and Morristown," Tammy said. "One man is all the way from Kentucky. Every time he comes to visit his friends, he's got to get his green tomatoes."
The tomatoes certainly serve as an award for the venture: they've won a trophy in a "best dish" competition.
George Heckler, a North Knoxville native and childhood friend of Tammy's brother, commented on the customer service.
"She's a good person," Heckler said. "The food's real good and it's well done. It's just an awesome place to eat at."
Tammy said she loves her community and customers.
"I can communicate with the people," she explained. "I just love seeing everybody. It's been a blessing."