A picky customer and a shortage of corned beef brought Johnny Mitchell’s one of the top culinary awards in Georgia recently.
Johnny Mitchell’s Smokehouse had one of their signature sandwiches, The Redneck Reuben, named to Explore Georgia’s 100 Plates Locals Love for 2017.
“It’s a big honor,” Johnny Mitchell said. “[The Redneck Reuben] is one of our signature sandwiches. We had the name trademarked because it is so popular.”
The Top 100 Plates Locals Love are dishes from across the state that locals love. The plates are chosen by the tourism board, who “secret shop” restaurants from the Tennessee to Florida line. The dishes that were nominated are then voted on.
The Redneck Reuben was born when Mitchell had to serve a picky customer, Julius, who always ordered the Reuben.
Mitchell was out of corned beef. On a whim, Mitchell said, “Julius, I’m going to make you a Reuben with my smoked beef brisket.”
Mitchell created the sandwich out of deli kraut, marbled rye, smoked beef brisket, provolone cheese and his homemade smokehouse sauce. He then sent the sandwich to Julius.
Julius claimed it was the best sandwich he ever had and told Mitchell to put it on the menu permanently, so Mitchell did.
The Redneck Reuben has been a customer favorite ever since.
“After that day, I said, ‘I am a barbecue guy, I love doing it,’” he recalled. “Let’s make it our signature sandwich.”
Tom Weber, of Bartow County, has been a patron of Johnny Mitchell’s Smokehouse since it opened.
Weber was not at all surprised the sandwich made Explore Georgia’s Top 100 Plates.
“I think the Reuben is excellent. It is overstuffed and it has lots of cheese, everything tastes fresh,” Weber said. “I’ve ate all over and this is the Reuben I remember.”
Mitchell was not too surprised when the sandwich was nominated and won.
“We were very pleased when it was nominated and I felt like we had a chance at winning and we did,” Mitchell said.
Since the award, Mitchell said business has increased, especially since they were mentioned on PBS on the show Georgia Traveler, which lists the Top 100 Plates Locals Love.
“That was fun and exciting,” Mitchell said of having his Redneck Reuben on TV. “They went over the Top 100 and that brought us business.”
Though the Redneck Reuben has received recent publicity, Mitchell has been a fixture in the community for a long time.
He started his journey in the restaurant and catering business several years ago. Mitchell bought the dining room in Lake Arrowhead in 2005, he then moved to Euharlee in 2009. He has been in Cartersville for two years.
The Explore Georgia honor is not the first big award for Mitchell.
In 2014, Johnny Mitchell’s was a state champion from the Top 100 Georgia Tourism competition in Ringgold. This is where the board first noticed Johnny Mitchell’s Smokehouse.
Two years later, the Brisket Quesadilla was nominated, and won, for Georgia Top 100 Plates.
Mitchell has his signature sandwiches with brisket; however, he works with his wife and partner, Jill Mitchell, to bring a variety of choices to the menu.
“We want to feed everybody,” Mitchell said. “From the biggest meat eater to the pickiest vegan, I can take care of them.”