The word is out. Although they have been baking for just over three years in Roan Mountain, Tim and Crystal Decker — owners and operators of Smoky Mountain Bakers and Wood Fired Pizza — have slowly but steadily built up a loyal clientele throughout northeast Tennessee and western North Carolina for their delicious pizzas and other baked goods.
The couple lived and baked for many years in California, but have made their home and their workplace in Roan Mountain for the past several years. Tim has more than 30 years of experience as a professional artisan baker.
For those in the know, Smoky Mountain Bakers is a frequent destination, whether it’s to enjoy one of their sensational pizza pies or some other baked goods, including breads, croissants, brownies and much more.
The business is almost entirely a carry-out enterprise, and there’s not a lot by the way of table-side service, as the interior of the restaurant is quite small and utilitarian. There are a couple of tables inside the old cinder-block and wooden shed that has been converted into their bakery as well as a single picnic table just outside the entrance to the business. Dining on the premises, in theory, is possible, but you’ll need some luck to claim a table, perhaps some patience, and a tolerance for the heat radiating from the wood-fired oven that keeps the interior of the building a toasty temperature. The Deckers are quick to deliver orders, and the service, such as it is, is always friendly and prompt, including fast drink refills and custom orders. But atmosphere and table-side service aren’t the reason people flock to Smoky Mountain Bakers; it’s the pizzas and other baked items that are the true stars, as well as the chance to watch the baker at work.
I usually just order my pizza to take home with me, and these masterpieces travel quite well. The menu lists only about 10 specialty pizzas as well as the make-your-own option that allows customers to create a pie with their choice of sauces and toppings. All the pizzas at Smoky Mountain Bakers are 12- inch pies. A pie with up to three toppings will cost you $10, four to six toppings are $11 and a pie with seven to 12 toppings tops the quite reasonable price scale at $12.
The regularly available toppings include pepperoni, bacon, sausage, mushroom, tomatoes, spinach, garlic, ham, onion, banana peppers, chicken, green peppers, jalapenos, ground beef, black olives and pineapple. Daily special toppings are occasionally available, in season, including home-grown items from the Deckers’ own garden adjacent to the business, such as fresh basil and other herbs and vegetables. Cheeses include fresh mozzarella, ricotta and feta and the sauces range from tomato sauce to pesto and barbecue.
The specialty pizzas include BBQ Chicken Pizza, Hawaiian and Meat Lovers. There’s also a Six-Cheese Pie with mozzarella, cheddar, parmesan, ricotta, feta and fresh mozzarella. The “All the Way” pie offers a pizza loaded with pepperoni, sausage, ham, mushrooms, onions, green peppers, black olives, garlic, tomatoes, pineapple, banana peppers and jalapenos.
Obviously, it’s the time in the huge wood-fired stone oven that produces such a unique and interesting pizza. If you’re new to the process, know that the charred edges around the crust of the pie isn’t a sign that your pizza “burned.” It’s merely a sign of a healthy stay inside the confines of the oven. The crust is thin, with a delightfully chewy crunch. I’ve enjoyed all three of the sauces, but I’m most fond of the pesto. It’s a tangy, assertive pesto sauce that really provides the foundation to help you take note of other toppings.
On the White Pizza, that pesto sauce is accompanied by ricotta cheese, garlic and herbs, spinach, sausage and caramelized onions. This riot of bold flavors has been my overall favorite among the pizzas on the menu.
I also like the “Hog Wild” pie, which piles the sausage, ham and bacon onto a pizza with just the right amount of cheese and marinara sauce.
Another favorite has been the BBQ Chicken Pizza, which features caramelized onions, mushrooms and barbecued chicken with a barbecue sauce instead of marinara.
For the non-carnivorous pizza lovers, there’s a Vegetarian pie that showcases all the bakery’s vegetable toppings plus feta cheese.
The restaurant’s menu doesn’t offer much to pair with your pizza, but they do have fresh salads. When a friend and I picked up a couple of pies on a recent Saturday evening, we also added a couple of the salads to our orders. The salads feature mixed greens, tomatoes, carrots, feta cheese, a slice of hard-boiled egg and a few scattered radish slices and kidney beans. A variety of salad dressings are also available. This light salad matched up well with the pizzas.
The bakery offers several daily specials. The Tuesday lunch special is two pizzas for $15 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
A Wednesday “early bird” special discounts a dollar off each pizza bought between 3 and 6 p.m. Diners on Thursday can get a combination of a pizza and one Cheesy Bread.
On Fridays, get one pizza, two salads and two drinks for $15.
People planning Saturday gatherings and parties might want to take advantage of the buy five pizzas for $40 special offer.
If I’m visiting on a Wednesday or Friday, I never go home without some extra treat from the other baked goods offered at Smoky Mountain Bakery. I’ve enjoyed such sweet breads as Strawberry Almond Tea Bread and Lemon Blueberry Tea Bread as well as several savory breads and baguettes. They also offer croissants, tarts and other pastries. If you’re looking for a type of dessert or a great breakfast treat, try the Cinnamon Croissant. If you want a succulent savory delight, grab a Portobello Mushroom with Cheese Croissant.
Customers place their orders at the front counter. Typically, Crystal takes orders while Tim prepares them in the oven. Customers are welcome to watch the entire process as their pizza is being prepared, which is an interesting experience in itself.
Nestled away in the quiet community of Roan Mountain near the Cloudland High School, Smoky Mountain Bakery was never destined to remain a secret. Watch for the signs pointing from 19-E. If you live close by, so much the better. If you don’t, it’s definitely worth the drive to sample one of these pizzas. Make sure to also pick up one of the other baked goodies as well. If you go, let them know they were recommended.
AT A GLANCE: Smoky Mountain Bakers and Wood Fired Pizza, 500 Cloudland Drive, Roan Mountain. 957- 1202. Tuesday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. All menu items $12 and under. Credit cards not accepted; checks and cash only. Carryout available.