By: Alex Shelton
As anyone who is or has been a resident of Seymour can tell you, in the past, when it came time to offer up ideas for where to go to eat, most of the restaurant locations named would either have been in the Knoxville or Sevierville areas.
That was until Willies Restaurant opened their doors just two years ago here in Seymour.
Willies has received recognition from many national restaurant and travel agencies, as well as recently being featured on WBIR News.
In a segment on Ten News at Five called “Top 5: Comfort Food Restaurants,” Willies was given a number one ranking out of some 15-20 restaurants that were voted on.
Willies also received a number one ranking last year from “Urban Spoons” magazine as the top Italian restaurant to eat at when visiting Knoxville.
Willie Laboy, owner and operator of Willies Restaurant, wasn’t even aware of the honor they had received until last week.
“I didn’t even know we had won that award until I got on our Facebook page and saw the video that one of our customers had posted,” said Laboy.
Laboy, originally from New York City, opened his first “mom and pop” pizza joint shortly after moving to Orlando, Florida.
He then found his way to Tennessee and opened Willies Restaurant on Highway 66, eventually moving it to Seymour.
Willie attributes the success of the restaurant to its operating style rather than to himself. He said the variety of items on the menu help with the popularity, ranging from Chicken Carbonara to Pork Chops.
“It’s not me, we just love what we do,” said Laboy. “(The chefs) call the shots here. They have the opportunity to offer up their own menu ideas for sampling.
“If people like something we keep it and if they don‘t we throw it out.”
Willies obligation to the community is self-evident throughout the year, allowing members of local youth groups to come in and become one night employees, enabling them to keep a portion of their earnings for upcoming mission trips. Laboy also shuts the restaurant down on many occasions to serve dinner to about 100 children from the Boys and Girls Club of America.
“I believe when community comes and supports like they do you have an obligation to give back,” said Laboy of the fund-raisers. “When things get tough and the economy gets down people still come out from all over and it’s been a real blessing, it really has.”
Willies is located at 11612 Chapman Hwy. and is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
For more information call the restaurant at (865) 773-0170 or visit their Web site willies-restaurant.com.
Local Restaurant Named Number One
By: Alex Shelton