Grill 73 on Highway 73 in Newport serves American Russian food.
Newport is in the heart of East Tennessee where southern cooking is a staple.
A restaurant there has an unusual menu and is owned by people with an unusual past.
"Every time I come in here I get something different," Newport Resident Jim Shelton said.
One recent afternoon Martha and Jim Shelton devoured dishes at Grill 73.
"I started off with borsch and then a pastry dessert. I have trouble pronouncing it but I can eat it much better than I can pronounce it," he said.
Valentina Ryzhkov said, "We do not want to sell what we want. We just want to sell what the people like."
Valentina and Alex Ryzhkov offer American food and their native Russian dishes at their restaurant on Highway 73, called Grill 73.
"People are always going to eat whatever happens. So we decided to open a restaurant," Alex said.
Valentina said, "We do not buy anything, any frozen food expect of course french fries because we have no time to make ourselves."
Their time goes to preparing burgers, sandwiches, pork loin, and more.
"Pirozhki. But actually if you want to pronounce it correct it's pirozhki. And of course the traditional borsch, And the potato pie and plouff and cabbage roll we call this in Russian galapse," Valentina said.
Before coming to Cocke County, Valentina and Alex Ryzhkov traveled the world for 30 years as circus performers.
"I did acrobatics. I did trapeze. I did plates spinning and what else. Magic," Alex said.
Yes, they were trapeze artists and then show managers.
"As you get older and older it's not fun anymore to travel back and forth back and forth," she said. "Enough is enough. We were so tired so we decided to build something for our life. So we finally found this place."
The place was a grocery store and filling station.
Jim Shelton said, "We're just real proud that he's brought this place back to life because it was vacant for several years."
Alex said, "It was like nobody lived in a house for 20 years without any windows and spooky."
For three years they fixed the exterior, landscaped, and added custom woodwork and stone.
"It's just amazing what he can do with a piece of wood and I found out now with stone too. It's just unreal," Shelton said.
After traveling the world, Cocke County is home.
"We like the mountains, we like the fishing, we like the forest, we just love it. We don't like really big cities," Valentina said.
Alex gestured toward the window and said, "I was born in a small city like this one exactly like Newport between the mountains and a river."
Their customers are family.
"They give us a hug, just give us advice, they helped us a lot from the beginning until today. And I really appreciate everybody in this county," Valentina said.
Their customers seem to appreciate them.
"We've had not one person say something bad or something even (neutral) every body says good stuff," Alex said.
Valentina said, "They love it. They love borsch, borsch."
Alex has a favorite too.
"On this menu? You won't believe it. Philly cheese steak and cheeseburger," he said with a laugh.