Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Shirley's in Hampton, TN

Ever been to an old garage? This one is well worth the trip and one of the hidden treasures of the area. Grant and Shirley Sharp converted an old garage into a wonderful country cooking restaurant that stays packed whenever they are open. Be warned that they are only open from Spring to Fall and only of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, but that is enough. Country plates are available but the best way to eat there is family style with a group. First and appetizer comes out, which for us was a great potato soup. The group then chooses 2 of the main dishes that are available, usually boneless fried chicken, roast beef, steak and gravy, meatloaf, and country ham, then every side that they have comes along. The dishes are placed on the table and are passed around to allow the group to eat like a family. The side that were there when I last ate there were mashed potatoes with gravy, soup beans, green beans, cabbage, slaw, mac and cheese, biscuits, apples, cornbread salad, corn, and probably some that I can't remember. Then everyone gets to choose a dessert which were on that evening, blueberry cobbler, apple cobbler, peach cobbler, fudge cake, and Carmel cake all of which were served with optional ice cream and coffee. Bring the family or friends, loosen your belt and dig in. Shirley's is located on Hwy 321 beside Watauga Lake a few miles past the town of Hampton.

Freiburgs in Johnson City

Hi everyone, its been a while since my last but I have been cooking at home and saving what I can and I don't have enough of an ego to review my own cooking. Let me make it up by reviewing an absolutely fantastic restaurant in Johnson City named Freiburgs. It is located downtown at fountain square. Their menu is a thrill ride of German comfort food. They feature bratwurst, schnitzel, and sauerbrat. The atmosphere is like stepping back in time 60 years with hardwood floors and iron rail balconies. I met with several friends there and we all had the same complaint, more food than our stomachs could handle. I ordered the bratwurst sampler platter which came with 3 brats, 1 each traditional, smoked, and cheddar cheese. It came on a bed of sauerkraut and my sides were broccoli with beer cheese and potatoes fried with onions and bacon along with some really good German beer. The fresh bread came with regular butter and herb butter and the waitress kept the baskets coming. Everyone at the table were stuffed and very happy with the quality of food and service. Along with the food came some wonderful entertainment from a couple who were playing the accordion and singing German songs from the balcony. We were seated near them and the show was great. We had 2 young children with our group and they crawled under the table to sit and watch the show with great interest from a good viewpoint that only a child can get. The food was reasonably priced, excellent quality in vast amounts, and the atmosphere was the best. Get some friends together and go have a great evening soon. Happy Oktoberfest.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

City Market, Elizabethton, TN

One of those HGTV makeover shows should do a story about City Market in Elizabethton. When I was a kid growing up in this town, the City market was a tiny little convenience market that had once been a regular grocery market back during the 1st half of the 20th century. They still carried some local produce but the needs of the community had made the store obsolete due to its size and location. Back in the mid 1990's a friend of mine who I had grown up with bought it and changed it completely. Jennifer had gone to school at the culinary academy in Charleston, SC and came back to Elizabethton after graduation to cook. Rather than work for someone else, she decided to open her own place and the City market was reborn. Now they are packed for both breakfast and lunch all week long. They still have some local produce but that is mainly for tradition. What they are known for is some of the best local food in the area. Breakfast is a standard Southern fare of eggs, biscuits, omelets, and the like. anything you order will be made right and done fresh without breaking your wallet. Lunch will blow you away, however. The chicken salad there is something that most people find themselves craving about 2 hours before they start serving lunch. It can come as a sandwich, in a bowl, on a salad, or on top of some great local seasonal fruit. Don't think that this is a dainty meal because the fruit plate will leave you as full as the buffet at a family reunion dinner. The burgers are massive and I still grin when I think of the 1st reaction that a friend of mine had when he saw the double cheeseburger that was brought to the table. He was .......impressed. They also have different types of sandwiches, salads, and other items and all are made fresh. They also do a lot of catering for local groups and businesses. Their is usually a line stretching out the door at lunch time with people waiting to be seated or just picking up a large takeout for their office. Those with any experience call ahead so it will be waiting for them. Its not fancy or expensive but it is one of the best places to feel at home while having a very good meal, either on the go or with friends.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The River's Edge, Jonesborough / Erwin

I LIKE BARBECUE! That had to be said before I continue because I am willing to go for barbecue almost any time and anywhere. The River's Edge is a fantastic place for anyone who likes hardwood smoke with their meal. It is listed as being in Jonesborough but is actually just a few minutes West of Erwin at exit 37 from I-26. It is a part of Cherokee Whitewater Expeditions and is situated beside the Nolachucky River. The restaurant is built as a wonderful log cabin with a porch overlooking the river and the spot where many climbers go in Erwin called "The Devil's Looking Glass". The restaurant features barbecue, pizza, and wings but they also have items like catfish and burgers and a complete kid's menu. They make their own sauce and use a hot smoker for most of their barbecue. As much as I like ribs, I absolutely love their wings which are NOT those dreadful breaded things and are hot smoked rather than deep fried. Those with a house salad which features mixed greens rather than just iceberg lettuce makes for a fine meal. They can be ordered as hot, medium, mild, barbecue, or honey coated. They also feature stone oven baked pizzas with some of the best toppings I have ever tried with regular crusts or crusts blended with Italian herbs. Along with fresh mexican cornbread, hushpuppies, cole slaw, baked beans, and potatoes they can accommodate most any palate that comes through the door. They also feature a daily soup that is complimentary for anyone who comes in to eat. The last time I was there it was a turkey vegetable soup. The turkey (which was plentiful) had been smoked before adding to the soup stock and it had a spicy sweetness from the corn and carrots in it. Many of the people that were with me were very surprised when they tried the soup and one referred to it as "Recovery food for those people coming off the river tours" because it gave back to the body what it had lost while riding the rapids. I love seeing those good OMG looks as a first slurp is taken. It is a great location for the family, friends, or dates and is nestled right into the heart of the forest around the Nolachucky river. They are open from Wednesday to Sunday and feature an all-you-can-eat buffet on Sundays from 11:00 - 2:00. Be sure to wear lose clothing when you come or you might pop a button or two before you leave and it will take awhile to get the smokey smell out of your fingers.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Chinese Buffets

OK, Lets go ahead and get this one out of the way. Most of the Chinese buffets in our area really have very little to do with real Chinese cuisine. They are mounds of breaded chicken with different cornstarch based sauces that are aimed at western taste buds. Their main goal is allowing us to gorge on mounds of the supplied fare which is very cheaply produced. There is one standout that I have found however. The Empire Buffet on Roan Street in Johnson City is about a mile north of the JC Mall. While it has all of the regular buffet stuff that most people look for, it also has some excellent other choices. Along with the regular, it has Vietnamese egg rolls, several types of fresh seafood, (Please try the baby clams if they are out), duck on occasion, and a well stocked and professionally run sushi bar. There are 4 hot service bars and 2 cold ones with the sushi section apart from the rest. The staff is the typical Chinese immigrant work force that we are used to but they at least don't give you that patronizing smile when you ask for chopsticks. Please feel free to give it a try if you like the buffet setting but don't blame me for the "I ate too much" feeling after you leave.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Coffee Company, Elizabethton, TN

The Coffee Company is located on Elk Avenue in the old Downtown section of Elizabethton. The store that it is housed in an old store that used to be a men's shop that had been around since the 1920's. Walking in is like stepping back in time 70 or 80 years. The walls are bare brick and the owners were able to make use of the old display cases that were left behind in the store. They are oiled hardwood and heavy plate glass. They have a roaster in the back where cook up some of the finest fresh roasted coffee beans this side of Seattle. The roast master is John Bunn, who along with his wife Lisa own and run this operation. Flavoring oils are added to the fresh roasted beans while still warm from the roaster for the best possible flavor. They also employ what has to be some of the best cooks in the region. Ladies like Beth and Irene cook up some of the finest soups, breads, salads, and pastries ever made. The scones are soft but crumbly and the cinnamon roles are huge and slathered with a wonderful fresh frosting. Lunch of a soup, salad, or sandwich are great. Sandwiches can be served on croissant or hearty flat breads, the soups are flavorful, and the salads are incredibly fresh. As good as these are they pale in comparison to the quality desserts that they have available all day long. They are reasonably priced for the type and quality of food that they provide. They are open from 7:00am till 5:00pm and lunch is served until 3:00. They also offer catering and will host meetings at the restaurant site.

A Fat Man's Opinion about Dining in the East Tennessee Region

A friend once told me that "When a fat man recomends a place to eat, I eat there because they must know what they are talking about." With that being said, I decided to do a review of some of my favorite or most notable places to eat around my home. Please feel free to use any info that I put out there and tell me if my tastes are lousy.