(UPDATED SEPTEMBER 2021) A visit to Johnson City, one of the tri-city counterparts, blew me away. Not only is the food really affordable in this part of East Tennessee (at least comparatively speaking from where I live), but the choices are excellent. Restauranteurs deliver quality food and creative dishes, plus the service has been commendable every place I visited. Here are the best restaurants and places to eat in Johnson City that resulted from my visits, and a few recommended dishes at each.
Cootie Brown’s is a colorful, kitschy, and fun local chain with a really original menu. Besides sandwiches, salads, and the norm, there are several ways to have your chicken prepared, incredible tamales, and lip-smacking good desserts.
For starters, the Famous Spiral Potato Chips and Brie & Pesto are popular choices. I opted to have the Jamaican Jerk chicken lunch plate. You can then choose two sides of your choices from a list of nearly 20, or pay a little bit more to include premium sides. My choices were sautéed vegetables and black beans & rice.
My daughter so graciously shared her sides with me, too, including roasted sweet potatoes and bbq baked beans. I must say, my food was 10/10 delicious and I truly loved everything about this restaurant.
Freiburg’s is an authentic German eatery in downtown Johnson City. The boisterous atmosphere is fun, and there is seating available on two floors and at the bar. A cold tap German beer or perfectly brewed iced tea pair nicely with pretzels and beer cheese sauce to start your dining experience with. I eyed the Jaeger Schnitzel and Goulash for my main course before deciding to go basic and have smoked brats with red cabbage and fried potatoes with bacon and green onions.
I used my leftover beer cheese to dip my sausages in and it was off-the-hook delicious. Complimentary bread with herbed butter was a nice accompaniment. How lucky to have a German restaurant of this caliber in your city for so long!
Label Restaurant is a popular American eatery in Johnson City with an arsenal of appetizers and drinks options. I enjoyed every bite of the Crab Rangoons and Hand-Cut Garlic Fries that come with an addictive BBQ aioli sauce.
For my entree, I picked a burger since I’d heard many people brag about them. My Drunken Goat Burger had Buffalo Trace bourbon blackberry jam, smoked bacon, mixed greens, and goat cheese, plus you get your choice of a side dish. I chose grilled vegetables; they were terrific. Other dishes to choose from include steaks, chops, seafood, and even sushi.
If you have room, I hear the Cinnamon Oblivion, a honkin’ big cinnamon roll with caramel, vanilla bean ice cream, and chopped pecans, is sensational.
Southern Craft BBQ
For a good time proceed to Southern Craft BBQ, a super fun and tasty joint that shares a space with Great Oak Brewing. This tantalizing eatery showcases bbq meats like pulled pork, brisket, ribs,
A great starter for the table are the Pulled Pork BBQ Tater Tots, piled high with pico, jalapeño queso, sour cream, and chives. Yum! Fried Green Tomatoes and Fried House Pickles are two other exceptional choices.
For the entree, consider sharing the motherland of meats with everyone at your table by ordering the Butcher’s Block. It comes with brisket, burnt ends, smoked sausage, chicken, ribs, pork belly, wings, and the best turkey you’ve ever tasted, plus your choice of four sides. I can vouch for the cole slaw, pork belly collards, pepper jack grits, and sweet potato soufflé—all scrumptious.
Southern Craft BBQ has happy hour daily until 7 PM and a Sunday brunch 11 to 3 PM.
Sahib Indian Cuisine
Sahib is an Indian restaurant in Johnson City and definitely a place you’ll want to visit for some of the best Indian food ever. If you aren’t sure if you like Indian food, first of all, it isn’t all spicy, and you can sample a little of everything if you visit Sahib’s lunch buffet.
The price is just right, and the selection ranges from chutneys and raita with warm naan to chicken tikka masala, chili chicken, aloo gobi, and much more. Get a double portion of the green beans—they are excellent. There were plenty of vegetarian choices and meat dishes to choose from and a nice selection of a little bit of everything.
Try a mango lassi, a traditional Indian drink that I find so refreshing, and save room for the kheer rice pudding, a perfect sweet finish to your savory meal. Your taste buds will have a workout at this awesome eatery.
Side Note: I try to eat Indian food in every state and country that I go to. With 50 combination in that mix, Sahib was the second best Indian restaurant I’ve been to. I’m quite confident that had I sampled more dishes, it may have even been the best!
Java Juice House
I stopped in Java Juice House for both a cold brew (wonderful, I might add) and a breakfast dish. The selection includes smoothies, specialty toasts, crepes, and cold-pressed juices. Java Juice House also has beautiful and tasty açaí or pitaya (dragonfruit) bowls, but I was focused on trying one of the toasts, which were literally half the price of where I live.
I went with the goat cheese with English cucumbers and tomatoes, drizzled with olive oil and balsamic, and atop a perfect piece of sturdy and hearty bread. It does take several minutes to make the dishes, so be patient; good things are worth the wait.
Gourmet and Company
Prepare to be blown away by the food and drink offered at Gourmet and Company. The service is equally as impressive as is the attractive seating areas and decor. Gourmet and Company serve chicken salad, soup, quiche, and burgers, but the fresh salads and tuna salad were the stars of my table.
The Appalachian Cobb Salad is a highly raved-about dish with organic chicken, buttermilk blue cheese, Benton’s bacon, tomato, avocado, and amazing pickled eggs.
I chose the Tuna Melt, a favorite lunch dish of mine, and this one was hands-down the best I’ve ever had. The menu description reads “house-made line and pole caught tuna salad with cheddar and provolone, and “but you have to taste the flavor combination and the sweet component of the toasted cranberry raisin bread to experience the magnificence of this sandwich for yourself. Also try the apricot tea, a signature item at Gourmet and Co. It is so flavorful and refreshing.
Fun Fact: While I was in Johnson City, I mentioned this sandwich to about seven people from all walks of life, and they all agreed on how wonderful it is.
Pal’s Sudden Service
The adorable blue building with the hamburger, hot dog, fries, and drink jutting out from the ceiling is Pal’s Sudden Service, a regional fast-food burger joint that has in-person ordering and pick-up from the speedy window.
Pal’s serves buttered biscuits with all your favorite breakfast meats, tasty little cheddar round potatoes, and burgers, hot dogs, and fries. Pal’s signature flavored teas are all the rage with the locals.
White Duck Taco Shop
For lunch, White Duck Taco, an Asheville, NC transplant, is a fantasist option. Enjoy exceptional street tacos including Jerk Chicken, Banh Mi Tofu, Korean Beef Bulgogi, Spicy Buffalo Chicken, and many more.
White Duck Taco’s queso dip with tortilla chips is always a great choice, and I’m crazy for their green chile black beans. Your trip wouldn’t be complete without the tasty and refreshing sangria, available in both red and white and seasonal.
White Duck Taco is attached to Johnson City’s Yee-Haw Brewing Taproom, one of Tennessee’s most well-known breweries and purveyor of delicious craft beers. You can take your food to the taproom, as well as enjoy two floors of seating inside the restaurant or a fantastic patio with a fire pit, skee ball, and bocce ball.
Inside the beautiful Carnegie Hotel is Wellington’s, a wonderful place to not only get a fabulous meal but also to enjoy a stiff cocktail, glass of wine, or hang out. It has a lovely ambiance that just draws you in upon arrival. Deviled Eggs and Fried Green Tomatoes are stars of the appetizer menu, and the Sweet Potato Salad (quinoa, avocado, Brussels, spinach) is a stand-out of the salad options.
For a more hearty course, Wellington’s has signature suppers, including Crispy Seared Salmon, Beef Filet Tips, and the Deconstructed Wellington that makes my mouth water just thinking about it. Don’t fill up—the cherries jubilee or bananas foster flambéed tableside is to die for!
A unique restaurant theme in Johnson City, TN, is at Timber, with their national park and summer camp-inspired decor and setting. Dine at one of the hand full of tables inside or enjoy drinks in the mock campfire seating areas.
Outside, you can hang at one of the picnic tables or, with a reservation, dine inside the canvas tents that are complete with lighting and electricity. You can plug your phone in and create your own ambiance from a playlist.
For starters, try Timber’s deep-fried Brussels sprouts, topped with a luscious cumin crema. I had the Pork “Au Jus” for dinner, served on a toasted baguette. Melted white American cheese, arugula, and caramelized onions topped the tender-roasted pork. Hand-cut fries accompanied the sandwich, and a serving of ramen broth was for dipping the sandwich in. It was genuinely finger-licking good.
If you are looking for vegetarian fare, the Roasted Carrots with turmeric yogurt, golden raisins, and toasted pumpkin seeds were delicious.
Main Street Pizza Company
Expect much more than just a pizza shop when you come to Main Street Pizza Company. This downtown Johnson City gem has a full menu with homemade pasta dishes, subs, salads, and some mouth-watering appetizers, in addition to pizza. The Spinach Dip is a sinfully delicious appetizer option, but splurge your calories on one of their amazing pasta dishes.
The Loaded Chicken Alfredo has just the right amount of sauce, a fair amount of chicken and vegetables (spinach and red pepper), and prosciutto. It is then covered with parmesan and baked to perfection. Mmm, mmm, good. Main Street is closed Monday and Tuesday.
A new restaurant in Johnson City, TN, is Crumb Bakeshop on Walnut Street, serving breakfast, lunch, and luscious pastries. Sweet treats include maple pecan bun, cinnamon rolls, house made pop tarts, and cinnamon ricotta coffee cake to name a few. Fancy something savory? The scones and bialys are sheer perfection.
Patio seating is available. Crumb Bakeshop is closed Monday and Tuesday.
Thanks to Visit Johnson City, TN for hosting my visit. Accommodations and some meals were paid for by the tourism department. As always, opinions and reviews are 100% mine and unbiased.
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