Tipton St. Pub
With this issue revolving around pride, I’m proud to say I’m a lifelong gay resident of Johnson City, and I’m amazed at the amount of growth and progress we have made here in the short time I’ve been alive. Downtown has blossomed into a smorgasbord of culture and cuisine, uniquely specific to this region nestled in the heart of the forgotten State of Franklin. It is
my personal goal to play my part in the push for progression that will only bolster our fair city’s emergence as the most desirable spot to call home in this side of the Smokies. It is also my wish that downtown become the beating heart of our city, and that can only be done with the support of all its citizens; no matter their socioeconomic status, race, religion, sexual preference, or political stance.
At the end of the day, we all call this place home, and for one to succeed, all need to succeed. Our differences unite us in very basic ways, as we all want a safe and productive place in which to raise our families, conduct our business, and lay our heads at night. Johnson City is an oddly liberal, friendly community in this section of the country and I only want to see that continue, and thrive. If I had to pick a motto for our city, as simple as it sounds, it would be, “Different strokes for different folks”. As long as we all understand that what one believes where they pay the bills, is fine. But when one enters the world, one must acknowledge that there are all sorts of people, and they all deserve the same treatment and safety offered by the law. Taking rights from a few opens the doors to taking rights from all.
After all, at its core, isn’t that the concept America was built on? Alright, enough of the rhetoric! As a local bartender, I consider downtown eat and drink to be a personal expertise of mine. With this example in inclusion as our guide, please allow me to take you on a culinary field trip of downtown, broken down into a spot for each meal, with an adult beverage for each. The abundance of options, with many tastes being represented, is spectacular and encouraging for our projected multicultural dominance in East Tennessee. Whether you’re a frequent visitor, or a curious newcomer, the itch to explore should
be scratched by all!
Let’s start your day with an amazing
Main Street Pizza
Main Street offers a variety of delicious breakfast options for one to choose from. Whether it’s the alfredo gravy or farm fresh eggs, there is a plethora of choices for the palate with many ingredients from their local growing grounds. My personal recommendation is the Power Salad and a grapefruit half, when in season. The Power Salad consists of kale, quinoa, cashews, butternut, apple, red onion, and golden raisins, all in an apple sage vinaigrette. This pairs beautifully with their hand-crafted Strawberry Basil Cooler. The alluring combination of fresh strawberry, fresh basil, and sparkling wine is divine, to say the least.
Willow Tree Coffeehouse
Willow Tree is a true gem of eclectic local art and music. It is definitely worth a visit, if only to say hello to it’s graciously spirited owner, Terry. Their menu has grown into an extensive cornucopia of offerings; however, my favorite still remains their vegetarian quiche. For those without work on the horizon, and a day of downtown exploration ahead, I suggest pairing this with Johnson City’s own Yee-Haw Dunkel. This dark and hearty lager will make you forget it’s not a delicious coffee.
Holy Taco Cantina
This cantina has transformed into a downtown staple! One in which I like to think I played an integral part. Although I am no longer there, it still holds a very special place in my heart as it was my first experience in becoming a downtown regular. Even now when I return, it still feels like home. The staff is great and the Tuesday night taco trek is a wonderful community summer tradition that continues to grow to this day. As a lunch destination, it contains fantastic bang for your buck! They have two
lunch specials to choose from with an extremely affordable price of only $4.99, although my personal pick is the Holy Taco Salad. With several protein choices for a topping, I recommend the chicken. And if one must only choose one dressing, as the salad is big enough for multiple options, I advise the jalapeno cilantro vinaigrette. It’s not as spicy as it sounds, and is tasty
enough to put on anything! If you are up for spice, try pairing it with a Jalapeno Margarita! If spice is not your cup of tea, try the delectably fruity Strawberry Coconut Margarita. As my own personal concoction during my tenure there I can say I can think of no better substitution for dessert!
Tipton Street Pub
Downtown’s most looked over lunch destination also has one of the tastiest, and most affordable deals to be found! When one thinks of a lunch sandwich, I challenge any American to not have hamburger in their top five choices. The pub, as it is lovingly
referred to by those in the know, has fresh, never frozen, beef patties and a variety of crafty hamburger options. These quarter pound beauties are paired with fresh, hand cut French fries, fried and seasoned to perfection. For hearty appetites, one can upgrade to a 1/2 pound burger for only $2 more. Although the menu has a taste for nearly every burger connoisseur, my choice is selected from the add-on alternatives. Try the cheeseburger with cheddar, pub sauce, lettuce, tomato, house-made fi re and ice pickles, sautéed mushrooms, grilled jalapenos, and bacon! When your basking in the sunshine on the sidewalk seating while enjoying a frothy pint of Guinness, it is an Irish style pub after all, you’ll definitely thank me. And you can do it in person, as I hope to be serving these burgers up to every reader very soon!
Korean Taco House
This adorable eatery sits at the entrance to mainstream downtown. What it lacks in size, it more than makes up for in flavor! Whether ramen or fusion food is your thing, the beauty providing these authentic Korean dishes will leave you full and thankful. Although taco is in the title, it is not necessarily my favorite dish. That award goes to the bulgogi! It is most similar to a steak stir fry, coming with a side of rice that must be used to sop up the delicious juices from the beef and veggies. Kim chi may be a foreign concept to some, as it was to me before bravely giving it a try, but it is delicious nonetheless to anyone enjoying that “pickling” taste. Basically, anything this lady gives you, mix it together and give it a taste. Your taste buds will thank you. There isn’t a cocktail or beer to suggest as a pairing, however, a little-known secret is that brown-bagging is still a thing. Since one is exploring downtown options, just make a quick pit stop at the craft beer shop Barley Waters, and bring your own personal favorite craft option to lunch with you! My only complaint; that they’re not open for dinner as the chef recently underwent back surgery, limiting the hours of operation
The Perfect Dinner:
This Cuban grill will give you the Caribbean vacation you’ve always dreamed of. Well, at least one’s senses will feel as though they’re vacationing! Surrounded by azure walls, the sights, sounds, and smells of the islands will instantly transport you to that dream getaway. With hand-crafted cocktails and satiating cuisine, this is a marvelous dinner destination. If one is feeling peckish, try the Cuban Mojo roast pork tropi chopi, served over jasmine rice and black beans. Black beans so good they even converted this former critic of such an offering. If one brought their appetite, splurge on the heavenly Sea Bass, served over lemon manchego risotto with an accompaniment of roasted asparagus. While you’re there, say hi to my great friend, Jamichael Grimes, an excellent server who will take wonderful care of you. My favorite among mixologist Laura Cloer’s creations; her Dark and Stormy. The best one downtown, hands down. The refreshing combination of ginger beer, lime, and black rum is not to be missed! Nothing dark or stormy about this taste of vacay.
A downtown powerhouse, this dining hub has a little bit for all. Masculine energy abounds surrounded by leathers, whiskeys, and wood. With quite the extensive menu, this bourbon bar makes it impossible to not find something just for you on the menu. It’s all-american cuisine is paired perfectly with its sushi options. I’ll focus on the latter. Sometimes, a small dinner is just what you crave. With half price sushi night happening on Wednesday, one could choose the Bakersfield roll. In essence, a spicy tuna roll jazzed up with eel sauce and candied fried bacon. An intoxicating flavor profile, it is worth a try for any sushi newbie. And at half the price, one can’t afford not to give it a taste. It is the perfect way to introduce the skeptic in your group to something new and exotic. However, my personal newfound favorite isn’t on the half price list, although it is worth every penny. If you’ve ever wanted an entire meal in one bite, try the Filet Roll. Topped with perfectly cooked filet mignon, for a carnivore such as myself, it is the perfect choice when visiting with friends on this discounted date night. And for dessert, top it off with their newest cocktail; the June Carter. Aptly named for the sweet country legend, it is a pleasurable mix of bourbon, peach puree, and champagne. Come a little early, as business tends to swell around six o’clock. Or take advantage of their
texting option, and while waiting for a table, pop over to the pub for predinner conversation and a libation or two.
If rib-sticking dining is your delight, look no further than this German cafe! Its elegant front is hard to miss when arriving downtown, but stepping inside is the real beauty. With authentic cuisine and beer, you’ll understand why this eatery is a personal winter favorite of mine. There is an indescribable warmth that seems to radiate right off the plate. While the schnitzel will make you feel as though you’re visiting Berlin, it is not my personal favorite. As a proud southerner, I grew up with cube steak and gravy. Freiberg’s has their own version of this: the Boulette Andreas. Named for the founder, this ground beef steak is served smothered in mushroom and onion, with a red wine gravy. A heavy meal deserves a heavy beer. I suggest the Kostriker
schwartz beir. One has to get the famous fried potatoes, and sauerkraut of course as the sides. Mop it all up with their unbeatable bread slathered in herb butter, and you’ll be thankful you didn’t order the pretzel and beer cheese appetizer to start. Another visit is already on the horizon, as next time you’ll want to try those amazing pretzels!
The latest addition to the circle of downtown dining is one not to be missed! Indian fusion done with a neon flare, this cocktail lounge is more than just a watering hole. While moonlighting here, I have been given the wonderful task of expanding my palate in the southeastern Asian direction. Surrounded by uptown artistic design, one can indulge in downtown craft cocktails, flavorful culinary art, and eclectic new age tunes. A burgeoning new hot-spot, take a step in a different direction and challenge yourself to see Johnson City as a rising star on the Tennessee scene! Excitement is palpable when here, and the flavor will keep you coming back for more. Try the Dragon’s Blood cocktail, with its mix of fresh mint, fresh strawberry, and gin. When paired with the Banana Leaf wrapped Salmon, or the Paneer Tikka Masala, you’ll see why India was considered the jewel in the British Empire!
With all this worldly cuisine, sometimes you just crave a taste of home. And with southern foods being the only truly authentic, American crafted eats, look no further than Southern Craft. Bar-B-Que, in my opinion, is even more American than apple pie,
as it doesn’t exist in the same capacity anywhere else in the world! Bbq has different meanings in different regions of the south, but it is the melting pot of cultures that created it that make the south so unique and special. It can’t even be “perfectly” duplicated in other parts of the country! The love that we inject into our food here is just one of the many reasons that make this such an enviable section to call home. Southern pride is still very much alive, and can be tasted when enjoying this slow smoked delicacy. If it is one’s first time visiting Southern Craft, start with one of their most popular dishes: the Burnt Ends. Served as a dinner with sides, or manipulated into a fusion of sorts on tacos, it will leave you wanting to visit again to try whichever option you skipped on the first trip. Paired with Phil’s favorite beer, Johnson City’s newest craft brewery’s Kitsteiner
Pilsner Lager, from Great Oak Brewing; be proud to call yourself a resident of East Tennessee!
Downtown has sincerely become a hub of activity, complete with dining and retail opportunities for any potential investor or patron. Expansion is on the horizon, and the enthusiasm can be found around any undiscovered corner. I implore any resident to set aside a day, maybe Wednesday or Saturday, when the farmer’s market can still be caught, and explore this artsy bouquet
of Appalachian wonder. Thank you for coming on this tour with me. I hope I have helped spotlight these beautiful options that would make even Al Capone proud of his “Little Chicago”. Come catch me at Tipton Street Pub, or down the block at Wonderland Lounge. It will be my pleasure to greet your smiling face with one in return.