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Now Johnson City can dine at Nick’s closer to home

Mystery Diner • Jan 11, 2018 at 11:14 PM

Nick’s Restaurant in Kingsport opened its doors in the year 1938. Through 80 years, three owners and 14 presidential administrations, Nick’s Restaurant has been a tradition in Kingsport, serving some of the best Southern-style comfort food to happy diners and making them fast friends in the process. Their patrons from Johnson City had been pleading with current owners Roger and Kristy Hutchins to open a Nick’s in their town. Circumstances became favorable to all concerned, and on the shank end of 2017, Johnson City acquired a Nick’s of its own. My dining partner and I had occasion to dine at the new Nick’s location on North Roan Street just this past weekend. With the rest of the dine-around bunch away for the holidays, we decided to invite old friends Nonnie and Pappa to join us for Sunday lunch.

Nick’s new location is on the far end of Johnson City’s North Roan Street, occupying what was the Dixie Barbecue property. Though there is capacious parking available, Nick’s lot does fill up fast. Outside, the building has a nice new look, a welcome change from its former barbecue joint days.

Inside, there is seating for more than 50 patrons at 11 tables and two booths. The décor of the place is “Country Minimalist.” The walls are hung with prints of country landscapes, country items and country music artists; one, Tammy Wynette, has her vinyl LP record cover displayed prominently on the wall near the front door. As before, bathroom access is still in the far corner; the bathrooms are still clean and still as tiny as ever. Ambient music is legacy country & western with some pop tunes thrown in for good measure.

To order your meals at Nick’s, you need to have a working knowledge of the menu. Nick’s helpfully provides a menu posting on the wall behind the order/pickup counter. The routine is: place your order at the counter, and then find your table. This arrangement, while familiar to patrons at the Kingsport location, can cause problems in Johnson City if you get first-timers in the order line. With the order counter right next to the entrance, traffic can back up and out the front door. This causes the front door to be held open, a real issue when it is cold outside.

The four of us were seated by our server Austin, who also took our drink orders. Savannah stopped by to announce that, though they had plenty of fried chicken, the special of the day was roast beef with mashed potatoes and gravy with two side orders.

Our vegetarian friend Nonnie decided to order their soup beans and cornbread dinner ($4.29) together with a side order of fried potatoes & onions. The soup beans looked good and and tasted even better, and so were her fried potatoes & onions. The real star here was her cornbread, served as a stack of johnnycakes. Just scrumptious.

My dining partner chose a Nick’s classic, the Hobbs Burger ($6.29) with a side order of potato wedges and a bowl of fried okra. The Hobbs Burger uses aged cheddar instead of American cheese, then adds grilled onions, smoked bacon and mayonnaise. Kudos to Mr. or Ms. Hobbs for coming up with this delectable version of the cheeseburger. The fried okra was done just the way my dining partner liked it, and her potato wedges weren’t bad either.

Pappa’s order of fried chicken livers ($7.92) came with side orders of Nick’s potato salad and an order of their baked beans, both homemade. Fried chicken livers are a good test of any cook’s experience with a meat that can be difficult to prepare correctly. Both Pappa and I can confirm that Nick’s knows how to prepare fried chicken livers correctly and deliciously. His side of potato salad was good and his baked beans were excellent.

Lastly, my order of roast beef, mashed potatoes and gravy ($9.95) awakened echoes of Sunday dinner with the family. The roast beef had been cooked until it was falling-apart tender, the gravy metamorphosed from the beef’s pan drippings, the mashed potatoes were scratch-made complete with some lumps and small pieces of (russet?) potato skin. Along with my entrée, I’d ordered a side salad with ranch dressing; good, if not especially noteworthy. I’d also ordered some of the same baked beans that Pappa was enjoying, which made a good accompaniment for my roast beef and mashed potatoes. Though dessert was available, the four of us had no room left for it.

Pappa, Nonnie, my dining partner and I enjoyed our visit to Nick’s in Johnson City and plan to make it a regular stop on the dine-around bunch schedule. After 80 years of serving the public, Nick’s Restaurant is ready to take on another 80 years in their new location, serving happy patrons and making new friends.

Nick’s Restaurant

3301 N. Roan St.

Johnson City

461-0401

Mon-Sat 10 a.m.-8 p.m.

Sun 10 a.m.-3 p.m.

Available on Facebook

and on social media

Credit cards accepted.

(Stinger)

Next week: The dining partner and I learn a new definition of “Five & Dime”

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