The new version of Aunt B’s is “Aunt B’s American Kitchen,” the creation of Johnson City entrepreneur Ken Talbert. Under Talbert’s guiding hand, the restaurant has received a much-needed restoration, the resulting improvements to the structure include space for future expansion of the restaurant, if needed. There’s been a complete makeover inside, with large picture windows and white-painted walls with country gimcracks hanging on them. The dining area has seating for between seventy and ninety patrons. Most of the tabletops are made from re-purposed wood with seating on good, sturdy chairs. The cashier and take-out station is near the front door. The spotless restrooms can be found to the right and rear of the dining area.
Lunch for two
My dining partner suggested the two of us have a reconnaissance lunch at Aunt B’s before inviting the rest of the dine-around bunch along. After a quick check through the menu, my dining partner asked Hannah our server to bring her the Friday Fish Fry platter ($9.99) while I opted for a lunch-sized portion of Aunt B’s Shrimp & Grits ($9.99) with fried okra and a side order of collard greens ($2.99). Managing Aunt B’s back-of-house is Mr. Jake McIntosh. His take on shrimp & grits was delicious. The grits, properly prepared, were topped with shrimp each one as big as your little finger, and sautéed with a mixture of spinach, roasted red pepper, pieces of Benton’s artisan bacon and a good dose of Creole spices. Once I started eating, I didn’t say much to my dining partner; it isn’t polite to talk with your mouth full. Not that my dining partner had much to say, either. Her cod was covered with a batter of near tempura quality; thin, delicate and having a satisfying crunch with each bite. The French fries were prepared equally well with the fried cod, and her coleslaw was made in-house and delicious.
Dinner for Five
Needless to say, both my dining partner and I had no qualms about having the rest of the dine-around bunch join us for dinner the following evening. While my friends pondered their dinner choices, I asked our server Ally to bring us a regular-sized order of fried green tomatoes ($4.99) as an appetizer. These proved to be six quarter-inch thick slices of locally-sourced green tomatoes, each one floured and fried until just right; crisp on the outside, soft and tangy on the inside.
Chopped steak platter
The Carnivore wanted beef this evening, and in quantity. His choice was Aunt B’s Chopped steak platter ($12.99) being twelve ounces of non-GMO, grass-fed, local ground beef, cooked medium well, then covered with sautéed mushrooms, onions, melted cheddar & jack cheeses with side orders of green beans and and French fries. My friend the Carnivore was quite pleased.
The Retiree wasn’t quite as hungry as our meat-eating friend was, she wanted beef as well, choosing Aunt B’s Beefy Burger (single-sized for $6.99), topped with provolone cheese and sided with some of Aunt B’s tater tots. The burger itself was a six-ounce patty with the same locally-sourced and seen-to provenance as the Carnivore’s chopped steak, capped simply with two slices of creamy-smooth provolone cheese. My dining partner had some of the burger and remarked that the Retiree had made a good choice for her supper.
Soup beans and coleslaw
The Dieter, back to counting her calories, decided to go vegetarian, and ordered a bowl of soup beans ($5) from the “Blue Collar” section of Aunt B’s menu, together with an order of the house coleslaw and a cornbread muffin. Though our calorie-counting friend had grown up north of the Mason-Dixon Line, her stirring the coleslaw into her bowl of soup beans was pure Southern all the way, even to crumbling up her cornbread muffin and adding that to the beans.
Classic Philly steak sandwich
My dining partner was also in a beef-eating mood, ordering an Aunt B’s classic Philly steak sandwiches, ($9.95) sided with fries. Here a toasted Italian hoagie bun is filled with thin-sliced top sirloin steak layered with provolone cheese, onions, peppers and a light spread of mayonnaise. My dining partner was pleased with her order, noting how well the French fries matched up with her Philly steak sandwich.
Shrimp Po’ Boy sandwich
My choice for dinner was one of Aunt B’s Shrimp Po’ Boy sandwiches ($11.99), and Mr. McIntosh again did not disappoint. Taking the same Italian hoagie bun, my sandwich had six of the fat Bayou Brothers-sourced shrimp, breaded and deep-fried until crunchy and golden brown, next covered in the house coleslaw, given its own dill pickle chip, and a squirt of Aunt B’s remoulade. With each bite, I could feel myself longing for the land of the bayous. An absolutely delicious sandwich, and the fried okra was as good as I’d had the day before.
The hard work of Ken Talbert, Jake McIntosh and the crew of Aunt B’s American Kitchen have wrought a miracle on the Milligan Highway. This is a great place to eat. The menu has excellent variety is locally-sourced and downright scrumptious. Having enjoyed lunch and dinner at Aunt B’s, the dine-around bunch and I are checking our calendars for the right morning to stop by for breakfast. From what you, my readers have told me, we (and you) have something to look forward to.
Aunt B’s American Kitchen
1436 Milligan Highway
Mon-Fri 7 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Sat 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Available on Facebook & social media
Credit cards accepted