I got a call from my dining partner one afternoon last week.
“I’m at the courthouse in Jonesborough,” she said. “I’m hungry and I want some company for lunch. Are you interested?
“The Courthouse Diner. Do you want me to order for you?”
“The courthouse has a diner? When did this happen?”
“It’s on Courthouse Square. Look, just get over here.”
Ten minutes later, I walked through the front door and into the bright yellow environs of (properly) The Olde Courthouse Diner.
Open since February, it has been quietly building a clientele of local patrons, politicians and characters with the odd tourist or two thrown in for good measure. Proprietor Ms. Carrie Kilpatrick oversees front of house duties while Chef Frankie keeps the tempting, yummy smells wafting out of the kitchen.The Diner features Southern-style cooking along with an assortment of burgers, sandwiches and salads.
Today’s daily special was advertised on a sign out front: Country Fried Steak with two sides for $6.99. That’s what I told our server, Sara, that I wanted. My partner ordered their Western Cheeseburger ($6.99) with a side of the house fries.
In no time, Frankie had our meals ready and we got started. My steak was good. I was somewhat surprised when the accompanying gravy turned out to be sausage gravy, something not normally found with a beef entrée, but the combination was quite pleasing. The zucchini chips were just that, fresh-sliced zucchini, lightly breaded, then fried and served piping hot. The okra was a treat as well.
My dining partner’s Western Cheeseburger tasted great; the pepperjack and American cheeses complementing the ground sirloin, sautéed onions and mushrooms. Green peppers can also be added to the sauté pan, but my partner wasn’t having any of them. Her side order of home fries were fresh-cut, then cooked and served with the skin on, just the way she (and I) like them.
Well, we had such a good time we decided to let some more members of the dine-around bunch in on our discovery. This resulted in a return engagement one Saturday evening with our friends the Dieter and the Carnivore. We arrived midway through the dinner rush and spent some quality time with the Courthouse Diner menu, assisted by our server, the capable McKenzie.
I spotted the Chicken Livers & Onions platter ($7.99) ordered it and got a face from my dining partner in the process. Her choice was the Diner’s Philly Quesadilla ($7.99). The Dieter went for the BBQ Bacon Burger ($7.49) while the Carnivore took on their Mile-High Club Sandwich ($9.49).
While waiting for our meals to arrive, we enjoyed checking out the Diner’s décor, especially the still-functional lunch counter complete with those spin-around chrome and leather counter stools and the cool retro background music from the late Sixties and Seventies. (There is nothing like sitting down to supper with background music provided by Chicago, The Four Tops and Jimi Hendrix.)
In due course our meals arrived and we all shared some of each.
The chicken livers were prepared the correct way, milk-soaked, lightly breaded and fried in very hot oil. My accompanying side orders of corn nuggets and fried onions were very tasty. The Dieter’s burger was better than my partner’s previous Western Burger; the barbecue sauce the Diner uses matching perfectly with the crispy center-cut bacon strips and the ground sirloin. The Dieter added the lettuce and tomato, but declined the mayonnaise. She felt it would have been a bit much, and I agreed with her.
My partner’s Philly Quesadilla was simply scrumptious; a dab of accompanying sour cream was all that was needed for perfection. The Carnivore’s Mile-High Club Sandwich had loads of fresh-sliced smoked turkey, bacon and ham added to Swiss and American cheeses with lettuce and mayo on toasted white bread (wheat’s available, too), then served with a smear of mayonnaise and the house fries. My partner and I each shared part of a corner section; delicious.
As we were finishing, Ms. Kilpatrick came by to say they still had some of their special bread pudding left and did we want some? I begged off but my dining partner readily agreed and the Dieter offered to help her eat it. Two spoons and five minutes later, the bread pudding had disappeared.
The Courthouse Diner is open every day except Wednesday. They have a lunch and supper buffet on Friday and Saturday, and a brunch buffet on Sunday. They make some excellent salads and have a generous small-portions menu for kids and seniors. The atmosphere at The Olde Courthouse Diner is friendly, as warm and comfortable as their Southern-style cooking. That goes as well for Ms. Kilpatrick and her capable staff.
The Olde Courthouse Diner
109 Courthouse Square
Mon-Tue, Thu-Sat 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Sun 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Credit cards accepted