In the second installment of my July quest for some of the area’s best burgers, I visited a relatively new eatery in downtown Kingsport, as well as a long-time drive-thru on Stoney Creek near Elizabethton.
Timing could not have been more appropriate for my Fourth of July visit to Mason Jar Eatery and Catering in downtown Kingsport. I wasn’t alone in my idea to enjoy Independence Day by enjoying some classic burgers and sides, including some of the best Onion Rings I’ve ever eaten at a restaurant.
The Mason Jar Eatery opened in a much smaller location back in November before moving to its current, and much larger, location on Main Street in Kingsport this past May.
The new location is charming and nostalgic. Our server informed us the building used to house a feed-and-seed business. Several restored vintage painted signs remain visible on the brick walls. The ceiling and floors are painted black. Lots of Mason jars of various sizes are displayed on shelves along the walls. Other decorative touches include an antique tricycle and a vintage Coca-Cola vending machine. Ceiling fans and a large jukebox round out the decor.
In addition to the tables, seating is available along a small lunch counter equipped with some bar stools.
Once we were seated, our server, Morgan, arrived with menus. She also took our drink orders. We took time to familiarize ourselves with the variety of burgers and sides listed on the menu. Burger options include Smokey Cheddar, Hawaiian, Blue Cheese, Blazin’ Bacon Cheddar, Betta Chedda and Cowboy, as well as the Mason Jar Cheeseburger and Mason Jar Homestyle Burger.
The eatery also offers a “Burger of the Week.” The burger in the spotlight during our visit was a Stroganoff Burger. Other recent burgers of the week have included a Cuban Burger and a Jamaican Jerk Burger.
With that many burgers, it took a little time to come to a decision. I chose the Smokey Cheddar Burger. The other members of my dining party chose the Stroganoff Burger, the Lettuce Wrapped Burger and the Three-Cheese Burger.
The eatery also offers a range of sides, including French Fries, Ranch Bacon Fries, Onion Rings, Cheese Fries, Chili Cheese Fries, Bacon Cheese Fries, Homemade Cole Slaw and Spicy Mac and Cheese.
I strongly recommend the Onion Rings, as they were not only humongous, but they were also among the best I’ve ever eaten. They’re made from thickly cut sweet onions that are hand-breaded daily with Mason Jar’s secret recipe. They were fried to a golden brown and severed with a zesty Chipotle Cream dipping sauce. These mega-sized Onion Rings could almost make a meal by themselves.
Other members of my dining party also enjoyed such delicious, comfort-food sides as Chili Cheese Fries and Spicy Mac and Cheese.
I really liked Mason Jar’s take on the classic macaroni and cheese. This baked dish featured lots of cheesy goodness, although we didn’t find it to be particularly spicy.
The Chili Cheese Fries were hand-cut fries topped with homemade chili and shredded cheese. This side was shared with everyone at the table.
These sides proved worthy of pairing with the delecta
ble burgers served at Mason Jar. One thing that puts the burgers apart is that they are served on grilled sourdough bread, not buns. For a burger purist, that might be a problem, but I didn’t have any difficulty with it.
The burgers were delicious down to the last bite. Th
e Smokey Cheddar Burger featured a juicy half-pound burger patty, plentiful cheddar cheese, Applewood bacon, grilled sweet Vidalia onions and mushrooms, all served on toasted sourdough. Giving this burger some extra kick was a dollop of spicy Chipotle mayo.
My friend also shared a bite of his Stroganoff Burger. This inspired
burger starts with a half-pound fresh beef patty topped with Swiss cheese, sour cream, grilled onions, lettuce and tomato. These flavors paired naturally with the beef to make a great burger that definitely emulated its namesake.
The Lettuce Wrapped Burger was also quite tasty and is perfect for those seeking
to cut back on their carbohydrates, as it foregoes the bun altogether in favor of large leaves of lettuce to hold the beef patty and toppings together.
For some sweets at the end of the meal, I chose to indulge
in a Hot Fudge Sundae served inside
— what else? — a Mason jar. This rich dessert starts with a base of moist, chewy brownie that is topped with real, delicious hot fudge, vanilla ice cream and whipped cream, all topped with a bright red cherry.
One of my friends also ordered a Chocolate Shake. Some of the new flavors recently added include Oreo, Peanut Butter, Butterfinger and Bacon. We could not quite bring ourselves to try a Bacon Shake, but we were intrigued.
The Chocolate Shake, considering the success of the rest of the meal, a bit of a let-down. In both color and flavor, the chocolate only faintly showed up in this shake, which certainly p
aled next to the scrumptious sundae.
That aside, we loved our Fourth of July lunch at Mason Jar Eatery. If you’re looking for some creative, flavorful burgers, I can definitely recommend them.
Not far past Unaka High School, Barker’s Drive-Thru in Stoney Creek has been serving burgers, fries, shakes, sandwiches and more for the past 30 or so years. The small Carter County drive-thru eatery is owned and operated by Erma and Jack Barker.
The exterior of Barker’s Drive-Thru is painted in the vibrant colors of white, teal green and violet. Customers can drive through or walk up to place their orders. In addition to a couple of concrete picnic tables at the front of the eatery, there’s also an adjacent picnic shed overlooking Stoney Creek. The shed offers shelter for a cluster of booths.
Burgers and sandwiches are the main items on the menu, but Barker’s also offers a few dinner platters featuring such items as hamburger steak, chicken tenders platter and barbecue.
When I visited with a friend on a recent weekday afternoon, we drove through to place our orders. I ordered the large Cheeseburger while my friend ordered the Double Cheeseburger. He paired his burger with Onion Straws while I chose the Curly Fries.
The other burger selections include Hamburger, Bacon Cheeseburger and a Baby Burger.
Other sides include French Fries, Small Salad, Onion Rings, Slaw, Chili Fries and Sweet Potato Fries.
We didn’t have to wait long for our food. After we had our orders, we drove behind the eatery and parked next to the picnic shed. We settled into one of the six booths and unwrapped our burgers.
My cheeseburger was very close to some of those I recall enjoying at similar drive-in restaurants during my childhood. In addition to a juicy patty, it featured shredded lettuce, tomato slices, onions, mayonnaise and American cheese. The bun held up very well and didn’t overwhelm the burger. It’s not fancy and there’s not much variety — it’s just a tasty, solid burger.
The Double Cheeseburger was basically just a bigger version of my burger and just as tasty. The Onion Straws and Curly Fries paired well with our burgers.
I also added a Blueberry Shake to my meal. The shake was smooth and creamy, enhanced by real blueberries. Other shake flavors include Strawberry, Banana, Pineapple, Vanilla, Chocolate, Hot Fudge, Peanut Butter and Reese’s Cup.
Every Wednesday is hot dog day at Barker’s
Drive-Thru with a discounted price available for hot dogs.
If you’re looking to beat the heat, Barker’s also offers banana splits and ice cream sundaes and cones, as well as lemonade and strawberry lemonade.
It’s also hard to beat the prices at Barker’s. The Double Cheeseburger costs only $4.95 and is the most expensive burger on the menu.
Barker’s also serves breakfast, which I’d like to return and try at some future point. The next time you’re traveling along Highway 91, make sure to set aside some time to pull off and enjoy a meal or even a snack at Barker’s Drive-Thru.
AT A GLANCE: Mason Jar Eatery and Catering, 242 E. Main St., Kingsport. 765-2273. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Menu items $7 and under. Credit cards accepted. Carryout available.
AT A GLANCE: Barker’s Drive-Thru, 1022 Highway 91, Elizabethton. 474-3940. Open daily from 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Credit cards accepted. Carryout available. Menu items $6.25 and under.