I was one member of a large dining party to recently visit The Battery in Johnson City. This was my first visit to this new downtown attraction, as was the case with several in my party.
The Battery is located in a large, prominent building on Spring Street in the heart of downtown Johnson City. The building’s former occupant, Sunny’s Cafeteria, closed its doors several years ago, so it’s great to see the attractive space occupied again.
The Battery opened for business this spring, and has steadily made a name for itself among the downtown Johnson City restaurants. The interior of the restaurant makes an immediate good first impression. The redesign has resulted in a beautiful space, perhaps one of the best in Johnson City. Seating is available at tables arranged around two bars – a large bar dominating the front entrance and a second bar and plush lounge area near the back of the restaurant. A few televisions are located in the bar areas.
The tabletops are a polished, black lacquer that suits such design elements as navy blue walls and a lot of exposed brick. Windows are draped with canvas hangings and shades. Artistic ceiling fans, Cuban influences in signage displayed on the walls, a brass relief of a tropical fish, an abundance of potted faux palms and other greenery come together for a setting of noteworthy ambiance.
The hip, nightclubbish ambiance carries what could be considered by some to be a few drawbacks. The lighting is subdued to the point that several of us huddled around the faint illumination cast by the candle votives on the tables to read the offerings. The restaurant’s patrons and staff are a bustling and energetic combination. The high ceilings also probably play a role in the acoustics that make for difficult conversation. Diners can converse with their immediate neighbors, but conversation with people at the other end of the table was not really possible. For those seeking excitement and a fast pace, the atmosphere is more than suitable, but fans of more sedate settings might not appreciate these elements as much.
After our group got settled at its table, our server, Bryan, did a good job taking drink orders, providing menus and answering questions while also delivering some complementary baskets of fresh-baked bread and a scrumptious butter-herb spread that won instant acclaim from every member of the group.
We began with several dining party members choosing appetizers from a selection that included Battery Shrimp And Grits, Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail, Fried Green Tomatoes, Lobster Fritters, Fried Oysters and Jalapeños, Tempura-battered Asparagus and Calamari.
I chose the Scallops Rockefeller as my appetizer, which was listed as a new item among the meal-starters listed on the menu.
A friend and I made a bargain to share our appetizers, which resulted in me sharing some Lobster Fritters from his order while he got to sample some of my meal-starter.
The Scallops Rockefeller won, hands-down, the honors for best appetizer from those samples. This dish featured six scallops, served on the half-shell topped with bubbling cheese, bread crumbs and other ingredients. An elusive element in the mix gave a hint of fruit, perhaps mango. These scallops were really appealing.
I also liked the Lobster Fritters, particularly the spicy remoulade sauce that accompanied these morsels. These fritters resembled big, plump hushpuppies enhanced with some sweet, mild lobster meat.
After we finished with the appetizers, we were able to turn our attention to selecting an entree. The selections are divided basically into two categories — seafood and steakhouse items.
Some of the items from the sea that attracted my attention included the Broiled Shrimp Scampi, Pan-seared Carolina Rainbow Trout, Jumbo Panko Crusted Fried Shrimp and the Battery Fish-N-Chips. Steak offerings that tempted my appetite included the 10-ounce Filet Mignon, 12-ounce New York Strip and the 8-ounce Black Angus Sirloin. I also noticed an interesting chicken dish — Chicken Scalloppine Southern Style — listed on the menu. All entrees come with two side dishes; a side salad can be added for a cost of $1.
For my main dish, I chose the Maryland Style Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes, which I paired with Bacon Braised Collared Greens (our server announced that this side dish was his favorite) and Grilled Vegetable Medley.
Other side dishes available include Grilled Asparagus, Loaded Baked Potato, Steamed Broccoli, Creamed Corn, Sauteed Green Beans and Salt and Vinegar Fries.
Other members of the group ordered the Yellowfin Tuna, Battery Fish-N-Chips, Pan Seared George’s Bank and the 8-ounce Hamburger topped with Aged Cheddar. Other side dishes tried by my dining party included the Loaded Baked Potato and the Red Bliss Scalloped Potato.
My two crab cakes, drizzled with remoulade sauce, were sensational. They didn’t suffer from too much breading, which allowed the mild, sweet-flavored crabmeat to shine. The plate was garnished with sprigs of fresh herbs.
I also agreed with the server that the Bacon Braised Collared Greens were quite tasty. I also liked the medley of grilled vegetables, which included red onion, yellow squash, mushrooms and bell pepper strips.
The Grilled Yellowfin Tuna, served with Black Mission Figs and Shiraz-Balsamic glaze, arrived attractively presented in braided slices of medium-rare tuna steak. The house recommends this dish be prepared rare or medium rare, as is commonly considered best for tuna steak. The sweet, tangy glaze provided a delightful accompaniment to this mild fish.
Dessert offerings that evening included a Chocolate Cake, Key Lime Pie and Coconut Cake. I decided to try a piece of the Coconut Cake, which came garnished with a few blueberries. Other friends tried the other two desserts. The Key Lime Pie also came with a few blueberries, while the Chocolate Cake was drizzled with a raspberry sauce.
My Coconut Cream Cake consisted of two layers of moist cake, each filled with a thick, creamy coconut custard, and the whole frosted in a layer of glossy white icing and a coating of grated coconut. Fans of this tropical dessert will love The Battery’s version, which elevates it beyond the commonplace into a truly scrumptious treat.
The restaurant offers a raw bar for oysters, listing Blue Point, Apalachicola and Chesapeake oysters. Since August, The Battery has also been serving lunch, with a menu offering such items as Popcorn Shrimp Po’boys, Jumbo Fried Shrimp-n-Chips and Jerk Grilled Chicken Sandwich.
Dinner at The Battery proved a memorable experience, both for the unique atmosphere and the delicious food. Downtown Johnson City is steadily building up a list of noteworthy dining destinations, and The Battery more than holds its own with any of them.
AT A GLANCE: The Battery, 601 Spring St., Johnson City. 929-FOOD. Tuesday- Saturday, 4 p.m.-2:30 a.m. Dinner entrees range from $13-$31. Credit cards accepted. Carryout available. Full service bar available.