A friend and I spent a fun Sunday afternoon in historic downtown Jonesborough, where we also enjoyed a pleasant lunch at a fairly new restaurant.
The Olde Courthouse Diner, owned by Jo Ann Bentley and her son, Frank Van Pelt, has been open for only a few months, making it one of the newest eating establishments in Tennessee’s oldest town. The restaurant is located in the shadow of the town’s most recognizable landmark, the Washington County Courthouse and its clock tower.
Upon entering the restaurant, a server invited us to take a seat at the table of our choice. She soon arrived with the restaurant’s menus and took our drink orders.
The renovated interior of the restaurant offers bright yellow walls with fire engine red trim and cherry-stained wood paneling. Red floral valances over the windows, silk flower arrangements on each table and an old-fashioned lunch counter complete the cheerful, nostalgic feel of the restaurant. A shelf behind the lunch counter also displays a variety of vintage kitchen items.
Some exceptionally nice photography of Jonesborough landmarks are displayed on the walls. In talking with our server, we learned the photos were taken by the owner’s daughter.
We studied the menus as classic rock ’n’ roll tunes from the 1950s and 1960s played in the background. The menu makes note of the fact breakfast is served all day, although biscuits are not available past 10:30 a.m. The rest of the menu offerings range from salads and sandwiches to dinner plates and burgers. Be sure to also check out the menu board at the back of the restaurant for the daily specials.
Some of the items that caught my eye included Country Fried Steak, Shrimp Basket and Chicken Livers and Onions. Several of the burgers also tempted me, including the BBQ Bacon Burger, the Spicy Burger, which features Cajun seasoning, pepper jack cheese, sauteed onions and jalapenos; as well as a Swiss and Mushroom Burger. The Heart Attack — a hamburger to which ham, extra bacon and Swiss and American cheese have been added — sounded tempting but also a little scary.
Some of the sandwiches also attracted my attention, including the Catfish Sandwich, which can be prepared grilled, blackened or fried, as well as the Mile-High Club Sandwich.
On this particular occasion, I found myself in the mood for breakfast. The options included omelets, breakfast sandwiches, French toast, pancakes and breakfast platters.
Of the four omelet varieties, I chose the Philly Steak Omelet, which I paired with an order of Hash Browns. My friend ordered the daily special — Chopped Steak with Onions, Mushrooms and Green Peppers. He added Sweet Potato Tots and Green Beans as his side dishes.
Other side dish options include House Fries, Crinkle Cut Fries, Seasoned Fries, Cole Slaw, Mashed Potatoes, Peas and Breaded Okra, as well as some Premium Sides (which cost only 50 cents more), including Sweet Potato Fries, Zucchini Chips and Onion Rings.
Meals are made to order, but we only had a brief wait before our entrees and accompanying sides arrived.
I’ve encountered some bland omelets over the years, but I’m happy to report the Philly Steak Omelet at Olde Courthouse Diner is a flavorful, hearty meal. The omelet is made from three eggs, to which a generous amount of chopped Philly steak has been added, as well as grilled mushrooms, green peppers and onions. The flavors from these ingredients melded seamlessly and made for a delicious omelet.
My friend also enjoyed the Chopped Steak, which was given some extra zest from the medley of grilled onions, mushrooms and peppers.
For basic country cooking, the main dishes we sampled were certainly above average. Some of the side dishes didn’t hold up quite as well, but overall we were pleased with our meals.
The dessert options — Carrot Cake, Apple Tarts, Key Lime Pie, Banana Pudding, Chocolate Cheese Cake and Bread Pudding — were quite varied and tempting.
My friend and I asked for two spoons and a serving of the Bread Pudding. This lush dessert, served piping hot, was drizzled with a delectable rum-flavored sauce and provided a great ending for our first visit to Olde Courthouse Diner.
I imagine this fairly new establishment is a welcome addition to Jonesborough dining opportunities. We certainly enjoyed the nostalgic atmosphere, some good food and courteous service during our first visit to the Olde Courthouse Diner.
AT A GLANCE: The Olde Courthouse Diner, 109 Courthouse Square, Jonesborough. 913-1000. Monday-Thursday, 8 a.m.-8 p.m., Friday, 8 a.m.-10 p.m.; Saturday, 6:30 a.m.-9 p.m.; and Sunday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Menu items $10.49 and under. Credit cards accepted. Carryout available.