If you’ve lived here in Rogersville as long as I have (or possibly longer), you know we’ve had a lot of incredible restaurants that have come and gone through the years.
The oldest one that I recall was Archie Fain’s, which was located on Church Street near where George Webb’s book store is now. From older photos I’ve seen, his restaurant was once located on Main Street near where Shepherd’s Center is today. I never ate there, but I understand it was a great place to eat. I heard that Mr. Fain once cooked for President Franklin D. Roosevelt on his train trips to Georgia.
I also remember when Harry Lackey had a restaurant on Main Street next door to where Mountain Star Mall is today. A lot of restaurants have come and gone at that location through the years. Harry Lackey’s was there in the 1940s and 1950s. As a matter of fact, my mother worked there in the 1950s. I don’t recall much about the food, but I was so fascinated with those devices that were at each booth and also at the counter, where you could choose and play your favorite jukebox tunes. Mr. Lackey was known for having great food.
One story I remember my mother telling us that happened at Lackey’s was the soup story. They had a customer who regularly came in and ordered a bowl of hot water. They brought the bowl of hot water to him, and he started adding ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. There were also saltine crackers at the table, so he had tomato soup with crackers for nothing, and then he left!
After Lackey’s went out of business, two other restaurants that were in business there for long periods of time were Williams’ Restaurant and Geno’s. I don’t remember eating there, but I always that both had very good food.
Other older eating establishments in town were located at both the Corner Drug Store and the City Drug Store. Both had lunch counters and the City Drug Store also had booths (their store was larger.) You could get sandwiches, coffee, soft drinks and fabulous milkshakes at both. I loved the chicken salad that Andrew Bradley made at the City Drug. I’m pretty sure the last thing I ever had at the City Drug was one of those fabulous chocolate milkshakes. The City Drug was a popular after school hangout for school kids.
Another downtown favorite of mine was The Snack Bar which was owned and operated by a neighbor of ours, Lena Johnson. It was located in a “tiny” building on Depot Street across from the court house. The only seating was at the counter. Lena was an excellent cook, and you were sure to get a great meal there. Great sandwiches, but those daily specials were out of this world!
The Burger Bar came along in the 1950s. They were located where O’Henry’s is now. It was breakfast and sandwiches only. They later opened a second location next to where Food City is now. I always loved their hamburger that had chili and cheese on it. O’Henry’s went into business at the downtown location in 1991.
At one time around 1967, Sheryl Mullins Livesay’s parents opened a restaurant on Church Street. They had good sandwiches in addition to home cooking. I was working part-time at the White Store and loved to eat there.
On the lower end of town was the Wayside Grill where Fugate’s TV is now located. I don’t recall ever eating there. There was also Town Motel and Restaurant which was located where Appalachian Credit Union is now. It was owned and operated by Omar Robinson. My Aunt Nell worked there as a waitress, and my brother washed dishes there for a short while. I remember when he also had a teen center in the basement. Again they had sandwiches, breakfast and home-style food.
Also on the lower end of town was our fabulous Dixie Queen, home of the best foot-long hot dog I’ve ever eaten. That chili on it was out of this world. Warren Ray Kirkpatrick owned that business for many years. I’ve heard that he was the one who created that chili.
On the opposite end of town was The Lance which was in business for many years. It was located on Main Street down in front of the Rogersville High School (now the Middle School.)
It was owned and operated by Mrs. Martha Nelson who also operated the Sweet Shop inside the Hale Springs Hotel. Both businesses were well known for their good food. My Aunt Willie Mae Lawson worked at both locations at different times. A few of us wayward high school students may have strayed down to The Lance occasionally for a candy bar or a pack of chewing gum. Ha!
Also out on that end of town was The Rebel Drive-In which was located where The Sonic is now. It was a classic 60s drive-in. I think it was owned by the Beal family. Later, Herbert Price opened the Po Boy there. He was in business there for a number of years before opening his business in Church Hill.
Even later, John Wolfe opened a restaurant next door. That was Big John’s. John was always a great cook, and you were sure to get a good southern home-cooked meal there.
A little further out the road was the Tennessean Motel and Restaurant. They were a little more upscale and offered great steaks. I’m pretty sure that you could also get a great southern meal there also. It was owned by Ruble Price. I only ate there once. That was with members of my senior class as a celebration of our senior class play which I was in.
A little further out and on the opposite side of the road was The Warrior Drive-In owned by Mr. Gale Robinson. It was another typical 60s drive-in with burgers and hot dogs.
Even further up the road was The East End Drive-In. I don’t recall who owned it, but it was the most popular teen hangout of the day. Almost all the teenagers of the day spent many a Friday and Saturday night circling The East End. They may have even stopped long enough to grab a burger or hot dog. I always loved their chili.
Just west of town on the left was The Shady Lane Motel and Restaurant. Again, I don’t recall who operated it. My brother once did some grubbing down in that area for a friend. He and the other boys who were helping went with that person went to eat lunch at The Shady Lane. He told them to order whatever they wanted. Well, my brother really went for it. He ordered a hamburger, fries, milkshake, and for dessert, a big slice of lemon meringue pie. At the end of the day, he found out that he had to pay for that meal himself. I think he only came home with fifty cents for the day. A lesson well-learned! lol
On past The Shady Lane on the same side of the road was The Beauty Rest Motor Court and Restaurant. My mother worked there in the late 1950s. My brother and I would get on the Greyhound Bus at the Hale Springs Hotel and ride down there sometimes on Friday after school to spend the weekend with our mother. It was a real adventure that we both always looked forward to. I think we both ate burgers and hot dogs with fries because that was a different treat from our usual meat and vegetables we ate at home. We both would also help our mother in cleaning the cabins. That’s where I first learned the correct way to make the corners on a bed! lol Their restaurant was very good and a popular place to eat.
Probably a mile or so further down the road was Buck’s Grill. I remember eating there sometimes on Sunday after church. It was another good home-style restaurant. Country Corner is now located in the same building.
Another restaurant that I recall in town was in the old Pure Gas Station location (on the corner of Clay Street & Main Street.) Bill Johnson who was Lena Johnson’s brother, had a restaurant there in the 1970s. He too, was a great cook and the food was very good. Again, it was good home-style food.
I think it was 1969, when The Golden Dairy opened, and that’s a long time for a restaurant to be in business. But we have one that’s been in business even longer; The Medical Center lunch counter has been in business even longer. I don’t remember what year, but it was before 1969. They still have one of the best burgers in town. No frozen patties there, just handmade. You can also get a great milkshake there.
When I look back over these restaurants of the past, most had one thing in common. Home-style food, you just can’t beat it. I like something different sometimes, but just plain home-style food will always be my favorite!!!
With all these great restaurants of the past, we also have two new ones coming soon. The Red Dog will be next door to The Mountain Star Mall and somewhere near there will be the Hollywood Hillbilly. I’d like to welcome these two restaurants to town and wish them success. I look forward to trying your food soon!!