Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Yin and Yang of Dining Out

Before I begin this Addie Report, I just wanted to add a few additional thoughts on downtown Jonesborough. The four or five blocks that make up much of the historic downtown area are lined with small specialty shops – one sells Celtic merchandise, one stained and blown glass, one beauty and bath products, a Christmas shop, craft stores, and multiple antique stores. And many of the merchants have placed chairs, benches, and rockers on the sidewalk making it literally possible to “shop till you drop.” Now one of the disadvantages to RV living is that one’s impulse to acquire has to be curtailed. You don’t have room for unnecessary items and, for safety’s sake, you have to worry about not carrying too much weight. On the other hand, you don’t spend money. As Adrian Monk would say--it's a blessing . . . and a curse.

We arrived in Jonesborough without a plan for lunch. After looking at the menus posted in a couple of restaurant windows, one food item caught my eye, and I told Chuck “this is the place.” When we walked into Bistro 105, we were immediately reminded of the small store front restaurants that spurred Philadelphia’s restaurant renaissance. This small, narrow restaurant had exposed brick walls, a painted tin ceiling, and vintage flooring, although, unlike Philadelphia in the mid-70’s, all of the furniture matched.

We both started with soup—a cup of tomato, basil, garlic for Chuck and wild mushroom for me. Both were excellent although both were a bit cooler than ideal.

Chuck was set to order the meatloaf and mashed potatoes, but opted instead for Bistro 105’s version of the French dip. Served in a sourdough roll, the perfectly tender thinly sliced beef was cooked in the same au jus that accompanied the sandwich. My sandwich—the Fried Green Tomato BLT on toasted sourdough bread—was a knockout. With tangy fried green tomatoes, apple smoked bacon, field greens, and remoulade sauce spicy with whole grain mustard, the various tastes assaulted the mouth. Both plates came with a side of Bistro 105’s homemade potato chips – a combination of white and sweet potatoes that weren’t quite as crisp as we would have liked.

From a list of desserts that included key lime pie and a warm chocolate walnut cake, we decided to share a peach cobbler that was topped with ice cream and whipped cream. As you can see from the photo, this was an enormous serving which we had no trouble finishing.

While we were approaching 5 Addie territory, the soup that was too cool and the chips that weren’t crisp enough dropped Bistro 105 to a 4.5 rating. Regardless, if we are back in Jonesborough, we’ll be back to Bistro 105.

As Chuck mentioned, Thursday morning required a last minute change of plans. So we found ourselves driving out Virginia Avenue in Bristol looking for photo opportunities at the dam. Driving along, we simultaneously spotted a small, bright yellow restaurant. There was Tootie’s—the home of the fresh ground hamburger. Now we normally would have hit the brakes and squealed into the parking lot. But this was only 9:30 after all, so we noted the location for lunch.

Now Tootie’s, located in Willie Boom, Tennessee, is called Bristol’s oldest restaurant. (You figure that out!) The menu states that the burgers are “fresh ground, hand formed, and fresh fried.” The signature item is the Arvil Burger. For $4.79 you get a nine-ounce patty with fried onions in the center and topped with double lettuce, double tomato, mayo and onion and, of course, the ever popular “secret ingredient.” The Arvil weighs in at a whopping 18 ounces.

Realizing that we were defeated before we began, we instead each ordered the double cheeseburger (two four and a quarter ounce patties—which, of course, added up to almost nine ounces of meat, topped with double cheese) and shared an order of fries, which gave every appearance of being hand-cut. When the waitress delivered the burger, I remembered that I had forgotten to specify that I wanted it cooked medium. My fear of a dry burger was unwarranted. These were juicy and tasted of good quality beef. A real treat.

My quibbles? The order of fries was smallish and they didn’t have unsweetened ice tea. Still, we are awarding Tootie’s 4.5 Addies.

I’m not going to give this next restaurant a formal rating. I wasn’t feeling well and that probably colored my impression of Giovanni’s Cucina. But Chuck, being in the mood for pasta, ordered the Fettuccini Alfredo shown here and raved about it. The sauce was thinner and less rich and heavy than normal for this dish, which may be why he liked it so much. Since he is not the biggest fan of parmesan cheese, this less cheesy sauce was just right.

From a Bistro to Tootie's.

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