Recommended: The Mystery Diner chooses its 10 best restaurants of 2021 | Food

As a Mystery Diner, it behooves me to recognize the hard work and forward-looking attitude in constant search for improvement that characterize a successful restaurateur and his restaurant.

In 2021, the pandemic was and is still acting like the party guest who won’t be leaving. Restaurants face supply availability issues associated with a shrinking labor pool.

2021 also saw the diners add three new members, each of whom slowly learns their trade, one restaurant at a time.

Despite all of the above, 10 area restaurateurs have excelled at their craft and made it to the top of the list this year.

In alphabetical order, here are the top 10 restaurants that received a “recommended” from the Mystery Diner and my friends, the restaurant group, for the year 2021:

Amber’s Country Cookin ‘

You know a restaurant has arrived in Carter County when the county constable and the local wildlife officer both have their knees under one of Amber’s 21 tables at the same time. Amber’s Country Cookin ‘is a great restaurant with a solid and delicious menu.

Amber’s Country Cookin ‘403 US Highway 321 Hampton, 725-3200

Mon-Sat 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., Sun 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., on site and to take away, available on social networks, credit cards accepted

Bayou Boys Fresh Gulf Shrimps

From the imagination of Walter Holmes and his daughter Julie Holmes Pecou, ​​Bayou Boys is a seafood market that has added a restaurant, allowing its customers to select their catch first and then cook it. their way. Bayou Boys’ new location is the commercial space formerly occupied by Jack’s City Grill on North Roan Street. The seafood market is well maintained, the restaurant spacious and comfortable, the menu options varied and uniformly excellent in preparation and taste, and the service friendly and professional.

Bayou Boys Fresh Gulf Shrimp 1805 N. Roan St., Suite 1-A Johnson City, 278-2160

Tue-Thu 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Fri-Sat 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sun 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., on site and to take away, available on social networks, credit cards accepted

Broad Street on State Retro Diner

Located on State Street in Bristol, Tennessee, the Broad Street on State Retro Diner is a time machine, occupying as it does FW Woolworth’s former meal counter. Here is the original counter and seats in their original frame and still performing their original function. For the full effect, I suggest you arrive 15 minutes early, just in time to watch owners Joyce, Colyn, and Jessica cook dinner to greet today’s hungry customers.

Broad Street on State Retro Diner 616 State St. Bristol, Tennessee, 652-0700

Every day from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. except Wed and Sun, on site and to take away, available on social networks, credit cards accepted

Coffee company

The Coffee Company has been part of the downtown Elizabethton scene for 20 years? Mrs. Frankie Bailey has been the current owner for three years now. His enthusiasm and pursuit of customer satisfaction is the hallmark of Coffee Company.

The restaurant’s atmosphere is cozy, sunny and reminiscent of freshly brewed and brewed coffees and espressos of all kinds and origins. Because the Restaurants menu is well developed and seasonal, its cuisine can take advantage of local and seasonal products and other edible products.

As my catering partner said, “Here, give this a try. You can taste the freshness.

The Coffee Company, 444 E. Elk Ave. Elizabethton, 542-3438

Every day except Sunday 7 am-5pm, on site and to take away, available on social networks, credit cards accepted.

Dogwood Café at 27

At South Johnson City’s Dogwood Café at 27, you can enjoy an event that is becoming all too rare these days: fine dining. Teresa, mother of owner Allison Woodard, takes care of the day-to-day operations of a restaurant with a pleasant and comfortable atmosphere and solidly professional service. The varied choice of appetizers to match each individual’s method of preparation and presentation is a culinary delight from start to finish.

For you gentlemen, although ties are not mandatory at Dogwood Café, be aware that in the middle of my meal without a tie, I felt distinctly underdressed.

Dogwood Café at 27 3209 S. Roan St. Johnson City, 328-7959

Tue-Sat 4 pm-8pm Closed Sunday and Monday, on site and to take away, available on social networks, credit cards accepted

Bistro KALM

While you might not know from looking at it, this indescribable storefront in Gray is by far one of the best restaurants in the Tri-Cities.

This is where I find one of my favorite culinary creations, along with delicious new offerings in their frequently updated menu.

Your visit here will fulfill your need for peace and quiet, allowing you to leave a busy world for momentary serenity and a sense of calm.

KALM Bistro is the best supplier of Vietnamese and Southeast Asian cuisine.

They are the undisputed gold standard for a good bowl of Vietnamese Pho.


KALM Bistro 5205 Bobby Hicks Highway, office # 4 Gray, 207-0888

Mon-Fri 11 am-9pm, Sat 11 am-8pm, closed Sunday, on site, take out and delivery, available on social networks and on, credit cards accepted

by Kimbo

Hungry people from as far as southwestern Virginia and western North Carolina line up to kneel under owner Kim Ensor’s tables six days a week, enjoying a Kimbo breakfast served all day lunches with daily specials and (ah, yes) Cinny Roule on Saturdays. Make sure to arrive early (like before 8:30 am and especially on Saturdays) or you may have to wait for your table.

Kimbo’s 256 Tenn. Highway 91, Suite D Elizabethton, 474-3268

Mon-Sat 6 am-2pm, closed Sunday, on site and to take away, available on social networks, credit cards accepted.

La Cucina Italian Cuisine

While most Italian restaurants seem to offer variations of a ‘canned’ serving of atmosphere, food, and service, few, very few can be found that still do it ‘the old fashioned way’.

One of the best is “La Cucina Italian Kitchen” by Matteo Torri. Besides being the owner, Torri is also the chef of the restaurant; one whose strict respect for the principles of authentic Italian cuisine obliges him to return frequently to Italy to stock up.

If there’s one restaurant worth a visit in Johnson County’s Tennessee High Country, it’s La Cucina Italian Kitchen.

Italian cuisine La Cucina 6811 Tenn. Highway 67

Mountain town, 727-0205

Thu-Sat 5 pm-8pm, Sun 11.30am-2.30pm, Don site and to take away, available on social networks, in cash only.

Gelato Mona Lisa

Originally started by Steven and Sheridan Nice, 2020 saw new owner Aleda Stokes refurbish Mona Lisa’s Gelato & Café to make it Johnson City’s go-to source for great light meals and great ice cream. With a light menu that changes weekly and sometimes daily due to Stokes’ use of local ingredients, customers are guaranteed flavor and freshness. The ice cream is just as cool and tasty so good that you want to dive into that ice cream display case up front armed only with a spoon.

Mona Lisa’s Gelato & Café 305 W. Oakland Ave. Johnson City, 262-8357

Mon-Thu 11 am-8pm, Fri-Sat 11 am-9pm, Sun noon-8pm, on site and to take away, available on social networks and on, credit cards accepted

Wok & Hibachi

This is a really good Asian themed restaurant, which Johnson City can be rightly proud to call its own. The redesign of the restaurant is pleasing to the eye with a decor that skilfully balances comfort with a serenity that most restaurateurs only dream of. The service provided by the owner Agnes and the waiters is exemplary. On the menu, old favorites are joined by new offers, and not just in the starters category. Word is, as “interesting times” continue to dwindle, the restaurant’s buffet line will hopefully return intact and as flavorful as ever.

Wok & Hibachi 101 E. Unaka Ave. Johnson City, 928-9696

Mon-Sat Lunch 11 am-3pm, daily dinner 3 pm-10pm, on-site, take-out and delivery, available on social media and online at Credit cards accepted

On behalf of myself and the guests, I thank all of my readers for your kind help and guidance in 2021, and I look forward to seeing what 2022 brings to all of us.

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