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Diversity of downtown Johnson City dining grows

Madison Mathews • Apr 10, 2013 at 6:46 AM

In downtown Johnson City alone, there are more than 10 eateries that cater to just about every taste, including coffee shops, comfort food, Mexican cuisine, seafood and German dishes, and a new restaurant is joining the ranks.

Places like Numan’s, Capone’s and Tipton Street Pub have the bases covered on the night life in downtown. One 12 Downtown, The Battery, Mid City Grill, Holy Taco and The Main Street Pizza Company also cater to the late-night crowd, while offering extensive menus featuring sushi, pizza and seafood in addition to

Downtown’s restaurants are rounded out by Freiberg’s, Beckner on Main, Taste Budz, the Brew Plum coffee shop inside Nelson Fine Art, and Tupelo Honey Cafe, which is slated to open next year.

The area’s newest restaurant, Buffalo Street Downtown Deli, 109 Buffalo St., hopes to capitalize on the deli market.

“We wanted to do something that would fit a concept for our food but we also wanted to be able to offer fresh-sliced deli meats, fresh cheeses because there’s quite a few residents in the area,” chef and owner Tim Swinehart said.

Downtown Deli is located in the former home of Schmucks, which closed its doors in February.

Swinehart, a former partner at both Holy Taco and Tipton Street Pub, stepped down from his position with those establishments in order to focus all of his time and energy into opening the Downtown Deli.

Swinehart has been eyeing the location for about 10 years and jumped at the opportunity when Schmucks closed up shop.

“Now there’s incredible access. We’re going to be getting away from the flood zone and they’ve put in all the beautiful brick and the city has just done a beautiful job of making these three blocks more beautiful and more accessible,” he said.

After the restaurant was gutted, the deli came together in about a month and is in the midst of a soft opening.

Swinehart said the grand opening will be in a couple of weeks.

Downtown Deli’s menu is focusing on specialty sandwiches, flatbread pizza, salads and appetizers, in addition to offering root beer and several other beers on tap.

“You’ll see that we can rotate and change the menu on a regular basis. We’ll be baking breads and our own flats hopefully in the next six months to a year,” Swinehart said.

Swinehart said he hopes his focus on providing fresh, good-quality food will entice more families to dine downtown.

“It’s just to follow up on continuing to bring more family restaurants to downtown. It’s more positive to bring the draw for downtown, and I’m just trying to bring another place that says, ‘Bring your family downtown,’” he said.

Washington County Economic Development Council Director of Redevelopment Shannon Castillo said having more and more restaurants opening in the downtown area is one of the major signs of revitalization.

“I think the dining aspect of downtown Johnson City is a big piece of the puzzle when it comes to revitalization, and I don’t necessarily think you can have too many restaurants. Those restaurants bring people down,” she said.

The variety of places in downtown shows there’s a desire for local eateries, and Castillo said there is still room to grow as the downtown area continues to develop.

“I would love to see a white tablecloth restaurant come into downtown. That would bring a different element and a different kind of food and a different expectation, so I think there’s room to grow when it comes to restaurants,” she said.

With the downtown area shifting from a bar focus to other types of restaurants opening their doors, Castillo said downtown Johnson City continues to diversify its restaurant options.

“Knowing that we have good, family restaurants and good sandwich shops and good, distinct, different kinds of foods, like from Taste Budz or Freiberg’s, that brings another element of diversity to downtown,” she said.

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