Bisected by two tributaries of Little Limestone Creek and moving at its own leisurely pace, Telford is the image of the classic small Southern town that Hollywood tries, and just as frequently fails to imitate. In Telford, life’s pace is slower, friendlier. Naturally, folks from Telford like to sit a spell, have a bite and talk a piece. The best place for doing all three is downtown at Warren and Vickie Browder’s Telford Diner.
Now, “Downtown Telford” is a misnomer, since you can see the entire town out to the city limits while standing just outside the Diner’s front door. Just inside their front door is a comfortably cluttered dining room fronting a very busy kitchen that looks way too small for the four people and entrancing aromas that inhabit it. (Readers may recall that the Telford Diner has been a featured locale in Dan Kyte’s “Community Voices” column that appeared in these pages in years past.)
On the recent advice of a deputy sheriff, my dining partner and I showed up one Saturday morning, looking for a comfortable seat, some breakfast and some talk. As we walked in, I noticed a county sheriff’s cruiser and an EMT vehicle in the parking lot, always a good sign.
Liking the Diner’s casual nature and breakfast buffet line, my partner and I each grabbed a well-worn breakfast plate from the stack and proceeded to fill our plates, figuring the breakfast buffet ($6.95) was the best way to see what the Browders’ kitchen was capable of. As we returned to the table, our server stopped by and took our egg order, a smart move as eggs on a buffet line have a lifespan shorter than an ice cube at the Equator. The same holds true for pancakes, which are also prepared to order.
The Diner’s biscuits are fist-sized and substantial, especially so when topped with their classic sausage gravy. Our buffet had lean bacon strips, biscuit-sized slices of sugar-cured country ham, sausage in both link and patty varieties and thick-cut slices of fried bologna, a small- town classic. There were potato “breakfast cubes” (read “tater tots”) stewed apples and sliced fresh watermelon on today’s buffet, and sliced tomatoes back in the kitchen if your biscuit feels the need.
Our egg orders arrived soon after, fresh-cooked and piping hot. Add a cup of coffee and an iced tea, and breakfast is served. As we were finishing up, Vickie Browder was making the rounds of the dining room seeing to her customers, and stopped by to have a chat. We found out that the Telford Diner is mostly open for breakfast and lunch during the week. Ms. Browder does a supper buffet on Thursday nights built around pan-fried chicken livers, and a weekly Friday Fish Fry that serves Alaskan whitefish and shrimp. They do a brunch buffet the first Sunday of each month featuring turkey and dressing. Plate meals at the Telford Diner feature a meat plus fries, a side salad and bread starting at $5.95, and their excellent burgers (fresh, never frozen) and sandwiches start at just $2.99.
Desserts? Oh, yes. All this from a six-day-a-week operation under the Browders’ sure hand. Warren and Vickie have met Dan Kyte’s five-year-old wish to “hang in there,” showing that the small- town restaurant can survive and thrive against the big chain restaurants just up the road in Jonesborough and in Johnson City. Stop in and see for yourself. And yes, the Brotherhood of Possum Pluckers still hold their meetings at the Telford Diner. Where else?
Telford Diner109 Mill St., Telford
753-4688Mon – Fri 6:30 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Thu & Fri Buffet 4:30 – 8 p.m.
Sat Breakfast Buffet 7 – 11 a.m.
Sun Buffet 11 a.m.- 3 p.m.
(1st Sunday only)Available on Facebook
Credit cards accepted