Quietly, Unicoi is becoming a go-to town for great food in a relaxed atmosphere. My latest find is thanks to a co-worker who let me know about Friend’s Restaurant & Grill in downtown Unicoi.
Any day except Monday, you are apt to find a passel of cars parked out front and patrons scooted up to the table inside, as occurred one late afternoon for the dine-around bunch and me.
Our server Tammy seated us at a workman-like but comfortable table, telling us the daily specials and answering questions about several of the menu items. Friend’s does breakfast all day long, though your biscuits and gravy order may show up minus the gravy if you are “breaking your fast” past 4 p.m.
My co-worker said Friend’s is famous for serving a substantial hamburger for lunch and supper. This was confirmed by Tammy, who said a cooked Friend’s hamburger patty ($2.99) weighed in at 6 ounces, or a little over a third of a pound. This drew smiles and nods from the bunch, and menu choices were quickly made.
My dining partner chose the Bacon Cheeseburger ($3.99) and a side order of fried onion rings ($1.99), which looked good to the Dieter who ordered the same, but with sweet potato fries ($1.99). The Carnivore picked the Hamburger Club ($5.99) with sweet potato fries, while the Retiree ordered a Cheeseburger ($2.99) with regular potato fries.
Ordering against type, I decided to try Friend’s version of a classic Reuben sandwich on rye ($4.99) along with two sides: fried okra ($1.39) and fried mushrooms ($1.99).
After a 10-minute wait, we were busy sharing bites from our choices like we always do, though the variety was a mite thin this time around. It was burger bites and lots of them as each selection made the rounds.
The Bacon Cheeseburger Twins had a hearty meal between them; their 6-ounce burgers were every bit as hefty as Tammy said they were. The bacon was thick-cut and plentiful. Adding in fixings of lettuce, tomato, onions, pickles and condiments, plus a stack of sweet potato fries (with cinnamon butter included for dipping them) or crunchy onion rings, made for a great meal at less than seven bucks each.
Though the Retiree’s Cheeseburger was served minus bacon, it was still sizable and tasty. The regular fries were good, though not a match for the flavor and texture found in their sweeter cousins. The Carnivore’s Hamburger Club platter came with four quarter-sandwiches each stuffed with a burger plus fixings.
The Club filled most of a good-sized platter, with sweet potato fries crowded into the remainder. Luckily, I got half of a half before it all disappeared, excellent.
My Reuben? Classic as it could be. Light rye bread stuffed with lean corned beef, mild sauerkraut, a slice or two of Swiss cheese, topped with homemade Thousand Island dressing, and grilled toasty on both sides. The half I got to keep was excellent as was the fried okra, crispy on the outside and moist on the inside. The fried mushrooms were good, though getting only five of them per order was pricey.
As we were finishing, Tammy stopped by and asked if we were interested in dessert. Another trip through the menu put us in a cobbler-ordering mood ($2.19 each, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream just 40 cents extra) My dining partner and the Retiree shared a Blackberry Cobbler (a la mode, of course) while the Carnivore and Dieter had Peach Cobbler. I chose Pecan Cobbler with one spoon. All were good, the blackberry exceptionally so.
If Friend’s makes blackberry cobbler this good with “tame” blackberries, imagine what they will have when the “wild” variety becomes available? That’s worth a return trip, surely.
As we were leaving Friend’s, I noticed a sign on their door that they would be closed from June 24-July 1. Looks like Tammy and her co-workers will have a busy time the week of July 4th.
Friend’s Restaurant & Grill
3615 Unicoi Drive
Tue – Sat 7 a.m. - 9 p.m.
Sun 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Credit cards welcome