“Dearest,” I said quietly, “are we there y-’’
“We are he-e-ere,” my partner said with a cheery voice as, smiling, she turned into the parking lot of Cafe 93 Restaurant.
My dining partner had heard about Café 93 from a friend of hers, who also warned us to keep our eyes open or we would miss the restaurant when we went looking for it. We spotted Café 93 in an ordinary-looking building, situated in the middle of an industrial development on Sullivan Gardens Road (Tenn. Highway 93) just southwest of Kingsport. Walking through the front door found us in their large and well-appointed dining room, with a cashier and take-out station near the front door. There is table seating for 70-100 patrons, and counter seating handling 10 more. The clean restrooms are accessible at the far end of the dining room.
Monster Burger with Fries. My dining partner and I had arrived at Café 93 about 10 minutes before owner Kristin Killen was to start serving lunch, but our server Jeanine said there was no problem with our ordering lunch ahead of the change-over. This pleased my dining partner who had eaten very little for breakfast and ordered one of Café 93’s signature Monster Burgers ($5) with a side order of French fries.
My dining partner’s Monster Burger was a third of a pound of 100 percent ground beef (chuck) cooked medium well, layered with aged Swiss cheese, dressed in slices of ripe tomatoes, red onions, lettuce dill pickles and mayonnaise, then loaded in between two slices of Texas Toast. The French fries in the Monster Burger’s side order, despite being commissary-produced, were of nearly equal length and width, all of excellent quality and all cooked with no extra salt used. As delivered table-side by Jeanine, my dining partner’s Monster Burger was a real (double) handful, but it was cut it in half for better two-hand manageability. My dining partner stated it was the best burger she’d ever eaten.
Hamburger Steak with Peppers, Onions and Mushrooms. I was wanting something that had beef and fresh veggies in it, just not all in the same stack. My quest was rewarded when Jeanine suggested I order the hamburger steak platter, topped with grilled peppers, onions and mushrooms ($6.75), with a baked potato and a garden salad as my sides.
Jeanine had the salad out first; crisp, cold and fresh iceberg lettuce mixed with sliced tomato, cucumber, red onion and green pepper, topped with Café 93’s scratch-made ranch dressing. The hamburger steak arrived next, cooked medium rare and sided with a russet potato and two half-slices of Texas toast; all of it artfully prepared, and all of it delicious.
For “Afters.” In discussing our dessert options with Jeanine, we discovered that the pie fillings, the cobblers and the cakes were all scratch-made. Satisfied, my partner ordered a slice of the butterscotch pie ($2) while I chose the pecan cobbler, (also $2) topped with a dollop of vanilla ice cream ($1 extra).
My cobbler was packed with fresh pecan bits in a very nice chess-style filling. Warmed by the cobbler, the vanilla ice cream made each spoonful of cobbler that much more delectable. My dining partner was especially enthralled with her butterscotch pie. Despite its pie crust’s factory origins, the scratch-made pie filling was truly remarkable.
“Here, try some,” my partner said, shoving a forkful into my mouth. “The texture of this pie is outstanding. And the flavor is so complex. See? Did you taste that lingering note of butter at the end? This is great butterscotch. Here, have another bite.” So I had another bite. Sure enough, I could taste the butter at the end.
Bottom line. Café 93 serves a breakfast every bit as good as their lunches. They have a “breakfast special” where $4.99 gets you two fresh eggs, any style with either bacon, sausage or “city” ham and a side order of their phenomenal biscuits and scratch-made gravy. The service is as impeccable as their food is delicious, and is definitely worth a return trip or three to try their daily special entrees and desserts. So the next time you are hungry, why not take a leisurely drive in the country out past Fall Branch to Café 93? There is friendship and a really good Southern-style meal waiting for you there.
5199 Sullivan Gardens Road
(Tenn. Highway 93)
Mon-Sat 6 a.m.-2 p.m.
Available on Facebook
Credit cards accepted