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Supper at the Telford Diner: A Pleasant Place at a Pleasant Pace

Mystery Diner • Jul 12, 2018 at 6:59 PM

I had a discussion recently with several friends about how we liked living in East Tennessee, and how it had changed just within the past 10 years. These friends and I had this same discussion several years ago. What caught my interest was how each of them, who had initially said they liked the idea of living in a city that was “on the move,” now said that the pace had become so hectic they were trying to find a weekend getaway, somewhere that life moved at a slower pace. My dining partner and I already have our own place to escape to, a place where life moves at a much more easy and pleasant pace.

Exterior

Telford Diner is just a stone’s throw from Old State Route 34, which is now properly known as Tenn. Highway 353. It can be reached by turning right onto Telford Road, crossing the bridge over Little Limestone Creek, and then taking a left onto Mill Street. After about 200 yards or so, you’ll see where owners Warren and Vickie Browder established their business way back when, right in the center of downtown Telford. The building is a big concrete block construction that is painted pastel yellow and decorated with two big stars and a sign that names the business, gives the phone number and the names of the owners. Lower down the façade is a short awning inscribed “Welcome” to all entering the front door. Parking is somewhat limited immediately outside the building itself, but there’s plenty of room just across Mill Street, alongside the railroad embankment.

Interior

Inside, the Browders run a delightfully cluttered family-style restaurant which has a number of family-sized tables seating up to six, along with a couple of booths accommodating four diners each. Décor is about what you’d expect; there is local sports memorabilia that includes framed jerseys and photos and some homilies of a religious and not-so-religious bent. There is a placard informing the public that on the fourth Saturday of each month, the Telford Diner hosts the Brotherhood of Possum Pluckers, a fun-loving group of locals if ever there was one. The cashier’s counter and the buffet line form the demarcation between dining room and kitchen. The open-plan kitchen takes up the rear third of the diner, though there is hardly enough room for the (very busy) four employees who work back there.

Telford Burger and Fries

It was my somewhat harried dining partner who, after a particularly hard day’s work, informed me that 1) she was not cooking supper and 2) that the two of us needed to get out of town for the evening. A 25-minute drive through the sunny Friday countryside enabled us to find an open table at the Telford Diner, beating the start of their supper rush by at least 15 minutes. Though Friday at the Telford Diner means “Fish Fry,” my dining partner wanted something simple to unwind to and linger over. To that end, my partner told our server Crystal to please bring her a Telford Burger ($4.29) with a side order of French fries. Crystal asked if my dining partner wanted fried bacon and two kinds of cheeses on her burger. My partner affirmed this and added that Crystal could make it “all the way,” with leaf lettuce, some Texas white onions slices, a couple of sliced tomatoes, some dill pickles chips and light on the mayonnaise, please. Crystal was happy to assist, and had my dining partner’s made to order Telford Burger and fries on the table in front of her inside of 15 minutes. The Telford Burger is eight ounces (at least) of what tastes like locally-sourced beef cooked on a really hot steel flat top griddle, and garnished with lettuce, tomatoes and onions that could only be fresh-picked. The French fries, while good, are commissary-sourced. Just a note: the Telford Diner’s fries could be even better if they were fresh-cut from some locally-grown Russet or Kennebec potatoes. As my Dad used to tell me, “Realize that there is always room for improvement in anything you do.” I couldn’t agree more.

Friday Nite Fish Fry

I’d had a very good day reducing my sodium intake, and was interested to see if the Telford Diner’s famous Friday Nite Fish Fry would torpedo the good work that I’d done so far. To that end, I had questioned Crystal about the sodium content that I would be ingesting if I ordered the Friday Nite Fish Fry, a mixed catch consisting of fried Alaskan whitefish, fried popcorn shrimp, hushpuppies, French fries and coleslaw. For the price of $8.55, the Friday Nite Fish Fry as listed was “all you can eat.” In answer to my question about the sodium content, Crystal said that the popcorn shrimp batter was the highest, but the sodium in the Alaskan whitefish batter was much less in comparison. Reassured, I told Crystal to bring me an order of the Fish Fry, and that we would see about the “all you can eat” clause later on. A short time later, Crystal brought out two baskets, one filled with three sizable pieces of battered and fried Alaskan whitefish, just as many hushpuppies and a plastic ramekin filled with coleslaw. The other basket was filled almost to overflowing with popcorn shrimp and a good-sized stack of the crinkle-cut French fries. Ignoring a pithy comment from my dining partner about my eyes being bigger than my stomach, I picked up my fork and had at it. About halfway through, I determined that there was no way I’d be taking advantage of that “all you can eat” clause. The whitefish was perfect, as was the shrimp, the French fries and even the hushpuppies. With too much of a good thing sitting right there in front of me, I decided to concentrate on the whitefish, then the shrimp and leave the fries for later, which worked out fine.

Conclusion

While my dining partner and I were enjoying our meal, the Telford Diner was gradually filling up with hungry patrons who were taking advantage of the Friday Nite Fish Fry, as well as the Diner’s Friday Buffet; this Friday’s main entrée was house-made pizza, each one with different toppings. Then, Crystal asked if we wanted any dessert. Though the advertised Butterfinger cake looked scrumptious, I was just too full of fish and shrimp. As we were leaving, Crystal and several of the other Telford Diner customers told my dining partner and I to come back again real soon. It is just something that happens when you take your feet off the pedals and coast for a bit. Living life at a slower pace like that found at the Telford Diner is all right by the two of us.

Telford Diner

10 Mill Street

Telford, Tennessee

753-4688

Mon-Wed 6:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.

Thu-Fri 6:30 a.m. – 8 p.m.

Sat 7 a.m. – 11 a.m.

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