Johnson City Press: Watauga’s Country Diner is Tri-Cities’ best kept secret
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Watauga’s Country Diner is Tri-Cities’ best kept secret

Mystery Diner • Jan 3, 2019 at 7:00 AM

“Anything you order here at the Country Diner, you’ll like,” said the man sitting at the table across the aisle from my dining partner and myself.

“Well, thanks for the advice, Mister,” I replied, “Uh, what did you say your name was? “

“Jack’s the name, son,” said Jack, taking another bite of his cheeseburger. “The burgers here are the best and thick as that,” his thumb and forefinger indicating a two-inch depth.

“That’s for me,” said my dining partner to our server Melissa, “I want one of your mushroom & Swiss burgers ($4.70) with fries ($1.99).”

“And you, honey?” Melissa turned to me, pen poised over pad, “What’s your order today?”

“Any of the daily special platter left?” I asked.

“They ran out of the meat loaf about an hour ago,” said Jack with a wink at Melissa.

“Then I’ll have a hamburger steak platter, cooked medium please, Melissa,” I said ($9.30), “and I’ll have the barbecue beans with it and a house salad as my other side order,” ($1.25).

While out for a drive last week, my dining partner and I decided to take a drive through the town of Watauga, Tennessee, a pleasant hamlet of historic homes and hard-working residents. Watauga’s main drag, Watauga Road is a speed zone that is maintained by the Watauga Police Department, who are both vigilant and efficient. Just before you reach the city’s eastern limits you’ll find, (as we did) the Country Diner there in the bend of East Watauga Road.

The Country Diner is co-owned by Ms. Audrey Beard and Ms. Donna Vaughn, who have been serving the public for more than seven years. The diner itself is “bungalow-sized” with seating for about 20 or so inside and a further 10 to 12 outside on their front deck. Proprietors Beard and Vaughn handle the kitchen, while their friendly server Melissa greets the customers and handles front-of-the-house duties. The decor is haphazard and charming, as if you’ve stopped by a friend’s house for a bite to eat.

Mushroom & Swiss burger with fries. My dining partner’s mushroom & Swiss burger was indeed as thick as fellow diner Jack said it would be, a one-third pound 100% ground beef patty cooked medium well and topped with grilled onions, mayonnaise (light, at my dining partner’s request) and two slices of nutty-tasting and hole-y Swiss cheese. My partner’s side order of French fries, commissary-made and frozen though they were, under Ms. Beard’s capable hand emerged from the deep-fryer golden and crunchy on the outside, hot and fluffy on the inside. All in all, the beef, Swiss cheese, grilled onions, light mayo and crunchy-soft French fries (and ketchup, don’t forget her ketchup) kept my dining partner very happy indeed.

Hamburger Steak, salad and barbecue beans. Meanwhile, I was digging into my hamburger steak, barbecue beans and green salad. My 10-ounce hamburger steak was of the same 100 percent ground beef that my dining partner was currently enjoying with her mushrooms and Swiss cheese. My steak was grilled medium then plated up and served with the Country Diner’s barbecue beans, the house salad bowl near to hand. The steak was thick and mouth-watering with every bite. The barbecue beans had a smoky, slightly sweet sauce with flecks of chopped onion and crispy bacon bits mixed in. My salad was scratch-made from chopped iceberg lettuce, sliced purple onions, sliced green peppers, diced red tomato all topped with shredded cheddar and jack cheeses, a ramekin of home-made ranch salad dressing nearby. I was very pleased with my meal.

The bottom line. Besides burgers and platters, Watauga’s Country Diner does sandwiches, starting with their 95 cent small burger with pickle, onions and mustard, all the way up to a club sandwich of ham, turkey, bacon, cheese, lettuce, tomato and mayo ($5.35). The Country Diner also does breakfast, serving everything from biscuits to omelets to French toast and pancakes with your choice of bacon, ham, sausage, pork tenderloin or (ah, yes) country ham.

For those waking up famished, there is the Country Man’s Breakfast ($7.05) that features three eggs any style, a gravy biscuit, hash-brown potatoes and your choice of pork tenderloin or country ham. I cannot think of a better way to start my day, so my dining partner and I are planning a morning return trip to Watauga’s Country Diner. Maybe I’ll see you there as well.

Country Diner

411 East Watauga Road

Watauga, Tennessee

434-0900

Tue – Fri 7a.m. – 6 p.m.

Sat 8 a.m. – 12 noon

Closed Sunday & Monday

Available on Facebook

Credit cards accepted

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