Taking a “Toot” to Tootie’s

Mystery Diner • Dec 5, 2019 at 7:00 AM

It is not often that the dine-around bunch and I get to dine at a restaurant that is part of a community’s history. On the advice of my dining partner, the five of us went on a road trip, a “toot” if you will. Our destination was a genuine landmark eatery located in the southeast side of Bristol, Tennessee, with the delightful moniker of Tootie’s Restaurant.

Tootie’s building is of two stories with a sizable overhang emblazoned with the establishment’s name. Returning World War II veteran Claude “Tootie” Vance opened a hardware and general merchandise business across the road from a lumber mill in southeastern Bristol. His store also featured a lunch counter that proved to be very popular. When Vance retired in 1982, his son Arvil bought the business and named it “Tootie’s” in Vance’s honor.

Inside and out, the building looks pretty much as it did in 1945. There is seating for about 60 patrons inside with additional seating for 16 out front on the patio. The order counter and kitchen occupies the right rear quadrant of the dining area, with restrooms nearby. Tootie’s serves breakfast all day long, so the dine-around bunch and I decided to sample entrees from both ends of Tootie’s menu.

Philly chicken sub sandwich: Having heard from a friend of hers that Tootie’s made a great Philly chicken sub sandwich, ($5.99) the Dieter ordered one, with an order of Tootie’s delicious French fries, ($1.79) to go with it. This proved to be coarsely-chopped white meat chicken grilled with peppers and onions and topped with melted mozzarella cheese on an 8-inch hoagie bun. Pleased with her order, the Dieter offered me a bite. I tried it, adding a smidge of black pepper and was pleased with the result. The fries were very crisp on the outside, while being hot and fluffy on the inside. Excellent.

“Arvil” burger w/double cheese: The Retiree and the Carnivore each spotted Tootie’s signature “Arvil” Burger (named after the boss Mr. Arvil, of course) on the menu almost simultaneously, ($6.79). Containing over one pound of 100% beef, the burger is fixed “German style” with grilled onions inside the burger. The burger is then dressed with double the amount of fixin’s, lettuce, tomato, mayo, and double the American cheese as well. It takes a big appetite to handle an Arvil burger, so the Retiree and the Carnivore decided to split it (one-third, two-thirds, not 50-50) and added an order of French fries to go with it. This proved to be enough to fill both their tummies.

8-inch breakfast sub sandwich: To me, having a good breakfast is an essential start of my day. It allows me to collect my thoughts, plan some strategy and make sure I have everything I need to make the day a successful one. This particular day, I’d not had my breakfast, and was feeling the lack of it keenly. My salvation was found in a Tootie’s Breakfast sub sandwich ($5.95). Here, two eggs any style (scrambled, in my case) are tucked into an eight-inch hoagie bun along with melted mozzarella cheese lettuce, tomato and topped with two 10-inch long strips of Applewood-smoked bacon. There’s room to spread some mayonnaise on the bun, but I didn’t need it; the flavorful mix of egg, cheese, bacon, tomato and bun was more than enough for my taste buds to handle.

Willie Boom breakfast platter: My dining partner found her hitting the ground running as well. A day of work on short rations had her feeling “thin and stretched” as she like to call it. Hearing me order my breakfast sub sandwich left her wanting something more. “More” for my partner proved to be the “Willie Boom” breakfast, ($7.59). (“Willie Boom” is the old name for the community where Tootie’s is located.) Start with three eggs over medium well, then add two slices of that lengthy Applewood bacon. Next there’s a sausage patty, a slice of center-cut country ham and some hash browns. The finisher is two of Tootie’s incomparable “cathead” biscuits smothered in homemade gravy. All of it of the finest rib-sticking quality, and all absolutely delicious.

Back on the road again: No old-timey diner worth its name would be complete without a soda fountain. Despite the cramped quarters inside, Tootie’s offers hand-dipped ice cream in 12 flavors that change frequently as the supply waxes and wanes. A single dip in a sugar cone or cup is only $2.19, while a double dip will run you a dollar more. Tootie’s also makes a great milk shake ($3.79) and a root beer float for just $2.79.

Be advised that Tootie’s is busiest around lunch and also supper time so it is best to arrive either early or “fashionably late” as my dining partner says. Early or late, your “toot” to Tootie’s will be assured of prompt efficient service and a meal that is positively scrumptious.

Tootie’s Restaurant

1310 Virginia Avenue

Bristol, Tennessee


Mon-Fri 8 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.

Sat 8:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.

Closed Sunday

Credit cards accepted

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