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New book serves up heaping helping of history

Nathan Baker • Jun 21, 2020 at 7:00 AM

Remember that old diner with the legendary pie your family used to visit all dressed up in their finest after church? Or that bar and grill restaurant that kept you fed and happy during your college years?

A new book from Arcadia Publishing remembers and celebrates the region’s historic eateries and the good times they served within.

“Lost Restaurants of the Tri-Cities Tennessee,” coming July 27, reaches deep into our past to explore our long-standing love affair with food.

“People spend a lot of time eating,” author Daphne Matthews said Wednesday. “Meal times mean a lot to people. With this collection of restaurants, people can go back and remember when they used to eat there with mamaw, or so-and-so used to take them there all the time. It’s a lot of nostalgia and represents a major part of people’s lives.”

Matthews grew up in Mount Carmel and lives in Blountville. She and her husband co-wrote another Arcadia Publishing book, “Hiltons” in the “Images of America” series.

Matthews said she originally contacted the publisher about writing a children’s book, but was steered toward writing about the history of restaurants instead.

Many of the places she wrote about have come and gone, but some, like Pal’s or the Hob-Nob Drive In, survived the test of time and have become institutions in the region.

To find the greasy spoons and roadside grills she featured, Matthews asked around. Archivists at the Kingsport Public Library were particularly helpful in finding photographs and other info, she said.

She visited some of the places where now-closed restaurants used to be. Sometimes, locals would point her to a new lead.

“It was interesting to see how many people in these communities remembered these restaurants,” she said. “When we started talking about them, a lot of these historians said a book like this would be a good resource for documenting their history.”

Matthews dedicated the book to 12 people who meant a lot in her life who died while she worked on the book. That much loss in such a short period of time profoundly affected her life, and she wanted to immortalize them, she said.

“Lost Restaurants of the Tri-Cities Tennessee” publishes July 27. The 128-page paperback is listed at $21.99. Visit arcadiapublishing.com for more information.