Lane Morehouse grew up with farm folk in southeast Oklahoma, and spent the first part of his adult life working in the booming Texas oil industry construction business. Morehouse and his wife Stacy decided to move to come east and settle in Johnson City.

Being farm-raised, Morehouse knew about hunting, and his grandma taught him how to cook what he caught.

While here, Morehouse found a vacant restaurant property near ETSU, the VA and the Med-Tech Corridor. So, you take his Texas and Oklahoma heritage, his Grandma’s cooking, his supportive wife Stacy and that prime restaurant location, put ‘em all together and you’ve got Rockin’ 4M Sausage and Grill. That “Rockin’ 4M” logo comes from the Morehouse family cattle brand: Morehouse and his three brothers are the four “M’s”; the “rocker” underneath signifying Togetherness. With a story like this, the dine-around bunch and I just had to go check it out.

Rockin’ 4M is at Lyle Street and West State of Franklin Road in Johnson City. The décor is “Southern Informational,” the walls being adorned with flat screen TVs. There’s seating for 60 patrons at comfortable chairs and tables, and the well-stocked bar is next to the cashier and carry-out counter. The rear wall features Rockin’ 4M’s own version of “Dinner and a Show”: their open-plan kitchen. Restrooms are found at the rear of the restaurant’s dining area.

Appetizer: Boudin balls

Our friendly server Chase was quite helpful. As he and the Retiree were discussing the evening’s menu options, I asked Chase to bring us an order of Rockin’ 4M’s Boudin balls ($9.95) as our appetizer. Boudin balls done the Rockin’ 4M way have Creole-spicy ground pork sausage blended into cooked rice, breaded in flour, dusted in cornmeal and then either pan- or deep-fried until hot and golden brown. Plate up four of these three-inch diameter spheres with a ramekin of remoulade, and you have an excellent appetizer, indeed.

Cheeseburger & French fries

When visiting a new restaurant, the Retiree always chooses an old standby, reasoning that, in ordering Rockin’ 4M’s version of the classic cheeseburger ($9.95) with French fries instead of potato chips, we’d be able to see if Rockn’ 4M’s kitchen could handle the basics. We needn’t have worried. The heart of the Retiree’s cheeseburger was Rockin’ 4M’s proprietary mix of spiced ground beef, hand-formed into a half-pound patty and topped with yellow American cheese, lettuce, tomato, purple onion (nice touch, that) and yellow mustard instead of mayonnaise. Her French fries were fresh-cut and flash-fried in very hot oil until golden brown on the outside, while still moist and tender inside. No doubt about it, Rockin’ 4M passed the “Cheeseburger Test” with flying colors.

Cuban sandwich & homemade potato chips

My dining partner is a sucker for a well-prepared Cuban sandwich ($12.95) and had heard that the Lane Morehouse version was one of the best, since his wife Stacy was very proud of her Cuban lineage. My dining partner’s Cuban sandwich began with a baguette of French bread to which was layered a quantity of smoked pulled pork, followed by a slice of lean smoked ham, then some aged Swiss cheese topped with dill pickle slices and good ol’ yellow mustard. Sided with some of Rockin 4M’s potato chips, my dining partner said her Cuban sandwich was one of the best she’d ever had.

Blackened Fish & Shrimp tacos

I chose the Blackened Fish & Shrimp Tacos entrée ($12.95), with the tortilla chips with salsa as my side order. The tacos started with coarsely diced whitefish and whole shrimp in a proprietary blackening spice medley, spooned into a flour tortilla with a delicious mixed slaw of purple cabbage and avocado crema, and sided with some of the house potato chips instead of fries. Light fare, to be sure, but delectable all the same. The tortilla chips were good as well, and the salsa mildly picante, balancing the heat signature of the blackened seafood.

The bottom line

The dine-around bunch and I were very pleased with what we had ordered at Rockin’ 4M Sausage & Grill. Each of our entrees showed a different aspect of Rockin’ 4M’s competence in the kitchen, from basics like the cheeseburger and fries, the Cuban sandwich’s proper layering of flavors and textures, and the skillset needed to create a fish and shrimp taco with just the right amount of cool, smooth and tangy slaw and avocado crema to offset the heat of the blackened seasoning’s spicy mélange of flavors. Well done in all respects.

Lane Morehouse, Chase and the rest of Rockin’ 4M’s team have made a good start here, and can expect the dine-around bunch on their doorstep very soon. See you there.

Recommended by the Mystery Diner