Recently, my dining partner and I decided to dine at the Barrel House in historic downtown Jonesborough and take along our friend, the Retiree. Parking spaces on Jonesborough’s Main Street are at a premium these days. Our 5 p.m. arrival at Courthouse Square meant we were able to park close to the Barrel House. Additional and convenient parking is located behind the courthouse itself, giving you a pleasant walk to Main Street.

First impressions

Built at the turn of the last century, the Barrel House’s entry is a pair of glass-fronted double doors, floors of three-inch wide yellow pine that have a honey-golden patina from years of use, and make an agreeable squeak when you walk on them. One of the former display windows has been converted into a stage for weekend musical performances. Near the front doors is a cashier and carry-out counter fronting a dining room accommodating 40 or so, with more tables in an upstairs loft to handle the overflow. There is also an outdoor patio off this upstairs loft. A unisex restroom is located at the right rear of the downstairs dining room.

The Barrel House operates as both a restaurant and as a tavern. In addition to the food menu, the Barrel House also has a beer and wine list that includes a variety of strong waters. Their competently handled carry-out service is sure to get your order right and ready on time. If you are coming for the music on Friday and Saturday nights, be advised that there is a $5 cover charge. Décor is what I term “1890s General Store;” there is enough old-timey merchandise here along with some genuine antiques like the old Coca Cola ice chest perched over the front door, to stock Lum & Abner’s original “Jot-Em Down Store.”

Ready to order

After being seated by our friendly server Marissa, my two supper companions held an inquest on which of them would order what.

Meanwhile, wanting something light, I chose a Barrell House Garden Salad ($10.99) topped with grilled chicken ($3 extra), and sided with an a la carte order of fried okra ($2.99). For my salad dressing, I asked Marissa to bring me some of Barrel House’s Alabama White barbecue sauce. My dining partner also chose chicken, in the form of a grilled chicken sandwich ($11.49) sided with coleslaw.

The Retiree opted for the Barrel House Pulled Pork Plate ($13.89) also with coleslaw and some sweet potato fries as her side items. The three of us had unsweetened ice tea with lemon for our supper’s libation.

The meal

I was very pleased with the garden salad Marissa set in front of me. Assembled from leaf spinach and torn iceberg lettuce leaves, together with chopped tomato, sliced onion, green cucumber chips and a fine shred of cheddar/Monterey Jack mixed cheese grated on top, my salad was both cold and crisp, and fresh as can be. The grilled chicken was also good, though its quantity on the plate was less than what I was expecting. I can heartily recommend using Barrel House Alabama White barbecue sauce as a salad dressing; it complemented everything that was on my plate.

My dining partner’s grilled chicken sandwich was very good, being deliciously seasoned and moist, topped by a frond of leaf lettuce, a sliced section of Texas White onion and some of my Alabama White barbecue sauce. The coleslaw was serviceable, though not especially noteworthy.

It was the Retiree’s pulled pork plate that took top honors for the evening. The Barrel House does a very good job of smoking their meats, imparting a complex mix of smoked-based flavors and textures to the pork. Barrel House correctly serves their pulled pork barbecue “in nature’s garb,” allowing the diner to apply what enrobing of sauce is deemed necessary.

The Retiree also had a word about Barrel House’s sweet potato fries.

That word was “yummy.”

The Bottom Line

If the service provided by the Barrel House is typical of that provided by the very friendly and capable Marissa, your dining here will be that much more of a pleasant experience.

The Jonesborough Barrel House is a great place to have a leisurely lunch or supper in comfortable surroundings.

Why not stop in, see and taste the next time you are visiting Tennessee’s Oldest Town?

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