Two Dads Cafe & Catering has become a downtown Kingsport staple, especially among the breakfast crowd, over the past dozen years.
The cafe also serves lunch with equally popular hand-pattied burgers and sandwiches with the freshest trimmings to be found.
Charles King Jr. and Randall “Randy” Slagle became friends years ago when they worked together at a big box retail store. Both liked to cook, and each was known for serving up homemade meals to their children and their children’s friends.
When they combined those home-cooking efforts, they came to be known as “the two dads.” When they decided to open a small restaurant and catering business, they got immediate support from family and friends, including their parents and their children. That was in 2010.
The business today still bustles with activity, both behind the scenes and out front, from family and friends.
And it continues to grow. King and Slagle recently opened a second eatery up the street with a focus on cool treats and a line of sandwiches.
We stopped by to make sure nothing was changing at the Two Dads Cafe because of the new deli and ice cream shop. We were assured the “main” restaurant will continue to serve its customers, regulars and first-timers alike.
Slagle answered the following questions for us.
Q: How long has your restaurant been in operation?
A: Twelve years total. We opened in 2010 on Cumberland Street beside what was then Olde Tyme Auction. In 2014 we moved to the current location on Sullivan at Charlemont.
Q: What do you consider the specialties at your restaurant and why?
A: Our hand-pattied burgers and, basically, good country breakfast items. We make everything fresh each day, and our customers tell us it shows. Some of our most popular breakfast items are biscuits and gravy and our made-to-order omelettes.
Q: What is your culinary education and how did you learn to do what you do in the kitchen?
A: We learned to cook from our grandmothers and mothers.
Q: Explain in as much detail as possible why your restaurant is appealing to customers and how you maintain that ambience.
A: Our goal is to make our guests feel like they’re eating at the table of their own grandma or mom, so we have tried to keep it homey and cozy. We have a lot of memorabilia and Americana throughout the restaurant. It’s a very family-oriented place. If we have a signature attraction decor-wise, it’s a large Christmas tree that we leave up year-round, changing its decoration theme seasonally throughout the year. Right now it is decked out in a “back-to-school” look.
Q: Do you share recipes with your diners?
A: We do not.
Q: How do you think your restaurant differs from other restaurants in the Tri-Cities region?
A: Everything is homemade, using as many locally sourced ingredients as possible. You will see us regularly at the Kingsport Farmers Market throughout its season picking out locally grown produce. We like the farm-to-table aspect, but also want to support other local small businesses as much as possible.
Q: What are the advantages and disadvantages of your location?
A: Our biggest advantage is our location. We’re at the heart of the historic Five Points section of downtown Kingsport with high visibility and a lot of traffic flow. The building was a restaurant in Kingsport’s early days, when Five Points was the center of retail prior to the build-out of Broad Street. Over the past couple or three years, more and more small businesses have opened along Sullivan Street, and multiple buildings have become residential lofts, bringing more foot traffic.
Our biggest disadvantage has been the limited on-street parking.
Q: How often do you change the menu at the restaurant and why?
A: We make changes about once a year, based on feedback and customer requests. Changes in the economy also can result in changes on our menu. We want to offer customers a wide selection of affordable choices and respond to their input.
Q: What’s your favorite cookbook?
A: Neither of us have one particular favorite. In general, we enjoy classic old cookbooks.