My dining partner and I were bringing our friend the Retiree home from her flight from Utah, when I spilled the beans on where we’d be having supper that evening. A warning look from my partner came too late, and the surprise was ruined; we were having supper at one of the retiree’s favorite restaurants, Cootie Brown’s Campus location in Johnson City.

First impressions

Cootie Brown’s Campus is located on West State of Franklin Road, across from the ETSU Mini-Dome. Once on West State of Franklin, head toward the ETSU campus and keep your eye open for the Mini-Dome in the near distance. At the stoplight near the Mini-Dome, turn down West Harris Drive just past ETSU’s Martin Fine Arts Center, and take the first entrance on your left toward Cootie Brown’s parking lot.

Cootie Brown’s Campus location has a good deal of porch space facing the Mini-Dome, fronting an inside dining porch (seating capacity: about 40 patrons) with roll-up windows the size of garage doors to let the outside air in. Through a set of double doors is an inner dining area seating over 100 diners in Tramp Art-style booths and tables. The cashier and carry-out counter is inside, fronting a very busy kitchen pass-thru window. The Tramp Art motif continues throughout the restaurant, creating a friendly, welcoming atmosphere. Rest room access is through an alcove on the left.

Selections

Even though the three of us showed up at 6 p.m., the peak of Cootie’s supper rush, we only had a wait of between 10 and 15 minutes. Our server Julianne greeted us at our table, took our drink orders and answered a couple of menu questions we had. While my dining partner and the Retiree were discussing their menu choices, a veggie-only mood had me order Cootie’s Mediterranean Salad ($13.95) with toasted white flatbread. My dining partner ordered a half-sized Cootie’s Club sandwich ($10.95) sided with Cootie’s chips, while the Retiree opted for the barbecue pulled pork dinner ($15.95) with baked potato and a ramekin of Cootie’s creamy coleslaw.

How it tastes

In due course, Julianne had our orders in front of us.

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I was particularly pleased with my Mediterranean salad. Cootie Brown’s kitchen does a very good job combining romaine lettuce with Bibb lettuce, marinated artichoke hearts, Kalamata and pitted Sicilian olives, crumbled feta cheese, sun dried tomato shreds, cucumber chunks and roasted garlic hummus, with some balsamic vinaigrette available if needed. The toasted flatbread was added for additional texture and crunch. The mixture of flavors from the Mediterranean salad’s various elements combined to render the vinaigrette into a minor role in the overall flavor bouquet.

In her half-a-Cootie’s Club sandwich, my dining partner was very pleased with the interplay of the ingredients. Smoked slices of roasted turkey and smoked pit ham were matched with equal amounts of aged Swiss cheese and white American cheese. Hickory-smoked bacon was laid on for good measure, along with a garnish of lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise, all of it served up on a hero sandwich bun. Though some ketchup was provided, the sandwich had no need for additional condiments, standing proudly on its own merits. The house-made potato chips Cootie’s supplied were very good as well.

After a day of airport and aircraft food, the Retiree was glad to get some of Cootie Brown’s excellent smoked barbecue pork in her tummy; its proprietary sauce and some coleslaw adding balance to the whole. I watched as the Retiree filled her fork with baked potato and barbecue, then sink the loaded fork into the coleslaw, coating the potato and pork with coleslaw liquor before popping it in her mouth.

The resulting smile our friend made while chewing the morsel spoke volumes about how Cootie’s was welcoming her home after a trying day.

The bottom line

Cootie Brown’s Campus did a great job in providing excellent food in a timely manner for the dining partner, the Retiree and I. Julianne’s prompt and careful service was just what our friend the Retiree needed to welcome her back home. After a day spent traveling on airlines, it was nice for our friend to have someone looking after her, providing some friendly and much-needed Tennessee hospitality.

I can’t think of a better way to welcome your friends home than entrusting them to the folks at Cootie Brown’s Campus.

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