Fine dining in Northeast Tennessee

Because I’m a nice person and don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, I don’t want to say this too loudly, but IT’S SPRING BREAK! WOOHOO!

Oh, wait, I said I wasn’t going to do that. But it’s so wonderful! I love spring break! I love having a whole week in which the semester can go twiddle its toes without me. I don’t even care that, for us, spring break happens before mid-term. I don’t care. It’s warm, I have read a bunch of stuff FOR FUN, and my Beloved bought me a painting of a goat that makes my heart happy every time I look at it.

And because it’s spring break, I was able to accompany him on a fact-finding mission to Mountain City, Tenn. I suppose you can find facts anywhere, but the ones he needed happened to be there, and so we found ourselves spending a night in a place that might be the textbook example of a town that rolls up the sidewalks at 5 o’clock — maybe even 4:30.

Now before all you former Mountain City residents get all bristly and unhappy, let me say that I am certain that Mountain City is full of lovely people who have many lively interests. I imagine that they enjoy all kinds of sophisticated entertainments.

Just not at home.

Boone is half an hour away to the east, and Abingdon slightly closer to the north. Johnson City is not all that far (about 45 minutes) to the west, so Mountain City has all kinds of culture in the neighborhood. It just doesn’t seem to have much going on locally, and that includes places to eat after, say, 6 p.m.

We had gone for a drive to Watauga Lake, swinging back by the Johnson County airport, into which you can fly if your plane is the size of a Chevrolet Suburban, and returning to the bed and breakfast in time for a nap. We woke up feeling a bit hungry, but, fortunately, our innkeeper had given us not one but TWO restaurant recommendations right there in town. Fabulous.

Except that it was Monday night, and neither of those restaurants is open on Monday. NOTHING in Mountain City is open on Monday evening, not even its four (!) Dollar General stores. We were left with a choice between McDonalds and a pizza joint with a worrying lack of stars on Trip Advisor. By this time, it was 8 p.m., and it should be noted that I am not a happy camper when I’m hungry. No, I become irrationally grouchy, incapable of making decisions, and likely to snap at the unfortunate spouse who tries to be reasonable (and who has eaten a couple of cookies recently, thereby warding off starvation). I have exactly 46 tiny jelly beans left, and these will not get me to breakfast.

As we noted earlier, Boone and Abingdon are significant drives’ distant, in the dark, over strange roads. Plus, that’s even longer that I’ll be grouchy. There’s a part of me that resists the idea of having a McDonalds’ hamburger by default, so we were at an impasse, and THAT is why we found ourselves wandering the aisles of Food Country at 8:24 p.m. Bread and cheese make a perfectly acceptable non-fast-food supper, and both can be obtained from the Food Country deli.

Which closed at 8 o’clock.

I stared at my beloved, bug-eyed. I have never been anywhere that has less going on, and that includes Rodanthe, N.C., which doesn’t even have a stoplight, and Mule Hell, which isn’t even a place anymore. What do people eat in Mountain City? Perhaps everyone fasts on Monday nights? Possibly everyone is making wild Pacific salmon en papillote with black rice and braised cremini mushrooms right there in their home kitchens? We will never know. We scored some croissants and a summer sausage and scuttled back to our B&B.

As a spring break destination, it may not get any weirder than Mountain City. I can’t honestly say I recommend it, but if you do go, I can give you this piece of advice: if your stay includes a Monday, pack your dinner before you leave home.

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