One of my favorite ways to spend a Saturday or Sunday is to take day trips with my family. We head to rural towns throughout Tennessee and explore the local vibes — be it exploring the shops along Main Street, hiking in the area, or simply driving around town. Inevitably, we always grab a meal somewhere, which brings the opportunity to try some fantastic locally owned restaurants and rarely are we ever disappointed with the experience. If you’re looking to enjoy a great meal at a restaurant you’ve likely never heard of, check out these rural Tennessee restaurants that are absolutely worth the drive!
10 Rural TN Restaurants Worth the Drive
109 Market St E, Fayetteville, TN 37334 • @honeysrestaurant
It’s safe to say that if a restaurant is the “home of” a particular dish, you may as well go ahead and order it. Well, Honey’s Restaurant, located on Fayetteville’s courthouse square since 1923, is home of the slawburger, so go ahead and skip the menu and place your order. The all-beef patty is topped with “yellow slaw,” a condiment dating back to the 1930s and created by Honey’s founder, Weston James Stubblefield. Rather than the standard mayonnaise that is used in coleslaw, Weston mixed the cabbage, sugar, vinegar and salt with mustard. He slapped it on a burger, found it delicious, and thus the slawburger was born. Perhaps plan your trip to Honey’s to coincide with the Slawburger Festival, a fairly new annual event celebrating this uniquely Fayetteville flavor! Not a fan of slaw? That’s fine — there are plenty of other options on the menu, including non-slaw burgers, sandwiches, salads, steaks, pork chops, pie, cookies … the list goes on!
104 E 3rd Ave, Carthage, TN 37030 • ebelstavern.com
Located in Carthage’s quaint downtown district, Ebel’s Tavern has been serving up tasty food and libations since 2017. In fact, it was the first restaurant in Carthage to serve liquor by the drink since prohibition! Everything on the menu is sourced fresh — from local produce to Gulf oysters on the half shell, complete with saltines and cocktail sauce. Start with an appetizer of calamari, fried green tomatoes, or some spinach artichoke dip, to name just a few — or a salad. For the main event, select a grilled steak, a piece of fresh fish, or go for our favorite, the shrimp po’boy — fried Gulf shrimp is packed into a grilled hoagie and topped with lettuce, tomato and an unbelievable remoulade. YUM!
Bells Drive In
204 S Church Ave, Henderson, TN 38340 • Facebook
Looking for a no-frills, wildly popular burger experience? Stop at Bell’s Drive In in tiny Henderson, TN, and find out for yourself if the motto on the front door — “The Best Hamburger This Side of Heaven” — is true. Sure, the menu features Southern staples like a BBQ plate or chicken dinner, but why not accept the challenge and see if, in fact, Bell’s does have the best burger? It appears, based on a quick scroll through Bell’s Drive In’s Facebook page, that plenty of satisfied customers back up that claim. Choose from the hamburger, cheeseburger, double hamburger or double cheeseburger, and be sure to grab a side of onion rings. Go big or go home, right? Other options include salads (fried chicken, grilled chicken or chef), sandwiches, hot dogs, and other diner-style fare. Finish the meal with a sundae, milkshake or dipped ice cream cone.
4150 Old Hillsboro Road, Franklin, TN 37064 • 1892leipersfork.com
This dining destination is a gem, and its frequently rotating menu will have you salivating. Packed with elevated Southern fare, options abound — every one of them delectable! Follow 1892 on Facebook or Instagram to keep up with the latest menu offerings. Items like tuna nachos, spicy ricotta-stuffed zucchini squash, shrimp and grits with smoked tomato, and buttermilk dill salad appear from time to time, but if you spot the pork belly lettuce wraps (tender pork belly with a soy glaze shares space with kimchi and pickled red onions in a crispy lettuce wrap), get in the car and head to Leiper’s Fork. Trust us!
112 W. Lincoln St., Tullahoma, TN 37388 • one22west.com
For an elevated meal in Tullahoma, head to One22West, a locally owned establishment that’s been serving up amazing flavors since 1997. The menu runs the gamut — think chicken, pasta, seafood, salads — but for a delectable meal you won’t soon forget, the filet mignon is the way to go. Start with a salad before slicing into a tender 8-ounce Black Angus filet wrapped in bacon and cooked to order. You can top it with blue cheese crumbles, sautéed onions or sautéed peppers upon request. Pair it with a side — mashed potatoes, baked potato, sautéed kale, green beans, broccoli, fried okra and more.
Main Street Eatery
13075 N Main St, Somerville, TN 38068 • mseatery.com
Main Street Eatery is a family-owned business that’s been operating since 2016. Open for breakfast and lunch, you’ll find everything from wraps and salads on the lunch menu to breakfast burritos and scrambler bowls for breakfast. Also on the breakfast menu and worthy of mention are the monthly specialty pancakes. For example, March’s specialty was the “Espresso Delight” pancakes — pancakes made with espresso and chocolate, topped with mini chocolate chips and slathered in an espresso glaze. December featured “Christmas Decadence” pancakes — white chocolate pancakes sprinkled with white chocolate chips and topped with white mousse and macadamia nuts. You get the idea. They’re super special and worth the drive!
Hagy’s Catfish Hotel
1140 Hagy Ln, Shiloh, TN 38376 • catfishhotel.com
Leave your diet plan at home when you visit Hagy’s Catfish Hotel, one of the nation’s oldest family-owned restaurants. The menu features everything from frog legs and Hotel fish tacos to baby back ribs and Southern-style pot roast, but we recommend you go with the dish that’s part of the establishment’s name. The “Whole Fish” entree ($15.95) features four pieces of Southern-style catfish, fried to perfection, and is paired with hush puppies, a choice of vegetable (French fries, baked potato, sweet potato or steamed veggies) and choice of salad (house, strawberry field or coleslaw). Most importantly, save room for dessert and ask for Jack’s Caramel Pie ($5.25), named after Jack Hagy, son of the restaurant’s founder, Norvin Hagy. A graham cracker crust houses thick, rich caramel, pecans and chocolate shavings all topped with whipped cream. Sinfully delicious!
The Bull & Thistle Pub
102 S Main St, Gainesboro, TN 38562 • bullandthistle.com
Take a trip across the pond without ever leaving the Volunteer State when you dine at The Bull & Thistle Pub, which is self-described “Celtic Fare on the Square,” referring to its location on Gainesboro historic courthouse square. The menu definitely has Irish flare with items like Kilkenny crab gratin, Irish meatloaf, and corned beef and cabbage. But for a distinctly pub-like meal, go with the fish and chips, made with sustainable white fish and house-made chips and tartar sauce. Diners who get the fish and chips are further challenged to keep it authentic by asking for the mushy peas to go with it. We’ll let you decide on that part! Additional menu options include salads, burgers, and steaks, while dinner specials include entrees like Jamaican Jerk Chicken, Beef Wellington and Lobster Thermidor. Grab a tasty libation and enjoy some live music to truly soak in the experience. Explore the beautifully plated dishes on The Bull & Thistle Instagram page.
Cumberland Biscuit Company
114 W Main St, McMinnville, TN 37110 • cumberlandbiscuitcompany.com
Located in downtown McMinnville (okay, McMinnville isn’t technically rural, but …), the Cumberland Biscuit Company offers a creative menu of flavors for breakfast, brunch and dinner. On the dinner menu, you’ll find appetizers like pimento cheese toast and fried green tomatoes with CBC remoulade. Burgers, pasta, salads and some delectable desserts round things out. The big draw, though, is brunch. Order up a mimosa while you browse options like crab cakes Benedict, the vegetarian biscuit sandwich (mushrooms, spinach, onions, bell peppers, and egg), stuffed pancakes (stuffed with your choice of bacon, ham or sausage) and maple syrup, breakfast platters, a variety of omelets, and, of course, biscuits — of which there are seven different options. Hungry yet? Peruse the entire menu here.
The Foglight Foodhouse
275 Power House Rd, Walling, TN 38587 • foglight-foodhouse.com
This family-owned business overlooks the Caney Fork River and offers not only an amazing menu, but also catering options, cooking classes, meeting space, and eclectic decor. On the menu, Southern meets seafood where you’ll find “surf” options, “turf” options and some Cajun flavors as well. Look for shrimp and grits, swamp cakes (lightly fried crab cakes served atop a bed of creamy grits and garnished with étouffée and smoked cheddar), the Rock Island ribeye, Monterey grilled chicken, Creole crawfish bisque, jambalaya, blacked chicken crawfish alfredo and more. Finish your meal with one of the desserts on the rotating menu.
Enjoy your small-town dining adventures!
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