Ah yes, one of the most important parts of traveling: Food! And also, accommodation. And drink. Lots of things. We’ve gotta stay somewhere, and while we also have to eat, we like to eat the good stuff. And drink the good stuff. So, during our stay in Johnson City, Tennessee, we did as much of that as we could in our too short of stop there.
If you read our first Johnson City post, then you already know we really dig this place. Eating and drinking here – and even staying here – upped that even more.
One of the most important things to us was to be in the city itself, instead of the outskirts where we’d have to drive everywhere and not really be in the element of life in town. There really aren’t many options at all in the city center, so that made our choice easy: Carnegie Hotel.
If I remember it correctly, this hotel is an amalgamation of ideas from a couple of different, old hotels in Johnson City, both of which no longer exist. It was built as a combination of the name and design of these old hotels, to give it some real throwback character. The building itself is gorgeous, and if you didn’t know, you’d think you were stepping into a 100-year-old establishment full of elegance and history.
We didn’t know. We actually asked about it and found out the above. I can’t say enough about how wonderful it was to stay in this place. The whole hotel is full of antiques, and includes a very nice pool, spa, restaurant, and more.
The staff is all top-notch, and as we usually do, we enjoyed plenty of time talking with them about life in JC, the hotel, and what we should see and do in the area. A shout out to literally everyone we dealt with at the Carnegie Hotel. They were simply fantastic.
The rooms are crazy comfortable, and we could probably live in the hotel if we were the type of people who could actually live in a hotel. We’re not that fancy, so a couple of nights would have to do.
The Carnegie Hotel was the perfect place for us to lay our heads in Johnson City, and we highly recommend it if – or better yet, when – you’re in town.
Now, let’s get down to the food!
JJ’s Eatery & Ice Cream
Our first dive into food and drink around here was actually ice cream. Obviously! We arrived in the early afternoon, and our first exploration of the area was a short drive to the town of Jonesborough. (You can read about that right here.)
It was quite a hot day, and nothing said let’s cool down like some creamy, cold treats. This place was jumpin’, and so crowded that they were out of certain flavors. Way more crowded than this shot would have you believe! It really got packed in here after we walked in.
We were still able to find something to our liking – which really isn’t hard for us to do in an ice cream shoppe – and we sat in the air conditioning, at the bar, while we cooled off with a treat and did some people-watching.
While it’s a 15 to 20-minute drive from Johnson City, you’ll want to visit Jonesborough anyway. The oldest town in Tennessee is well worth it for a bunch of reasons, and you might as well stop by for some ice cream while you’re at it!
This ridiculously-named establishment is all about Mexican food. And salsas. Lots of salsas. They have a salsa bar, y’all. We asked our fine hosts at the Carnegie Hotel for recommendations, and this was one of their favorite places.
And, since we can’t get much good Mexican food in our regular stomping ground of Seville, Spain, we said, “Yes, please!”
With locations in Johnson City as well as Black Mountain, NC, these guys know what’s up. While it’s not 100% traditional Mexican food, they do have a nice combination of both American and Mexican Mexican, so it’s easy to please everyone who eats here.
They also have that aforementioned salsa bar, so we asked one of the staff for her recommendations and dove in to find something – or, some things, many things – to our liking.
A proper horchata was on the list as well, something we rarely get these days. Apparently, you can only buy it by the liter, so I did what was required of me and got busy.
This place is really good, and it was easy to see why it got so crazy crowded while we were there. Definitely make a stop in, and drown yourself in some delicious food and a wide array of tasty salsas.
White Duck Taco
Yes, more Mexican food. We go with recommendations! Also, we love Mexican food. And tacos. Lots of tacos. Two nights in Johnson City, two meals of tacos. Taco, taco, taco. Taco!
(I also have to apologize for the not-so-great photos. Damn you, light!)
White Duck Taco is an entirely different type of taco place from the previous one with which we engaged. This joint is all about experimentation. With five locations across Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina, it’s easy to see why they are expanding as soon as you taste one of their tacos.
The one here in Johnson City is actually connected to Yee-Haw Brewing Company – more on that below – so it’s really the perfect place to go have some local craft beer and craft tacos. Craft tacos! That’s what I’m calling them now.
I cannot describe enough how great these tacos are. My. Goodness. It’s really fusion here, with everything from banh mi tacos to Bangkok shrimp tacos, from Korean bulgogi tacos to lamb gyro tacos. Jerk chicken? Yup. Mushroom potato? Sure! Thai peanut chicken? Why not?!
It never ends. And, since it’s connected to the brewery, you can actually sit on either side, or on the patio, while enjoying both at the same time.
We chose to sit on the brewery side, and the nice folks of White Duck Taco served us over there. It was basically heaven. I want to go back now. Book me a ticket!
If you’ve ever been to the southeastern U.S., or you’re from there, you already know all about Cook Out. It’s a fast-food chain, and it’s extremely well-known for its creamery. It has dozens of different types of shakes and malts, and they’ll make your head explode with both their thickness and flavor.
We went here for just that, as there was one next to our hotel and we felt like some late-night dessert after a long day of tacos and beer. It did not disappoint, and we “forced” the staff at our hotel to let us buy them a round as well.
So, that was quite a nice treat on our last night in Johnson City, making our faces red trying to get the thick, ice-creamy, flavorlicious goodness out of our cups and into our bodies.
I can’t speak for the food here, but the shakes are well worth it. Do it, for sure.
Yee-Haw Brewing Company
Valhalla, at last! There are already a few craft breweries in Johnson City, but Yee-Haw is the one that was first and foremost recommended to us. It was also within walking distance of our hotel, so that’s where we ended up. (Sorry, other breweries…we will be back!)
This place is situated in the wonderful and historic, former East Tennessee & Western North Carolina railroad station, aka the Tweetsie depot, and this rapidly expanding team of beer lovers really seems to have it all down pat.
They’ve created a glorious space in which to hang out and watch the world go by, have a beer with friends, and crush on some tacos from the previously raved-about White Duck Taco.
They say their mission is about balance, presenting “bold and flavorful” beers that are also easy to drink. Most of their brews are just that, and while we enjoyed all of them, our number-one favorite by far was their High Gravity Double IPA. We love hops. Hops, hops, hops. The hoppier the better, always. So, that was our favorite and our go-to.
Their other brews kept us lively and happy, though, too, from dark beers to maibocks to pilsners and pale ales. Righteousness was definitely emitted here at Yee-Haw.
I would like to go back there now, please. Some Yee-Haw and White Duck, stat!
And that wraps up our stay in the Tri-Cities of northeastern Tennessee! Johnson City has it going on; be sure to check out our previous post about what we did while we were in the area.
Major thanks to all the people and places that let us invade while we were here. We had a wonderful time, and we really look forward to getting back for more action. Also, more ice cream, tacos, and beer.
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Have you ever been to Johnson City? If so, what’d you think? If not, what say ye? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!