For a small college town, you would be surprised at the variety of restaurants in Johnson City, TN that you’ll find. Food will become a major part of your Johnson City itinerary!

Located in the Northeast corner of Tennessee, you’ll need some hearty meals after all the outdoor adventures you go on in the area.

I was visiting the area for the Southern Travelers Explore Conference put on by Wherever I May Roam.

During my four days in Johnson City, I was lucky enough to eat at many local restaurants (plus lots of Johnson City breweries!) and I can promise you that each experience was incredible.

So I’ve broken up this guide by meal and yes, dessert can be its own meal if you so choose. As a North Carolina girl, many of my favorite restaurants serve southern comfort food but you’ll find a few other types on this list too!

Disclaimer: I was hosted by Visit Johnson City for part of my time here. However, all opinions are my own. This article may contain affiliate links that I earn a small commission from at no additional cost to you.

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The Best Restaurants in Johnson City, TN


Pennyman’s Diner

I love a good diner for breakfast. You really can’t beat a good plate of eggs, bacon, and biscuits. Maybe add a little gravy.

Pennyman’s has one of the best southern breakfasts in town. If you need a hearty meal to start off your day then head here. Not to mention the prices are fantastic for what you get.

If you are super hungry then try the Breakfast Club – BLT on the bottom and sausage, egg, & cheese on top served on texas toast.

Address: 1409 E Main Street | Website: Pennyman’s Diner

Java Juice House

toast, crepe, and acai bowl with fruits
You get to pick which fruits go on your breakfast!

I figured I should include at least one healthy option in the list. Just because it’s healthy doesn’t mean it’s lacking in taste though!

I got the Nutella toast here with bananas and strawberries and honey drizzled on top. I was not disappointed one bit. They also serve beautiful acai and pitaya bowls, crepes, and smoothies.

If you want a photo of your bowl for Instagram make sure to ask if they’ll put it in a coconut bowl. They currently aren’t serving hot coffee so if you need your coffee fix you can walk next door to Maple Street Biscuit Company.

Address: 1061 Hamilton Pl Drive | Website: Java Juice House

Crumb Bake Shop

pastries on a platter

Oh. My. Gosh. Buttery croissants, delicious pastries, plus a full breakfast and lunch menu.

Their ham & cheese croissant was one of the best things I’ve ever had for breakfast. It was so unique! And then the poptart was out of this world.

You can also get loaves of specialty bread here. On Sundays, they have a menu that changes weekly where their staff gets to experiment with new recipes!

Address: 500 W Walnut St | Website: Crumb Bake Shop


Gourmet & Company

sandwich with fries and tea
Try the apricot sweet tea – sounds strange but it is delicious!

This is a must-visit on your trip to Johnson City. They have huge salads with the freshest ingredients, unique sandwiches, and burgers that will knock your socks off.

I highly recommend the truffle fries – some of the best I’ve had – and the Mountcastle Sandwich which is turkey, brie, and granny smith apple slices. Delish.

Reservations are recommended and if it’s nice weather then sit on the patio. They also have an incredible dinner menu that changes seasonally and it’s perfect for date night. Just be willing to pay a bit more.

Address: 214 E Mountcastle Dr | Website: Gourmet & Company

Main Street Pizza Co.

sandwich with chips

Here you’ll find the typical Italian bistro food like pizza, subs, and pasta. However, many menu items have a twist.

Like my Philly Cheesesteak also had alfredo sauce on it. I don’t typically like alfredo sauce but that creamy addition to the sandwich made a huge difference.

No worries if you are gluten-free because they have a cauliflower parmesan crust that is delicious!

Address: 300 E Main St, Unit 101 | Website: Main Street Pizza

Cootie Brown’s

If you bring someone here and they can’t find anything they want to eat then run away because they are NUTS. Okay maybe that’s a little harsh, but really… 

The variety on the menu here really is unmatched. And all of it is good.

They have great salads, pizza, southern comfort food, sandwiches, and BBQ. I loved the atmosphere here too. It’s colorful with a super open and airy interior.

Make sure to finish off your meal with some Key Lime Pie. You won’t forget that slice anytime soon.

Address: 1404 W State of Franklin Rd & 2715 N Roan St | Website: Cootie Brown’s

Pal’s Sudden Service

Yes, this photo is of breakfast. It was well past dark and I had no place to get a good picture when I got a cheeseburger.

Okay, yes this is a fast food joint. You may be wondering if I’ve lost my marbles putting this on a “best restaurants” list but you have to go here if you visit Northeast Tennessee.

This is the only area you’ll find them! The only one where you can sit down is the original Pal’s in Kingsport.

They are known for their burgers, hot dogs, and how quickly they move people through the line. They basically throw food out the window.

You can also get breakfast here and if you do then get the cheddar rounds with fry seasoning and thank me later.

Address: Multiple | Website: Pal’s Sudden Service

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Scratch Brick Oven Pizza

The outside of this restaurant may not look like much, but you’ll forget all about that once you get inside.

Scratch is known for its “Trust” or “Limited Trust” pizzas. If you order a “Trust” pizza the guys making the pizzas will put whatever they want on it. You’re saying “I trust you to make something good.”

If you order a “Limited Trust” then you can give certain stipulations like “I want red sauce” or “no pineapple” and they get to come up with the rest.

Maybe not for you picky eaters out there but it would definitely make for an interesting night.

Address: 100 E Unaka Ave | Website: Scratch Brick Oven


Label is definitely one of the best restaurants in Johnson City and they have great appetizers and American entrees.

Steak, chicken, and seafood are what you’ll find on the menu. If you come before 7pm then they also have great drink specials.

Sushi is another popular item here. This is the perfect spot for date night or a special dinner with a group of friends.

Address: 112 Tipton St | Website: Label

Southern Craft BBQ

beer flight with Southern Craft BBQ sign in background

If you like smoked meat with down-home southern sides then do not skip this restaurant. Their BBQ is out of this world but they also serve smoked turkey, chicken, and even salmon.

If you love their sauce then don’t worry, you can buy a bottle and take it home with you for just $5.

Great Oak Brewing is part of Southern Craft as well so make sure to try a craft beer with your meal. They have a long list of their regular beers plus seasonal offerings on tap.

Address: 601 Spring St, Unit #101 | Website: Southern Craft BBQ


The brats & pretzel appetizer is a great pick.

I haven’t had schnitzel like this since I got back from Germany. It was unbelievably good. The breading was golden and crispy on the outside and the chicken was tender and juicy.

I got red cabbage and fried potatoes to go with it and wasn’t able to eat half of my sides. I was wary about ordering the red cabbage but let me tell you it was delicious.

The brats and pretzel appetizer was also one of the best I’ve had.

Address: 203 E Main St | Website: Freiberg’s

White Duck Taco

tacos on trays
Get the chips & queso or pretzel with beer cheese as an appetizer.

I loved seeing that White Duck Taco has expanded because they started in Asheville! They make specialty tacos that mix flavors you might not expect but are oh so good.

I can personally recommend the lamb gyro and fish taco. White Duck is attached to YeeHaw Brewing so you can order your tacos and walk over to grab a beer at the bar.

Mimi’s Cookies & Creamery food truck sits right outside in the parking lot and is the perfect end to your meal here.

Address: 126 Buffalo St | Website: White Duck Taco Shop



decorated sugar cookie in front of business sign

The owner of Cakebuds has been on multiple Food Network shows and just wrapped up judging for one of their contest shows.

We took a cookie decorating class here and Timmy, the owner, and the staff were so incredibly friendly and welcoming.

They make intricate cake creations as well as cupcakes and cookies. They serve ice cream from The Hop in Asheville and make the huge cakeshakes that are topped with different baked goods.

Address: 410 S Roan St | Website: Cakebuds Bakery

Buttermilk Sky Pie Shop

The specialty here is pies of course and it will be hard to choose which flavor to go with. Try the 2-inch pies to sample a variety of what they offer.

You could also get a few 4-inch pies to sample or if you have a favorite flavor then go all in and get a 9-inch pie.

When I go back to Johnson City, I’ll be ordering the Cloud 9. One of their mini pies with a scoop of ice cream on top. Can’t beat that.

Address: 3135 Peoples St, Unit #300 | Website: Buttermilk Sky Pie Shop

Peggy Ann Bakery

Peggy Ann Bakery started out in Greeneville, TN which is southwest of Johnson City. They just opened a second location in Johnson City so watch out if you’re on a diet.

These pastries, donuts, and cookies are made fresh daily and you will be hard pressed to eat just one if you come here.

The Johnson City location also serves fresh-brewed coffee and grab-and-go lunch items.

Address: 803 W Walnut St | Website: Peggy Ann Bakery

Best Restaurants in Johnson City Recap

Obviously this list doesn’t include ALL the best. I only spent four full days in the city so I couldn’t try them all. So if you have any recommendations leave them in the comments below!

I do love that each one of these places is such a big part of the community. Support local restaurants, farms, and breweries. It keeps your money in the community.

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  1. There is a wonderful location you should try for your sweets and treats next time your in town. It is a local business with great people and excellent customer service. Made fresh everyday full of love. Daylight Donuts!!! A must try!

    1. Oh I LOVE donuts! I will definitely try them when I come back. Already planning a return trip for all the hiking around Johnson City.

  2. Cafe Lola is consistently great, both with cuisine and service. They have the best filet in town.

    1. I saw their building and so wished that I could have gone there! Beignets are so good. And I am a coffee fanatic.

  3. You might want to adventure down to Watauga Brewing Company. They have a great barfood selection for the brewpub and roof bar, as well as an upscale tapas restaurant on the second floor.

    1. We got to go up on the roof but I wasn’t able to try anything there! Next time for sure – they are included in an article coming out soon though. 🙂

  4. C&K Sweet Treats and Smoked Meats is new to Johnson City and has amazing ice cream and crazy shakes.

    1. I’m doing an article specifically on ice cream and they are included! Those crazy shakes looked awesome!

  5. Sam’s Snoball Paradise is locally owned and offers a great selection of New Orleans style snoballs.. it is one of my family’s favorite stops for an icy delicious treat!

  6. Oh my gosh! Those pastries from the Crumb Bakes shop looks incredible. I want to visit Johnson City and just eat my way through the town now!! Definitely saving this for later!

    1. Yes! I love their Asheville locations. Of course, hope you love Johnson City as much as I did!

  7. Lol I love your comment about Cootie Browns, if your friend can’t find something they want to order right away, they must be bonkers! 😀 Those tacos look really inviting too!

    1. Haha it is so true though! Their menu was amazing. And yesss, the tacos were for sure a highlight.

    1. It was so good! Definitely a surprise for me as I’m typically a bacon & eggs type person lol.

  8. If you like Asian Cuisine & Sushi Bar, must visit ChopstiXpress, Downtown JC, inside of Go Burrito & Rum Bar.

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