Center Street Restauant


A 3.75 x 3.75″ ashtray.  Information square is fired on the underside. My mother’s favorite restaurant.  Made their own pies with real meringue, browned on top.  In my 20s, I thought the place was stodgy, but I’d love to have a meal there now.  Food was excellent, waitresses motherly.  And I don’t mean that in any derogatory way.
I think the restaurant began in the early 60s.  In 1953, Jack May was managing both Jack’s Grill in Sullivan Gardens and the Luncheonette at the new Little Store.  Jack and wife Jeanette co-owned Center Street Restaurant and, later, Jack’s Restaurant on Main Street.  There’s a complicated history in all this, but I can’t find a source for it right now.  I’ll update as I learn more.

05/08/2021: Updated time line:

From the late 1940s to 1960, the building at 504 West Center Street was owned by Cardwell and Alberta Hounchell. The original building was a a block building painted white (in the only picture I’ve seen of it) and known at “Center Street Restaurant and Grill”. (When I was a kid, we lived in the apartments at 315 Cherokee Street. In one of the apartments lived a man named “Happy” Hounchell. He was a barber with a shop behind Bingham Furniture on New Street. I wonder if they were related.) (the man and the family, not the furniture store and the barber shop)

An ad in the June 6, 1951, issue of the Kingsport News touts a “completely remodeled” restaurant with pale green walls and gray leatherette upholstery. The current building, though, is shown in the records as having been built in 1952.

In 1979, the restaurant was owned by Gary and Angie Francisco. It closed in August, 1989.

4 thoughts on “Center Street Restauant

  1. Robert Dean

    Although she cooked at least two meals a day for our family, my grandmother enjoyed the rare treat of going to Center Street for some calf’s liver and onions. She loved Jack and Jeanette, whom she knew from church. By the way, Lynn Garden Restaurant still sells homemade pies – coconut cream, chocolate, and butterscotch – with that browned meringue on top.

    1. Bob Lawrence Post author

      Lord, I’d forgotten (thankfully) about the liver and onions. Mom liked it. I could eat it, but not more than I had to (“Liver’s good for you!” “Then you eat it!”). And thank you for the tip on the pies, but I avoid sugar these days.
      It’s come to that, more’s the pity.

  2. RsDavis

    Hey Bob, I worked there in the 80s after the Francisco’s took over. Sounds like they kept the same menu though.

    1. Bob Lawrence Post author

      I heard that, too. By the time Jack May left and the Franciscos took over, Mom was ailing and I wasn’t dining out very much, so I have no way to compare.


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