Randy Wood, who previously owned Firewood Smokehouse in Downtown Kingsport, and the restaurant's manager, Melanie Smith, are working to keep Jan Mar legacy alive.
From the outside, locally-recognized Jan Mar Restaurant appears much the same as it always has, despite its brief closure last year. But since its reopening under new management in December, the restaurant has a few surprises in store for customers.
“We wanted to keep this icon going,” said Randy Wood, the restaurant’s new owner. “It has a 67-year history in the area.”
Wood, who previously owned Firewood Smokehouse in downtown Kingsport, said he and the restaurant’s manager Melanie Smith wanted to introduce breakfast items into the Firewood menu.
“Jan Mar already had a reputation for serving breakfast,” Wood said.
After closing Firewood and buying Jan Mar, Wood and Smith decided against a name change for the restaurant.
“Why change the name when everybody knows the location? If you say, ‘Jan Mar,’ 9 out of 10 people can tell you where it is,” Wood explained.
Inside the restaurant, a few cosmetic changes are noticeable. The pair took paneling off of a wall to expose the brick underneath. Existing booths were replaced with additional tables. While some new employees are on staff, several others worked at Jan Mar for the previous owner. The menu remains much the same.
“We just incorporated some of the Firewood menu into it,” Smith said. “We kept the daily breakfast and lunch specials.”
“People can’t eat barbecue all the time,” Wood explained. “We also have one of the best charcoal-grilled, chopped sirloin hamburgers you’ll ever put in your mouth.”
Jan Mar’s pork, chicken and ribs are smoked over wood. And the barbecue sauce is homemade.
Daily lunches include country fried steak on Mondays and meatloaf on Tuesdays. Wednesday’s lunch special is salmon patties made using a recipe from Smith’s mother, who was a caterer in Newport, Tenn. Chicken pot pie is Thursday’s highlighted lunch, and, on Friday, the restaurant lists fish on the marquee by the front door. Wood is quick to note that if someone doesn’t like the daily special, they can always order something else, like spaghetti or beef stew, which is available most days.
Side items consist of traditional fare, such as home-cut French fries, cole slaw, macaroni and cheese, baked beans and macaroni salad. A couple unexpected dishes to try are the jalapeno cheese grits and deep-fried baby bakers. For dessert, several varieties of homemade pies are on hand, including chocolate, butterscotch and coconut.
“We try to keep everything homemade,” Wood said. “If you want a meal like your mom would make, this is the place to come eat.
“Jan Mar has been here for a long, long time,” he said. “And it’ll be here long after we’re gone probably. I believe, at that point, that someone else will take it over.”
In the meantime, Wood often greets customers by name and even offers advice.
“Don’t get the salad; you can get that anywhere. Order the baby bakers. It’s a new potato, cut in half, deep-fried, thrown in a skillet and sautéed with chives and bacon bits and smothered in cheese. And it’s fat-free,” he adds with a grin.
The Jan Mar Restaurant is located at 114 Broad Street in Kingsport. Winter business hours are from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday, with the restaurant being closed on Sundays. During the summer, closing times will be later.