KINGSPORT – The Lynn Garden Restaurant was recognized by Kingsport Mayor Pat Shull for over 30 years of service to the community.
The restaurant, run by the Kerney family, has won many awards over the years, including the Times News Readers Choice Awards for Best Chicken and Best Breakfast.
The award also noted that the restaurant had a number of famous guests, including country music legend Johnny Cash.
The restaurant’s co-owner, Mike Kerney, answered these questions:
How long has your restaurant been in operation?
The Lynn Garden Restaurant has been in operation almost continuously since 1946. The Kerney family has owned and operated the restaurant since June 30, 1989. Previously, the family (Mike, his mother Anna, and his brother Bill) ran the Gateway Restaurant (1979-1989, along with family friend Greg McDavid on Campus Drive -In and the 7-12 Market (1971-1989) in Gate City. (Mike Kerney has been a local businessman and entrepreneur since 1971 and is celebrating his 50th anniversary this year!)
What do you think of the specialties in your restaurant and why?
Our specialties include our famous chicken, cookies, and gravy, but everyone has a favorite. We are known for our famous chicken – we only use fresh chicken and make sure our suppliers provide us with large portions. Then we hand-roast the chicken and roast to order. Our chicken is specially made for each order.
What is your culinary education and how did you learn to do what you do in the kitchen?
Years in the kitchen passed from cook to cook. I grew up eating my mother’s home cooking. Anna Matuszczyk Kerney, in turn, learned from her mother, who learned from her mother and father. My great grandfather, Mike Fekete, owned and operated Mike’s Cafe in Norton, Virginia in the 1920s. I come from a family of restaurateurs who specialize in home cooking and home cooking. The chefs who work in our kitchen have now learned that too – cook at home and cook in the Lynn Garden Restaurant.
Why does your restaurant appeal to customers and how do you maintain this ambience?
The Lynn Garden Restaurant is a family-friendly, home-style restaurant that serves traditional home cooking that many people no longer cook at home. Our atmosphere is relaxed and looks back on the 50s. Our restaurant is exactly what you’d expect from a 50’s style dinner, with a lunch counter, cozy stalls and nostalgia everywhere. Many people enjoy reading the antiques on the walls, including Lynn View Middle School memorabilia as well as our collection of UT memorabilia. Another popular exhibit is hundreds of ancient Kingsport and Southwest Virginia pictures from the library’s archives, curated, compiled, and hung by local historian Kenny Stallard.
Do you share recipes with your guests? If so, please share your favorite recipe with us.
We sometimes share our recipes, but we encourage our guests to write down their own family recipes. With your grandparents or other family members, schedule a cook, learn how to make your favorites, and write it down to keep for your family. It’s also a great way to spend an afternoon.
How do you think your restaurant is different from other restaurants in the Tri-Cities area?
We’ve been doing things the same way for a long time, with the same recipes and methods, and that works for us. Keeping it simple and offering consistent comfort food has contributed to the longevity of our restaurant. For decades we had many of the same employees, people who believed in the family atmosphere we have enjoyed for so many years. We appreciate your loyalty to the Lynn Garden Restaurant and our customers and for making people feel at home here. We also listen to our customers’ feedback and help them meet their special requests.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of your location?
For some people we are a hidden gem in Lynn Garden. For others, they knew where we were, hand in hand with Lynn Garden Hardware. With Lynn Garden Hardware closing as a dedicated hardware store around 2015, some people are now not traveling to Lynn Garden. We invite those who have not yet come to give us a try. We’re centrally located on a main drag, conveniently close to Kingsport and Southwest Virginia, with ample parking.
How often do you change the menu in the restaurant and why?
Our menu has remained largely the same since 1989 – and beyond! With the exception of a few additions here and there – for example different types of vegetables, salads and potatoes – you will find our menu almost the same every day. We offer daily specials every week. Our dessert offers also change daily, with special cakes and pies being offered daily. We had to make a few adjustments over the past year, but we’re keeping the information up to date on our Facebook and Instagram pages.
What’s your favorite cookbook?
I don’t have a favorite cookbook, but some of my favorite recipes are the handwritten ones passed down by Anna Kerney. My favorite is probably our chilli, which was passed down from my Hungarian great-grandfather Mike Fekete. Next up is Anna Kerney’s sauce, cookies, and meringue cakes.