When I was a young eater growing up in the Cumberland Highlands region of Appalachia it was a big deal when a new restaurant would open up in our little hamlet of Corbin, Kentucky.
Scotties Diner set down roots at the confluence of Cumberland Falls Road and Hwy 26 in south Corbin and was an instant hit serving cheap hamburgers, shakes, fried eggs and bottomless cups of coffee.
It was just a few blocks north of the old Eveready Cafe but back then the edge of town was bustling and two players could abide near one another.
Scotties is long gone as is most of the regional chain that at one time boasted 11 outlets.
On a recent trip through Eastern Tennessee I was doing biscuit research (Knoxville is the putative capital of biscuits in the Mid-South) when I stumbled upon a Scotties in Knox County, Tennessee. It was on the route I had to follow to return to New Orleans so I decided to stop in and see if things are right and true at one of the last diners in the old chain.
Walking into Scottie’s, the 1970s hits good and hard. Hamburgers are .70c (US Gov’t Inspected Beef Only) and for a dime more they’ll put a slice of cheese on the bun. French toast is a buck and for $2.25 Mindy, the grill lady, will cook you a nice steak. I ease into a conversation with her and she informs me that her mom Willette Tillman bought the joint back in 1978 after working for the then-owner for six years.
I’m here for the biscuits and the amiable Mindy tells me that she gets in the kitchen well before dawn each morning, bakes six dozen and when they’re gone they’re gone.
My biscuit and gravy platter comes with sauteed potatoes (frozen from a bag) and a pair of perfectly fried, over medium eggs. The portion would make a wildcat oil-rigger blush and the flavors are well rounded.
Coffee is the robusta that gives you the jagged edges that are just the ticket for long haul truck driving, pipe-fitting or roustabout work; perfect given the clientele, a rough and tumble bunch of old country boys.
Scottie’s is a ghost restaurant. Joints like this serving sub-dollar burgers and endless coffees are not long for this world, tucked away on lonely county roads in forgotten corners of the US.
As I get up to leave all the regulars bid me farewell.
I walk out into an Autumn thunderstorm as Charlie Daniels starts sawing on his fiddle on the old jukebox.
7143 Clinton Hwy
Hours of operation
Open 7 days