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Rush Street Neighborhood Grill offers a taste of Chicago in Kingsport

Tanja Moody • Oct 8, 2012 at 2:48 AM

The city of Chicago is well represented inside Rush Street Neighborhood Grill. From the black-and-white enlarged photographs hanging on the restaurant walls to the painted mural facing the hostess area, views of the Windy City are aplenty.

The décor is understandable, considering that both Mike Feliu, the owner, and Jerry Feliu, the chef/general manager, are brothers who were raised in the third most populous city in America.

But after spending several decades in the Kingsport area, according to Mike, "Chicago is a great place to visit, but this is home." And part of that is because of the relationships he has formed here.

"I can remember children being carried in here by their parents, and now they are grown and carrying their own children in here," the restaurant owner said. "On a Friday or Saturday night, it seems like I know most of the people in the dining room. I’ve made a lot of friends here that have become friends away from work."

The restaurant opened under the name Chicago Dough Company in 1980, but Feliu didn’t move to the Kingsport area until five years later. During that time, he flew or drove into town often. In 1986, the restaurant added outdoor patio dining space. Three years later, the front of the restaurant was remodeled and its name was changed to Rush Street, after a prominent street in Chicago, Feliu said.

"Rush Street in Chicago is a happening street, a busy place, a fun place," he said. "A lot of our customers, at first, thought we called it Rush Street because Stone Drive is so busy. And that’s okay."

Being busy suits Feliu. He and his brother and their wives have all run marathons. The brothers sometimes even bike 30 or more miles before work.

"We travel and see things we like, and we’ll try them here," Feliu said. "You can get great Italian food here just as well as in Italy."

In fact, one of the owner’s favorite menu items is the baked Italian Wings, which he says are "to die for." He also favors the Lamb Flatbread, a new menu item that’s been well received.

The eclectic menu has grown in the 32 years since Rush Street opened, and it’s constantly changing. But patrons shouldn’t worry if their favorite item is no longer on the menu.

"Typically, if a customer likes an item and we still have the ingredients, we’ll make it if they ask," Feliu said.

Certain specials can be expected at Rush Street. Each Saturday, customers can get the 2-for-1 burger deal from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. On Sundays, children ages 10 and under eat free from the buffet, one child per each paying adult. And about every three months or so, the restaurant hosts wine tastings with food pairings for 35 to 40 people.

"Jerry does an incredible menu for those," the restaurant owner said.

Feliu appreciates the commitment of long-term employees, especially assistant managers Jan LeBlanc, who has been with Rush Street for 32 years, and Genena Williamson, who has worked there for 20 years. Either Feliu or LeBlanc book live music usually every Friday and Saturday from 9 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. But Feliu admits that music takes a back seat to Vols' games during football season.

"Our clientele ranges the gamut," Feliu said. "This appeals to everybody. Young and old. People of substantial means and people of modest means. Everybody can afford to come here."

Rush Street is located at 1229 East Stone Drive. Business hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday through Thursday, and 11 a.m. to midnight, Friday and Saturday. To book a party, make reservations or arrange for priority seating, call 423-247-3184. For more information, visit http://www.rushstreetgrill.com/ or to get updates on Facebook "like" Rush Street Neighborhood Grill.

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