Center Street Grill & Smokehouse in downtown Kingsport has barbecue and burgers, but owner Jeff McArdle carefully chose the eatery's name hoping not to become pigeon-holed as "just a barbecue or just a burger joint."

And it's not. The restaurant, which occupies a building that once was home to Sharon's BBQ and Burgers, does in fact serve wonderful barbecue and burgers (try the "Breakfast Burger," with bacon and a fried egg, or the "Southern Burger" with fried green tomato, bacon and pimento cheese). But its menu is chock full of specialty sandwiches, sides and desserts (try the peanut butter pie or banana pudding). "Sixth Street Meatloaf" is a fan favorite, especially among Eastman employees who remember it from McArdle's restaurant inside the plant.

The Times News asked McArdle to answer a few questions to let readers know more about Center Street Grill & Smokehouse.

Q: How long has your restaurant been in operation?

A: Just over three years. We opened in July 2018.

Q: What do you consider the specialties at your restaurant and why?

A: Smoked meats — pulled chicken, pulled pork and brisket — and burgers and specialty sandwiches. Cowboy beans are our most popular side. And of course, our meatloaf.

Q: For chefs… What is your culinary education and how did you learn to do what you do in the kitchen?

A: I've always been in the restaurant business. Since I was 16 it's all I've known. I started out in high school working at Chck-fil-A in the mall. And then after college at Northeast State I went to culinary school at Johnson & Wales University. A requirement to get into Johnson & Wales was to have at least six months experience in dining other than fast food work. For that I got a job at Ridgefields Country Club, where well-known Pearly Ryan took me under her wing. She was a great teacher and taught me a lot, especially about catering, and about using your imagination to create new dishes. At Johnson & Wales I completed an associate's degree in culinary arts and a bachelor's degree in management. I worked for Ruby Tuesday, Aramark and Logan's before I got an opportunity to open my own business inside Eastman. I did that for about 15 years, and then I heard about the opportunity to buy this location and make it my own. I decided to do my own thing again and jumped right back into it.

Q: Explain in as much detail as possible why your restaurant is appealing to customers and how you maintain that ambience.

A: We have an open kitchen. The team here is very friendly. We get to know our customers. The food is great. But it's all about the team you have — that's first and foremost. Teresa was here when it was Sharon's. She knows the regulars well, and that's helped me. We interact with our guests. Even in busy times, we take time to at least turn around and say hello. The team is what makes the restaurant.

Q: Do you share recipes with your diners?

A: I have shared some recipes when longtime customers ask. But some recipes I do not share.

Q: How do you think your restaurant differs from other restaurants in the Tri-Cities region?

A: I'm in a building everybody knows. I can mention we're where Sharon's used to be, and everyone remembers Sharon's and where it was. We work daily to try to uphold the expectation of quality that legacy that brings to mind for customers. Consistency and quality are key.

Q: What are the advantages and disadvantages of your location?

A: We're in a great location on a main street in the center of downtown, which continues to grow and evolve. I don't see any disadvantages.

Q: How often do you change the menu at the restaurant and why?

A: About a year ago I tightened it up a bit, to reflect which items proved most popular after our first two years. I have a lot of ideas of items to add. I won't do that until the availability of workers allows me to expand the team. Our menu is pretty full, and our team are familiar with how to prepare all the items. That knowledge keeps consistency in all our items.

Q: What’s your favorite cookbook?

A: I was born in New Orleans. My mother's family is from there. We moved to Kingsport when I was about 5 years old. I don't have one particular favorite cookbook, but I do love Cajun food and have several cookbooks at home from the famous restaurants and chefs of that area.

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