KINGSPORT — Lynn Garden Restaurant has been given a commendation by Kingsport Mayor Pat Shull for serving the community for more than 30 years.

Run by the Kerney family, the restaurant has received many honors over the years, including Times News Readers Choice awards for Best Chicken and Best Breakfast.

The commendation also noted the restaurant has hosted some famous guests including country music legend Johnny Cash.

Restaurant co-owner Mike Kerney answered these questions:

How long has your restaurant been in operation?

Lynn Garden Restaurant has been in near-continuous operation since 1946. The Kerney family has owned and operated the restaurant since June 30, 1989. Prior to that, the family (Mike, his mother Anna, and his brother Bill) operated Gateway Restaurant (1979-1989, along with family friend Greg McDavid), Campus Drive-In, and the 7-12 Market (1971-1989) in Gate City. (Mike Kerney has been a local businessman and entrepreneur since 1971, celebrating 50 years this year!)  

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

Our specialties include our famous chicken and biscuits and gravy, but everyone has a favorite. We're known for our famous chicken — we use only fresh chicken and make sure our suppliers provide us with large portion-size pieces. We then hand-bread the chicken and fry it 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 down from cook to cook. I grew up on 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 specialized in home cooking and comfort food. The cooks who work in our kitchens now learned this way as well — cooking at home, and cooking at Lynn Garden Restaurant.

Why is your restaurant appealing to customers and how do you maintain that ambience?

Lynn Garden Restaurant is a family-friendly, home-style restaurant, serving traditional comfort food that many people do not cook at home anymore. Our atmosphere is relaxed and features a flashback to the '50s. Our restaurant is what you'd expect from a '50s-style diner, with a lunch counter, cozy booths and nostalgia everywhere. Many people enjoy perusing the antiques that adorn the walls, including memorabilia from Lynn View Middle School, as well as our collection of UT memorabilia. Another popular display includes hundreds of old pictures of Kingsport and Southwest Virginia from the library's archives, which were curated, assembled and hung by local historian Kenny Stallard.

Do you share recipes with your diners? If so, please share your favorite recipe.

We sometimes share our recipes, but we encourage our diners to write down their own family recipes. Set a cooking date with your grandparents or other family members, learn how they make your favorites, and write it down to preserve it for your family. Plus, that's just a great way to spend an afternoon, too.  

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

We've been doing things the same way, using the same recipes and methods for a long time, and that works for us. Keeping it simple and offering consistent comfort food has contributed to our restaurant's longevity. For decades, we had many of the same employees, people who believed in the family atmosphere we've enjoyed for so many years. We appreciate their loyalty to Lynn Garden Restaurant and our customers and for making people feel at home here. We also listen to feedback from our customers and help meet their special requests.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of your location?

For some people, we're a hidden gem in Lynn Garden. For others, they knew where we were, hand-in-hand with Lynn Garden Hardware. With Lynn Garden Hardware's closure as a dedicated hardware store around 2015, some folks do not travel to Lynn Garden now. We invite those who haven't been to come give us a try. We're located on a main thoroughfare in a central location, convenient to Kingsport and Southwest Virginia, with ample parking.   

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

Our menu has stayed largely the same since 1989 — and beyond! With the exception of a few additions here and there  — different types of vegetables, salads and potatoes, for example — you'll find our menu nearly the same every day.  We offer daily specials each week. Our dessert offerings also rotate on a daily basis, with specialty cakes and pies offered daily. We've had to make a few adjustments over the last year, but we keep information updated 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 from Anna Kerney. My favorite is probably our chili, passed down from my Hungarian great-grandfather, Mike Fekete. Next up would be Anna Kerney's gravy and biscuits and meringue pies.