Backwoods Burger Bar has, perhaps, a low profile — until you walk in.
Even owner Jonathan Russell notes the restaurant’s location is a bit off the beaten path at the corner of Market and Cumberland streets. The exterior is inviting, however, and the interior welcomes diners with off-the-charts personality living up to the “backwoods” portion of the eatery’s name.
A taxidermy menagerie, from squirrels to deer to a wild turkey, is a major focus of the decor, along with Americana and works by local artists.
A variety of seating, from a corner booth to multiple styles of dining table, give Backwoods Burger Bar a homey, comfortable feel. There’s also bar seating.
The menu, while burger-centric, is eclectic and offers something for everyone, from salads to barbecue, from signature appetizers unlike any others we’ve seen locally, to sandwiches, sides and numerous specialty burger options.
If you’ve missed this jewel among downtown’s gems, drop in and check it out.
We highly recommend the pimento cheese and pork rinds appetizer, brought to the table as a large bowl of still crackling pork rinds accompanied by a smaller bowl of in-house pimento cheese.
The Times News asked Russell to answer the following questions.
Q: How long has your restaurant been in operation?
A: Almost four years. We opened on April 8 of 2018 in Mount Carmel. We later moved to downtown Kingsport and opened up on December 9 of 2019, where we have remained and hope to stay for the foreseeable future.
Q: What do you consider the specialties at your restaurant and why?
A: Our unique style and burgers are our specialties. We freshly grind all of our beef daily and top it with many different and unique items offering something that no other restaurant has.
Q: What is your culinary education and how did you learn to do what you do in the kitchen?
A: I have zero culinary background. I remember as a child watching my mom make home-cooked meals almost every night. Feeding me was a hard job, so I began to make my own meals. From then on I had an interest in culinary. I learned mainly through the process of trial and error.
Q: Explain in as much detail as possible why your restaurant is appealing to customers and how you maintain the ambience?
A: The Backwoods is inviting and feels like home! From the greeting as you come through the door to the family-style tables, we want everyone to be a part of our family. We are constantly improving our food and continuously creating new items, giving customers something to always look forward to.
Q: Do you share recipes with your diners?
A: We share our recipes every time we deliver you a delicious meal. We don’t, however, share our physical recipes, but I think our cooks wish I would quit coming up with new things for them to learn.
Q: How do you think your restaurant differs from other restaurants in the Tri-Cities region?
A: We are constantly innovating new creative menu items. Always offering fresh products and a family-friendly atmosphere that men, women and children can all enjoy.
Q: What are the advantages and disadvantages of your location?
A: Not being in the epicenter of downtown, we may get missed by many potential customers. However, it gives us easier accessibility, as there aren’t as many businesses around us.
Q: How often do you change the menu at the restaurant and why?
A: We don’t necessarily change our menu, but we are always creating and offering new specials. Some we have added to our menu and some show up randomly throughout the year.
Q: What’s your favorite cookbook?
A: I don’t have a particularly favorite cookbook, but I have a couple chefs I love to learn from. One is a James Beard Award-winning chef from our area, Sean Brock, and the other is British chef Jamie Oliver.