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Ghost Town Diner opens in downtown Jonesborough

At Jonesborough’s newest restaurant – the Ghost Town Diner – it’s all about the barbecue.
“We’ve always made excellent barbecue and everybody loved it,” said co-owner Robb Phillips. “So we decided it was time to put it out there for other people to try.”
Together with co-owner Kathy Shephard, this will be a first-time restaurant venture for the pair, but it isn’t the duo’s first business in Jonesborough.
The two own and will continue to operate East TN Ghost Tours. But for right now, their main focus is on enticing customers to visit their new eatery.
Served in a cozy atmosphere complete with mid-1800s décor including a wood stove and antique accessories, the barbecue is smoked pulled pork, offered with three different sauces – mild, medium and hot. “But the hot isn’t just about the heat,” Phillips explained. “It’s also about the flavor.”
To properly introduce diners to the warmer variety of sauce, the Ghost Town Diner will offer the Demon Challenge. Customers who are brave enough to try it will be served a regular large barbecue sandwich – smothered with the hot sauce – and given 30 minutes to eat it.
“If a customer does that,” Phillips said, “they get a free T-shirt and their picture on the Hall of Flame.”
Other somewhat calmer entrees will also be served, including soup beans and cornbread, Hillbilly Hoagies and daily specials. And for a special appetizer, Phillips suggests his original Ghost Town cheese dip – a family favorite he created more than 15 years ago.
Both Phillips and Shephard say they enjoy preparing food for others, but each came to their love of cooking in different ways.
“I worked in restaurants as a waitress when I was young, growing up in Johnson City. In fact, that was my first job,” Shephard said.
“But I didn’t grow up liking to cook. I was never one who wanted to stand in the kitchen and watch my mother cook. I was more of a tomboy, out climbing trees and riding my bike.”
Eventually Shephard did take a liking to cooking and says she learned everything she knows from her mother and grandmother.
“I used to call them all the time to ask questions,” she said. “Now I love to cook and try to always get it done just right.”
Phillips, on the other hand, grew up in Jonesborough and was involved in the restaurant business, since he was just a kid.
“My father owned two or three restaurants and delis and I helped him out quite a bit, so that is where I got my experience,” he said.
The Ghost Town Diner, which officially opened May 3, will serve both lunch and dinner. The restaurant also offers take-out and will even deliver meals within a 3-mile radius.
Open five days a week, 11:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., meals will range in price from $4.99 to $9.99. The restaurant will also feature live music on the weekends with murder mystery dinners and other special events every Saturday night.
The Ghost Town Diner is located at 103 E. Main St. and can be reached at 218-8648 or 202-8348.