Jeff McArdle was born to be a chef in New Orleans, Louisiana, one of the most popular culinary destinations in the world. At a young age, Jeff’s mom taught him to cook and bake, learning how to mix different seasonings to add flavor. In 1975 his family moved to Kingsport and one of the first restaurants they went to was Center Street Restaurant located downtown. Jeff has always worked in the food industry starting in high school at Warriors’ Path Marina, Chick-fil-A and then Ridgefield’s Country Club under the tutelage of Pearl, a Ridgefield’s kitchen legend.
Jeff attended Johnson & Wales University to study culinary arts. He enjoyed a successful career at Aramark and Ruby Tuesday, but dreamed of his own restaurant. In 2003 he moved back to Kingsport and got that opportunity. He opened 6th Street Café in building 75 inside Eastman Chemical Company in November 2004 and began serving and catering healthy meals and different entrees. Meatloaf, served every Tuesday, was one of his most popular dishes.
Jeff now serves that same delicious meatloaf at his new restaurant, Center Street Grill & Smokehouse, located at 301 West Center Street. It was named for the original Center Street Grill from the 1940s and 50s, which became Center Street Restaurant in the early 1950s.
“My goal is to make this restaurant about the culinary history of Kingsport. I have future renovation plans and am looking for photos, menus and memorabilia from former Kingsport landmarks and restaurants like the train station, Jan-Mar, Skoby’s and others,” says Jeff.
In addition to smoked pulled pork, chicken, turkey and beef brisket, Center Street Grill & Smokehouse also serves specialty burgers and hot dogs like the “Southern Burger” with melted pimento cheese and fried green tomatoes, bacon and ranch dressing. The “Hawg Dog” features an all-beef hot dog with signature BBQ, homemade chili and shredded cheese. Jeff has developed amazing BBQ sauces: Original and Spicy which can be purchased by the bottle.
Also featured are specialty sandwiches, salads, quesadillas and baked spuds like the “Cowboy Spud” topped with their famous “Cowboy Beans,”cheddar cheese and bacon. Another Midwest sandwich favorite, the “Pork Tenderloin Sandwich,” has to be seen to be believed. It is a meal within itself. Some popular sides are the Cowboy Beans, JMAC’s Chips, Baked Potato Salad and Cowboy Cheese Bites,” a flavorful soft corn fritter with cheddar cheese, jalapeños and bacon. After lunch or dinner, enjoy delectable homemade desserts like banana pudding, peanut butter pie, chocolate or apple fried pies or a slice of cake.
If you don't want or have time to cook, give him a call at (423) 247-7447 or stop in to order a family pack of BBQ for 4 or a party pack for 10. Catering for luncheons, weddings, private parties and holiday dinners is also available.
Jeff likes to give back to the community by offering local schools, groups and organizations fundraising opportunities through a percentage of sales on Monday or Tuesday nights. Kids eat for 99 cents with an adult meal purchase on Wednesday nights. Police, firefighters, EMS and military, along with students, receive a 10 percent discount every day, as well as anyone with a church bulletin on Sundays.
Center Street Grill & Smokehouse is open 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Sundays. Follow them on Facebook and Instagram (@centerstreetgrilltn), or visit www.centerstreetgrilltn.com for a menu, catering options, or to register your email.