This week marks the end of a Kingsport restaurant that has served locals for more than three decades – and the Model City looks rather sad about it.
The owners of the Rush Street Neighborhood Grill served sadness rather than the regular chicken marsala or Korean steak tacos last week when they announced the restaurant’s closure on Thursday. I guess Thursday will be one of the busiest days in the restaurant. The owners said in a recent social media post that they received a delivery this week to help them replenish their stock before the last wave of customers arrives this week.
For many, this particular restaurant closure brings back memories of all kinds. My sister got her first job as a waitress on Rush Street in the 90s. I made sure to send her a message when I first learned that Rush Street had sold the building and would be closing this week. Meanwhile, my mom suggested we dine there almost every night since the announcement. We haven’t made a thin crust pizza with pepperoni, sundried tomatoes, and banana peppers yet, but the week is young.
For me, my earliest memories of Rush Street revolve around the pizza and salad buffet after church. I remember eating in the restaurant patio after church in my transparent jelly shoes. (If you don’t know what it is, you clearly didn’t have any kids or weren’t a kid yourself in the 90s.) For years my family would come for the buffet well- loved it, waiting through a line that ended somewhere near the gangster stand. My family also particularly liked the seating in the restaurant. It’s the perfect place for that special burger on Saturdays, but it’s also the best place for a quiet lunch or a business meeting (I always imagine lawyers or maybe even some old school gangster having an important meeting in one of the private cabins which are in several corners of the building).
One of the employees mentioned in the Times News article about the restaurant closing said Rush Street was one of Kingsport’s last landmarks. As for the restaurants, I agree. If you are planning to take an out of town guest to a local restaurant, Rush Street is a good suggestion. If not for the building alone, Rush Street has that kind of history and character that you only find in a local restaurant.
You might be tired of reading my suggestion to shop at local stores and eat at local restaurants, but I think this tip couldn’t be more important.
It appears that local businesses, especially restaurants, are closing. I wonder if this is the aftershock of the pandemic. While writing for the Herald & Tribune in Jonesborough, a restaurant owner told me he expected to see more businesses close this year and next. Some, he explained, took out loans to survive the shutdown (which happened before the labor shortage was even imagined. It certainly made matters worse). That might not be the case with Rush Street or any other business that is shutting down now, but it’s something to remember.
Maybe I feel like a lot of businesses are closing because Kingsport lost another local restaurant last week when Tamikos on Eastman Road suddenly closed. The Japanese food restaurant didn’t have as long a history as Rush Street, but it certainly wasn’t a new place. It was a popular place among my friends in high school. It all started in Wendy’s old apartment building on Stone Drive (now Sakura) and moved to the old Backyard Burgers location on Eastman Road. For a while in the new location they even offered free ice cream with your meal. (I always wondered if it was thanks to an ice cream maker left over from the hamburger operation.) Hope the owner and his daughter continue the restaurant later. For now, I miss the beef and broccoli and sesame chicken and sweet carrots.
It seems that these types of restaurants serve as memory banks for people. This is where the first dates, birthday dinners and even memorable outings take place. Time goes by, new businesses replace old ones and we can’t take anything with us, I guess, but good memories sometimes make you want to. I suspect I won’t be the only one filled with nostalgia this week, hoping to take another mental photo of the intricately painted walls in Rush Street and have one last joke in one of those cozy wooden booths. while waiting for an order of parmesan wings.
If you’re feeling driven take one last trip to Rush Street (that’s where their staff is ready to email me asking me to refrain from adding to the stream of customers I’m sure they see from the ad). But I also understand if you want to keep your last memory of the place intact, just how you left it on a random Tuesday night or slow-motion Saturday afternoon.
Most of all, I hope you are considering supporting your small business or your favorite local restaurant. They might need your support. And you might also need to step back in time (before it also announces that it will close next week as well).
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