Giving Johnson City a Gourmet Experience
The restaurant industry is a tough gig. According to a recent article from CNBC, around 60% of new restaurants fail within the first year, and nearly 80% close before their 5th anniversary, with those stats being astronomically higher for independent restauranteurs in the biz. Which is what makes Johnson City’s own Gourmet and Company so unique; in staying power alone, it’s one of the longest standing establishments in the area, providing fine dining and retail to the Tri-Cities since 1989.
My first memory of eating at Gourmet dates all the way back to middle school! In 7th grade, around 1999, one of my best friends had an older sister who could drive. Since she was dating one of the cooks she would always take us there when he was working lunch and get us iced teas. As I got older and prior to my move, I routinely enjoyed business lunches with clients and employers, as well as checking out the retail shop for unique birthday gifts not found in other mainstream wholesale stores.
I recently celebrated my birthday with family and close friends back home, and being one of my go-to’s every time I’m in town, Gourmet was the obvious choice for dinner location. That’s one of the most fabulous attributes of this restaurant- the ambiance is upscale enough to provide a memorable experience for celebration, but welcoming and intimate enough for a weeknight dinner alone at the bar. And the menu provides the same accommodating balance of options, offering everything from cheeseburgers and fries to prime cuts of meat and seafood.
Being a creature of habit, I love that Gourmet keeps their core items on menu year-round. I am comforted by knowing whether I’m cozying up to the bar on a blustery night in February or hanging with friends on the patio during the dog days of summer, I can always enjoy a goat cheese salad or meat and cheese board. Their original burger is my favorite menu staple, and I always make mine extra fatty by adding thick cut slices of bacon and even a fried egg. The original fries are delicious, but you have the option to elevate your experience and upcharge to truffle fries for an even more distinct flavor.
If you’re not someone who gravitates to the same ol’ same, or you’re looking for something a bit more elegant, Gourmet offers a wide selection of seasonally rotating options as well. Each night you never know what the chef will be featuring on special, whether it’s delicate seafood or thick cut slabs from the carving board. And all the sides change with what is available; Gourmet prides itself on using locally sourced ingredients as much as possible and nowhere is this more obvious than the compliments to the mains. From hearty root veggies and heirloom grains in winter to bright berries and fresh-from-the-garden produce in summer, Gourmet’s courses are always perfectly paired by the chef.
My favorite aspect of this restaurant is hands-down the staff. As someone who has worked this industry from all sides, it speaks volumes to me when there is minimal turnover amongst the employees. I love going into Gourmet and seeing the same team of amazing smiling faces I’ve grown to know over the years. Todd, the bar manager, has been a longtime friend and icon in this industry, and his career with this company has to be in excess of 15 years now. When it comes to making a cocktail, I can always count on him to properly prepare the classics and trust his judgement when whipping up something on the fly that will tickle my passing fancy. Their wine list is solid, with some rotating seasonals, and they also offer a corkage fee if you’d prefer something from your own cellar you’ve been saving for a special occasion.
On the evening of my birthday celebration, I arrived early so I opted for a cocktail first while greeting my guests. Since I wanted something that came with a little nosh to curb my hunger until everyone I arrived, I went with a vodka and stuffed olive martini. A person’s martini preference is as unique as any snowflake so tailor yours to your liking, but when it comes to my standard order it’s always Chopin, extra cold, lightly dirty, with blue cheese olives. Gourmet has an unexpected option of goat cheese instead of blue cheese, which I delight in indulging. We popped a bottle of bubbly for a toast once everyone arrived, that Todd had arranged chilling in a tableside bucket. Everyone ordered their own dishes, but my selection of the 4oz beef tenderloin cut was cooked to medium rare perfection and served with a mix of brussels, root veggies and local potatoes and mushrooms. I had brought a bottle of Cahors (Malbec from the Cahors region of France) that paired beautifully with my steak as well as the other hearty meats ordered around the table, but Gourmet’s red wine menu has myriad delicious options that would be outstanding as well. Finally, I wrapped up my celebratory dinner with bananas foster and an espresso martini, the perfect sweet finish to a predictably amazing experience.
Johnson City is blessed to have a culinary establishment that is built to stand the test of time. We all love the “hot new thing,” but when it comes to food and drink trendy never beats the classics. Intimate, elegant ambiance, consistent, well-curated menus and a professional, caring staff has made Gourmet and Co the standard of excellence for over 3 decades and I suspect it will remain that way for decades to come.