Queen of Que and a Good New Few

Must try restaurants and eateries in Haywood County

When it comes to food culture, Haywood County’s rich medley of bakeries, barbeque joints, and pizza shacks does not disappoint. Nestled in the rich cultural landscape of West Tennessee, it is no wonder Haywood County has found so much success making delicious food…if you know where to look. Take Helen’s Barbecue, for example, a world-renowned barbecue spot nestled inconspicuously in the middle of town. More interested in a rich, juicy burger? The Basket offers award-winning burgers any way you want. Need to satisfy your sweet tooth after a day of snacking? Kinfolk has got you covered with its collection of cookies, brownies, and cakes. For all those curious about the culinary culture of a place like Brownsville, Tennessee, look no further.

Here’s a list of must-trys:

Helen's Barbeque

You can’t visit West Tennessee without getting a heaping plate of barbeque. More specifically, you can’t go to West Tennessee without getting a heaping plate of Helen’s barbeque, a world-renowned barbecue joint located in downtown Brownsville.

Helen Turner has been serving up barbecue for decades in her cozy restaurant filled to the brim with woodsmoke and mouth-watering meat. She has drawn international attention and accolades for her barbecue. Whether you prefer barbecued bologna or a classic pulled pork sandwich, Turner has the meal for you. Dubbed “Queen of Barbecue” by the Southern Foodways Alliance in 2013, Helen’s gets far-flung visitors often, with folks coming from England, France, and Italy– just to name a few.

“Pretty much somebody comes in from out of town every week,” she says, a testament to the quality of her food and the warmth of her service. Her work as pitmaster, making the barbecue and engaging the community, is her happy place. “I love every minute of being in business, of meeting new people,” she says. “I can ask for no more.”

Livingston's Soda Fountain and Grill

Brownsville native Jack Pettigrew has long thought his hometown was lacking something, something that might add a nostalgic spark to a vibrant community and marry new experiences with fond memories. He was dreaming of a soda fountain.

Growing up, Pettigrew would spend his free time at his father’s pharmacy, reveling in the glory of the traditional soda fountain stocked full of sweet treats. “I loved to go sit at the soda fountain and have the high school kids make me a cherry Coke or something like that,” he reminisces warmly. And with this, the inspiration for Livingston’s Soda Fountain and Grill was born.

The project—massive renovations to the building and a newly-built soda fountain modeled to look like the old-fashioned one Pettigrew remembers from childhood—had been in the works for two and a half years before opening this March. Featured in the milkshake selection are typical soda fountain favs, including time-honored chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry. For the adventuresome, not satisfied with regular old flavors, specialty milkshakes like the Muddy Hatchie River, Blue Oval City and Nutbush City Limits offer both a delicious treat and a nod to Haywood County’s rich culture.

Livingston’s also serves breakfast and lunch six days a week, with specials such as the Farmer’s Daughter, decked-out avocado toast with eggs, bacon, tomato, and onion and, a local favorite, the Livingston’s Burger, featuring all the normal burger dressings and topped off with pimiento cheese and bacon. Livingston’s also serves dinner on Friday and Saturday nights for those looking for a fun weekend date night experience or a special treat at the end of a long week.

Cop's Kitchen & Grill

Right across the street, Jonathan and Elizabeth Cano sling pizzas and craft pastries in Brownsville’s new restaurant and bakery, Kinfolk. Homemade pizzas have quickly become a town favorite, particularly the vodka pizza or…for those with a hearty appetite…the meat lover’s pie, complete with pepperoni, sausage, and ham. Jonathan and Elizabeth are both native New Yorkers with extensive restaurant backgrounds who agreed they were ready for a slower pace of life and the opportunity to own their own restaurant and dig into a community.

Now that they’ve done it, they agree that those are their favorite parts of owning the restaurant– being able to do it together, getting to be themselves. Elizabeth works as the pastry chef, making all sorts of fresh-baked goodies like cakes, cookies, brownies, tiramisu, and croissants…her personal favorite. Eager to expand their commitment to the community and offer even more dining options to the Brownsville Square, they have expanded their business by opening a casual American grille across the street called Cap’s, in honor of the building’s past life as the Capitol Movie Theater. “We’re excited,” Jonathan grins. “We really love Brownsville.”

The Gin Lot

Located on Highway 76 South, The Gin Lot, run by chef Justin Allen, specializes in food both honest and fulfilling. The Gin Lot sources its food–meat and produce–from Winchester Farm, an organic farm just a stone’s throw up the road. This means that all the sausage, ground beef, and steaks from are from locally raised grass-fed cows and pasture-raised hogs. Allen says The Gin Lot draws a diverse crowd, including savvy eaters from Memphis, excited to try the local food; local farmers and workers coming in for a quick bite to eat; and all sorts of people who show up because the buzz drew them. For those looking to check it out, try the supreme pizza, a dish Allen assures is a crowd pleaser, loaded with house-smoked ham; homemade Italian sausage; sweet, candied onions; black olives; sautéed mushrooms, and an assortment of what Allen calls “really beautiful bell peppers,” baked in a wood-fired oven.

The Basket

Taking a break from pizza and looking for an award-winning burger to appease your taste buds? Ron Hart runs just the place. Hart’s restaurant, The Basket, won the 2016 prize for the Best Burger in Tennessee. This downtown burger joint will sell you a burger any way you want it, with double the bacon, a slathering of jalapeños, coated with mushrooms, or some combination of all the above. For those interested in something other than a burger, The Basket serves up steaks, Phillys, fish, potatoes, and delicious homemade desserts made by Hart’s wife Angie. Beyond all the yummy treats and delectable entrees, though, Hart’s favorite part of his job is working with the community, something he says he wouldn’t be able to do without the help of his employees. Like the other phenomenal restaurant owners, grill masters, pastry chefs, and pizza slingers centered in Haywood County, Hart knows that the key to a successful business is simple: love the community first.