Having worked in restaurants for 9 years through college and grad school (including everything from a casual café to fine dining), I’m always curious what eateries will be offering where I travel.
In recent years I’ve become a homesteader in North Carolina, which puts me in touch with food in a different way and makes me appreciate the work that goes into making food a fresh experience.
Small town eateries in the Blue Ridge region have a well-earned reputation for excellent down-home cooking, but many are catching up with the culinary times.
On our latest trip to the Tennessee/Virginia border, we discovered a great collection of places to eat in Bristol TN/VA. And most of the good restaurants in Bristol are downtown, where visitors tend to want to be.
Read on for our in-depth guide to the best Bristol TN restaurants (one side of State St.) and the best restaurants in Bristol VA, including an overview of our favorite dishes to eat there.
READ MORE: The 10 Best Things to Do in Bristol TN/VA
Best Restaurants in Bristol TN/VA Guide
- Blackbird Bakery
- Blended Peddlar
- Red Pepper Indian Cuisine
- Bristol Bagel and Bakery
- Mad Greek Restaurant
- 620 State
Best Restaurants in Bristol VA
1. Blackbird Bakery
168 Piedmont Ave, Bristol VA • 276-645-5754
Finding a good breakfast joint is crucial to me when we travel. It’s my favorite meal to eat out, as I love to ease into the day with a strong coffee and something nice to nibble.
Blackbird Bakery, which is located in an amazing historic building on a side street off of State, offers what is widely considered the best breakfast in Bristol VA.
The bakery prides itself on being community-oriented, using high-quality ingredients, and creating a unique experience for customers.
Opened in 2008, their specialty is donuts, with plenty of bread, pastries, and desserts on offer. Donuts come in funky flavors like Peanut Butter Cream and Pineapple Upside Down, as well as classics like Chocolate-filled and Glazed.
The Blackbird Bakery menu also has a massive selection of bars, pies, cupcakes, and cakes, not to mention some locally-made ice cream for hot Summer afternoons.
Note that there’s also a drive-thru location at 970 Commonwealth Ave.
READ MORE: The 10 Best Things to Do in Staunton VA
2. Blended Peddlar
170 Piedmont Ave, Bristol VA • 276-644-1750
The Blended Pedaler is a local chain, with restaurants in Bristol VA, Abingdon VA, and Johnson City TN.
It also sends Superfood Trucks to Dollywood and Splash Country Water Park in the Smoky Mountains in Fall and Summer.
As their name suggests, the Blended Pedaler specializes in smoothies with a load of flavorful fruits and superfoods to make them extra tasty and nutritious.
Our favorite choice on the Blended Pedaler menu is their blended bowls. They use sorbet bases (with incredible flavors like acai, dragonfruit, coconut, and cacao), then top them with fruit, nuts, nut butters, granola, and more.
The bowl makes for a great breakfast, light lunch, or afternoon treat. It’s also fairly healthy, which can sometimes be hard to come by when eating out.
Beyond bowls and smoothies, they also have a few fancy “loaded toast” options, such as Avocado Toast with everything bagel seasoning, red pepper flakes, and honey.
601 State St, Bristol VA • 276-285-3001
Food in Bristol TN or VA simply doesn’t get any better than what Bloom is serving up.
Their dishes were delicious, and in our experience this is one of those places where a visit feels like an engaging experience you’ll definitely remember.
The Bloom menus include rotating choices for Brunch and Dinner from the head chef, and decadent desserts from the pastry chef. There are also menus for top-notch coffee drinks and craft cocktails.
Bloom started out as a small café in 2017, but their upscale twists on classic restaurant favorites soon had the place needing more space.
Their new-ish location on State Street has outside seating, a wall of windows, a full bar, and loads of personality.
This is also a woman-owned business that promotes inclusivity, creativity, and quality, and the dinner was killer!
4. Red Pepper Indian Cuisine
215 Gate City Hwy, Bristol VA • 276-821-3022
The surprise find of our weekend getaway in Bristol was Red Pepper Indian Cuisine, which is quickly making a name for itself as one of the best places to eat in Bristol VA.
My wife Emma is British. As frequent visitors to England, we’re well-versed in Indian cuisine, and our dinner at this casual fine dining restaurant really hit the bullseye.
Red Pepper Indian Cuisine aims for authenticity in terms of flavor and ingredients. In addition to tandoori-style grilled meats, it has loads of vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options.
After salivating at the rich aromas wafting through the room as soon as we walked in, we devoured our vegetable assorted appetizer, and our curry dishes were melt-in-your-mouth good.
They offer a lunch buffet from 11AM – 2:30 PM, as well as plenty of specialty juices, teas, and desserts.
The restaurant is just over half a mile from the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, and just over two miles from the main drag in Downtown Bristol.
Restaurants in Bristol TN
5. Bristol Bagel and Bakery
634 State St, Bristol TN • 423-652-2216
We’re firm believers in the idea that every town should have a great bagel place, but unfortunately not every small mountain town does.
Thankfully, Bristol TN is big enough to handle one. Bristol Bagel & Bakery is located on the west end of the Tennessee side of State Street in Downtown Bristol.
At breakfast, freshly baked bagels are served with a choice of butter and jam, peanut butter, cream cheese, or hummus. Plus, there are several breakfast bagel sandwich options.
Bristol Bagel is also open at lunch, offering over a dozen bagel sandwiches with a choice of potato chips, potato salad, pasta salad, or soup.
This was one of our favorite restaurants in Bristol TN, not to mention a sensational stop for soaking up some of the tasty craft beer we drank the night before!
6. Mad Greek Restaurant
2419 Volunteer Pkwy, Bristol TN • 423-397-4778
Our first restaurant in Bristol was the Mad Greek, which was a recommended lunch stop upon arrival. By the time we got there, we were super hungry and ready for a bite.
Mad Greek Restaurant is located near the Bristol Motor Speedway and the Twin City Drive-in Theatre.
It has been in business for over 30 years now, with comfy seating and a fantastic patio area for outdoor eating.
The restaurant definitely serves traditional Greek food. But, as a Greek/Italian eatery, it seems to feature its pizza.
In addition to the best pizza in Bristol, the menu includes Greek classics like Falafel, Gyros, Hummus, and Pita Bread. It also has Greek-style Spaghetti, Moussaka, and Spanakopita. There’s also a massive dessert menu.
It’s a great place to visit if your Bristol tour moves out of the downtown area and heads towards the Speedway.
READ MORE: The 15 Best Places to See Fall in Tennessee
7. 620 State
620 State St, Bristol TN • 423-652-0314
Caught in the mix of State Street restaurants and all the Downtown Bristol action, 620 State is located in a beautiful historic building and serves sushi, Asian-inspired dishes, and American cocktails.
We’d spent the morning exploring the Bristol Caverns and walking around Steele Creek Park, so we had built up quite an appetite.
We love sushi, so we were thrilled to get some rolls, edamame, and vegetable spring rolls. It’s that awesome combo of filling, but somehow light enough to leave room for afternoon beers at Bristol breweries.
Other items on the menu included a slew of upscale burgers and hot sandwiches, delicious-sounding stir-fries, and a selection of stuff from the grill.
620 State is billed as casual dining, but it’s really a nice place to eat in Bristol. Stopping in for a shower and a change of clothes after hiking in the park that morning definitely proved to be the right move!
Overall, the Bristol food scene has a lot going on. In addition to these restaurants, we saw several others that piqued our interest for the next visit.
- The Original Burger Bar is just off State Street and comes by its classic diner look honestly. It’s been slinging hash since 1942, and it’s a must-do when you visit Bristol.
- Vivian’s Table is an upscale spot that serves breakfast, lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch. The menu is a bit meat-heavy for our tastes, but there are some other options to try. It’s located on a side street off of State St, very close to the Birthplace of Country Music Museum.
- Southern Craft has locations in Johnson City, Watauga Lake, and Bristol. It’s been voted the best barbecue in Bristol, and is a highlight of the downtown Bristol restaurant scene.
With five breweries and a host of awesome restaurants, staying well fed and watered is no problem.
State Street is filled with interesting museums, historic architecture, cool shops, and vintage music venues. What more does a traveler need? –by Jonathon Engels; all photos by Emma Gallagher