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Buttercup: more than a tea room

Buttercup Restaurant and Tea Room in Lenoir City has an updated menu and a Sunday brunch to reach a new market.

An addition to Cranberry Hollow gift shop, the restaurant has been open since September 2004 and mostly catered to “women from about late twenties to eighty,” owner John Boling said.

“I always had a menu change in the back of my mind because I wanted to add more things to the menu,” Boling said.

“I wanted to … put a lot of specials out there to see what was doing better than others and things that we thought people would enjoy and to draw more men. Because it says ‘tea room,’ men don’t think it’s a full-scale restaurant, they think it’s little tea sandwiches. So I think that probably the biggest change is to draw more towards the male side of it. Most men eat beef; most men eat wraps [and] sandwiches. There’s been a survey done, that’s what most men eat,” he said.

Although Boling said he has a hard time getting men to try his restaurant, he never has a problem getting them to return.

“If you ever have men in here to eat for dinner, believe me they come back. It’s only the first time to get them here. A lot of men who are masculine think they’re going to lose it coming into a little rinky-dink tea room. [They] think they won’t get filled up. Believe me, our proportions are very good,” he said.

The new menu features prime rib, fresh seafood and homemade desserts, including sugar-free pumpkin rolls.

Boling said, “Where else can you get sugar free desserts besides Ryan’s? But that’s not comparing apples and apples.”

Boling said he opened his restaurant because “I think it complimented the gift shop we had, and I’ve always wanted to open a restaurant up … since I was a young man.”

Boling and his wife, Sue, opened the gift shop, Cranberry Hollow, two years ago.

Boling added, “We wanted a place for the women to come and enjoy the place. It’s much different than a restaurant. ... We went to the extreme of having a tea room, then we shot ourselves in the foot by saying it’s not a restaurant. So now the ladies that come here, they love it, they absolutely love it.

“Some ladies come here and they sit here and from the time they get here, let’s say they get here at eleven o’clock, will not leave till two o’clock. And that’s OK with us. We didn’t build it for turning the tables. … We built it for people to enjoy, and as long as they want to stay, they can stay.”

The Bolings said they consider Buttercup Restaurant and Tea Room much more than a restaurant, though.

“It’s a place that you can come and have a business meal, you can come and have a birthday party or you can have a wedding reception here. You can have a rehearsal dinner and it’s a place that you can bring your friend in the afternoon to have dinner,” John Boling said.

“We aren’t just an address, we are a destination,” Sue Boling added.

The owners, who are from the New England area, said the atmosphere is identical to styles found in New England.

“You go in, it would be an older home back in Maine, and you walk in with the fireplace and your windows like [ours] and [you have] the linens and a lot of the same dishes that we serve,” Sue Boling said.

The name of the restaurant is also a remnant of Maine. “Buttercup is the universal flower, we had fields of buttercups in Maine. … It kinda brings everybody together,” Sue Boling said.


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