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1930s eaterey still going strong


Folks may stop in their first time at the popular Court Café, out toward Dixie Lee Junction, for a quick, hot meal and to absorb the nostalgic appearance of the place.

Its owners said the café was built, adjacent to the former Marion Tourist Court, to serve both local residents and folks who stopped overnight.

But folks come back to 13110 Kingston Pike, just east of the Loudon county line, for the menu, said Virginia Byrd.

Semi-retired now, Byrd has operated the Court Café ever since she bought the place from Ora Mae Neubert, back about 1971.

“We’ve kept it pretty much as it was back then,” she said of one of the few surviving buildings left from the original Dixie Lee Junction where the Dixie and Lee highways crossed.

The Court Cafe’s varied menu, though, is anything but unchanging. Under the watchful eye of Byrd’s daughter-in-law, Margaret Byrd, the café’s food offerings change daily.

“We pride ourselves on the homemade pies and our fresh-made biscuits,” Byrd said. “We have those every day.

“But folks especially seem to like our steak and gravy special,” she said, noting that the generous splashes of sausage gravy prove frequent hits with Court Café newcomers.

The daily menu also includes a choice of four meats, one of which alternates weekly so café regulars are assured of menu variety. The Byrds keep changing café vegetable offerings, too, but they’re always freshly prepared.

“With all that, we do try to keep our prices down,” Virginia Byrd added.

Byrd said the adjoining Marion Court long ago was sold and torn down, leaving the Court Café, formerly the Ham House, free standing. Former Ham House owners once prided themselves on serving freshly-cured country ham, she said.

Beyond that, neither Byrd nor Faye Guilder, a faithful café employee for 20 years, knows much history of the Dixie Lee Junction.

However, history did come to call about three years ago, Byrd said, in the guise of film crews. They used the Court Café as a location while filming an hour-long public television documentary on the life and times of Country and Western legend Hank Williams Sr.

“We had quite a crowd here during the filming,” Byrd recalled. “Most of them wanted to see Hank’s Cadillac they had in here.” Legend says the 1952 model Caddy, baby blue, was the car in which Williams died in the back seat on Jan. 1, 1953.

Despite heavy traffic through the Dixie Lee intersection, Byrd says relatively few accidents occur nearby. She said many Court Café customers are Knox County construction workers well familiar with the intersection.

“Most of the time,” she said, “traffic flows pretty smoothly through here.”

The Court Café serves breakfast and lunch daily. The doors open at 5:15 a.m. and close as soon as the lunch crowd leaves.

usually about 2:20 p.m.

 

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