Boyette’s Dining Room Offers Real Good Food at Reelfoot Lake
Massive earthquakes don’t typically contribute to a restaurant’s success. But one topographical feature of northwest Tennessee draws thousands of tourists to that corner of the state each year. And when they come, many also bring their appetites to Boyette’s Dining Room.
Located in Tiptonville along highway TN-21, Boyette’s sits near the eastern bank of Reelfoot Lake, which formed in 1812 after one of the New Madrid earthquakes – the largest earthquakes ever recorded in the United States east of the Rockies – caused the Mississippi River to temporarily flow backward. The state acquired the lake and surrounding land in the early 1900s and designated it as a wildlife refuge. Reelfoot Lake State Park is now well known for its hunting, fishing and outdoor festivals.
Jan Boyd co-owns Boyette’s with her sister, Fran Hearn, and says that events and activities at the lake attract many hungry visitors. “We’re what you call a destination restaurant, because we’re a little off the beaten path,” Boyd says. “We’re known for Reelfoot Lake, so we have duck hunters and fisherman that we depend on. It’s really a unique lake. I guess people who live here take it for granted, but it’s definitely worth seeing. And we’re right across the street from it.”
Boyette’s is almost a century old, but the business has only changed hands twice. “Nannie Boyette first established Boyette’s in 1921,” Boyd says. “The original restaurant was a grocery store across the road from us.” The business moved to its current building sometime the following decade. Jack and Mary Frances Richardson, the parents of Jan and Fran, purchased it in the 1960s. According to the restaurant’s website, the Richardsons owned Boyette’s from 1968 to 1988. “When they retired, my sister and I took it over. So it’s been in my family a long time,” Boyd says.
So what brings customers back time after time? U.S. farm-raised catfish remains the most popular entree, but Boyette’s also serves large portions of country ham, chicken, hamburgers, shrimp, even quail and frog legs. Sides include homemade onion rings, hushpuppies, French fries, twice-baked potatoes, slaw, green beans and white beans. The side items are served family style, which adds to the restaurant’s relaxed and homey atmosphere.
The restaurant’s 300-plus seats fill up fast at peak times, especially on the weekends, but efficient servers keep wait times to a minimum. “It can be wild when we’re really busy,” Boyd says. “We have so many loyal customers.”
Because Boyette’s has been successful for so long, its owners see little reason to change the menu. “I feel like if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” Boyd says. “We pretty much keep doing it like we’ve always done it. I think that’s what people look forward to.”
If You Go...
Boyette’s Dining Room
Location: 30 Boyette Road, Hwy. 21 E. in Tiptonville
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. 7 days a week (though they may close early on slow nights)
Phone: (731) 253-7307
While You’re There: Be sure to visit Reelfoot Lake State Park, site of Tennessee’s only natural lake. Boating, fishing, birding, hiking and camping are popular activities most of the year. During summer months, the park also offers daily pontoon tours.