Take a Pit Stop in Lynchburg, Tennessee

1:36 PM Life in Between 2 Comments

July 13, 2016

In the small southern-central city of Lynchburg, Tennessee, you'll find unique shops, restaurants and attractions that can't be found anywhere else in the world. If you're taking a road trip through the south, this is one spot that should be on your list.

Known as the home of Jack Daniel's whiskey, Lynchburg markets its famous product as the only world-famous beverage from a city with one traffic light. Now that I've been there, I'd say that's a pretty accurate claim. But its size only adds to its charm. The downtown area is compact, but chock-full of antique stores, historic sites, Jack Daniel's souvenir shops, and more. An 18th-century court house is situated in the center, surrounded by old-fashioned stops like the Lynchburg Pharmacy, Moon Pie General Store and others.

I was there for the day with my family. The plan was to eat at Miss Mary Bobo's Boarding House and Restaurant. But first, we had to explore the city.

Jack Daniel's Whiskey Distillery

Of course, most people travel to Lynchburg for one reasonthe Jack Daniel's Whiskey Distillery. Our trip didn't include it. Many of the people in our group had already visited before. But, should you want to tour the distillery, you can tag along on one of the daily tours. Just keep in mind that on weekends the wait time to get in can vary. Tours are offered on a first-come, first-serve basis.

The tour does include stairs and some portions take place outside. So if it's a particularly hot day, you might want to consider if you can handle the heat. For us, the day was simply too hot! Bags are not permitted on the tour, and you can only take pictures in certain areas.

Visitors can now take part in the "Flight of Jack Distillery Tour" that ends with a sampling of five Jack Daniel whiskeys: Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey, Jack Daniel's Tennessee Fire, Jack Daniel's Tennessee Honey, Gentleman Jack and Jack Daniel's Single Barrel.

Finally, remember that Lynchburg is a dry county, and has been dry since the time of prohibition. It's technically not legal to buy Jack Daniel's in the city where it's made. You can taste it, and buy commemorative bottles at the local stores. But the product itself can't be purchased in Moore County.

Moore County Jail Museum 

This attraction was a working jail until 1990. Built in 1893, it offers an interesting look into the lives of small-town sheriffs back in the day. Andy Griffith, anyone? For $1, you can have a semi-guided tour of the building, and even walk into the cells where prisoners once stood.

What interested me the most was how the comfort of prisoners was entirely based on how the sheriff was feeling that day. Our tour guide said, "Depending on the prisoners' behavior, the sheriff might deliver their food on time, late or not at all. It really was up to him." It was clear that the prisoners and sheriffs got to know each other very well in the modest, homey jail.

The guide then explained to me that the sheriff's wife had the responsibility of feeding and tending to the prisoners. In the 1880's, it was common for women to have many children, so she was used to cooking for a lot of people. Asking her to cook for prisoners wasn't considered a big deal. She was also in charge of simple health care. It was much rarer back then for people to visit a hospital or call in a doctor. Many times, people took care of their own aliments.

I asked the guide if any famous criminals had spent time in the jail. "You can find Jesse James signature upstairs, but we have no idea whether or not it's authentic," she said.

"How many people can you fit in the cells?" I asked.

"The two cells that you will find upstairs used to have pull-out beds that have since been removed. Actually, they were able to fit 20 men upstairs, if needed."

We turned the corner and made our way up an old staircase that led to the main cells for male occupants. (Women had their own cells downstairs.) The paint was worn and the bars were rusty. It was hard to believe that the jail held prisoners only 30 years ago. The steps creaked as we entered into the well-worn room.

Just as I suspected, the cells looked very small. 20 men? How was this accomplished? My guess was that some people were sleeping standing up. But, comfort wasn't the main priority at Moore's Old County Jail.

To get inside the cells, you had to walk on a small platform with a toilet out in the open. Privacy obviously wasn't a concern either.

The remainder of the tour was mostly antiques that were left from the jail's past. Old radios, phones and booksit was actually really interesting. My favorite was an old tube radio, circa 1940. I could imagine the sounds of jazz and big band hits dancing out of its speakers.

The jail museum is definitely a stop you'll want to make on your visit to Lynchburg.

Moon Pie General Store

In 1917, the famous Moon Pie was a popular snack for coal workers to bring in their lunch pails. Today, the tradition lives on as a sweet, filling snack that's produced in Chattanooga, Tennessee. It's a southern staple. Pair with an RC Cola and you're in business. Downtown Lynchburg has its own Moon Pie monument in the form of an quaint general store.
You think you know everything about Moon Pies, but here you can find different varieties, sizes and flavors. There's even t-shirts, magnetseverything a true Moon Pie fan could desire. 

Miss Mary Bobo's Boarding House Restaurant

We heard the lunch bell ring and quickly walked back to the pristine, white boarding house. My stomach started to growl as we walked inside.

The boarding house has been open since 1908, and Miss Mary Bobo served patrons at her boarding house until she was just shy of 102 years old. It's a well-known establishment to the locals, and most months the boarding house has visitors from every state in the U.S. In June 2016, I heard they had guests from 41 statesa little less than normal, according to our host. With all of the incoming traffic, guests should call for reservations well before their visit, if possible.

The restaurant is still set up to treat guests like they are "boarders." In fact, just walking into the house feels like you are there to meet with your grandmother for a Sunday afternoon lunch. It isn't until you notice the large gift shop to the right that things seem out of place.

Speaking of the gift shop, it's a lovely room that has shelves full of fun trinkets and southern-themed steals. One of the most popular items, of course, is the Miss Mary Bobo official cookbook. The menu items that are served to guests still maintain her original recipes, making the eatery even more genuine.

When the bell is rung, guests are told to join a host and gather in an assigned boarding room. We had over 12 guests, so some of us were separated from the group into another room. This is something to consider if you plan on taking a large party for a meal. To add to the experience, each group gets its own host for the table. That's rightsomeone from the Mary Bobo staff sits at your table with you to tell you about the history behind the restaurant and fun facts about Miss Mary.

Our lunch was already on the table as we entered the room. The food is served by simply passing a plate to the left. The menu varies, but holds on to a few favorites that you are sure to get when you book a reservation. The menu for that day included:

  • Fried chicken
  • Green beans
  • Rolls
  • Potatoes
  • Macaroni and cheese
  • Shredded pork 
  • Fried apples infused with "local product" 

It was home-cooking at its finest. The apples with Jack Daniel's was especially delicious. But don't expect to feel healthy after an afternoon of eating with Miss Mary. I was informed that the fried apple recipe included 1 cup of butter and 4 cups of sugar. Trust me, it's worth the calories!

Just when we thought we couldn't eat anything else, servers went around the table and asked who wanted coffee with their dessert. Dessert?! Somehow, I had to manage it. It was a thick chocolate pie topped with whipped cream that had a little more of the local product dashed inside. There was even a small topper on the pie to celebrate Jack Daniel's 150th anniversary. 

I highly recommend Miss Mary Bobo's not only for a great meal, but for its history and authenticity, as well. It's a unique experience that the whole family is sure to enjoy. Call ahead of time to make reservations and inquire about the menu.

295 Main St. Lynchburg, TN 37352
Reservations:  (931) 759-7394

Lynchburg Winery

Did you know that in the dry county of Lynchburg there is now a place you can visit for local wine tastings? And yes, you can purchase it too! I wondered how all of this worked. Turns out, all Tennessee wineries are exempt from Dry County Statutes because of the Wine and Grape Law that was passed 40 years ago. The Lynchburg Winery is situated in the heart of the downtown square and has been in business since last year.

I knew I had to try some of the local wines before I left. The winery itself has one of the largest wine tasting rooms in the state, and the wine is pretty darn good. The tasting costs a little over $4 for five winesnot a bad price at all. Here are the ones I tried. (Descriptions provided by the Lynchburg Winery tasting menu.)

  • Pinot Grigio – A dry white wine with a fruity aroma and a crisp silky finish.
  • Merlot - Dry, with a bouquet of black cherry and currants. Medium-bodied with a hint of herbs.
  • Southern Tradition - We have a 100% Tennessee white and red Muscadine like grandpa made! 13.5% so it has a kick!
  • Serendipity - Our Signature Southern Wine!  A very fragrant sweet white Muscadine with a fizz.  Fragrant Traditional Muscadine. Best served chilled. Add a few frozen fruits into this party favorite. 
  • Blackberry – This one was not on the menu. It had a rich blackberry aroma and was very sweetalmost juice like. 

Out of all the wines, Serendipity was my favorite. But you can go by and sip the samples for yourself. 

A Worthy Pit Stop

With a little over 6,000 people that make up its population, Lynchburg is a taste of the old south and southern hospitality. There are also a few accommodations nearby if you choose to make a day of it. From Moon Pies for the kids to sophisticated wine tastings, this Tennessee town is a fun, educational and tasty stop on your southern road trip.

What else do you like about Lynchburg? 

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  1. WOW, what a great tour. You hit all the high spots of our little town. Thanks for the visit and the kind words. I am sharing your link on our Chamber of Commerce website www.lynchburgtn.com and also a shout out on our Facebook page at Metro Lynchburg Chamber of Commerce. Thanks again and come back to see us.

    1. So glad you liked the post! We had a great time in the city. The winery is a great addition, and the food at Mary Bobo's was wonderful!