This story is part of Tri-Cities Best, a viewer-vote-driven section of News Channel 11’s community coverageHundreds of nominations and votes placed several local businesses within reach of the title of Best Fried Chicken:

  • Nick’s Restaurant
  • The Kitchen at Grace Meadows Farm
  • Voodoo Chicken JC

Each nomination is a privilege, and each vote is an honor.

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Lorraine and Elmer Washington are on their second retirement as a couple after long careers in the region, and their 20-year tradition of providing home-cooked meals to guests is what earned Taste Budz the title of Best Fried Chicken in the Tri-Cities.

“It was awesome the way the community spoke out and voted for us,” Lorraine Washington told News Channel 11. “We’ve been here like 22 years, so it was really an honor and we felt very proud.”

Taste Budz sits at the corner of East Market Street and South Roan Street in downtown Johnson City and has served up hearty meals for two decades. Each item on the menu tastes like the unspoken winner of a family potluck with the kind of recipe that’s kept close to the chest.

“This is home cooking, just like your mother cooked,” Lorraine said. “I mean, this is down home. This is as down home as you can get.”

The business’s small crew runs the operation off of one electric range, just like what many of its customers cook on at home. A small kitchen comes with its challenges, but Lorraine and Elmer wouldn’t have it any other way.

“You have to be prepared and you have to be organized,” Lorraine said. “My thing is a place for everything and everything in its place. If that works, then everything’s a go.”

Taste Budz’s connection to the community doesn’t end at Johnson City, either. The Washingtons are also well-known in Asheville and Atlanta farmers markets for their ingredient hunting. It’s not rare to see both Lorraine and Elmer under the TasteBudz awning while they’re breaking green beans by hand for their upcoming dishes.

“When you come to Taste Budz, you expect a home-cooked meal,” Lorraine said. “Just like Thanksgiving every day.”

Elmer is the proud purveyor of Budz Rub, the secret spice blend that goes on every piece of chicken before and after frying.

“Once that Budz Rub goes on there, that changes the chicken completely,” Elmer said. “That makes it our brand, TasteBudz chicken.”

The names of those ingredients, of course, are for Washington family members only. Having sampled it, however, News Channel 11 staff can confirm that the mix takes it over the top.

The Washingtons don’t intend to change their model anytime soon and are happy to be plugging away at their constant stream of catering orders. Their corner will hopefully continue to provide a little taste of home for many years to come.