Lunch At Miss Mary Bobo’s

Miss Mary Bobo's, Lynchburg, Tennessee
We were able to get in for lunch at Miss Mary Bobo’s in Lynchburg, Tennessee earlier this year.  It seems that reservations are requested days or weeks in advance, as the setup is family-style dining, with each table having its own host.  We called about a week before our visit, left a message preferring the earlier of the day’s two seatings, and they confirmed our reservation.  Lunch is $20.

Miss Mary Bobo's, Lynchburg TN

We’ve been wanting to come here for so long.  We love revolving table restaurants (like Walnut Hills in Vicksburg and Dinner Bell) and family-style (like Monell’s in Nashville and Mrs. Wilkes’ in Savannah) because it’s so much fun to sit down with strangers and once the meal is over, we’re friends.  Miss Mary Bobo’s is unique in that each table sits with a host, whose job it is to get things rolling with introductions and stories, etc.

Miss Mary Bobo's, Lynchburg TN
(Lynchburg’s most famous past resident, who supped here many times)

Miss Mary Bobo ran this establishment as a boarding house from 1908 until her passing in 1983.  She lived to be 102.  

You can mill around the home beforehand or afterwards to view the furnishings, and of course there’s a giftshop.

Miss Mary Bobo's, Lynchburg TN

We were in one of these outer rooms in the back.
Miss Mary Bobo's, Lynchburg TN

I wish I had taken more pictures inside.  We were seated with probably a dozen people at the table, and the food was waiting on us.  The food was passed, but after the initial introductions began by our host, there wasn’t very much talking going on.  Here I was, thinking I was going to see what a great conversationalist could do with a nice group of people, but there wasn’t much chatter at all.  I decided to get things going and so I asked her a few questions that maybe we would all enjoy (“what’s the funniest thing you’ve seen as a host here?” etc.).  We decided that if the host wasn’t going to get everyone talking, we were.  We all had a good time, but it was a little mystifying.

Here’s the other thing: the food wasn’t very good in general.  It wasn’t bad, it’s just that none of it was delicious.  It was utilitarian food.  The mashed potatoes were mashed potatoes and the beans were beans, even the fried chicken was just fried chicken.  From my plate, I tried to get a bite or two of most things served.  There wasn’t anything I wanted more of.  A shame, because I really just wanted to love this place.
Miss Mary Bobo's, Lynchburg TN
So the best part of the meal food-wise was the dessert, pecan pie with Jack Daniel’s.
Miss Mary Bobo's, Lynchburg TN

Mary and Jack Bobo opened the Bobo Hotel in September, 1908, in a white Federal-style house on Lynchburg’s Main Street. Miss Mary quickly built a successful business that was popular with single school teachers, traveling salesmen and federal revenuers stopping by to check on the local distillery.

The tax man didn’t have to go far – Mr. Jack Daniel himself often took his noonday meal at the boarding house.

“Dinner at Miss Mary Bobo’s may have been the early 20th century version of a power lunch,” Lynne Tolley, current proprietress of Miss Mary Bobo’s and great-grandniece of Jack Daniel said. “Jack Daniel and Lem Motlow were both frequent guests, and the local bank president, Tom Motlow, lived here.”

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