Another generation of the Briggs family cooks favorites at Glade Spring

CAROLYN R WILSON Special to the Bristol Herald Courier

GLADE SPRINGS, Va. – Good things really do come in small packages.

Take, for example, a small restaurant on the outskirts of Glade Spring that has been serving good food and hospitality since at least the 1960s.

Operating under various names for the past 50 years, the legendary but humble restaurant recently came under new ownership, run by Eddie Briggs and his wife, Tisha Briggs.

Welcome to the newly renamed Sweet Ed’s Diner, a longtime establishment that holds a fond spot for Eddie, a Glade Spring native whose mother and father, Dot and Bob Briggs, ran B&D’s in the same building when he was a child.

Even more amazingly, his mother, Dot Briggs, 75, has come full circle, helping out at the new diner in the same kitchen where she prepared hamburgers and hot dogs more than 40 years ago.

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The diner is named after the nickname Eddie acquired from a friend who called him “Sweet Ed.”

“I never planned on calling it that, but it just stuck,” he said with a laugh.

Eddie remembers hearing about Elvis’ death when he was a kid hanging out at his parents’ business. To honor his memory, he has pictures of Elvis on the walls in the diner. This year, a Christmas tree in the diner was decorated with Elvis ornaments.

Most recently, the iconic business was best known as DJ’s Pizza, owned and operated initially by Jerry and Diane Coleman, and later by Tim Fullen and Christy Hawk.

The ovens at the Monte Vista Drive diner are heating up again—this time, run by the Briggs family, they aim to serve up old-fashioned, made-from-scratch classics.

Daughters Kayla Carrier and Olivia Briggs help with the family dinner along with several other staff from the region.

“It’s a group effort,” Eddy said.

After just three months, the diner is doing “phenomenal business,” according to the new owner.

Some days the diner, which can seat up to 30 people inside, is packed to the brim and customers line up and wait outside. Eddie estimated that he served about 300 people in one day.

“It just exceeded all my expectations,” said the husband.

The new diner draws customers from the neighboring communities of Abingdon, Bristol and Lebanon. They’ve even had people from Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Texas stop by for food.

“One of my clients from Roanoke lived in Glade Spring,” Eddie said.

Julie Sturgill and her husband, Randy Sturgill, of Chilhowie often come down to eat at the diner.

“I love the daily specials. The lasagna and the chicken casserole are wonderful. And there are always desserts,” Julie Sturgill said.

Renee Kidd and Marcia Osborne, both of Glade Spring, eat at the diner two or three times a week.

“We like the food and the atmosphere. Everyone makes you feel welcome,” Osborne said.

Briggs and his wife had no plans to buy a restaurant. With three grown children, the couple had decided to spend their free time running a food truck business.

Eddie was working in construction and Tisha was managing a hair salon and working as a cosmetology instructor at the Smith County Vocational School when the couple made an offer on the timeless diner.

“Our offer was accepted and I called my wife and asked her what on earth we were going to do with it. She said, “we’re going to run a restaurant,” he said.

“It’s been thriving since day one,” said Eddie Briggs, who used his construction skills to rework the interior, creating a cozy and inviting place. A two-tier pizza oven supplied with the building is used to make everything from cakes and meatloaf to breakfast biscuits.

“I had no idea how to run a restaurant,” he said after working 17 years for Verizon, then selling cars and insurance before finding his niche in construction.

Many tips from friends and restaurant owners guide the family to a new journey in the restaurant business. Many of the recipes, some of which are family favorites, come from his wife and mother.

Briggs described his new business as “a diner with a twist.”

“Have you ever had a deep-fried hotdog?” he asked. “Oh man, they’re good.”

Sweet Ed’s Diner serves typical diner fare including hamburgers, hot dogs, onion rings and cheesesteak. For those customers who want something simple, there’s a triple decker club and a grilled sandwich.

But customers are ecstatic about the daily promotions.

“One day we might have open beef and gravy with mashed potatoes and corn on the cob with apple chips for dessert,” Eddie said. “The next day, we might serve chicken casserole with macaroni and green bean salad, or maybe homemade lasagna or country roast.”

The diner opens at 7am and offers a full breakfast menu fit for a king. The lunch crowd starts to gather at 11am

Pop’s Breakfast includes two eggs any style, two slices of applewood smoked bacon or hot dogs, two slices of white or wheat toast and a slice of tomato. Other breakfast items include biscuits and gravy, buttermilk pancakes and hash browns.

Appetizers are also a big hit at the diner, with favorites like cheese or sweet potato fries, fried dill pickles, mozzarella sticks and jalapeño poppers selling well.

“It’s something you don’t usually see in a small diner,” Eddy said.

The burgers are a big deal at the diner, and three of them are named after and created by the couple’s children.

The Kayla Burger is seven ounces of seasoned Angus beef topped with mac and cheese, bacon, onion rings, nacho cheese, pickles, jalapeños and barbecue sauce.

“Everybody who orders it loves it,” Eddie said.

The Dyson Burger features seven ounces of seasoned Angus beef topped with bacon, jalapeños, black pepper cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion and spicy barbecue sauce.

“Our son Dyson is a spicier guy,” he said.

The Livvy Burger is seven ounces of seasoned Angus beef topped with onions and green peppers, American cheese and BBQ sauce.

“The first week we were open, a customer told me our burgers were the best he’d ever had. He comes to eat here three or four times a week,” Eddie said.

When Eddie isn’t flipping burgers in the kitchen, he’s visiting customers at their tables.

“This is important because I want to know what I can improve. I can’t fix a problem if I don’t know about it,” he said.

“I’ve met so many great people since we opened. It blows my mind that the diner is so successful and it’s all because of this community and the great people who support it,” he said. “It’s a team effort.”

Carolyn R. Wilson is a freelance writer in Glade Spring, Virginia. Contact her at [email protected].

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