Hampton, TN

Southern Craft BBQ on Watauga Lake Left in Ruins by Dawn Inferno

John M. Dabbs

Hampton, Tenn. - A striking early morning fire has devastated a cherished landmark in the Hampton area, the Southern Craft Restaurant at Watauga Lake, triggering an outpouring of community grief and sparking urgent multi-county firefighting efforts. For over six decades, the establishment at 2340 Highway 321 has been an integral part of Carter County's culinary and cultural fabric, known previously as the Captain's Table and recently as the Southern Craft BBQ.

At 5:18 a.m., the stillness of the early morning was shattered by the blare of fire alarms. The Carter County Sheriff’s Department, Carter County Emergency Management Agency, and numerous volunteer fire departments from across Carter County were swiftly at the scene, joined by reinforcements from Washington, Sullivan, Johnson, and Unicoi counties.

Abby Frye, public information officer with the Carter County Sheriff’s Department, confirmed the details of the ongoing operation. Firefighters remained at the scene as late as 8:30 a.m., wrestling to bring the fire under control.

The Southern Craft BBQ at Watauga Lake wasn't just a restaurant - it was a vital piece of local history. Originally known as the Captain's Table, the restaurant was purchased by Ted Tipton in 1961. Under Tipton's management, the Captain’s Table became a beacon of southern hospitality, delighting locals and visitors alike with its panoramic view of Watauga Lake from its elevated position on the sharp curve of U.S. 321.

The large, window-lined dining room allowed diners to bask in the serene vistas while indulging in their meals, providing a dining experience that blended sensory pleasure with natural beauty. Ted Tipton passed on this legacy to Southern Craft BBQ when the Tipton family sold the establishment in 2022.

Southern Craft BBQ has become synonymous with quality and innovation in Southern cuisine. With its roots in Johnson City, Tennessee, the company has grown significantly since its inception, operating successful locations across the region. Despite their growth, the team at Southern Craft has remained dedicated to preserving the unique character and local charm of each location, a mission exemplified in their stewardship of the former Captain’s Table.

Their focus on high-quality, locally sourced ingredients paired with a refined approach to classic southern BBQ has won them a loyal following. The Watauga Lake location, with its rich history and idyllic setting, was a jewel in their crown, adding a sense of loss that extends beyond physical structures and business interests.

News of the fire sent shockwaves through the community, with locals and patrons expressing their sorrow and support on social media. The restaurant's significance as a site of numerous community gatherings, family celebrations, and tranquil meals underscored the depth of its roots in the heart of the community.

While the cause of the fire is yet to be determined, its impact is unmistakably profound. The loss of such a beloved institution marks a sad day for the Southern Craft family, the local community, and all who valued this iconic lakeside venue. Yet, the resilient spirit of Hampton, mirrored in the determination of the Southern Craft team, promises to rise from the ashes, embodying the enduring legacy of the restaurant.

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John is An outdoor enthusiast passionate about travel and adventure, a consultant, author, and journalist.

Bristol, TN

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