Hometown Eats: BT’s Restaurant

For 40 years, BT’s Restaurant hasn’t changed, and the owners intend to keep it that way.
Published: Nov. 16, 2023 at 5:13 PM EST
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RADFORD, Va. (WDBJ) - There’s nothing quite like a restaurant that takes you back a few decades when you walk in the door. Hop in the DeLorean because we’re headed to Radford in the 1980 and bellying up for a big bite at BT’s Restaurant in this week’s Hometown Eats!

“When people come back into town who haven’t been here in a while, they walk in and say, ‘Oh my gosh! It’s kind of the same!’ We want it to be BT’s, forever,” said owner Kelsi Jones.

Directly across Tyler Avenue from Radford University sits a piece of ‘Highlander Heaven’ that’s as recognizable as bagpipes for a Scotsman; welcome to BT’s Restaurant.

“BT’s was opened in 1983 by Tom Whitehead. Bill Ellenbogen was his partner at the time, and for 35 years Tom owned BT’s and then my husband and I bought it from him in August of 2019,” said Jones.

The name BT’s came from Bill and Tom combining the first letters of their names.

Current owners Kelsi Jones and her husband Todd, like many others, have a BT’s love story spanning decades.

“I started working at BT’s in 1997 when I was 18 years old and I met my husband on my first shift; he trained me. He had been working here for a few months and the rest is history,” said Jones.

They both worked here through college, did life, then heard those bagpipes calling. They led Kelsi back to Radford for a nursing degree in 2011. Little did she know that was the springboard for a totally different conversation with her husband.

“‘Maybe we should buy BT’s.’ We started thinking about it seriously and decided it made lots of sense because we grew up in this restaurant together,” said Jones.

As did countless others, you see and feel the history in this place, something the Jones’ desire to preserve.

“The reason we bought this is because it had been BT’s for us for 20-plus years and we wanted it to be BT’s for the next 20 years,” said Jones.

With a few minor upgrades, like a patio which got a facelift this past summer, this joint is set up for lovers of competition with pool tables, where you can get involved in tournament play every Monday, to all the TVs to catch your favorite team march to victory.

And if you’re wondering, what’s up with all the frogs, that’s another classic BT’s story.

“Another funny story where we don’t actually know the day BT’s started but we don’t know where the frogs came from or when they started,” said Jones.

The original owner’s wife loved frogs and they just started popping up here and there.

“They became our t-shirt designs and our artwork on the walls, so if you look around, you’ll see frogs everywhere,” said Jones.

My favorite has to be this one, ‘Body by BT’s’

“Body by BT’s, so that is if you’re lucky enough to have spent a few years here at BT’s, then your body might start to reflect that,” joked Jones.

And when you look at the sizes of some of the homemade dishes, you’ll see why!

“An American fare menu with burgers and sandwiches, steaks, chicken fingers, cheese fries, salads and one of the things we pride ourselves on is we make homemade soups every day from scratch. Daily lunch specials and weekly night dinner specials and weekend brunch,” said Jones.

We tried the cheese fries with bacon on top, a buffalo chicken wrap, and the catfish dinner special.

“There’s a lot of memories that happened within these walls, so I think it’s a nostalgia thing for people to be able to come back and have those feelings,” said Jones.

BT’s, a hometown eat full of food, fun, and friends.

BT’s Restaurant is at 218 Tyler Avenue in Radford, VA 24141 and is open 7 days a week:

Monday-Thursday: 11 a.m. to 12 a.m.

Friday: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.

Saturday: 10 a.m. to 2 a.m.

Sunday: 10 a.m. to 12 a.m.