Seeking Information on the Cotten Patch Restaurant - and Responses

Wednesday, August 17, 2016 - by Harmon Jolley
A photo of the Cotten Patch sign was located in the 1966 Brainerd High yearbook's sponsor section.
A photo of the Cotten Patch sign was located in the 1966 Brainerd High yearbook's sponsor section.

A reader has requested information on the former Cotten Patch restaurant which was located at 2501 E. Main Street.  Here's what has been found:

The restaurant was started in the mid-1950's at 2520 Rossville Boulevard by John W. Cotton.  The business had to relocate to Main Street due to construction of I-24.  The Cotton Patch operated until the late 1980's.

The Cotten Patch had a large neon sign featuring a cotton boll and signifying barbecue as the main menu item.

If you have additional information or memories, please contact me at

Responses from Readers

The first I knew of the Cotton Patch was when it was on Rossville Blvd. it along with Swafford's Drugs and Swafford's Hardware were displaced by the I-24 and urban renewal.

John served a barbecue I would describe as similar to Memphis Dry. He had ribs as well I seem to remember.

John relocated his place to Main St. very close to Dodds when the interstate forced him to move. I never ate at that place but it was very close to Allen Music.

Tani Allen, steel guitarist extraordinaire, had a mostly guitar store on Dodds. My dad had a piano studio there where he taught piano and other private instrument lessons.

It seems like J Wiley ran the place for a while after John died but not long.

John was also Recorder for the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine when it was at First and Market. That's where I first met John. My dad was a Shriner and he would take me by there with him occasionally when he had business to attend. He ran the Orchestra and periodically had to drop by.

John was always there in office behind the glass door.

I wondered who ran the Barbecue restaurant. I think it was his wife.

In response to your request for information and memories about the Cotton Patch - I remember it well as it is where I met a tall, handsome man in 1966 who later became my husband. No doubt many matches were made there over the years. Guys and girls would circle through to "see and be seen."  Although bar-B-Q was a specialty, they had wonderful cheeseburgers. The menu was posted on a billboard. Headlights were returned on to signal when you were ready to order.  The servers would respond by coming to the car to get the order, then they would return  with the food and beverages.  It's a good memory.

I was a CPD police officer in the late 70s and all of the 80s and I worked the East Lake, Ridgedale, Highland Park area on 3rd shift for most of that time. John Cotten had a huge public address system on his building which could be heard many blocks away. If there were trouble makers on the lot, he would get on the PA and let the police know there was trouble. ''Hey Police! The blue Chevy on the back row is ''a'smokin' that dope!"   He didn't put up with nonsense on his lot and would telephone the CPD and request our presence on his lot on occasion. Sometimes the situation just required a slow drive through and other times much more. His lot was always full on Friday and Saturday night with car hops working hard and with the number of vintage cars showing up, it was like a trip back into the 50s.  It was a trouble spot on toward the end and many in my profession were glad to see it closed. 

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