Foodies everywhere – we know you’re always on the hunt to find the next hidden gem – a cuisine Shangri-la – a place where unique flavors, rare dishes, and taste-bud satisfying treats co-exist. Though these scattered, and often unknown cities can be difficult to find, it’s always worth it in the end.
Knoxville is one such place – a foodie diamond in the rough. In fact, Knoxville is a hidden gem in more ways than cuisine, but for now, we’ll focus on guiding foodies everywhere to our beloved town.
Classic southern hospitality, locally sourced ingredients, and plenty of BBQ, Knoxville is an unexpected delight. Situated in the northeast region of Tennessee, it flies under the radar for many tourists and foodies, which is part of what makes it so special.
Anyone can go online and check out Yelp or TripAdvisor to find the “top 10 restaurants” in the area, but is that real, true, insider knowledge? Not always. To ensure your trip to Knoxville is filled with only the most unique and tasty spots here is a quick list of where we recommend dining, and why.
Restaurants Downtown Knoxville
Located in the Old City, Olibea is the mouth-watering hole-in-the-wall brunch spot. Knoxville is brunch paradise, and even so, Olibea takes the (pan)cake. Offering a seasonal menu and locally sourced ingredients, every bite is guaranteed to taste fresh and wholesome. The ambiance is flawless with lovely natural light illuminating the quaint setting. “Chef Jeff” is famous for combining Southern and Latin tastes, resulting in vibrant flavors that will leave a lasting memory on your palettes. Try the OliBea omelet or the seasonal stuffed acorn squash (a local fave!), yum.
Pete’s Coffee Shop
A true local hub, Pete’s Coffee Shop is a genuine little diner that has been around since the mid-80s. Southern hospitality is strong at Pete’s so don’t hesitate to inquire about the menu offerings. If you’ve never had a southern biscuit, then now is your chance. The country breakfast is a classic choice, and it’ll afford you the opportunity to taste grits and biscuits – foodie essentials.
Located downtown on the historic 100 Block of Gay St., Knox Mason features all the best of southern cuisine. The seasonal menu is constantly rotating based on the freshest produce, and Chef Matt Gallaher never disappoints. You can try southern classics such as cornmeal-crusted Mississippi catfish with Falls Mill grits, and for dessert, adorable mini mason jars filled with sugary confections will steal your hearts. Knox Mason is a choice place to go for date night or a hearty family meal.
Sweet P’s Downtown Dive
You absolutely cannot visit Knoxville and skip the BBQ. Nope. Tasting BBQ is a requirement! Ask anyone, and you’ll quickly discover the go-to BBQ place is Sweet P’s, which now has a downtown location – Sweet P’s Downtown Dive. Open daily except Mondays; Sweet P’s is famous for smoked… everything! Southern BBQ is especially delicious due to its unique preparation method – cooked on low and very slowly, which is exactly how Sweet P’s does it. Taste the Tennessee beef brisket, smoked turkey club sandwich, BBQ burritos, chopped pork and/or chicken wings… you really can’t go wrong.
Wild Love Bakehouse
Over the course of your Knoxville getaway, you might need a coffee-and-baked-goods kind of stop. Wild Love Bakehouse is a delightful coffee shop featuring flakey croissants, sweet or savory galettes, and a cold case showcasing artisan puddings, colorful salads, and locally smoked fish sandwiches. A crafted wooden counter displays the delicacies, and the warm ambiance inside will make you feel cozy from the inside out.
Balter – to dance without skill, but with enjoyment. Balter Beerworks is craft beer and dining experience that you won’t want to miss! Knoxville is extremely into sourcing local for absolutely everything, and Balter Beerhouse is a prime example. Using fresh and local ingredients, the geniuses at Balter have created a menu that pairs nicely with each of their beers. Featuring a rustic, urban aesthetic, Balter is a rad place to sit back, relax, and marvel at life’s wonders.
These restaurants downtown Knoxville should be enough to get you foodies started! The absolute, best way to explore Knoxville’s food scene is to stay in or around the downtown area. Each place we listed, plus many more, are located nearby, enabling you to meander around easily.
Starting April 2017, foodies will have the perfect accommodation option to complement this excellent list of libations – The Tennessean Hotel. Located a mere three blocks from the heart of Knoxville, The Tennessean is an urban retreat being established in a historic building originally constructed for the 1982 World’s Fair. Reservations will be accepted starting in January 2017, and the hotel itself will have its grand opening in April 2017. Stay connected to The Tennessean Hotel through our website or social media, and enjoy our many inside tips about all things Knoxville!