- Matthew Keyte
The original capital of Tennessee, Knoxville features cuisine that reflects the rich history of this one-time frontier town on the Tennessee River. Here are the 10 best restaurants to look out for.
Bistro at the Bijou
The Bistro at the Bijou is a Knoxville institution. Located in the fourth oldest building in the city, built around 1820 and originally one of the finest hotels in the South, the site has seen four US Presidents pass through its doors – Ulysses S.Grant, Rutherford Hayes, James Polk, and Andrew Jackson. During the Civil War Union forces used the site as a hospital, before in the early 20th century it became a vaudeville theatre. The Bijou Theatre now often plays host to the Knoxville Chamber Orchestra and other acts, with the bistro offering excellent dishes to diners and theatregoers. Amongst the dishes on offer are grass-fed 8ox New York strip, and lemon chicken with oregano and garlic.
Bistro at the Bijou, 807 South Gay Street, Knoxville, TN, USA +1 865 544 0537
The French Market
The French Market is the first and only French crêpe restaurant in Knoxville. Winner of the best French restaurant award in 2014 and a runner-up every year between 2009 and 2013 in the best breakfast and brunch categories of the Metro Pulse Best of Knoxville Awards, The French Market is located on Gay Street in the downtown area of Knoxville. The restaurant has also won TripAdvisor certificates of excellent in 2014 and 2013 for consistently excellent food and reviews from customers. You can choose from crêpes filled with delicious cheddar or swiss cheese, imported hams, roast beef or fresh greens. Most popular is that European favourite Nutella. You can also get an Italian coffee or pick up a croissant, baguette, or soup.
The French Market, South Gay Street, Knoxville, TN, USA, +1 865 540 4372
If you are looking for a great-tasting steak or some seafood then Connors is the ideal option. Located in the Turkey Creek development in Knoxville, Connors offers diners a warm welcome and homely feel with wood-panelled interiors and superb staff. The restaurant won accolades in the best steak category of the Metro Pulse Best of Knoxville Awards in 2011 and also holds AAA 3 diamond rating. The cuisine on offer includes a multitude of steaks – 14oz New York strip, 12oz ribeye selected for the amount of marbling, prime rib of Midwestern beef, filet mignon, and the Connors speciality of boursin filet – 9oz of prime beef with boursin cheese and crispy tobacco onions.
Connors, Turkey Creek, Knoxville, TN, USA, +1 865 966 0933
Stock and Barrel
The Stock and Barrel promises the best burgers and bourbon in Knoxville – a claim backed up by their having won best new restaurant and best hamburgers in the Metro Pulse Best of Knoxville 2014 awards. The restaurant is committed to the farm-to-table approach of local ingredients and sustainable links with Tennessee farms. The beef for the burgers comes from Mitchell Family Farms run by John Mitchell, the sixth generation of his family to farm in Blaine, Tennessee. Breads come from Flour Head Bakery, cheeses from Sweetwater Valley Farm, and the bacon is sourced from Benton’s Smoky Mountain Country Hams. There are nearly 20 burgers to choose from – if you’re feeling adventurous then try the ‘Bison’ with cremini, shiitake, and button mushrooms, bourbon cheese, crispy onions, and garlic aioli.
Stock and Barrel, Market Square, Knoxville, TN, USA, +1 865 766 2075
Surin of Thailand
Surin of Thailand serves up authentic Thai cuisine and sushi prepared by master chefs. The restaurant is located in west Knoxville and offers an alternative flavour experience to anyone looking for a more exotic evening of gastronomy. The chefs at Surin of Thailand use local vegetables and meats and combine them with imported Thai spices, seasonings, nuts, rice and noodles to get that authentic taste. Amongst the specialty entrée courses to watch out for are pan-seared Thai sea bass and Thai barbecued chicken, ‘Tiger Cry’ 15oz ribeye marinated in Thai spices and then chargrilled, and ‘Ka Proud Lamb’ – fresh lamb rack that has been chargrilled and seasoned with Ka Proud sauce.
Surin of Thailand, 6213 Kingston Pike, Knoxville, TN, USA, +1 865 330 0007
Crown and Goose
Opened in 2008 by Jeffrey and Pat Nash and their chef son Jeffrey DeAlejandro, The Crown and Goose is Knoxville’s first British gastropub and oyster bar. Based in the downtown area of Knoxville’s Old Town the cuisine is focused on traditional British fare with a contemporary American twist. There are also wonderful English beers and two ales brewed exclusively for The Crown and Goose – the Crown and Goose London IPA and the Goose Royal Stout, which can be sampled in the beer garden with its 60-foot mural depicting a 19th century London streetscape. Amongst the dishes that chef Jeffrey offers is Dublin steak sandwich with Guinness-battered onion wedges, and traditional fish and chips.
Crown and Goose, 123 South Central Street, Knoxville, TN, USA, +1 865 524 2100
The Plaid Apron
The Plaid Apron was started by Drew and Bonni MacDonald in May 2011 as a place in Knoxville to find high-quality cuisine made with fresh ingredients at affordable prices. Chef Drew has previously worked at leading restaurants in Nashville and Louisville, and has travelled extensively sampling the flavour combinations and culinary culture of the Antipodes. You can grab breakfast, lunch, dinner or brunch at The Plaid Apron. On the dinner menu you will find dishes including seared Coho salmon with Asian coleslaw and soy chili mayonnaise, the indulgent Plaid Apron burger served with Benton’s Mayo, peach mustard, fried egg, house pickles, garlic cheddar, arugula and a whole wheat bun.
The Plaid Apron, 1210 Kenesaw Avenue, Knoxville, TN, USA, +1 865 247 4640
Gosh offers something completely different to traditional Southern cooking. An Ethiopian restaurant loved by locals and repeat customers, the spicy cuisine is perfect if you are looking for an evening exploring new cuisine and exciting flavours such as injera flat bread, upon which meats and vegetable dishes are traditionally served in Ethiopian cooking. Everything is freshly cooked at Gosh – the dishes on offer include doro wat – tender chicken sautéed in butter and then stewed in berbere sauce and flavoured with onion, garlic, ginger and Ethiopian herbs – and kitfo, a lean beef dish served with mitmafa hot chili sauce and seasoned butter.
Gosh, Sutherland Avenue, Knoxville, TN, USA, +1 865 544 4475
Café 4 in downtown Knoxville overlooks the historic Market Square and is amongst the smartest and most sophisticated dining spots in the city. Listed by Gourmet.com as one of the top 15 most romantic restaurants across America and a Diner’s Choice Award winner on TripAdvisor, Café 4 features a smart dining room and an outdoor patio space for al fresco dining in the summer months. The cuisine is traditional Southern with a few contemporary twists on a menu that changes to keep pace with seasonal ingredients and the availability of the finest quality produce. You can find flash-fried calamari, fried green tomatoes, steak frites and the Southern staple of Low Country shrimp and grits.
Café 4, Market Square, Knoxville, TN, USA, +1 865 544 4144
Tupelo Honey Café
Located in the Market Square of Knoxville, the Tupelo Honey Café promises traditional Southern cooking with a large dose of innovation and creative energy thrown in. Independent and free-spirited in their approach, the Tupelo Honey Café take the classic Southern ingredients of catfish, fried chicken, and sweet potatoes and transform them with new flavour combinations. On the menu at the Tupelo Honey Café are dishes such as shrimp with goats’ cheese and roasted red peppers, Cajun skillet catfish served with sunshot salsa and goats’ cheese grits, and Southern chicken piccata with jumbo shrimp and lemon cherry cilantro beurre blanc and fresh asparagus.
Tupelo Honey Café, Market Square, Knoxville, TN, USA, +1 865 522 0004