Southern Tennessee is known for down right authentic southern food – biscuits and gravy, shrimp and grits, BBQ and fried chicken. That is very true to an extent. You will see no shortage of Pancake Houses while driving around Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. In fact, even the lodges and stores are named after pancakes!
But Knoxville, TN is a college town and the restaurants cater to artistic and athletic students and young professionals. While you can still find the traditional favorites in the city, there is also a good offering of sushi, Thai, Italian and other ethnic cuisines.
I start the day with breakfast at Pete’s Coffee Shop, a family-owned and operated downtown Knoxville landmark for 25 years. Situated in a diner style setting, Pete’s seemed to have entertained many local celebrities, whose photos you will find on their wall of fame. Pete’s serves hearty breakfasts at reasonable prices, six days a week, beginning at 6:30 a.m. For under $5, you can get scrambled eggs, homemade biscuit and coffee.
For lunch, you have two options – sit by the river or listen to live music. Located on Neyland Drive on Knoxville’s historic waterfront, Calhoun’s On The River has been serving some of the best BBQ in town since 1988. Get a beer and sit at the outside deck where you can get a panoramic view of the Tennessee River. After lunch, stroll along the river to Volunteer Landing. This is also a good spot to go to after a game, hike or fun day of enjoying outdoors.
Only at the Knoxville Visitor Center on S. Gay Street, you can enjoy free live musical performance, broadcast live on historic WDVX radio 6 days a week. The Blue Plate Special features local, regional and national music acts from 12-1pm. You can grab a sandwich at the Coop Cafe (located inside the visitor center) known for the chicken salad sandwiches and watch the show while eating lunch.
For dinner, head over to Market Square, the hub of shopping, dining and entertainment in downtown Knoxville. Make reservations at Cafe 4, a casual restaurant featuring traditional southern comfort food with a twist. They serve hearty portions of flat-breads, crab cake sliders, fried fish, shrimp n grits, etc.
For an after dinner treat, walk around the corner to Coffee & Chocolate where you can enjoy scrumptious desserts, tea, coffee and yes of course, handmade chocolates! Chocolate covered Oreo, pretzels, cashews, peanut butter cups, pecan turtles – the chocolates are bought from The Chocolate Factory located nearby. You will want to take a box home.