Fancy yourself a foodie? It wasn’t long ago downtown Knoxville’s food and beverage scene was criticized for its overabundance of burgers and beer. Today, that scene keeps growing out from the city’s core, with more and more quality flavors and international options entering the market daily.
Take it from a guy who grew up in a place where Ruby Tuesday was considered fine dining; we have A LOT to be thankful for in Knoxville (nothing against the East Tennessee chain, as my Tuesday routine includes the chain’s to-go salad bar).
In a food-filled year for Knoxville, our newsroom staff has enjoyed having food-filled bellies thanks to some of the city’s most delicious offerings. So, I decided to survey my colleagues to find out the best food and drinks they enjoyed in 2023.
Here’s what they said.
Asiago bagel with lox – Paysan Bread and Bagels
I don’t know why it took me so long to discover Paysan, which operates out of an extremely unassuming “storefront” next to Remedy Coffee. My family swears this is the best bagel with lox they have ever had, and I have to agree. The perfect amount of chewy bagel meets the perfect schmear of horseradish-tinged cream cheese, along with house-cured salmon and a scattering of capers. It’s just that simple. – Liz Kellar, Tennessee Connect reporter
Babka – Potchke
I’ve been back to Potchke a couple times this year, and I’ve ordered a babka nearly every time. It has become one of my favorite pastries in Knoxville, especially the everything babka. It continues to surprise me with how tasty it can be, and we’re not even talking about the sweet ones! – Keenan Thomas, higher education reporter
Big Mouth meatloaf sandwich – Rhyno’s Roadside (food truck)
I often sacrifice entrees while going out to eat for the simplicity of a sandwich, so I appreciate anyone who can put one of my favorite dishes between two rolls. The meat is comprised of sirloin, Italian sausage and chorizo, topped with zesty cheese sauce and barbecue sauce. Plus, as a fellow Ryan nicknamed Rhyno in a past life, I have to show some support to Rhyno’s Roadside! – Ryan Wilusz, downtown growth and development reporter
Boozy key lime pie float – 71 South
It was simple but delicious: vanilla ice cream, whipped vodka, coconut rum and lime juice, served in a small bowl with a spoon. I don’t know that I’ve ever eaten alcohol outside of a Jell-O shot, so this was a fun new experience for me. Sadly, I no longer see this on the menu, but 71 South has other boozy floats to choose from, including affogato, apple pie, and s’mores. – Ryan Wilusz, downtown growth and development reporter
Bubbly sourdough ‘focaccia’ + olive oil/pistachio gelato – A Dopo
A Dopo’s pizza gets all the love. Rightfully so. But I’d like to shout out the appetizer and dessert that take the experience to the next level. Controversial opinion: The sourdough focaccia is even better than the sourdough pizza crust. Like, insanely good. The pistachio gelato was creamy and not-too-sweet. How do I know we picked the best menu items? The people sharing our table couldn’t stop leaning over and asking in jealousy what we ordered. – Brenna McDermott, growth and development editor
Chili crisp noodles – Landing House
Landing House is one of the best restaurants in Knoxville, and their chili crisp noodles are one of my favorite meals I’ve ever had. It has the perfect amount of spice. The noodles and veggies are always cooked perfectly, and they have great small plates. Add in the homey atmosphere of the restaurant, and this is the perfect comfort meal. – Cora Hall, UT women’s athletics beat writer
‘Kobe’ burger – Burger Boys
Nothing really beats the hand-crafted deliciousness of a Burger Boys special. This particular one takes a half-pound burger (typically, good enough on its own) and dips it in steak sauce. Where else can you get something like that? Seriously … I’ll need to find somewhere else to go once Burger Boys officially closes up shop. – Tyler Whetstone, investigative and public accountability reporter
Kotópoulo – Kefi
This is quite possibly the best chicken I’ve ever eaten. It’s perfectly seasoned and juicy, and the brown buttered rice it’s served over is incredible. It’s hard to pronounce, but I have no trouble clearing my plate at Kefi. – Silas Sloan, growth and development reporter
PB&J Mixtape – Xul Beer Company
I’m the type of person who prefers to eat their calories rather than drink them. However, I tried the PB&J Mixtape from Xul Beer Company, and it was just like drinking a PB&J sandwich. This gluten-free fruited sour brought me back to childhood! – Hayley Choy, editorial researcher
Pineapple margarita – Don Chuy’s Fresh Mex & Cantina
I’m very picky about margaritas, and this pineapple margarita from Don Chuy’s was excellent. It was made with pineapple juice and none of the sweet-and-sour stuff. You’re getting something made fresh. I’m also a sucker for a Paloma, and theirs was off the charts − served with tajin on the rim, which is just perfection. – Brenna McDermott, growth and development editor
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