A couple of weeks ago, Laurie, Dawn Marie and I did a little exploring around Knoxville’s downtown area with Market Square being the primary focus of our attention. Of course, I also ensured that we would have a chance to try one of the area’s restaurants for our lunch break…
This is Tupelo Honey Café and it’s located at the south end of Market Square as an interconnected part of the Oliver Hotel, a boutique hotel on the Square.
The first Tupelo Honey Café opened in downtown Asheville North Carolina on Dec. 7, 2000. Originally it was known as a late-night haunt for locals. As per the company’s website, Tupelo Honey Cafe now has 13 locations across the Southeast with 1 in Georgia, 4 in North Carolina, 2 in South Carolina, 4 in Tennessee and 2 in Virginia. The website also indicates that expansion beyond the Southeast is coming soon with locations opening in Colorado and Texas.
· The building occupied by The Oliver Hotel and the Tupelo Honey Café was originally built in 1876 as the Peter Kern Bakery. Since then it has served a variety of businesses changing the Kern's candy counter and soda fountain to a drugstore and dance hall. In 1982 the building was converted into the Blakely House Hotel to house VIP guests for Knoxville’s World’s Fair. Known for its quirky, eclectic style, and for long term guests such as actress Patricia Neal and author Elizabeth Gilbert, (“Eat, Pray, Love”), the hotel operated for more than 20 years under the radar of most who passed. In 2011, the property was purchased and renovated with its name being changed to The Oliver Hotel. Learn more at http://www.theoliverhotel.com/.
The top photo shows the bar near the front of Market Square’s Tupelo Honey Café. The second picture is of the dining area where we were seated.
This small but growing restaurant chain offers updated eclectic interpretations of Southern food with small plates for sharing, as well as entrees that pay homage to traditional Southern fare. Each location continues in the tradition of the original restaurant but they also add their own hometown touches with local artists, local draft beers, and local community outreach programs.
Carla, our waitress, started us out with these very nice fresh biscuits with butter and jam. I could have just eaten these…all of them... but then I would have had to skip lunch!
The menu at Tupelo Honey Café is extensive and imaginative too! There are offerings for Southern Snacks and Small Plates, Sandwiches, Entrée Salads, Supper Plates and Sides, Brunch Classics, Fork and Knife Biscuit Sandwiches, Omelets, Scrambles and Desserts. There are also some dinner specials and there is a Happy Hour special as well…
Dawn Marie ordered the Wicked Chicken Biscuit from the Fork and Knife section of the menu. ($8.50) This biscuit was accompanied by spicy honey-fried chicken, a sunny side-up egg, red pepper relish and a “Dijonnaise” salad. Instead of the salad, she ordered side of Goat Cheese Grits. ($5.00) She loved the spicy honey-fried chicken but even though the flavor of the goat cheese grits was OK, the grits just weren’t creamy enough…and she’s eaten a lot of grits!
Other interesting Fork and Knife options include: J'adore Le Bacon, ($7.50), a Southern twist on a French classic with apple cider bacon, dijonnaise-dressed arugula and kale, a sunny side-up egg, plus Havarti and bleu cheese, and; Blue Ridge Biscuit, ($8.50), with All-natural pasture-raised Hickory Nut Gap Farm sausage, blueberry gastrique, caramelized onions, a sunny side-up egg and fresh spinach.
Laurie ordered the Smoked Jalapeño Fried Egg BLT, choosing the homemade potato chips for her side. ($10.25) This creation included 2 all-natural farm fresh eggs, prepared over hard with apple cider bacon, lettuce, tomato and smoked jalapeño aioli on sourdough. She really enjoyed her sandwich! She also liked the potato chips but I thought they were just average for homemade chips.
Other creative sandwich options include such items as the Southern Belle Grilled Cheese, ($12.00), with Brie, gorgonzola cheese and house-made pear and onion marmalade on sourdough, and; the Mountain Pulled Pork Sandwich, ($11.00), with pork slow-roasted over 14 hours served in classic Western NC style with smoked jalapeño BBQ sauce, topped with tobacco onions and house-made pickles.
As usual, I went for a “light” lunch, hogging out on the Fried Chicken and Biscuits, adding an over-easy egg just because I could! ($16.25 with the egg) The fried chicken (excellent) and biscuits were enhanced by some crispy Tennessee country ham, fresh basil and milk gravy. Of course I added Tabasco after taking the photo. This was a fine brunch/luncheon dish that could only be improved by the use of spicy sausage gravy instead of the milk gravy.
Service was efficient and friendly. Tupelo Honey Café’s menu has something for everyone with imagination at work on almost every menu item. This restaurant is an excellent addition and anchor for Knoxville’s Market Square.
Tupelo Honey Café in Knoxville is located at 1 Market Square. Phone: 865-522-0004. To learn more and to explore this fun menu, go to https://tupelohoneycafe.com/location/knoxville/. My only complaint about the website is the reoccurring pop-up ad that tries to get the viewer to sign up to the website and receive a ‘free’ Tupelo Honey pint glass…
Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…
Thanks for stopping by for lunch!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave