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Mar 14, 2007 04:26 PM

New to Oak Ridge/Knoxville

My boyfriend just relocated to Oak Ridge, TN after living in Los Angeles. Quite a culture shock, and I know he'll miss the variety of food we have here. I am looking for recommendations in the area, something besides pizza and Calhoun's BBQ. Haven't seen anything on this board about the area in the last year. It's not just for him, I'm also thinking of when I go to visit!

Any of the following:
good coffeehouse
great bar, especially sports bar
"gourmet" market, or ethnic food market (to buy cooking supplies)
local bakeries or restaurants with great desserts or cakes
Best local, non-bbq, non-chain meal

Any recommendations within an hour's drive are okay.

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  1. by the way, I'm also keeping an eye on Chatanooga recs in case we take a trip there.

    1. Knoxville, and to a lesser extent Oak Ridge, suffer from having a huge population of folks not from these parts who live to eat out. A new restaurant opens and is packed for the first six months and then, often regardless of quality, the place is abandoned and closes in a year and a half. Also, there are more chain restaurants there than there ought to be.
      Knoxville was home to the first Ruby Tuesday's and the area is still the corporate HQ; this isn't a recommendation.
      Sports bars.....during football season be prepared to wear orange and root for the Vols. Too many to choose from.
      "gourmet" market, or ethnic food market (to buy cooking supplies)
      early summer onwards a great drive to the northeast will take you to Ritter Farms on 11-W in Grainger County with home grown produce and such wonderful products as Sorghum (you may never go back to Mollasses.) There is also a once a week farmer's market in Oak Ridge in the old city downtown.

      local bakeries or restaurants with great desserts or cakes
      Sadly most bakeries are in Kroger's. Try the local chain restaurant Puleo's for their Fried Green Tomato appetizer and a good selection of not run of the mill entrees and then good and different deserts. (Dreaming about a particular mocha cake....)
      Best local, non-bbq, non-chain meal....Puleo's for value and freshness. The Orangerie for pretentious but good pricey meals. Regas for old time elegance (and Dave Thomas, founder of Wendy's had his first job working at Regas, before (well before) it went upscale).

      In Oak Ridge, Big Ed's Pizza is a local institution. Big Ed gave jobs to hundreds of kids who might not have matured into good adults, but for his influence. It's a loved place with fair pizza, heavy on cheese.

      The local specialty desert you are not likely to find is Apple Stack Cake. there are several versions, but all resemble douberge cakes, but with fillings made from dried apples. In the old days, they were the wedding cakes, and each guest would bring a layer. The esteme in which a couple were held by the community was measured by the height of their stack cake.

      "nuf for now.

      2 Replies
      1. re: shallots

        I recommended the Farmer's Market to him, and he said there were 2 trucks in a lot. Typical?

        1. re: CookieEater

          That's typical for winter and it is still winter here.
          Spring crops are in the ground, but produce isn't local yet.
          The only foodstuffs I know of that are being sold right now are Grainger County tomatoes that are greenhouse grown and sold at two locations ni Grainger County.

          This is why some of us fight major feelings of envy when we watch shows from California with year round markets.

      2. Thanks! will definitely let him know about the Farmers Market. Driving to nearby farms sounds really interesting. Do you (or anyone) have more recommendations for that?

        How Knoxville for bakeries? I thought the "South" would be big on the sweets. pies? cobblers? Maybe this isn't far enough South?

        There's gotta be some good local creameries then. For cheese? ice cream?

        1. Best local, non-bbq, non-chain meal:
          There are very few indeed, but my favorite is Northshore Brasserie.

          3 Replies
          1. re: FoolBart

            Alright, I am going to visit next week. Will try to hit at least a few of these recs, and maybe look for more in the area. I'll report back if I find anything exciting.

            1. re: CookieEater

              For super fancy (impossible in K-town): Northshore Brasserie or Parigo

              Others (dives except tomato head):
              Tomato Head (sandwiches > pizzas)
              Pizza Palace (Magnolia Ave.)
              Mary's Hot Tamales (Magnolia Ave)
              Phillipine Connection (Magnolia Ave)
              Scrugg's Barbecue (Magnolia Ave)

              For coffee place (check Old City Knoxville)

              Big Ed's Pizza in Oak Ridge is "historic" and reasonable

              Sports bar????

              1. re: Jeff C.

                "CookieEater" just moved there.
                It sounds as if you had some bad experiences in Knoxville.
                I am sorry. Keep in mind it is a small city in the south. I found it more open than say, Pinole- 45 minutes outside of SF.

                Anyhoo, more importantly as this is a food site: any comments on my suggestions?

                I would also throw in Ali Baba's "special," especially if lamb, peas, and rice.

                Carousel was quite the place in my day.

                K-town ain't so bad.

                Knoxville is home. I like home for what it is.


          2. My husband & I moved here (Sevierville) about a year ago and are still trying to find good restaurants too. We tried Cha Cha's on Kingston Pike in Knoxville last week. We enjoyed it. It is a tapas restaurant and decided to order several different tapas to comprise our dinner. We like Indian food and eat at Sitar (also on Kingston Pike)-- we especially like to eat there for their lunch buffet. We also tried Lemongrass (Thai & Sushi) in Maryville. We thought it was good as well. I have had better sushi, but we didn't try a whole lot of it. About 2 weeks ago I found somebody who put together a list of their favorite restaurants around Knoxville. If I can find the site I will post it here. Let me know if you have found any info on ethnic food/ gourmet stores. FYI as we were eating at Cha Cha's I noticed some sort of Gourmet store directly across the street, but they were closed by the time we were done so I can't tell you a darn thing about it!