12 Unique Restaurants in Knoxville, TN: A Foodie’s Guide to the Unusual

by Jen
Unique Restaurants in Knoxville, TN
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Welcome to our guide, where we explore the most unique restaurants in Knoxville. From hidden speakeasies to bustling breweries, we’ve got the inside scoop on where to find unforgettable meals in the city! Get ready to discover Knoxville’s culinary gems that promise flavors and experiences like no other.

Knoxville is a city where food tells tales of creativity, tradition, and community. Imagine walking down vibrant streets, each turn offering a new taste, a new experience. Here, every restaurant is a doorway to a world of unique flavors and unforgettable moments. From the cozy corners of quaint cafes to the lively buzz of bustling eateries, Knoxville serves up a diverse menu that caters to every palate.

In this guide, we’re exploring spots that stand out for their one-of-a-kind offerings. Picture dining under the glow of hand-blown glass lights, savoring a dish that blends Southern comfort with an unexpected twist, or stepping back in time with a soda fountain treat from a bygone era. These experiences are just a taste of the fun things to do in Knoxville.

Whether you’re a local foodie on the hunt for your next favorite spot or a traveler eager to explore Knoxville’s culinary landscape, this guide is your passport to a world of flavors waiting to be discovered. So, grab your fork (or spoon), and let’s dive into the heart of Knoxville’s food scene!

The top restaurants to visit in Knoxville, TN right now

Unique Restaurants in Knoxville: 12 Incredible Knoxville Eateries

From cozy cafes with a twist to upscale eateries offering one-of-a-kind experiences, Knoxville’s unique restaurants have something to satisfy every palate. Let’s take a closer look at these special places where food and atmosphere combine to create unforgettable dining experiences.

1. Sweet P’s Barbecue and Downtown Dive

Sweet P’s Barbecue and Downtown Dive shines as a gem among Knoxville’s best restaurants. It all started in 2005 when Chris Ford, inspired by his daughter Sweet P, launched a catering business. This small family operation quickly won hearts with its authentic Southern barbecue, leading them to open their first restaurant in 2009.

The Downtown Dive, Sweet P’s home since 2015, is a tribute to classic dive bars and barbecue joints. It’s nestled at 410 W. Jackson Ave., in downtown Knoxville. Here, guests enjoy a menu filled with delicious barbecue, sides, and sauces that have even caught the eye of the Travel Channel’s Man v. Food.

In 2021, Sweet P’s expanded with Uptown Corner in Fountain City, offering table service and a bar. This spot continues the tradition of serving great food in a welcoming atmosphere. Sweet P’s story is one of family, flavor, and the joy of sharing good food with the community.

Sweet P's Barbecue and Downtown Dive is one of the unique restaurants in Knoxville, TN.
Sweet P’s Barbecue and Downtown Dive stands out in Knoxville’s dining scene with its authentic Southern barbecue.

2. The Melting Pot

Nestled in the historic Old City of Knoxville, The Melting Pot offers a dining adventure unlike any other. It’s a place where friends and family gather for a leisurely meal, engaging in the art of fondue. This restaurant has been creating perfect nights out for over twenty years, making it a staple in the local dining scene.

As one of the fun restaurants in Knoxville, The Melting Pot turns every meal into an interactive experience. Guests can dip and sizzle their food right at the table, choosing from a variety of cheese fondues, fresh salads, and exquisite entrees. The options range from seafood and steak to poultry and fresh local vegetables. And for dessert? Indulge in decadent chocolate fondues sourced from Cacao-Trace farms.

This unique spot is more than a place to eat; it’s a venue for creating memories. Whether you’re celebrating a special occasion or just looking for a casual night out. Its romantic atmosphere, housed within a historical building, adds to the charm, making it a must-visit for anyone looking to enjoy a special night in Knoxville, TN.

The Melting Pot offers a unique fondue dining experience, cherished by locals for over twenty years.
The Melting Pot offers a unique fondue dining experience, cherished by locals for over twenty years.

3. Oliver Royale

Oliver Royale sits in the heart of Knoxville’s Market Square, a place buzzing with energy and good food. This spot draws you in with its cool vibe and promise of a meal that’s both pretty to look at and delicious. The restaurant’s look, dreamed up by a fancy design team from Brooklyn, feels both fancy and welcoming, with a sleek bar and cozy seats all around.

Among the best restaurants in Knoxville, Oliver Royale is a culinary treasure. Imagine starting with a beet salad that blends the earthy sweetness of beets with the creamy tang of goat cheese, all sprinkled with the crunch of pickled mustard seeds.

From the succulent duck confit that melts in your mouth to the perfectly cooked salmon that’s both delicate and flavorful, every bite is a discovery. And for those who love a bit of adventure, the mushroom salad and the short rib dish offer a blend of textures and tastes that are sure to impress.

Oliver Royale beckons with its cool vibe and promise of a visually stunning and delicious meal.
Oliver Royale beckons with its cool vibe and promise of a visually stunning and delicious meal.

4.  Northshore Brasserie

Taste the magic of French cooking in Northshore Brasserie, a cozy spot in Knoxville, TN. Chef Joe Cunningham, who spent summers in France as a kid, pours his love for French food into every dish. He even studied cooking in New York City to perfect his skills.

In 2005, Stephanie and Brian Balest, a sister and brother team, opened this place. They wanted to recreate the friendly and lively vibe of European brasseries they loved. Here, it feels like you’re part of a big, happy neighborhood. People say it’s like stepping into Europe without leaving Knoxville, TN.

The menu is a trip around France and Belgium. You’ll find yummy steak frites, snails (escargot), and mussels cooked in four different ways. They also serve game like duck and lamb. If you’re new to French food, don’t worry. The team at Northshore Brasserie is happy to help you pick something you’ll love. Don’t skip dessert! Their profiterole, a Belgian treat with puff pastry, homemade ice cream, and chocolate sauce, has been a favorite since day one.

Taste French magic at Northshore Brasserie, where Chef Joe Cunningham's expertise shines.
Taste French magic at Northshore Brasserie, where Chef Joe Cunningham’s expertise shines.

5. The Phoenix Pharmacy and Fountain

Easily one of the coolest restaurants in Knoxville, The Phoenix Pharmacy and Fountain is a trip down memory lane. This unique spot combines the charm of a 1930s ice cream parlor with the convenience of a modern pharmacy. Imagine stepping into a place where time seems to stand still, and sweet treats are the main event.

Here, you can indulge in a variety of ice cream delights made from scratch. Choose from sundaes, shakes, malts, floats, and sodas, all featuring housemade ice cream, fluffy whipped cream, and homemade marshmallow fluff. With a selection of rotating ice cream flavors and plenty of toppings, there’s something for everyone.

Don’t miss out on specialty items like Nana’s Pudding sundae or the Jersey Cow float for a unique taste experience. The ambiance is pure nostalgia, with antique cabinets and bottles from the past, yet it houses a fully modern pharmacy!

The Phoenix Pharmacy and Fountain: Knoxville's coolest blend of 1930s charm and modern dining.
The Phoenix Pharmacy and Fountain: Knoxville’s coolest blend of 1930s charm and modern dining.

6. Landing House

Landing House blends Asian flavors with the warmth of a Knoxville neighborhood, making it a standout spot. Located in a cozy blue house on Sevier Ave, it’s been a local favorite since opening in 2017. Owners Zach and Hao Land transformed this space, once a Civil Air Patrol base, into a welcoming restaurant that feels like home.

It’s one of those hidden gem restaurants in Knoxville where the community vibe is as important as the food. The Lands wanted to create a spot that reflected their neighborhood’s spirit, especially as it began to grow. Their menu, inspired by Hao’s childhood and Zach’s culinary background, offers Asian fusion dishes that are familiar yet unique. From spring rolls and pho to curry and fried rice, each dish has a personal touch.

Landing House isn’t just about great food; it’s about creating a space where everyone feels welcome. With plans to expand and evolve, Landing House continues to be a place where good food and community come together.

Landing House: Asian flavors meet Knoxville charm in this cozy neighborhood gem on Sevier Ave, a local favorite since 2017.
Landing House: Asian flavors meet Knoxville charm in this cozy neighborhood gem on Sevier Ave, a local favorite since 2017.

7. Pretentious Beer Company

At Pretentious Beer Company, your beer comes with a twist. Here, craft beer isn’t just served; it’s an art form. Brewmeister Matthew Cummings combines his love for beer with his talent in glass-blowing. The result? Your drink might just arrive in a glass that looks like a piece of modern art.

This spot stands out among unique Knoxville restaurants for its creative approach. With around 16 beers on tap, including sours, IPAs, pilsners, ales, and stouts, there’s always something new to try. Favorites like the Barrel Reserve 5am, infused with Jim Beam Bourbon, and the whimsical Fairy Floss, a cotton candy sour, showcase their knack for bold flavors.

What sets this place apart even further is the chance to watch glass-blowers at work while you enjoy your brew. This unique experience adds an extra layer of enjoyment to your visit, blending the worlds of craft beer and glass artistry.

At Pretentious Beer Company, craft beer meets artistry as Brewmeister Matthew Cummings combines brewing with glass-blowing.
At Pretentious Beer Company, craft beer meets artistry as Brewmeister Matthew Cummings combines brewing with glass-blowing.

8. Yassin’s Falafel House

Looking for delicious Mediterranean fare? Yassin’s Falafel House is a story of hope, dreams, and delicious food in Knoxville, TN. Yassin Terou, a Syrian immigrant, started with just two tables in 2014. His journey from making 20 sandwiches a day to serving a bustling crowd shows the power of community and good food.

This eatery is among the best places to eat in Knoxville, offering more than just falafel. With shawarma, gyros, and now plant-based options, there’s something for everyone. Yassin’s success is a testament to his motto of sharing “good food and good love.”

With two locations in Knoxville, Yassin’s Falafel House has become a beloved spot for locals and visitors alike. In 2018, it was named the “Nicest Place in America” by Reader’s Digest, a title celebrated on “Good Morning America.” This honor reflects the heart and soul poured into every dish and interaction at Yassin’s.

Yassin's Falafel House in Knoxville: A story of hope, dreams, and delicious food.
Yassin’s Falafel House in Knoxville: A story of hope, dreams, and delicious food.

9. The Drawing Room

Step into The Drawing Room at the Tennessean Hotel for a blend of elegance and comfort that’s hard to find elsewhere. With its plush leather seats, soft lighting, and welcoming bar, it’s a place where every detail adds to the cozy ambiance. The handcrafted cocktails, made with local spirits, and a food menu that puts a unique spin on southern classics set this spot apart.

Breakfast or dinner, The Drawing Room delivers an exceptional experience. The whiskey cocktails are a must-try, tapping into Tennessee’s rich spirit tradition. And the breakfast? It’s the perfect start to a day of exploration.

For those looking for unique restaurants in Knoxville for dinner, The Drawing Room stands out. Whether you’re winding down with a cocktail or enjoying a leisurely dinner, this spot embodies the charm of Tennessee living.

The Drawing Room is one of the unique restaurants in Knoxville, TN.
Experience unmatched elegance and comfort at The Drawing Room, Tennessean Hotel.

10. Kaizen

If you’re into Asian cuisine, look no further than Kaizen. Located in downtown Knoxville, this restaurant is a culinary adventure waiting to be discovered. Since opening in 2016, it has become a favorite for those seeking a blend of Asian flavors. The chef, Jesse Newmister, has created a menu that draws from Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean, and Japanese cuisines, offering something truly special.

For anyone looking for unique places to eat in Knoxville, Kaizen is a must-visit. The menu features dishes like steamed buns, Japanese-inspired fried chicken, Thai-style sausage, and Korean sauces. It’s a place where every bite takes you on a journey across Asia.

The restaurant’s cozy Japanese pub style makes dining here an intimate and enjoyable experience. Whether you’re craving the spicy kick of jungle curry or the comfort of pork dumplings, Kaizen delivers with flair and creativity.

Discover a culinary adventure at Kaizen in downtown Knoxville, a favorite since 2016 for its fusion of Asian flavors.
Discover a culinary adventure at Kaizen in downtown Knoxville, a favorite since 2016 for its fusion of Asian flavors.

11. Balter Beerworks

Balter Beerworks combines the best of both worlds: a brewery and a restaurant, making it a standout spot in Knoxville, TN. With an industrial vibe and a laid-back atmosphere, it’s a place where anyone can feel at home. Whether you’re a college student on a budget or out with the family, Balter Beerworks has something for everyone.

This spot shines as one of the fun places to eat in Knoxville. With eight handcrafted beers on tap and a menu that elevates bar food to the next level, it’s a place you’ll want to visit again and again. The potato chip nachos, a creative twist on a classic, are a must-try, proving that great food doesn’t have to break the bank.

Balter Beerworks is a community hub where good food, great beer, and friendly faces come together. Enjoy the cool Knoxville air on the patio or to dive into a plate of fried chicken sliders, you’re in for a treat. It’s the perfect spot to relax, unwind, and enjoy the best of Knoxville’s culinary scene.

Balter Beerworks offers both brewery and restaurant experiences, welcoming all with its industrial vibe and diverse menu.
Balter Beerworks offers both brewery and restaurant experiences, welcoming all with its industrial vibe and diverse menu.

12. Peter Kern Library

Hidden behind a sliding door in the Oliver Hotel lies the Peter Kern Library, a speakeasy that transports you to another era. This cozy spot is filled with low lighting, comfy couches, and books that hide sophisticated cocktail menus. It’s a place where whispers replace loud conversations, making every visit feel special.

Among themed restaurants in Knoxville, the Peter Kern Library stands out. It’s not just a bar; it’s a step back in time. With drinks named after literary characters like Holly Golightly and Holden Caulfield, it offers a unique experience that’s hard to find anywhere else in the city.

This hidden gem in Tennessee is a favorite for those looking to escape the typical nightlife. It’s a place where you can enjoy a quiet drink in a room that feels both exclusive and welcoming. Whether you’re a local or just passing through, the Peter Kern Library is a must-visit for anyone looking for a unique spot in Knoxville, TN.

The Peter Kern Library is one of the unique restaurants in Knoxville, TN.
The Peter Kern Library is a cozy speakeasy with dim lighting, comfy seating, and a secret cocktail menu disguised as books.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Unique Places to Eat in Knoxville

In our FAQ section, you’ll find answers to all your questions about the Knoxville restaurant guide, helping you choose the perfect spot for your next meal.

What food is Knoxville famous for?

Knoxville is known for its Southern cuisine. This includes barbecue, biscuits, gravy, and fried chicken. The city takes pride in its best food in Knoxville, offering a mix of traditional Southern dishes with a modern twist. Local restaurants often use fresh, locally-sourced ingredients to give these classic dishes their unique flavor. Whether it’s a hearty breakfast or a delicious barbecue dinner, Knoxville’s food scene is sure to impress.

Is Knoxville a foodie city?

Absolutely! Knoxville has a vibrant food scene that caters to all tastes and preferences. From cheap eats in Knoxville to fine dining in Knoxville, the city offers a wide range of dining options. Food festivals and farmer’s markets are common, showcasing the best of local cuisine. Knoxville’s foodie culture is also evident in its numerous breweries, bakeries, and coffee shops, making it a must-visit destination for anyone who loves good food.

Where can I find the best barbecue in Knoxville?

Knoxville’s barbecue scene is thriving, with many spots claiming to have the best food in Knoxville, TN. Look for restaurants that slow-cook their meat over a wood fire, giving it that authentic smoky flavor. Many places also offer their unique sauces, ranging from sweet to spicy. Whether you prefer pulled pork, brisket, or ribs, you’ll find a barbecue joint in Knoxville that hits the spot.

What are some scenic places in Knoxville to eat?

Knoxville is home to beautiful landscapes, and many restaurants take advantage of these settings. For scenic places in Knoxville to eat, consider dining by the Tennessee River or in the city’s lush parks. Some eateries offer rooftop dining with views of the downtown skyline or the Smoky Mountains. Enjoying a meal outdoors in one of these scenic spots is a fantastic way to experience Knoxville’s natural beauty.

Yee-Haw Brewing Company in Knoxville, TN, USA
Yee-Haw Brewing Company in Knoxville, TN, USA

Where can I find cheap eats in Knoxville?

Knoxville is great for foodies on a budget. The city has a variety of cheap eats in Knoxville, from food trucks serving up tacos and burgers to cozy cafes with hearty, affordable breakfasts. Many local restaurants offer daily specials or happy hour deals, making it easy to enjoy a delicious meal without breaking the bank. Don’t forget to check out Knoxville’s diverse international cuisine for tasty and inexpensive options, making it one of the top places to live and visit in Tennessee.

What fine dining options are available in Knoxville?

For those looking to splurge on a meal, Knoxville offers several fine dining in Knoxville experiences. These establishments often feature seasonal menus crafted from the finest local ingredients. Expect elegant settings, exceptional service, and innovative dishes that blend Southern flavors with international techniques. Whether you’re celebrating a special occasion or simply treating yourself, Knoxville’s fine dining scene won’t disappoint.

Can I find international cuisine in Knoxville?

Yes, Knoxville’s culinary scene is as diverse as its population. The city boasts a range of international cuisine, from authentic Italian and Mexican to Thai, Indian, and Middle Eastern. These restaurants offer a taste of their home countries, using traditional recipes and ingredients. Exploring Knoxville’s international cuisine is a delicious way to experience the city’s multicultural vibe.

What are the best places for breakfast in Knoxville?

Knoxville takes breakfast seriously. The city’s best spots for breakfast offer everything from fluffy pancakes and waffles to savory biscuits and gravy. Look for cafes and diners that source their ingredients locally for the freshest meals. Many places also serve breakfast all day, so you can enjoy your morning favorites anytime. Whether you’re in the mood for a quick bite or a leisurely brunch, Knoxville has you covered.

What’s the best way to explore Knoxville’s food scene?

The best way to explore Knoxville’s food scene is by keeping an open mind and a willingness to try new things. Start with local favorites and then branch out to the more adventurous options. Food festivals and local food blogs are great resources for discovering hidden gems. Remember, every meal is an opportunity to experience something uniquely Knoxville.

Final Thoughts On Unique Knoxville Restaurants

We hope you enjoyed exploring our Knoxville restaurant guide. Knoxville’s food scene is rich and diverse, , offering something for everyone in this Southeast US gem. From the smoky flavors of Southern barbecue to the elegant dishes of fine dining spots, this city knows how to satisfy your cravings. Whether you’re looking for a scenic spot to dine, a cozy café for breakfast, or a unique themed restaurant for dinner, Knoxville has it all. Remember, the best way to experience Knoxville is to taste your way through it. So next time you’re in town, dive into our guide and discover the flavors that make Knoxville truly special. Happy eating!

The top restaurants in Knoxville, TN for all types of travelers
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