15 Local Restaurants in Knoxville, TN You’ll Want to “Knox” Off Your Bucket List


Written by:

While you’re taking a drive through any city or suburb in the country it may be easy to think that chain restaurants are rapidly pushing independently owned restaurants out of the market. However, there are over 150,000 single-location independent establishments as of this year, and that’s not even counting local chains! 

Eating locally can be a great choice for a number of reasons. Unlike commercialized chain restaurants, spending money at independently owned establishments often means that your money has a greater benefit to the local community. It’s also a great way to try locally-inspired or otherwise unique cuisine that you might not find at your standard chain restaurant.

Whether you’re planning a visit, or live locally, there is no shortage of amazing local restaurants in Knoxville, TN to try and we’ve got a list ready for you and your loved ones to enjoy.

Image Credit: SeanPavonePhoto/Istockphoto.

1. Farmacy

Locally-source, farm-fresh foods with a creative drink menu!

Buy A Farmacy Gift Card

Farmacy founder and owner Bettina Hamblin started cooking as a child, taught by her parents that food wasn’t simply a meal to be placed on the table at 6pm every night but a chance to connect and create with those closest to us. Now she brings that same joy and life to the kitchen at Farmacy, Knoxville’s favorite brunch, lunch & dinner restaurant with a focus on fresh local ingredients.

Chow down on southern classics like Hot Chicken and Waffles or Fluffy Beignets, or try one of their more creative offerings – the Churro Waffles, Enlightened Bowl, and Avocado Toast piled high with fresh, vibrant ingredients. There are lots of favorites on the menu here.

“We were back in Knoxville again and I wanted to get brunch here since the food was so good on our last trip! Glad we came back, the food was all excellent! A must eat stop in Knoxville for me.” –Yelp Review

Image Credit: knoxfarmacy.com.

2. Stir Fry Cafe

Sushi, Thai, and Asian cuisine that takes supporting local to the next level

Text A Stir Fry Cafe Gift Card

For many local restaurants, it isn’t just about serving up amazing food – it’s about being a part of a community. At Stir Fry Cafe, they really take the local-first philosophy to heart. Not only do they participate in events that support the local community – like Eat Out for Education, which donates 10% of proceeds from every bill to local schools during the promotion. They also feature work from local artists throughout the restaurant, so if you see something you like, you can take home a part of the Knoxville art scene, too. And in terms of food? You’ll find all of your favorites – from Drunken Noodles to Tom Kha soup. Crab Rangoons, Pot Stickers, Eel Rolls… the list goes on and on!

“A great little spot if you like Asian cuisine. I’ve had the spicy noodles multiple occasions but ventured out for the Singapore noodles and was absolutely pleased. Standard sushi and pot stickers but a great little gem of a spot for a meal.” –Yelp Review

Image Credit: Stir Fry Cafe.

3. Smokies Cuban Cafe

Authentic Cuban food in the heart of the Smoky Mountains!

Email A Smokie Cuban Cafe Gift Card

Looking for fresh, authentic Cuban cuisine? A little restaurant located in the heart of Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains might not be your first thought, but that shouldn’t stop you from stopping in. A trip to Smokies Cuban Cafe will take you a minute – or 50 minutes to be precise, southeast from downtown on Interstate 441. But like any food aficionado is sure to know, good things come to those who wait.

This family-owned restaurant is bringing the bright flavors of the Caribbean to the Knoxville area with their eatery in Pigeon Forge. Sample everything from ropa vieja to vaca frita to beef empanadas – made fresh daily!

“We always enjoy stopping by for a quick lunch when we are over in the Pigeon Forge area. Good folk and good food. Service is quick and the meals are substantial. It is a small place but we have never had trouble getting in. They are quick.” –Yelp Review

Image Credit: Smokies Cuban Cafe.

4. Stock & Barrel

Popular local burger and bar spot for many!

Often touted as Knoxville, Tennessee’s best restaurants, beating out even the popular chain restaurants in the city, Stock & Barrel is a true local classic. Stock & Barrel specializes in three things; burgers, bourbon, and beer. Dishes are made from meats sourced from Mitchell Family Farms in Tennessee and other menu items are made from farm-to-table ingredients. The restaurant does have a second location in Nashville. Friendly service and consistently delicious dishes make both popular spots for visitors and locals — expect to wait for a table if you visit at dinner time, especially on weekends.

“I’ve been here numerous times and the food has always been amazing! Service has always been great and everyone is friendly. Ambience is welcoming, relaxed, with low lighting. It can be a bit loud with a full house.” –Yelp Review

Image Credit: Stock & Barrel.

5. Yassin Falafel House

Locally-owned Mediterranean quick-service restaurant

It doesn’t get more independently owned than this! Yassin Falafel House is family-owned and has been bringing delicious Mediterranean food to Knoxville since 2014. They actually have two locations in the city; one in downtown Knoxville, and another just outside. Thanks to its Mediterranean roots, Yassin Falafel House has something for everyone. From filling gyros to healthy options like their famous homemade hummus, this is a great spot for the whole family. Order a lunch, or create a spread to share with friends for an evening at home.

“Been to Yassin’s a couple of times and enjoyed it but wanted to try something different. Ended up trying their plant based Shawarma, you could’ve told me it was chicken and I wouldn’t have batted an eye. Yassin’s more like Yas Kween this slapped!” –Yelp Review

Image Credit: Yassin Falafel House.

6. Balter Beerworks

Award-winning modern burger spot in a remodeled service station!

Opened in 2016, Balter Beerworks is located in a remodeled historic service station. This adds to the restaurant’s fun and modern vibes. Plenty of windows means an open-air-esque dining experience that’s great all year long. Inspired by their love for brewing beer in their home’s garage, Balter Beerworks is a locally-owned favorite among Knoxville locals. 

As the name suggests, they’re best known for their homemade brews, but they also offer a menu with a variety of dishes. Some are Southern-inspired and classic Knoxville, while others are unique and trendy takes on comfort food. Keep things light with a salmon bowl or salad, or dig into a juicy bison burger. Don’t forget to save room for dessert — we recommend the skillet cookie!

“I navigated here straight from the airport for a bite to eat and ran into a few more folks from my flight. Safe to say this is “the spot”. As a vegetarian, I had the quinoa burger and licked my fingers it was good. Go there. You’ll be pleased too!” –Yelp Review

Image Credit: Balter Beerworks.

7. Sweet P’s Barbeque & Soul House

Southern-style BBQ in a nice laid-back setting!

There’s no shortage of delicious BBQ in Knoxville, and throughout Tennessee. But if you’re looking for an independently owned spot to dig into decadent ribs, juicy pulled pork, and other Southern favorites, head to Sweet P’s Barbeque & Soul House. Established in 2005 by barbecue master Chris Ford, his recipes actually began while experimenting at home. Today, his rich flavors are beloved by locals and visitors alike.

And if you can’t get enough, there are actually two Sweet P’s locations in Knoxville. One offers dine-in, while the other — Ford’s original — is drive-thru only. This unique set-up is perfect for grabbing a bite for the whole family on your way home. Because the BBQ is smoked fresh, some varieties will sell out, especially on early days, so arrive early if you want to have more options.

“This is my favorite bbq place in Knoxville! The bbq pork and all the sides are delicious! You can’t go wrong. The employees are very friendly and nice. The service is very fast and it’s located conveniently in downtown Knoxville with so many fun things to do around.” –Yelp Review

Image Credit: Sweet P’s Barbeque & Soul House.

8. Chesapeake’s Seafood Restaurant

A seafood house with food so fresh you’ll still get a taste of the ocean!

If you’re looking for a bit of a unique flare to go along with your dining experience you will certainly love visiting Chesapeake’s Seafood House. It “derives much of its authentic Eastern Shore qualities from décor that features genuine nautical antiques and artifacts.” It’s an interesting classic on your regular ol’ seafood joint. Fresh ingredients flown in daily makes their food something to look forward to with dishes like Live Maine Lobster, Smoked Salmon, Fresh Oysters, and more.

“Went for my birthday- food and service was great. I bit pricey ($18 for Woodford on the rocks). But for special occasions it is our go to restaurant- oysters on half shell were delicious & fresh.” –Yelp Review

Image Credit: Chesapeake’s Seafood Restaurant.

9. Myrtle’s Chicken and Beer

Specializing in Southern fried chicken and other comfort foods!

They say it best on their website, Myrtle’s Chicken and Beer is “Not just a good meal, but food for the soul.” They have been elevating and making traditional Southern comfort food on a whole new level for years now and it’s reflected back in their frequent patronage. With foods like chicken of course, and Myrtle’s Tomato Pie, Southern-Fried Pickles, Smoked Baby-Back Ribs, and a nice gold glass of beer to wash it down- you’ll find yourself searching for seconds in no time. 

“We had a fantastic lunch here with our 3 teenage sons and 7 of their friends. Good atmosphere, great service, and the food was delicious. The waffle dipped chicken appetizer was everyone’s favorite: amazing.” –Yelp Review

Image Credit: Myrtle’s Chicken and Beer.

10. The French Market Creperie Downtown

French crêperie in a chic-modern space perfect for an afternoon with friends!

Allen and Susan Tate have been living in Paris on and off for years and it wasn’t until they decided to open their French Market Crêperie in 2008 that they finally planted their roots. Wanting to share their love of French cuisine with others, these two created the first and only authentic French crêpe restaurant for those who love a bit of sweets along with their savory taste. Get their Grilled Cheese crêpe, Smoked Salmon crêpe, or go with simple and get the Traditional Plain crêpe. 

“The food here was remarkable. The crepes are delicious and the French onion soup was the best I have ever had. I highly recommend this place and it is worth the wait even when the line is long.” –Yelp Review

Image Credit: The French Market Creperie Downtown.

11. The Tomato Head

Cafe-bakery combo cookin’ up pizza, sandwiches, pies, and more!

Wanting to serve meals that are always healthy and fresh, The Tomato Head is a cafe/bakery combo where the team both in the kitchen and outside work hard to create a fun and comfy environment for you to enjoy a variety of baked goods and cafe favorites. They’ve got appetizers like Hummus & Blue Corn Chips, salads like the Baked Tofu Salad and Southwestern Salad, Ham & Cheese sandwich, Build Your Own Pizza, and sweets like cookies, pies, and cobblers. 

“This place is one of my favorite low key places in Knoxville! Tuscan chicken sandwich and the Oh boy are great and I really love the chipotle tomato soup delicious!!!! Service is always great and ambiance is really nice and peaceful.” –Yelp Review

Image Credit: The Tomato Head.

12. STIR

Local restaurants in Knoxville, TN like this one serve up great New American foods!

STIR in Knoxville is the perfect place for brunch, lunch, and/or dinner. They’ve got a bit of everything and you will enjoy going with your friends, catching up with the family over a delicious meal, or go by yourself and sit in the ambience of this casual establishment. Chow down on dishes off the menu like Char-Broiled Oysters, Blackened Fish Tacos, Parmesan White Truffle Fries, Stir Veggie Burger, and much more. 

“Great food, good prices, good vibe, Emma was our waitress and she was great! Rlly good service. Got the house clams, spicy tuna bites and a bottle of pinot grigio. Our waitress did the taste test with the wine and all. Highly recommend !” –Yelp Review

Image Credit: STIR.

13. Calhoun’s On The River

Local chain serving up classic Tennessee BBQ and good vibes!

Quick stop in for a small bite to eat or a big family gathering- whatever you are preparing for Calhoun’s On The River is prepared for it. They are a BBQ joint with fun specials throughout the week like every Monday is “Burger Day” where each burger is only $7. There’s also Happy Hour which is perfect for those looking to pair their heart meal with a creative cocktail. Plus there’s always specials from the chefs you can look forward to.

“Love the Monday special hamburger and one side I had tater tots My friend had chicken sandwich with baked beans Lauren,our server was excellent as well as beautiful Love Calhoun Ashton was outstanding” –Yelp Review

Image Credit: Calhoun’s On The River.

14. The Brass Pearl

Oysters, oysters, and more await you at this Knoxville restaurant!

Those who love oysters, love oysters and The Brass Pearl is an amazing place to go to when you’re looking for some of the best in Knoxville. But they don’t just have oysters on the menu, in fact they have a load of other delicious goodies you won’t find the taste for anywhere else. Enjoy Calamari Fries, Spanish Octopus, Caviar, the Pearl Burger, and the Fisherman Stew which is packed full of Mussels, Grilled Lobster Tail, Fish, Shrimp, Spicy Tomato Sauce, Lobster Risotto, and Toasted Sourdough!

“Place is soooo good. I had the fisherman’s stew and flavors were perfect! I’m only in Tennessee for 2 nights and I’d come back Just to have it again! Staff was super friendly and attentive!” –Yelp Review

Image Credit: The Brass Pearl.

15. Cafe 4

Southern favorites with a unique blend of upscale-casual cozy!

Over a decade ago Cafe 4 made its way to the Knoxville scene downtown. They’ve credited themselves a part of the urban revitalization of the city and have introduced many vacationers and locals to tasty takes on Southern foods. You’ll find a number of great dishes like:

  • Espresso Martini, Ooey-Gooey Cinnamon Bun, Tennessee Cheesesteak, and Belgian Waffle for brunch.
  • Margarita, Fried Green Tomatoes, Lobster BLT Flatbread, and The Classic Cheeseburger for lunch.
  • Along with a Fruity Lemonade Mocktail, Roasted Beet Salad, and Grilled Ribeye for dinner at this local restaurant in Knoxville, TN.

“Next time in Knoxville we’re definitely going to visit the Cafe 4 again. Everyone in our group had an excellent lunch. Service was excellent. Fish tacos and salmon perfect. Sat outside which was nice.” –Yelp Review

Whether you’re looking for a local dish or two to try while visiting Knoxville, or want to gift a friend or family member a delicious meal at a unique restaurant, choosing local is always a good idea. Not only is it a great way to try new and unique cuisine, but your money will also be supporting a small business owner and their staff. Try one of these delicious local restaurants in Knoxville  — or better yet, try them all on your next visit!

This article originally appeared on Giftya.com and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

Image Credit: Cafe 4.

More from MediaFeed

Which City Has the Best BBQ in All the US?

Image Credit: bhofack2/istockphoto.


Trae Bodge

Trae Bodge is an accomplished lifestyle journalist and TV commentator who specializes in smart shopping, personal finance, parenting, and retail. Trae has been named a Top Voice in Retail by LinkedIn and a top personal finance expert by GoBankingRates and Flexjobs. She is a contributor at Millie Magazine and CNN Underscored, and her writing and expert commentary have appeared in Newsweek, Woman's Day, Forbes, USNews.com, Kiplinger, Marketwatch, MSN.com, Yahoo Finance and numerous others. She has also appeared on TV hundreds of times; including Good Morning America's GMA3: What You Need to Know, NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, Inside Edition, CNBC and local network affiliates nationwide.