8 Foods To Try On Your Trip To Knoxville

Nestled in the heart of East Tennessee, Knoxville is a gem of Southern hospitality. Famous for its stunning Smoky Mountain views, this vibrant city is home to over 187,000 food-loving souls. But there’s more to this city than meets the eye.

A hidden food paradise, Knoxville offers a rich blend of classic Southern comfort and adventurous international flavors. Its culinary scene has grown by a whopping 35% over the last five years, making dining in Knoxville an experience of constant discovery.

So, prepare to loosen your belt and embark on a delicious journey through Knoxville’s most tantalizing, must-try dishes.

Knoxville’s Culinary Diversity

Source: Southern Living

A walk-through of Knoxville’s food scene is like leafing through the pages of a well-loved cookbook – it’s filled with time-honored traditions yet constantly adding exciting new recipes. Over the years, the culinary culture here has simmered in a pot of Southern heritage, gently infusing it with innovative, global flavors.

From sizzling hot chicken and fluffy buttermilk biscuits that tell stories of Southern comfort to exotic Asian fusions and savory Mediterranean platters, Knoxville serves an eclectic menu. Today, it’s estimated that nearly 25% of the city’s restaurants offer international cuisine, an exciting shift from its Southern-centric roots. This evolution makes dining in Knoxville a unique experience. Indeed, to dine in Knoxville is to experience a melting pot of flavors, each plate carrying a piece of the world on your table.

The 10 Foods You Can’t Miss on Your Knoxville Food Tour

1. Shrimp and Grits

As the morning sun peeks over the Smoky Mountains, the comforting aroma of shrimp and grits spreads across Knoxville. This classic Southern dish is a symphony of creamy, stone-ground grits and succulent shrimp sautéed in a rich, spicy sauce. As per local records, over 60 eateries in Knoxville have this staple on their menu. Elkmont Station stands out for its famous jazzed-up version. There are other restaurant options, too, but shrimp and grits here are a must-have!

2. Fried Chicken and Waffles

Picture this: a golden, crispy piece of fried chicken perched atop a fluffy, sweet waffle, drizzled with a dash of maple syrup – the perfect chicken and waffles. This classic Southern combo, an exciting play on sweet and savory, has nearly 45 restaurants in Knoxville claiming their version as the city’s best. The Plaid Apron excels with its perfectly seasoned chicken and homemade waffles. Meanwhile, Jackie’s Dream adds a soulful twist to the dish, making it a must-try when dining in Knoxville.

3. Buttermilk Biscuits and Sausage Gravy

Imagine waking up to the flaky goodness of buttermilk biscuits drenched in heartwarming sausage gravy. This Southern breakfast staple, a blend of fluffy, buttery biscuits and creamy, savory sauce, epitomizes comfort food. With over 35 diners and restaurants serving it, including the famed OliBea and the homestyle Tudor’s Biscuit World, Knoxville is a haven for biscuit and gravy lovers. This delightful dish is not just a meal; it’s a warm hug from the South, making dining in Knoxville a satisfying experience for every foodie.

Source: Pexels

4. Barbecue Ribs

There’s something about the smoky scent of barbecue ribs that sparks joy in the heart of every meat lover. A Tennessee classic, these tender, juicy ribs covered in a tangy sauce and slow-cooked to perfection are a meat lover’s delight. Knoxville has over 50 Barbeque joints boasting secret recipes. Sweet P’s Barbecue and Dead-End BBQ lead the pack, delighting patrons with their succulent, fall-off-the-bone ribs. A bite of these heavenly ribs is a rite of passage for those dining in Knoxville, making it a must-have for every food journey.

5. Pimento Cheese Burger

Take a classic juicy burger and add a dollop of creamy, slightly spicy pimento cheese, and you have a Southern sensation – the Pimento Cheese Burger. This Knoxville favorite, served in over 40 local eateries, combines the heartiness of a burger with the distinctive Southern charm of pimento cheese. Litton’s Market and Restaurant, known for their mouthwatering burgers, and Stock & Barrel, with their farm-to-table ethos, serve exemplary versions of this delectable dish. Truly, sinking your teeth into a Pimento Cheese Burger is a highlight of dining in Knoxville.

6. Hot Chicken

Embrace the heat with Hot Chicken, a Tennessee original that’s won hearts across Knoxville. This fiery delight involves chicken marinated in pepper, fried until crispy, and doused in a spice-laden sauce. Almost 30 eateries in Knoxville, including the much-loved Jackie’s Dream and Hot Chicken 865, celebrate this spicy wonder. Whether you like it mildly hot or blazingly fiery, experiencing the thrill of Hot Chicken is an adventure every spice-lover should undertake when dining in Knoxville.

7. Collard Greens

Every plate in Knoxville tells a story, and the tale of Collard Greens is one of tradition and nourishment. These slow-cooked, nutrient-rich greens, often simmered with ham or bacon, are a Southern staple that exudes homely comfort. Locals and visitors can savor this leafy delight at Chandler’s Deli, a beloved establishment known for its Southern-style soul food. Meanwhile, Ye Olde Steak House offers a classy take on collard greens, adding a delightful touch to your dining experience in Knoxville. With each bite, you’re not just tasting food but savoring Southern heritage.

8. Cornbread

Cornbread, with its golden crust and soft, crumbly interior, is more than just a side dish in Knoxville; it’s a piece of Southern history. This delightfully simple yet satisfying bread has a special place on every Southern table. If you’re eager to sample some while dining in Knoxville, visit Love That BBQ, where the cornbread is famed for its perfect balance of sweet and savory. Alternatively, the cornbread at Chandler’s Deli served with a pat of melting butter, is a bite of heaven. It’s genuinely a Knoxville tradition worth tasting.

Dietary Considerations and Options in Knoxville

Source: Visit Knoxville

Dining in Knoxville isn’t just about indulging; it’s also about accommodating every palate and preference. Whether vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, or on a specific diet, this city has something delicious. You’ll find eateries like Tomato Head serving creative vegetarian and vegan fare, while Glowing Bowl offers a range of gluten-free options. And for those with a sweet tooth, Knoxville’s bakeries like Benefit Your Life Gluten Free Bakery whip up delightful treats that cater to dietary needs. In Knoxville, everyone gets to savor the delicious diversity of its food scene.


From sunrise to sundown, foods in Knoxville offer a culinary journey you’ll never forget. With over 1,000 eateries scattered across the city, each offering a unique slice of this culinary paradise, Knoxville truly is a food lover’s paradise. Whether a heaping plate of shrimp and grits or a fiery bite of hot chicken, each dish is a must-have.

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