Top 12 Foods You Should Definitely Try in Knoxville

Exploring a city’s food scene can really help you understand its culture and traditions. Knoxville, Tennessee, is a great example of this, with its wide range of dishes that showcase the warmth of Southern hospitality and the boldness of culinary creativity. Nestled near the Great Smoky Mountains, Knoxville offers everything from traditional Southern comfort food to cutting-edge cuisine, establishing itself as a top destination for food lovers. In this blog, we will highlight 12 exceptional dishes that everyone should experience in this city.

1. Hickory Smoked Spare Ribs

Begin your Knoxville food journey with the quintessential Southern dish: barbecue ribs. These are not just any ribs; Knoxville’s chefs slow-cook them until the meat falls off the bone, and they’re slathered in a homemade sauce that’s both tangy and sweet. It’s a robust introduction to the local love of barbecue.

2. Shrimp and Grits

This classic Southern dish features tender, spiced shrimp served on top of creamy, buttery grits. These grits are a key part of Southern cuisine and provide a perfect base for the bold flavors of the shrimp. The combination of textures and flavors in this dish showcases the richness of Southern cooking traditions. It’s also a popular choice for Sunday brunch. Looking for places to eat brunch? No problem! This city will not disappoint you. You can search online for Sunday brunch Knoxville TN, or you could go straight to Elkmont Station. This restaurant offers a menu that includes the beloved shrimp and grits and a range of other dishes inspired by the South. Their brunch selection features everything from mushroom and spinach quiche to cinnamon swirl pancakes.

3. Roasted Chicken

This dish highlights the local farms’ commitment to quality and sustainability. The chicken is often served with a side of garlic green beans, bringing out the natural flavors with simple, yet perfect seasoning. Each bite offers a juicy and tender experience, emphasizing the benefits of locally sourced and freshly prepared ingredients.

4. Trout 

Knoxville is also a place for exceptional freshwater fish dishes, and the trout is a must-try. Caught in the nearby streams, it’s typically prepared grilled or pan-seared with minimal seasoning to let the natural flavors shine through. It’s a lighter option that’s rich in both flavor and local fishing tradition. The clean, crisp taste of the trout is enhanced by its journey from stream to table, often accompanied by a light drizzle of citrus herb butter that adds a bright, refreshing finish.

5. Gnocchi

Finally, for a taste of Knoxville’s Italian influence, gnocchi served with a tomato ragout is a comforting choice. This dish showcases the skill of local chefs who craft each piece of gnocchi by hand, offering a dish that’s as heartwarming as it is filling. The soft, pillowy texture of the gnocchi perfectly complements the rich, flavorful ragout, creating a wonderful mix of tastes and textures.

6. Bone-In Grilled Pork Chop

The bone-in grilled pork chop is a hearty staple in Knoxville’s culinary offerings, showcasing the deep-rooted tradition of Southern grilling. This dish features thick, juicy pork chops that are seasoned with a blend of local spices and herbs before being expertly grilled to perfection, locking in a rich, smoky flavor. Ideal for a filling dinner, the bone-in grilled pork chop is a beloved choice for those seeking a taste of Southern comfort food with a sophisticated twist.

7. Duck Breast

Dining on pan-seared duck breast is a sophisticated affair in Knoxville. This delicacy is typically slow-smoked to enhance its flavors and served alongside seasonal accompaniments that complement its robust taste. It’s a refined option for anyone looking to indulge in the local culinary arts. The smoky undertones and tender texture make each serving a luxurious treat, perfect for special occasions or a fine dining experience that showcases the best of Knoxville’s gastronomic offerings.

8. Cheese Board

For those who appreciate the finer things, an artisanal cheese board presents a selection of the best cheeses the region has to offer. Accompanied by fresh bread, fruit preserves, and a drizzle of local honey, it’s a taste of Tennessee’s dairy craftsmanship at its best.

9. Low Country Bouillabaisse

Low country bouillabaisse, a delightful Southern twist on the classic French seafood stew, is a must-try when dining in Knoxville. This dish skillfully blends ocean flavors with Southern comfort, featuring a medley of shellfish simmered in an aromatic broth. It’s a culinary experience not to be missed!

10. Pasta Carbonara

Pasta Carbonara is a beloved dish in Knoxville, where Italian culinary traditions meet Southern charm. This classic Italian pasta is made with eggs, Parmesan cheese, tasso and English pea cream, and plenty of black pepper. Indulge in its creamy richness and savor the delightful fusion of flavors that will leave you craving more.

11. Crispy Skin Broiled Salmon

Crispy Skin Broiled Salmon is a popular dish in Knoxville for those seeking a lighter yet flavorful meal. Expertly broiled to achieve a perfectly crispy skin while keeping the inside tender and moist, this salmon dish is not to be missed. It’s often served with a side of seasonal vegetables or a refreshing citrus-infused salad, making the most of local produce. The dish not only highlights the natural flavors of the salmon but also showcases the region’s commitment to fresh, health-conscious cuisine, making it a favored choice among health enthusiasts and seafood lovers alike.

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12. Beignets

Beignets, the light and airy French doughnuts dusted with powdered sugar, have found a sweet spot in Knoxville’s culinary scene. These delightful pastries are a favorite among locals and visitors alike, particularly as a treat to accompany a hot cup of coffee or as a decadent breakfast option.


Exploring Knoxville through its food offers a wealth of tastes that capture the essence of both Southern hospitality and innovative culinary trends. Each dish tells a story of local traditions, seasonal ingredients, and the creativity of its chefs. Whether it’s biting into a juicy farm-to-table chicken, savoring the lightness of fresh trout, or indulging in the richness of handmade gnocchi, Knoxville’s diverse dining scene promises something delightful for every palate. So next time you find yourself in this charming city, dive into its culinary offerings and let the flavors of Knoxville leave a lasting impression.

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