It'd take more than a single day to take in all that downtown Knoxville has to offer, from the historic Old City all the way down to the Tennessee River . . . But if you only had one day, let these restaurants, shops and landmarks be your guide through this remarkable Made in Tennessee city.
Brunch in Old City: Knox Mason
Brunch at Knox Mason puts you in the able hands of Chef Matt Gallaher, who has assembled a menu that changes with the seasons and utilizes Made in Tennessee ingredients such as iconic Benton's Country Hams, slow cured in the heart of the Tennessee Valley since 1947.
Grab a seat and start things off with a carafe of mimosa. From there, the bill of fare ranges from catfish and grits to cornmeal griddle cakes and all the Southern staples in between. Be sure to ask your server about the day's special, which, if you're lucky, includes their take on Nashville hot chicken.
Knox Mason is located at 131 South Gay Street, unit 101, Knoxville.
Old Time Mercantile: Mast General Store
The tradition of the American general store remains timeless, even as the wares on their shelves change. Today's modern Southern mercantile carries everything from Yeti coolers to old fashioned candies by the barrel, from folding Buck knives to Tennessee Volunteer football tailgating gear. Occupying a spot in a building constructed in 1898, Knoxville boasts the only Mast General Store outside of the Carolinas.
Mast General Store is located at 402 South Gay Street, Knoxville.
Oddities + Curiosities: Pioneer House
Knoxville print artist Julie Belcher doesn't run the only Made in Tennessee art studio in Knoxville, but she may run the only one where you can purchase a 1950s Stetson hat and a poster of a fox strumming a banjo all in the same transaction. Her Appalachian-inspired print art colors the walls and bins of Pioneer House, alongside racks of rhinestone-studded western wear and cowboy boots.
Pioneer House is located at 413 South Gay Street, Knoxville.
Brews + Games: Suttree's High Gravity Tavern
Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Cormac McCarthy spent much of his young adulthood in downtown Knoxville, a period in his life that he fictionalized in the pages of a semi-autobiographical novel titled Suttree. The high gravity and craft beer taps behind the bar and the nostalgic arcade games along the walls at this establishment create a more airy atmosphere than the smoky beer halls along Gay Street that McCarthy frequented in the 1950s.
Suttree's High Gravity Tavern is located at 409 South Gay Street, Knoxville.
Open Air: Market Square
The lively bustle of open-air commerce at Market Square has been going strong for more than 150 years and shows no sign of slowing. Locals and out-of-towners alike still come to shop and eat and socialize just the way they always have, way back to the days when this was Knoxville's market house.
(The Tomato Head on Market Square)
Market Square is located two short blocks west of South Gay Street, between Wall and Union Avenues.
Made in Tennessee Photo Ops: Volunteer Landing + The Sunsphere
These days, few people pass up a good photo op. In a city filled with such opportunities, two stand out in particular: the scenic Tennessee River at Volunteer Landing and the undeniably picturesque landmark, the Sunsphere. Down at Volunteer Landing, the backdrop of the river and the river bridges creates a perfect image, especially as the sun begins to set. And high up in the Sunsphere, you are afforded a 360-degree panorama of downtown Knoxville, the Tennessee River, the University of Tennessee and even the distant Smoky Mountains.
Volunteer Landing is located at 956 Volunteer Landing Lane, Knoxville. The Sunsphere is located at 810 Clinch Avenue, Knoxville. Both can easily be reached on foot from Gay Street. No admission charge.
Slow & Low: Sweet P's Barbeque & Soul House
There's no better way to cap off a day of touring downtown Knoxville than with some savory, slow and low barbecue. Luckily for all of us, Sweet P's now has a downtown location, in Old City. But don't take my word for it. Let the pictures do the talking:
Sweet P's downtown located can be found at 410 West Jackson Avenue, Knoxville.