Top-Rated: Le Parigo
This newcomer blows the knobs off every other oven in town and brings a grand dash of France to this college city. Just about everything I tried here was far beyond good. I began with a foie gras appetizer special--a buttery delight of Hudson Valley foie gras, fresh pears, plump berries, and a light vinaigrette. I don't normally recommend ordering scallops in a landlocked state, but the pan-seared scallop entrée was amazing. The salty, seared crust gave way to flaky meat. Finish with a delicious chocolate soufflé. 5803 Kingston Pike; www.leparigo.net or (865) 584-7744. Entrées: $18-$35.
Family Spot: The Tomato Head
If you're traveling with children or just trying to find a place for a healthful lunch, venture to this Market Square eatery. Oak tables, schoolhouse chairs, and the aroma of fresh bread create a warm atmosphere. The menu is divided among pizzas, sandwiches, burritos, and quesadillas. This mix is somewhat odd, but it works. For the best light option in town, start with the spinach salad, which comes with a fabulous mushroom-sesame-and-soy dressing atop fresh broccoli, carrots, red cabbage, mushrooms, and baked tofu. Yes, tofu. It's quite good. The pizzas are tasty too. A light, crunchy crust complements The Tomato Head's many sauce and topping choices. 12 Market Square; www.tomatohead.com or (865) 637-4067. Entrées: $6.25-$11.50.
By the Tracks Bistro
It is a masculine-looking and modern meeting spot for Knoxville's in-the-know crowd and serves traditional Continental fare with a Southern twist. Take the BLT Napoleon--a crunchy tower of fried green tomatoes, goat cheese, and smoked bacon atop an elegant bed of mixed greens. Portions aren't froufrou: The pork chop, for instance, looks like a Steinway leg and comes with mashed potatoes, apple marmalade, fresh corn chutney, and spinach. Bistro is one of those small places you don't tell your friends about so you can always get a table. 5200 Kingston Pike; www.bythetracks.com or (865) 558-9500. Entrées: $14.95-$29.95.
Favorite: The Orangery Restaurant
Welcome to Miss Havisham's house, though better lit and with fresh cake. Vivaldi plays on the mansion's sound system; tables brim with roses; and a large menu of soups, salads, and sandwiches attracts the beauty parlor crowd. I'm not kidding about the cake. I tried the tart four-layer lemon cake, and it alone was worth the trip. 5412 Kingston Pike; www.theorangeryrestaurant.com or (865) 588-2964. Lunch entrées: $8-$15.
Great Meal Lately?
E-mail me about it at email@example.com , or better still, send a copy of the menu to Restaurant Editor, Southern Living, P.O. Box 523, Birmingham, AL 35201.
"Food Finds: Knoxville" is from the February 2007 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.