Take a drive through any city or suburb in the U.S., and it may be easy to think that chain restaurants are rapidly pushing independently owned restaurants out of the market. However, there are more than 490,000 independently owned restaurants in the U.S. today. And despite setbacks caused by COVID-19, including lockdowns and staff shortages, that number appears to be on the rise once more.
Eating locally can be a great choice for a number of reasons. Unlike 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 to Knoxville, Tennessee, or live locally, there is no shortage of amazing independently owned restaurants to try. While they're certainly worth a visit if you're passing through, these restaurants are also a great choice for gifting to friends and family who are local or who you know are visiting Tennessee. Not only will you be supporting a local business owner, but you'll also be gifting your family member or friend a unique and delicious meal. With a virtual gift card, you can easily select a local restaurant, choose an amount, add a personalized note, and send a gift in just minutes.
Ready to find the best local eats in Knoxville, Tennesee? Keep reading to learn our top 5.
35 Market Sq, Knoxville, TN 37902 (https://thestockandbarrel.com)
Often touted as Knoxville, Tennessee's best restaurant, beating out even the popular chain restaurants in the city, Stock & Barrel is a true local classic. The menu features burgers and other dishes made from meats sourced from Mitchell Family Farms, in Tennessee. The rest of their menu also focused on serving 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.
Stock & Barrel specializes in three things; burgers, bourbon, and beer. While these may be what they do best, there's plenty more to eat and drink on the menu. The modern, industrial feel of this popular spot makes it great for a date night or a fun family dinner out.
"Not that Stock & Barrel really needs anyone else to rave about their restaurant, but it's not going to stop me. :) We've been to S&B on many occasions over the past several years having lived in Knoxville in the past, and we recently at their for the first time in six years. Sometimes, I'm really glad things don't change. Their food was still just as good as I remember it. Having lived in states from Texas to cities like Chicago, I can honestly say that their burgers rank in my top two!" -Yelp Review
159 N Peters Rd, Knoxville, TN 37923 (https://yassinsfalafelhouse.com)
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. From the hummus to the grape leaves and everything in between, the food here is homemade and often made from classic family recipes.
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.
"We love Yassin's. The atmosphere is always light and the people are welcoming. Plus the food is delicious. I'd recommend the chicken shawarma plate and add veggies." -Yelp Review
100 S Broadway St, Knoxville, TN 37902 (https://www.balterbeerworks.com)
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!
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.
"This spot is really a great choice for hanging with friends, eating some burgers, and drinking some beers.
+ Good food, esp for burgers
+ Open late to 11pm (Note: most restaurants in Knoxville close at 9pm)
+ Beer flight of 4 for $7ish. Def loved Cherry Gose the most!
+ Restaurant has its own parking
+ Friendly staff" -Yelp Review
410 W Jackson Ave, Knoxville, TN 37902 (https://www.sweetpbbq.com/downtown-dive/)
There's no shortage of delicious BBQ in Knoxville, and throughout Tenessee. 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. Establish 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.
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.
"I stopped in for some barbecue and this place did not disappoint! The food is delicious and the staff was really great. I definitely eat there again." -Yelp Review
Trendy Southern breakfast and brunch spot
211 S Central St, Knoxville, TN 37902 (https://olibeaoldcity.com)
When you're looking for a delicious brunch for a weekend afternoon or a special breakfast through the week in Knoxville, Tennessee, you can't beat Oli Bea. This locally-owned spot is a favorite among locals and visitors alike — and the sometimes-lengthy wait, especially on weekends, is proof of that.
While the restaurant serves a wide variety of breakfast favorites, they are perhaps best known for their biscuits. These can be enjoyed on their own, with gravy on top, or as a messy sandwich. "The Problem" is one popular menu item. This biscuit sandwich features a cheddar biscuit, HenHoc sausage, scrambled egg, jalapeno jam, and cheese.
"So glad we stopped off in Knoxville on the way from Great Smoky up to Nashville if only just for these biscuits. They've got such great texture, beautifully fluffy but not too doughy interior, and peel off so easily. The whole menu sounded tasty but I could resist the the problem biscuit, really an all star cast for a breakfast sandwich." -Yelp Review
Whether you're looking for a local eat or two to try while visiting Knoxville, or want to gift a local 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 eats in Knoxville — or better yet, try them all on your next visit!