If you haven’t been to downtown Knoxville in the past few months, you haven’t been to this place.
We were disappointed when the Market Square Kitchen was tossed out by the owners of the Oliver Hotel, and then the renovation took such a long time, but we were assured that the Tupelo Honey Cafe would be worth the wait. Then, when the Asheville institution finally did open, we passed it over multiple times because, well, there was always a line of folks waiting to get in.
Today we finally took the plunge, after taking in the WDVX Blue Plate Special at the Knoxville Visitor’s Center, which feature local dulcimer player and singer Sarah Morgan, who we know slightly from the Knoxville Area Dulcimer Club, because there was, miracle of miracles, no line.
(Sarah, incidentally, is the 2012 National Mountain Dulcimer Champion, very nice, and still only a teen. If you go to WDVX’s Facebook page, you will see me in the audience for the show if you have any idea what I look like.)
Well, Tupelo is probably worth the wait. We had tea with puréed fruit in it, and biscuits that will be serious contenders should the Cafe choose to enter them in next year’s Biscuit Festival. Kim had breakfast, a sweet potato pancake with granola on top that was bigger than the plate it was served on. I had Cajun Catfish over a bed of goat cheese grits, with a layer of Sunspot Salsa on top. The pancake was good as well as substantial, and though I was unable to detect much in the way of Cajunism on the Catfish (possibly because there wasn’t any, but also possibly because my aging taste buds are not as finely tuned as once they were), the grits were satisfying and if the salsa had been any fresher I would have had to chop it myself.
What impressed me most was the wait staff. From the hostess to the waitress (and her trusty companion, perhaps in training) to random passing dishwashers and waiters and waitresses from other tables, everyone was positive, responsive, and by appearances and behavior, not unhappy to be there.