For more than 70 years, jewels used to fill the African mahogany cases lining Sapphire's walls. The dark wooden cabinets remain, although they now brim with more than 40 kinds of vodka, Tennessee and Kentucky whiskeys, and rums from Central and South America. Sapphire may no longer drape its customers in precious gemstones, but it does aim to preserve the sense of elegant refinement that characterized the historic building for decades.
This commitment is readily apparent in the menu of upscale southern cuisine, which includes Tennessee cheeses from Sweetwater Farms, bacon and ham from nearby Benton's, and seasonal produce from local farms. These ingredients appear throughout the selection of regionally inspired dishes. Some dishes, such as the Louisiana-crawfish-stuffed hushpuppies with cajun remoulade, assertively announce their southern roots, whereas others show a bit more restraint, such as beef-tenderloin medallions, which arrive with a simple southern succotash.
On Thursday through Saturday evenings, the elegant environment in the long, narrow room becomes livelier as the night progresses and DJs begin their sets. Upbeat rhythms echo off the high ceilings and the vintage mahogany woodwork while patrons enjoy one of the martinis that earned Sapphire a spot on Metro Pulse's Best of Knoxville 2012 list.
A huge statue of Buddha watches over the dining room at Surin of Thailand, although his peaceful gaze is subverted by complex curries, spicy stir-fried noodle dishes, and flavorful barbecue-chicken entrees a day in the making. Half chickens are marinated in Thai barbecue sauce overnight before being slowly roasted and grilled, then they’re plated with scoops of shrimp fried rice and reminders to chew each bite thoroughly, not matter who’s threatening to steal the flavorful dark meat.
Surin measures its dishes' spiciness on a three-pepper scale, where one is "spicy" and three is "Thai hot." Though most dishes fall between nonspicy and hot, a few earn their trio of peppers, including a medley of mussels, scallops, and shrimp with spicy basil sauce.
Another Buddha—actually, just a head—guards the sushi bar, where nigiri, sashimi, and creative maki rolls are born. Under the two Buddhas' protection, diners settle into leather seats or tuck into booths backed by ferns and foliage. Outside the stone-walled eatery, a patio seasons dishes with sunlight and refreshing breezes.
A lengthy lineup of traditional game-day fare and a sports atmosphere captivate fans at Fox and Hound - Bailey's, where the kitchen remains open as late as its neighboring fully stocked bar. Chefs cook until the wee hours of the morning and always until the bar closes, baking Bavarian pretzel starters, crafting towers of onion rings, and preparing hand-battered chicken tenders that are cooked until they are golden brown. They blend their own seasonings to sprinkle over grilled-to-order burgers, and draw from a diverse roster of cheeses and toppings to crown their wood-oven-inspired flatbreads.
While manning the bars, bartenders tap into a stash of libations, such as UV Whipped vodka and Patron Silver tequila, to mix their specialty cocktails. To further foster a sporting ambiance, high-definition TVs glow with sports games and custom music-video playlists, and guests partake in pastimes of ump bashing, billiards, or competitive people watching.
Although the menu features perennial Italian favorites, the homestyle touches are what earned Savelli's Italian Restaurant recognition on Metro Pulse's Best of Knoxville list in 2011. In addition to creating their signature marinara sauce from scratch, chefs also prepare their own garlic bread and hand-bread each order of chicken parmesan. Before baking their pizzas, they load them with toppings from a list of more than 25 possibilities, which include caramelized onions, sun-dried tomatoes, and italian sausage. Though Savelli’s pours up frosty beers, they encourage guests to bring a favorite bottle of wine or decanter full of grapes from home.
After exiting the kitchen, orders make their way to a vibrant dining room, where cinched red curtains flank the windows, and tables perch on red linoleum flooring. Framed paintings adorn the neutral-tone walls, including one track-lit picture of an Italian village.
At Lenny's Sub Shop, named Best Sandwich Shop in 2010 by CityVoter Knoxville, team members bake fresh loaves of bread every morning and slice deli meat to order for each sandwich. Lenny's Sub Shop has been active in Knoxville for 14 years and it has grown to reach diners in more than 15 southern and midwestern states. Its signature 7.5-inch sandwiches cradle a half-pound of meat and cheese, the 10-inch holds 3/4-pound while its 15-inch Heroic subs hold up to a full pound. On the lighter side, the 5-inch holds 1/3-pound. Hot pepper relish blended from diced cherry peppers is available to add zing to deluxe clubs, roast-beef sandwiches, and veggie subs. New items include the chopped BBQ sub, potato salad, wraps, coleslaw, and a large variety of chips. In addition, the shop also serves kids' meals.
The bakers at Kitts Café fill their glass display case with house-made cakes, pies, and cobblers as cooks sizzle up platefuls of Kitts Café's homestyle diner fare. The kitchen staff fires up the griddle at 7 a.m. each morning, sizzling up fresh-cooked eggs and breakfast sandwiches before forging classic burgers and frito chili pie for lunch. To protect taste buds from fits of ennui, the café team whips up a rotating lineup of daily specials that changes each week.
A Knoxville business since 1993, Kitts Café keeps strong ties to the community with Kitts Market, a monthly event that transforms the restaurant into a trendy boutique with the work of local artists and crafters. The market's lineup of handmade gifts includes seasonal decor and enough children's clothing to dress an entire village in Loompaland.