Growling stomachs can hamper stealth operations, spoil belly dances, and, in extreme cases, induce dogs to attack. Quiet whimpering tummy tones with today's Groupon: for $15, you get $30 worth of southern cuisine at Sapphire on South Gay Street.
Recipient of the olive-infused prize for best martini from Metro Pulse in 2010, Sapphire packs its menu with updated southern dishes to fill guests relaxing in the modern lounge. Divvy up a hearty appetizer of barbecue pulled pork nachos topped with smoked pork from Full Service BBQ and velvety blanket of queso cheese ($10.95). Chefs conjure the creole peppers by insulating a hollowed-out poblano pepper with a belly-warming mixture of smoky andouille sausage and red-pepper jasmine rice shaped like a space heater. The portobello sandwich ($8.95) wrestles a hearty mushroom cap between two slices of bread with a hot-pepper relish and an option for sharp cheddar ($0.99 extra) or st. andré brie ($1.99 extra). Bartenders shake, muddle, and stir a list of creative cocktails such as the french martini made with pineapple juice and raspberry liqueur ($7), or the White Courtesy martini, a blend of white chocolate liqueur, vanilla vodka, and rum that doubles as a direct line to the maître d' ($12).
Diners savor their meals of modern-yet-traditional recipes in Sapphire's spacious, modern dining room hidden inside a building that is more than 100 years old. The exterior’s weathered brick juxtaposes with the contemporary interior’s colorful lounge areas, sheer cloth drapes, and unstoppable waiters sent from the future to ensure a world where no water glass ever goes unrefilled.
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 cuisine that includes meats, cheeses, and seasonal produce from local vendors such as Sweetwater Valley Cheese, Painted Hills Beef, and John Mixon Farms. These ingredients appear throughout the selection of regionally inspired dishes, including boursin mac 'n' cheese, pimento pork bites, and almond-dusted chicken served with roasted brussels sprouts and sweet-potato gratin.
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 every year from 2011 through 2014.