Tennessee Valley, meet the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Market Square will soon be home to the newest location of Tupelo Honey Café, which specializes in a distinctive take on Southern and Appalachian comfort food. From the signature Goat Cheese Grits to a locally produced meatloaf, Executive Chef Brian Sonoskus is pushing the boundaries of what a traditional home-cooked meal can taste like.
“We deliver scratch-made, chef-inspired cuisine for about the same price—or less—as you will get in a neighborhood chain restaurant,” says owner Steve Frabitore.
Tupelo first opened in Asheville, North Carolina, more than a decade ago and has since become a tremendous favorite of the area with two successful locations in the city. The new Knoxville locale is the café’s first expansion out of Asheville, thanks in part to the management at The Oliver Hotel, who reached out to the café to open a third restaurant on its first floor. Once he saw the space at the hotel and the Market Square community, Frabitore says, the decision to expand to Knoxville was easy to make.
“We found the space very motivating, the people very welcoming, and Market Square almost irresistible,” says Frabitore. “You put all that together and it was so easy to imagine our restaurant there.”
Aside from the food, the café’s main draw is its commitment to the support of local farms and community vendors. Even tupelo honey, the restaurant’s namesake, is made exclusively in the southeastern United States. In addition, Tupelo owns its own farm to help support local agriculture. Sunshot Organics, located just one hour south of Johnson City, Tennessee, grows and supplies many of the vegetables and berries that Tupelo uses to make its signature dishes, like the Cajun Skillet Catfish served with Sunshot Salsa.
The café’s selection of beers is also produced locally. Tupelo supports many Asheville and Appalachian breweries that provide the restaurant with an always-changing selection of seasonal beers. The staff is also knowledgeable about beer pairings, assuring that each diner is able to create and enjoy a complete meal that was produced right in their backyard.
But using locally sourced ingredients isn’t the only way Tupelo gets involved in its community. The restaurant is known for supporting local schools and charities in Asheville, and they’re bringing that philanthropic attitude to Knoxville.
“It’s one of our guiding principles to give back and be involved in the community, and food is an excellent medium for communication and impacting some of the needs of the community in a meaningful way,” says Frabitore.
Tupelo focuses much of its charitable effort on providing nutrition education to local schools, giving demonstrations in classrooms about identifying and preparing different healthy food choices. According to Frabitore, Tupelo has already begun collaborating with Jonathan Dickl, Executive Director of School Nutrition for Knox County Schools, to help bring this kind of program to Knoxville elementary schools. The restaurant is also introducing its Tupelo Honey Heroes program, which provides funding for recognizing outstanding educators and cafeteria service employees in the school system, to Knox County Schools.
“We’re hoping that we can stay very close to Knox County Schools and invite them to have representation in any of our special events. We’re going to do everything we can to work through their programs,” says Frabitore.
Knoxville can expect Tupelo Honey Café to make an impact on the community—even if it’s only through its good food and friendly atmosphere. “We’re singing the praise of Southern culture,” says Frabitore. “We want to have people embrace Southern culture, the mountain lifestyle, and the long food history that comes with that.”
Tupelo Honey Café
1 Market Square
Knoxville, TN 37902
Monday – Thursday: 11:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Friday: 11:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m.
Saturday: 8:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m.
Sunday: 8:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.
to view their menu.