Burger Nation

The Ole Smokey Burger from Not Watson's

20 Local Restaurants Perfect an American Classic

There is nothing in the American kitchen quite like a hamburger. Whether you’re grilling it up in your own backyard or getting yours hot from your favorite restaurant, you know you’re looking forward to biting through a warm fluffy bun down into a thick, juicy beef patty. But some burgers take that to the next level. These aren’t your grandpa’s backyard burgers (no disrespect to any grandpas out there). These burgers are works of art from kitchen to table, put together by a passionate chef who wants to make your burger a one-of-a-kind experience (at least, until your next visit). So we’ve decided to take a culinary tour around our local burger joints and give you a peek into the kitchen. We certainly have our favorites. We’re hoping we can help you find yours.

Not Watson’s – Ole Smokey Burger

It’s ready for its closeup… and our plates!

This burger looks as good on the plate as it does on this page. Not Watson’s is the place you go on a Saturday night with a group of friends and you sit down and feast. But it’s also great for an impromptu weekday evening out. The Ole Smokey Burger is a hearty burger and the fried onions on the top suit it well. Top it with Tillamook aged cheddar, applewood-smoked bacon, and barbeque sauce, and we aren’t sure we’d like to eat anything else—but we will. 

Downtown  |  15 Market Square  |  notwatsons.com

Not Watson’s Ole Smokey Burger also happens to be our cover burger!

Abridged Beer Co. – Abridged Burger

Brussels on a burger? Delicious!

You’ll always have a good time at Abridged, whether you hit the brewpub in Bearden or end up at the World Headquarters in Cedar Bluff. Does the location sound important? Well, it is! Because here you can order the Abridged Burger, a 7-ounce, all-beef ground brisket patty, topped with caramelized red onion, applewood-smoked bacon, American cheese, fried Brussels sprout petals, and house aioli served on a brioche roll. The contrast of flavors here is everything, and the play on textures hits the spot. Pair it with a good ole Toppy Rock IPA. 

Bearden, Cedar Bluff, and North Knoxville |  abridgedbeer.com

Sam & Andy’s – S.E.C. Burger

The comfort burger that’s better than you remember!

Whether you were born in the ’50s or the ’80s, you went here with your parents and were likely noisy and messy simply because it felt like home. As an adult you go with old friends or feast with your grandchildren because after all these years, it still feels like home. And what do you get when you go? You guessed right: a burger. These days we fancy the S.E.C. Burger, topped with grilled onions, hickory-smoked bacon, and smoked cheddar. If you’ve never been—whilst shocking and we’re going to have to discuss why it took you so long—any of the burgers will hit the spot, but be sure to double up on fries and ditch the calorie counting for a moment and get the Coke. It doesn’t get more classic than that.

West Knoxville, Northshore, and Fountain City  |  samandandysrestaurant.com

Blackhorse Brewery – Cowboy Burger

Finger lickin’ kind of good.

Whether you live in Alcoa or are taking your horse out for a gallop from Knoxville, Blackhorse Brewery is a must stop for the Cowboy burger. This one is topped with Monterey jack cheese, bacon, sautéed onions and mushrooms, lettuce, tomato, and pickle. Pair it with something like their Barnstormer Red Ale or and you’re in for a treat. 

Alcoa  |  441 North Hall Road  |  www.blackhorsebrews.com

The Burgers – The Sunny Side

For the late riser, you can call this burger breakfast.

When a place calls itself by its most loved item, then you know you’re in for a treat. And with three locations to choose from in Knoxville, you’re never to far away. The Sunny Side makes it feel like brunch but can be eaten anytime of the day. American cheese, tomatoes, sweet red onions, lettuce, mayo, and bacon are joined by, you guessed it, a fried egg! If you’re feeling ravenous, ask for a double burger and feast away. They say here that you’ll be treated so good for lunch that you’ll be back for dinner. So our only question is, what time should we meet?

Knoxville, Powell, and Lenoir City |  eattheburgers.com

Bit Burger – 8 Bit Burger

Savoring this burger bit by bit…

If you played video games during any decade, you’ll feel the nostalgia here—but with a twist. That’s what the 8 Bit Burger is: classic cheese, lettuce, onion, tomato, and pickle, but with two 4-ounce patties and their Signature Sauce. And while we don’t know the sauce ingredients, we can vouch for the fact that it’s game-changing. Choose the cheddar tots as your side and pair it with one of their over-the-top milkshakes. 

Cedar Bluff |  151 North Seven Oaks Drive | facebook.com

Cazzy’s – Bison Burger

When your hunger is bigger than a cow.

Former Cityview Top Chef Annie Fletcher has built the menu of menus here, with the Bison Burger one of our faves, topped with Tillamook cheddar, sautéed onions, garlic aioli, tomato and arugula. It feels fancy and yet down-to-earth and messy, the way a burger should be. This is for the carnivores out there. Juicy and divine. Pair with a helping of broccoli. Pro Tip: Add bacon. It’s thick cut and peppered to perfection.

Northshore | 2099 Thunderhead Road  |  cazzys.com

Inskip Grill – Central 11’11”

A burger so high, we call it Willie Nelson.

There is so much fun built into Inskip, making it perfect for just about any generation. Everything on the menu is named for a place or a person connected to the Volunteer State, like this burger, named in honor of the low underpass located in the Powell community, also known as “The Can Opener”. In one sitting, you’ll consume 11.11 ounces of ground brisket. Topped with smoked cheddar, bacon, jalapenos, and barbeque sauce, and served inside a pretzel bun. You might need to ask for a fork and knife for this one, and be sure to order a Grilla Shake when you do because they are always over-the-top and delish’. Did someone say “food coma”?

Fountain City and Powell |  inskipgrill.com

Farmacy – Farmacy Burger

Whiskey Lovers’ Delight!

Say it with me now: whiskey onions. Chef Bettina Hamblin has always had our hearts and her version of the smashburger takes the cake. Whiskey onions, local white cheddar, pickle juice mayo (heavenly), and wild arugula top this double smashburger slice of heaven. For those of you new to the smashburger, fear not. You will still get a juicy burger with the taste you love, just thinner and less drip-driven. For us, this is the best place to go for lunch if you want that true farm-to-table experience. Pro Tip: If you happen to be there during brunch, Chef
Bettina will throw an egg and some bacon on the top to make this burger experience something for the memory books. 

Bearden | 5018 Kingston Pike |  knoxfarmacy.com

Boyd’s Jig & Reel – William Wallace

A stout burger deserves gravy.

You’ll be anxiously waiting until lunch when the doors open to get to this spot because while your friends might be heading to feast on some bangers and mash, you will stand out from the crowd when you order the William Wallace, a stately burger with charm, poise, and just the right amount of Guinness gravy. Yes, we said Guinness Gravy. Applewood-smoked bacon, bleu cheese, fried onions, field greens, and tomatoes also make an appearance, but the gravy had us. Be sure to take bites between tapping your heel to the live music or you’ll end up with shirt full of gravy droplets. Better yet, just ask for a bib. This burger is best enjoyed while jammin’. 

Downtown  |  101 South Central Street |  jigandreel.com

Calhoun’s – Kickback Burger

The laidback burger that will kickstart your tastebuds.

Sometimes you want a night out for a fancy dinner, special cocktails, and illustrious desserts, and while you can get all of those things at Calhoun’s, you can also go in your jeans, order your meal and a beer, and kick back. That’s why we dig the Kickback Burger here. Smoked cheddar and jack cheese, smoked bacon, and jalapenos join together in this delectable burger but it’s also topped with Calhoun’s spicy Kick-back Sauce. If you’re fancy yourself a spicy-burger lover, this is a must try. Pro Tip: Ask for grilled onions and couple it with a side of loaded tater tots.  

West Knoxville, Cedar Bluff, and Bearden |  calhouns.com

Sunspot – Local Burger

The Classic Burger, perfected.

If you’re a burger lover (and let’s face it, you must be if you’re here), you always chase the feeling of when you first had a burger as a kid. Well, look no further because that feeling can be found right here in Knoxville. The Local Burger at Sunspot takes us back. No bells and whistles on this one, just a tried and true burger, but one done really well. The saying here is “where tie-dyes and neckties unite,” and this burger is a prime example why: everyone can find their comfort here. You leave as happy as you were when you were a kid.

Downtown |  2200 Cumberland Avenue | sunspotrestaurant.com

Hot Rods 50s Diner – Chubby Challenge

Are you up for this burger challenge?

If you’ve never been, Hot Rods is a retro-themed diner in Alcoa, featuring a variety of ’50s and ’60s memorabilia throughout the building. While you can get any item and know you’re getting a fun diner-esque bite, we say go big or go home and enroll in the “Chubby Challenge,” which requires you to finish a 33-ounce triple-decker burger and a pound of French fries. If you finish in 45 minutes, then you get your picture on the wall of fame. Finish in 30, and you get a free t-shirt as well! Come on, go for the t-shirt. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity—until you do it again next weekend.

Alcoa |  373 Hannum Street | hotrods50sdiner.com

Stock & Barrel – The Bernie

More lively than a weekend with Bernie!

Hold the boat! This burger is the ultimate explosion of flavor—and a well-loved one. The Bernie was one of the first “specials” at Stock & Barrel, and it’s obvious why it stuck around. Not many burgers combine local bacon, beer-battered jalapenos, bleu cheese crumbles, and blueberry preserves into one dish. But Stock & Barrel masterfully put this combination together, and it just makes sense once you bite in. Why “The Bernie” for the name? It’s named after Weekend at Bernie’s: blue jacket in the movie means blue ingredients on the burger. Don’t forget too that it wouldn’t be a Stock & Barrel burger if it wasn’t paired with a glass of whiskey.

Downtown | 35 Market Square  |  thestockandbarrel.com

Bel-Air Grill – Southwest Burger

A Southwestern Spicy Staple

This place has been around since the early ’90s, and it’s no wonder it’s still a treasured burger location. We particularly love the Southwest Burger, topped with onion rings, pepperjack cheese, and Southwest ranch—jalapenos too if you’re feeling spicy. Truthfully, anything on the menu will elicit some sort of memory from you, whether you’re feasting on the catfish or indulging in a heavenly meatloaf. But if a burger is your forte, then you should opt for this one. Best if paired with potato skins, sweet tea, and fried pickles, and no, not pickle chips—we’re talking half spears.

North Knoxville  |  3820 Neal Drive  |  thebelairgrill.com

Nick & J’s – Nick & J’s Way

The “There’s No Such Thing as Too Much Cheese” Burger

This is a full-package kind of place with the ambiance of an old diner and a menu as loved as if it had been around since the 50s. The reality is that Nick & J’s has only been here since 2010, but it’s racked up enough local love and national recognition that owner Najwan Natour must be feeling pretty good right now! Bacon, grilled onions, mushrooms, and gooey, cheesy goodness top this burger (along with the classic fixings), making it a best seller in the restaurant and earning its place on our list here. Pro tip: Ask your server to add jalapenos!  

Cedar Bluff  | 1526 Lovell Road | knoxvillerestaurantstn.com

Dancing Bear Lodge – Bistro Burger

Totally worth the drive burger.

This is the burger you get when you’re heading to Townsend for a nice weekend away, but still want a taste of home. Former Cityview Top Chef Jeff Carter works his magic in the kitchen here to present you his Bistro Burger. It comes to your table topped with Tillamook cheddar, Benton’s bacon, smoked onion and tomato jam, lettuce, and garlic aioli on a brioche bun, alongside parmesan truffle fries. If you’d like to take your lady somewhere special, and sport a tie but don’t mind getting ketchup on it, then get the burger. You’ll thank us.

Townsend  |  7140 East Lamar Alexander Parkway  | dancingbearlodge.com

Walnut Kitchen – The Simpson’s Burger

Local farmers raise the best burgers.

This is another one of those classic burgers that stands out in a sea of classics.  If you’re in Knoxville proper, this is most certainly worth the trip out of town for, whether you’re on a date or heading out for dinner with the kids. This juicy 8-ounce Premium Angus burger topped with cheddar, romaine, house-made pickles, tomatoes, and red onions on a brioche bun is cooked up by former Cityview Top Chef Jason Scott. The name pays homage to Walnut Kitchen’s meat purveyor, Simpson’s Meats, which sources all of its meat from southeast farms. So you not only eat a classic done right, but you support the local farm economy in the process. We’re in!

Maryville  |  606 High Street |  thewalnutkitchen.com

Downtown Grill – Drunk Jerk

This drunk jerk is my new best friend!

Don’t worry, we’re not name calling here; we’re calling out a fave and one that’s quite a unique combo. Downtown let’s you choose your build with the protein of choice, and no matter what protein you choose, whether it’s Angus beef or portabella, the Drunk Jerk takes the cake. Bourbon glaze, jerk Caribbean, jack cheese, bacon strips, lettuce, tomato, and onion make up this masterpiece. If you’re someone who like to try new things and branch out with your burger meals, this is a must try. Order a side of loaded mash potatoes and you’ll need a few minutes to recover before you head downtown for the rest of your evening out.

Downtown | 424 South Gay Street  |  downtownbrewery.com

SmashCity – SmashCity Classic

Slap me sideways and call me saucy!

We’ve been waiting for a solid smashburger spot to grace our city, and when SmashCity and others arrived, we jumped for joy. Here you’ll find many renditions of the smashburger, but the SmashCity Classic is where it’s at. They top their classic with SmashCity Sauce, which is made using dill pickle brine to, as they say, give that kick of vinegar while keeping it smooth. The burgers all come with fries which are really just vehicles for the house-made dipping sauces to get to your mouth. Heck, we’ve even dipped our burger in these sauces, and while we thought a classic couldn’t get better, the sauces made us fall in love all over again.

Downtown |  211 South Central Street  |  smashcityburger.com

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