Many of Knoxville’s best kept secrets are in the East. While Knoxvillians have been making the trek down Magnolia Avenue for Chandler’s Deli and Pizza Palace for decades, East Knoxville has a lot more to offer. With its abundance of green space and parks, kids’ activities and beautiful Victorian and craftsman homes, East Knoxville is slowly coming into its own. And whether you want authentic soul food, tiny dives, family friendly buffets, or country drive-ins, East Knoxville has something for everyone.
After a career that started as a cashier at Buddy’s Barbecue, Jackie Griffin opened her eponymous restaurant two years ago to rave reviews. Everything is prepared from scratch and is as fresh as possible (“No cans” is one of Jackie’s mottoes). “This food,” says Jackie, “is exactly the food you’d get at my grandmothers house when the preacher came over for Sunday dinner.” From hot chicken, based on the best fried chicken in town, to oxtail on Sundays, meatloaf, ribs, catfish (try it hot) and one of the most underrated burgers in town, you are never going to leave Jackie’s Dream less than completely stuffed.
2223 McCalla Ave; 865-219-5789
Tues- Sat 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Sun 12 p.m.- 8 p.m.
Cardin’s Drive-In opened on Asheville Highway in 1959 and it seems as if nothing has changed since that day. Still a family run affair, Cardin’s provides carhop service (complete with window trays) until 11 PM most nights. With atmosphere left over from the 1960s and prices that match, Cardin’s offers excellent burgers, hot dogs, shakes, and ice cream as well as a complete breakfast menu.
8529 Asheville Hwy; 865-933-3251
Sun–Thurs 7 a.m. – 11 p.m.
Fri–Sat 7 a.m. – 12 a.m.
On the surface, Habaneros on Asheville Highway is a Mexican restaurant exactly like twenty others in the area with its kitschy décor and jumbo margaritas. However, the huge lunch-time crowds and wait times on Friday and Saturday nights tell another story. Only open for six years, Habaneros offers all the standard fajitas, burritos, nachos, and other Mexican staples, but fresh and cooked a notch above most of your standard fare and with generous portions and friendly, efficient service—making this a great choice for families with kids or large groups.
4704 Asheville Hwy; 865-247-0391
Mon- Thurs 11 a.m. – 9:30 p.m.
Fri- Sat 11 a.m. – 10:30 p.m.
Sun 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Opening this past summer in a former Mexican restaurant at the corner of Jefferson and Cherry Street, LaFetta’s has quickly made a mark. They offer the usual fried chicken, ribs, meat loaf, and smothered chicken with an array of sides including mac and cheese, yams, fried green tomatoes and collard greens. However, it’s the daily specials including chicken gizzards, neck bones, ham hocks, and chicken and waffles that really shine. LaFettas also has a special late night menu Friday and Saturday 11PM till 4AM.
703 N Cherry St; 865-394-6631
Wed- Sun 12 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Established in 1988, Philippine Connection has quietly been one of the better bang-for-the-buck eateries in the Magnolia corridor ever since, serving fresh, completely handmade Filipino specialties. The tiny yellow and red hut has seating for half a dozen people, but it’s mostly known as a take-out location. Call ahead for thin, crispy lumpia, excellent Adobo, pancit, and lumi noodles, as well as a selection of other dishes including chop suey and chicken wings.
3225 E Magnolia Ave; 865-522-5276
Mon- Sat 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.