A high-end southern prime steakhouse fills a niche on Northshore Drive
Tucson, Arizona, native Mandy Glenn was new to Knoxville when she tasted Fire + Smoke’s prime tenderloin tartare small plate, Japanese kuroge wagyu New York strip, and hand cut beef tallow fries. “I was with an Australian guy who hadn’t had tallow fries in forever,” she says. “I called the next day and said, ‘I want to work here.’” Now an enthusiastic, knowledgeable server, Glenn recently brought on her younger brother Micaiah as a host. Fire + Smoke patrons quickly embraced Executive Chef Jared Martin’s mouth-watering specialty cuts.
Fire + Smoke started as the brainchild of Archer Bagley, who saw Northshore Drive near the Pellissippi Parkway as an ideal spot for a high-end restaurant. He brought on Martin to bring the new conept to life. “After I left Kefi, I was looking for the next step, a chance to be creative,” Martin says. “I had that here, building my crew.” The name came from the smoker in the wall. “We smoke our potatoes, pork chops, chicken, fish, everything,” Martin says. “We have fire from the grill, smoke from the smoker. Put them together and you’re set.”
The design, simple and sophisticated, in muted grays and browns, came from Meghan Grohl of R2R Studios. Multi-surfaced sound panels keep things quiet. Booths allow intimacy. A wall with a fireplace behind glass separates a seven-seat bar from the main dining area.
The restaurant impressed, to say the least, and it was heartbreaking to many when it closed in October. When one pair of patrons, Doug and Tara Snover, heard, they knew they had to step in. Doug recalls Tara saying, “Our place is gone. How can we save it?”
The two swung into action, contacted Martin on Facebook, and devised a plan to revive the business. Now Fire + Smoke has had its grand reopening, and the Snovers—now the new owners—are happy to have their favorite date night spot back. Martin, now executive chef, is back to doing what he loves.
“We are creating a destination fine-dining experience for everyone, not just a few,” Martin says.
Among the small plates, you can see why the Prime Tenderloin Tartare with quail egg, fried capers, shallot, creole mustard, Georgia olive oil, and cornbread crisps made Glenn want to join the staff. The melt-in-your-mouth confit Pork Belly comes with pickled red onions, spiced sorghum, and a creamy parsnip puree that makes you want to see it again.
The Smoked Broccoli Cheddar Soup is creamy and livened with veggie elements. The Kilt Greens expertly combine baby greens, scallion, bacon fat vinaigrette, lardon, and a poached egg.
The specialty cuts, as well as the 14 oz. Prime New York Strip, 8 oz. Prime Filet, 16 oz. Prime Ribeye, and 8 oz. Baseball Sirloin come from Châtel Farms in Georgia. “The marbling is exceptional,” Martin says.
Martin sweet-tea-brines both his Springer Farms Half Chicken and Duroc Pork Chop (both smoked, of course) to give them a surprising moist and tasty quality.
Bar Chef Joe Trail has created a rich selection of specialty cocktails using “fresh-squeezed everything and house-made simple syrups.” No surprise, he uses smoked sugar cubes in his Old Fashioneds, his top seller.
Along with a Peach Blackberry Bourbon Cobbler, a Crème Brûlée Cheese Cake, and fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies and brandy milk punch, pick from Joe Trail’s special dessert offerings. Cup of Joe combines Mr. Black coffee liqueur, Whisper Creek Tennessee Sipping Cream, Appleton Estates Signature Jamaican Rum, salt, and allspice.