Food makes a triumphant return to the historic Regas Square
Marble City Market is Knoxville’s first culinary marketplace. Emulating the European food hall concept, the market serves up everything from donuts and ramen to kimchi and classic barbecue. And anchoring the hall is Frank & George’s, an adult beverage station dedicated to the Regas Brothers and their heritage on this square. So if you and the family are all in the mood for something different, this is the place to head to for dinner. Grab your favorite meal then sit down together for a feast.
The Donut Theory
The “theory” of The Donut Theory is that gluten free food can taste as good as anything else. And, to be honest, I had no idea everything on the menu was gluten free when I grotesquely devoured a donut and a rice crispy treat within a minute. By the way, this is not just a donut shop. Grab some chicken and Mac and Cheese and round it out with a donut dessert so delectable you’ll dive right in. The Strawberry Shortcake Old Fashioned is a donut split down the middle, smothered in a secret strawberry sauce and topped with homemade cream. It’s labeled as “Chef’s Favorite”. Duh.
If you laugh at the concept of sharing a face-sized cookie, then I have the place for you. Myrtle’s Bakehouse, a loving homage to a baker’s mother, packs so many chocolate chunks into a cookie you’ll lose count. Weighing in at just under half a pound, you will gratefully do some eight ounce curls. Pro Tip: Scruffy City is not just a bar on the Square. It’s Myrtle’s original cookie with the added decadence of toffee, pecans, and espresso chips. Let this cookie prove that coffee beans make chocolate pop.
Paysan Sandwich Shop
Let’s just get the judging out of way. Bologna is my favorite lunch meat. There, I said it. Don’t judge me. Fresh out of the Oscar Mayer pack or sliced from the ring and thrown on the grill or smoked for the richest bologna flavor, if it’s on the menu, it’s in my belly. And it is at Paysan Sandwich Shop. The Fried Bologna (say it with an “i” at the end) comes sizzling off the grill with sorghum mustard, “shrettuce” and BBQ potato chips on grilled white bread. If there is any menu item at Marble City that can transport you back to your childhood, this is it. An evolving menu of sandwiches keeps the menu fresh, so get this “delicacy” while you still can.
The Corners Pizza
Pizza. I could probably stop there. I won’t. There are so many different varieties to choose from: New York, Chicago, New Haven Apizza (yes, this is the correct spelling) and the newest rage, Detroit style. Square and deep, The Corners is called The Corners because of how tasty the corners of the pizza are. The ingredients of a Detroit style pizza are spread all the way to the edges, so the crust—crisp and chewy—lies below the surface against the steel cook tray. In the corners. Also, with the sauce on the top, grab a bunch of napkins and enjoy a different take on deep dish, crispy crust pizza at The Corners. Mmm, Pizza.
Korean food is finally getting noticed in America. And it’s about time. You might be unfamiliar with terms like bulgogi, daikon and kimchi. That is why you need to order the Bulgogi Banh Mi from Seoul Brothers. Marinated sliced beef (bulgogi), daikon (radish-like root vegetable), cukes, cilantro, kimchi (fermented cabbage) and more make up a sandwich that had my tastebuds dancing from one taste to the other yet blending into one culinary experience so tasty and satisfying that I could have ordered a second one. And here, KFC means Korean Fried Chicken, OG style.
Gekko Poke & Ramen
It’s a shame that Gekko’s name doesn’t include Street Tacos because the shrimp tempura street taco I gobbled down was as good as anything I’ve ever had from a food truck or street vendor. And I’ve eaten a food truckload of street tacos. You know you’ve been eyeballing Poke for a while, sizing it up, figuring it out. But until you just come to the food hall and dive into a bowl, you’ll keep side-eying it. Poke, aka Hawaiian sushi, is just one more thing that will expand your culinary horizon. Gekko serves Japanese poke, wonderfully dense and creamy ramen, and did I mention the street tacos?!
Steak, shrimp. Surf, turf. It’s the toughest decision you’ll make while craning your neck to Poor Richard’s menu board. Rolls imported from Philly are stuffed full of chopped roast beef and melting cheese for a hearty and visually impressive steak sandwich. Or, get the shrimp Po’Boy, which has more shrimp than three Red Lobster All-You-Can-Eat refills. Striped with a zesty House Creole Aioli and served with lettuce, tomatoes, and pickles, you’ll need to grab a fork as it is perfectly unwieldy. It’s not a sandwich; it’s a platter. On a bun.
Thickburgers are so over. Smashed patties—lightly seasoned and piled high with veggies and condiments—are the new school. Tennessee beef and other local ingredients are masterfully crafted into a mouth watering, pub-style burger. Hand-cut fries, whoopie pies, and even chicken smash burgers served on potato buns or Rad style enliven the menu board. Chef-style burgers don’t get any better than this. Pro Tip: Truffle Mayo. If you don’t know about mayonnaise on fries, you might need to get out of the house and head to Smash Knoxville!
When I walked up to the counter of L&O BBQ and eyed large cast iron pots, my mouth watered knowing what lurked beneath. Smoked Mac and Cheese, collard greens, baked beans, Brussels Sprout and Cabbage Slaw are just the sides. Have you ever made a meal out of sides? I do every Thanksgiving. But allow me to introduce you to some meat: brisket seasoned with coffee and pepper and roasted for 14 hours, pork swimming in cider vinegar, or a half chicken brined for 24 hours. Pro Tip: Chicken Thigh Patty Melt with pimento cheese and collards. My work is done here.
Penne For Your Thoughts
The famous food truck has pulled off its wheels and settled in wonderfully at Marble City. Don’t worry, they’re still on the street, but now they’re at the food hall, too. Penne For Your Thoughts is so delicious they don’t need gimmicky names to attract business, but they’ve got them anyway. The “Chicky Chicky Buff Buff” is a spicy buffalo sauce chicken sammie. “Pastative Thinking” is one of the tastiest takes on alfredo I’ve ever had. The slow smoked chicken adds so much depth to this dish, you may never order anything else. But there is so much to choose from. And it’s pasta, so what else do you really need to know?
Fantail Fish and Frites
I’ve been waiting for good fish and chips in Knoxville for decades, and here we are at Fantail Fish and Frites. Fantail is shrimp, Fish is haddock, Frites (say freets) are fries. But the most important ingredient is what you put on all three. Malt Vinegar. Stop puckering and hear me out. If it’s good enough for the British, it’s good enough for you and me. I’ve been putting malt vinegar on fries since I strolled the beach boardwalks of my youth. It’s that kick you need when gorging on the wildly generous portions in your basket. Thickly battered and fried crispy, you’re in for a treat no matter what you order.