Tennessee’s musical heritage may run deep — but you could argue that its rich culinary traditions are just as rewarding.
Whether you’re looking for Southern comfort food that feeds your soul or fresh new farm-to-table eateries, award-winning and unique restaurants are standard fare from east to west.
Below, uncover some of Tennessee’s best and freshest culinary experiences for 2022.
UNIQUE EATS 150 Years Of Authentic Southern Cooking
Chattanooga’s The Read House, the longest continuously operating hotel in the Southeast, is celebrating its 150th Anniversary this year with the “Throughout the Decades Dinner Series” featuring era-inspired dinner events that take guests through a century-and-a-half of culinary traditions. The Read House’s historic menus, as well as cookbooks from each era were used to design each course for the series. The upcoming dinner on Nov. 12 pays tribute to the hotel’s opening in 1872.
Southern Cuisine with a Delta Twist
If looking for mouthwatering entrees like jumbo shrimp and grits or a 14 ox. Bone-in pork chop, head up the fire escape above BB King’s Blues Club in Memphis to the hidden gem of Itta Bena where sleek libations and southern cuisine are served in a relaxed atmosphere.
Thinking Locally & Globally In Knoxville
With industrial-style doors opening onto Knoxville’s World’s Fair Park, the new Tavern at Maker Exchange serves up inventive flavors from Chef Robert Hoffman. Rooted in sourcing locally, while bringing a global twist to each dish, the restaurant’s seasonal indulgences include everything from cornmeal-dusted oysters to tender Smoked St. Louis Ribs. On the cocktail list, favorites include the Sunrise in the Smokies (tequila, cold-pressed watermelon juice, lemon and crème de violette over smoked ice) and the Field of Dreams (house-infused orange vodka, house-made lavender syrup, pomegranate liquor, a squeeze of lemon and topped with club soda).
The Tennessean Hotel hosts the only traditional tea service events in the Knoxville area — steeped in timeless tea culture and served with a swanky, southern flair. From Spring Tea and Mother’s Day to the popular cocktail-infused Prohibition Tea and classic Holiday Teas, the hotel welcomes guests to its posh Drawing Room where servers present tea service featuring the hotel’s Signature Peach Tea Noir alongside seasonal selections from Rare Tea Sellers in Chicago. Additionally, you’ll enjoy charming tiers of tea sandwiches, house-made scones and pastries, all while a local harpist creates a lovely ambiance.
Mountain Recipes Made New
The Appalachian in Sevierville brings a contemporary Southern Appalachian dining experience to Sevierville and the Smoky Mountain area while honoring the past. Traditional open-hearth cooking is a primary means of meal preparation here with age-old mountain recipes like frog legs and cornbread given an up-to-date twist.
One of Johnson City’s newest restaurants, Juan Siao, is treating foodies to a unique dining experience, fusing authentic Mexican and Asian cuisine with excellent service to match. Offerings include Izakaya Fried Chicken Tacos, Umami Tots and a Siao Smash Burger with roasted poblano and blanco queso.
Carne Mare, the Italian Chophouse by James Beard Award-Winning chef Andrew Carmellini, is a dark, stylish steakhouse filled with unexpected experiences, elevated service and tableside presentations. The restaurant offers an inspired mash-up of a classic American chophouse and a regional Italian ristorante adhering closely to the ways of a typical steakhouse with ingredients and techniques that are both unique and approachable, while introducing items that are the first of its kind. Entrées include house made pastas, seafood and, of course, the main attraction: prime-aged beef, wagyu and prime rib, served with a selection of steakhouse contorni.
Tailor, the nationally acclaimed South Asian American dinner party-style restaurant, is now open in its brand-new location at 620 Taylor Street in Nashville’s Germantown neighborhood. This overall experience is inspired by Chef Vivek Surti’s roots as a first-generation American of Indian descent, with Surti sharing engaging vignettes between courses to give guests the story behind the food they are served.
TN FOOD FESTIVALS & EVENTS A Real Farm-To-Table Harvest
Jonesborough’s annual Farm to Table Dinner first came to the city in 2011, right at the site of the Jonesborough Farmers Market. Each year since then, diners gather around a huge harvest table on Main Street to enjoy dishes made with ingredients sourced exclusively from the Farmers Market — and all proceeds from the event go to the nonprofit Jonesborough Locally Grown. The Farm to Table Dinner has become one of Jonesborough’s signature events, seating more than 200 people (and selling out within minutes). This year’s event took place in August.
An International Cook-Off
Come on out to Cleveland’s International Cowpea Festival & Cook-off for a day filled with food, music and fun. The second Saturday in September marks the date for the festival with the funny name. Listen to live music throughout the day, taste the professional chef’s culinary creations and vote for your favorite and stroll through the marketplace where you will find handmade arts and crafts. There will also be food vendors and a heritage area to share other parts of Charleston’s story such as Cherokee, Civil War and Wild River history.
Diverse Food, Music & Dance
Celebration the diversity and traditions of Rutherford County residents through food, music and dance. The inaugural Discover Rutherford Food & Arts Festival takes place Saturday, Sept. 17 from 4-7pm at the Discovery Center. Participating local food vendors include The Clay Pit Indian Cuisine, El Hornita Bakery 2, Gramma’s Hands Sweetery, I Take It, Lilly Belle’s BBQ and Catering and Cedar Glade Brewery will be onsite at the traditional Beer Garden. Performers will include shackled feet DANCE!, Native American Indian Association of Tennessee and the Chinese Arts Alliance of Nashville.
Munich Comes To Knoxville
In devising one of the most authentic Oktoberfest celebrations in the U.S., Schulz Brau Brewing in Knoxville is meticulous in following Munich traditions as closely as possible. So much so, that the brewery has a barrel-tapping ceremony on Munich-Time (6 a.m. EST). After the ceremony, doors open, and the fun begins. Polka music fills the air and stein-hoisting competitions, best dirndl-lederhosen contests, bratwurst-eating contests, dog racing, Sunday brunches and more take place over the two-week festival, taking place Sept. 17-Oct. 3 in 2022.
The Super Bowl Of BBQ
Memphis in May International Festival packs the month of May with unforgettable events like the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Content where barbecue from around the world compete for the title of World Champion and prize money. Thousands flock to watch and taste barbecue with a trip through BBQ Alley by Big Green Egg & Friends and more.
Save The Date For A Sip Of History
Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage and the Tennessee Whiskey Trail have teamed up once again for Sip of History (April 1, 2023), an afternoon of whiskey, wine and beer samples on the grounds of The Hermitage. Whiskey lovers will sample varieties by more than 20 Tennessee distilleries, Natchez Hills Winery and local breweries, while exploring all 1,120 acres of the site, including the historic garden, field quarters, historical markers, hiking trail and historic buildings.
Learn more about the taste of Tennessee at: www.tnvacation.com/experiences/eat-drink