Guide to the Old City in Knoxville, Tennessee
The Old City in Downtown Knoxville, Tennessee is thriving today as a creative hub for artists, makers, and designers by day and a hotbed of entertainment for the young and young at heart by night. Take in the city’s most concentrated collection of restored Victorian buildings while enjoying local coffee, art galleries, shops, and an eclectic mix of dining options. You can even sip a craft beer from a handblown glass made in the working studio next door. Anything but cookie-cutter, the Old City superbly blends old with new. Explore the best of the Old City below!
Coffee & Brunch
Let's start with coffee! Old City Java has had a huge influence on Knoxville's coffee culture for over 30 years. They're a quirky shop with classic coffee, tea, and pastry offerings best enjoyed on their charming patio. Make room for one more stop, because around the corner, Awaken Coffee is best known for an ever-rotating menu of seasonal coffees, like the s'mores latte.
Hungry for brunch? There are three unique restaurants that excel at the south's favorite mealtime. Every day of the week you can nosh on brunch items at Southern Grit, including nine different biscuit sandwiches, fried biscuit donuts, and fried green tomatoes! On the weekend, visit Balter Beerworks, where your meal starts with a complimentary brunch bar, including cold salads, fresh fruit, muffins and brownies. Their unique drink is the Baltering Mary, made with brewed in-house coffee oatmeal porter. Balter's sister restaurant STIR also has a delicious brunch bar to get the weekend party started. Follow it up with a taste of their shrimp & grits and oysters.
These three brunch spots happen to be great lunch and dinner spots too!
With lots of casual lunch spots in the Old City, it'll be easy to find something for you and your gang. Good Golly Tamale is a hidden gem – one bite of the Chicken Tinga and Queso Poblano tamales will leave you wanting more and more! You can also grab an early dinner or pre-packaged tamales from the freezer until 6pm. Hot dogs more your thing? Curious Dog is a local dive embellished in bicycles, guitars, and brewery memorabilia. They serve epicurean dogs and sandwiches with bold flavor combos.
Make a quick stop at SmashCity for burgers and hand-cut fries, Jig & Reel for fish and chips, or Fin-Two for sushi and ramen! On the other side of Jackson Ave, Sweet's P's will satisfy you with the taste of Southern BBQ.
Don't sleep on Red Panda for a takeaway breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Their specials range from homemade breakfast biscuits to house-smoked chicken tacos. And if you're around on Friday, Lonesome Dove is open with a special lunch menu featuring prime rib and the Double Love Cheeseburger. Yeah, every business in the Old City takes it to the next level!
There are several high-end restaurants that are experiences in-and-of themselves. Kefi brings bright flavors of the Mediterranean to Knoxville with an exciting show of flaming cheese and delicious flambé rum cake. The cozy booths and ambient lighting, along with some of the best cocktails in town, make Kefi a must try.
Feeling bold and adventurous? Celebrity Chef Tim Love does it big with his restaurant Lonesome Dove. Give way to your wild side with wild game fettine, elk, Wagyu Tomahawk Ribeye, and even rabbit. End the night with the Ancho Chile Chocolate Cake and a smoked cocktail.
Our next unique dining experience takes us to Osteria Stella. Here, you can enjoy selections from an incredibly authentic Italian five-course menu and wines from Italy's 20 wine regions. Savor focaccia, fresh mozzarella, gnocchi, lasagna, bucatini, cannoli, tiramisu, and more, surrounded by an atmosphere so romantic, and with service second to none, you'll never want to leave.
Next, the Melting Pot is a treat-yourself kind of night with melty cheese and rich chocolate fondues, paired with fresh salads, entrée skewers, wine, beer and signature dipped strawberries.
Kaizen is a little more casual, but no less unique. It's a Japanese-style pub where you can share plates of steamed buns, fried rice, noodle dishes, and lots of allergen-friendly entrees. They may not always be traditional, but they are always delicious.
Beer, Wine & Whiskies
There's a never-ending list of amazing places to grab a drink in the Old City. Looking for craft beer? Look no further than Pretentious Beer Co, where you can drink out of a handblown glass specifically made for the type of beer you're drinking. Not just beer: they have seltzer flights too! Pair a cold one with Asian-fusion cuisine from Hong's Kitchen and relax on their patio, where they often host live music
A few doors down, Merchants of Beer (MOB) is a unique dog-loving beer garden with a rotating wall of 50 taps! Look for the orange stars, which mean local breweries. Enjoy your brew inside their art deco bar, or on the fan-favorite outdoor patio where you can play ping-pong, cornhole, or grab a bite from Pop Up Truck.
The Old City's most high-tech bar, Pour Taproom, is your next stop. Grab your wristband at the counter, scan it at one of the 68 self-service taps, and pay by the ounce. Beer, cider, mead, wine, seltzer, kombucha and more, you can literally try a little bit of it all. Don't miss the Na-Cho (Average) Nachos on the food menu.
Next, the team at Balter Beerworks brews quality beers that pair perfectly with their scratch-made food. Try the tasty Firebelly IPA that's described as piney, hoppy, and citrusy, or the Bear Blend, a coffee oatmeal porter made with local coffee. The seasonal selection is always a home run too. One last stop for beer: Curious Dog offers over 200 different styles and flavors of beer to choose from including draft, packaged, and constantly rotating singles.
Moving on to whisky. With over one thousand options, Boyd's Jig & Reel boasts one of the largest whisky collections in the world – right here in Downtown Knoxville! Pull up a chair, order fish and chips and a Scotch whisky flight, and listen to nightly live music.
Wine more your thing? There are a couple of places you must check out. You’ll find an award-winning collection of unique wines at Lonesome Dove, hand selected by Chef Tim Love. On the patio or at the bar, it’s a list any wine lover will appreciate. And although best known for cocktails (we’ll get to that later), Brother Wolf and connected restaurant Osteria Stella sport a list of 200+ Italian wines representing all 20 of the country’s regions. Curated by owner Aaron Thompson, the list favors small, family-owned wineries and is one of the most comprehensive selections of Italian wines around.
Lastly, take home a souvenir from Corks Wine and Spirits, a beautiful wine shop with exposed brick juxtaposing hundreds of wine, beer, and spirit options. They actively seek out new and rare wines that you will only find there.
If you thought the beer, wine, and whisky options were impressive, just wait: cocktails are next! Continuing your libation journey, we're back at Brother Wolf. The aperitivo and cocktail bar has been named one of Esquire magazine's Best Bars in America, boasts the world's biggest Negroni menu, and has been featured in the press countless times. For a non-alcoholic option, order the Faux|groni.
Bright blue patio chairs invite you to take a seat on a sunny day and order up a craft cocktail at PostModern Spirits. Their tasting room has a full bar with an ever changing cocktail menu, along with flight tastings of all their spirits. And, you can go on a distillery tour to sample many of their craft liquors, like the Hi(Rye) Whiskey—San Francisco World Spirits Competition, Double Gold Winner.
Speaking of distillery tours, Knox Whiskey Works is another small-batch, craft distillery in the Old City. Established in 2015, they are Knoxville's first (legal) distillery and are known for award-winning Old City Heirloom Corn Whiskey from local corn, as well as Marble City Pink Gin, Cold City Old Brew Coffee Liqueur, Fleur de Vie Liqueur, and more! Schedule a tour or stop in the tasting room for a cocktail tasting flight.
One of Knoxville's nicknames is "The Maker City" and it's easy to see why. There are several artist-owned shops, gift shops that boast all things local, and the bi-monthly Old City Market. Start your shopping adventure at Rala for original art, letterpress prints, greeting cards and jewelry, then make your way to Bethie Lou's for eclectic souvenirs and gifts you won't find anywhere else.
Pretentious Glass Co is your next must-stop. It's a famous glassblowing studio and gallery, where you can watch the team at work and shop the glassware and art pieces at the front of the store. The handblown beer, wine, and whiskey glasses are stunning and have been featured on national news. And don't miss pumpkin season, these adorable pumpkins are a favorite!
Another store that's gained international attention is Honeymouth. Walk through the bubble gum pink door into a collection of handmade, luxury leather handbags and accessories that have been seen in Paris Fashion Week. There's also an interactive section where you can paint and stamp your own leather goods.
Status Serigraph is yet another unique, artist-owned shop with national attention. Owner Justin Helton designs music posters and merchandise for world-renowned musicians. See him in action and purchase his work at his shop on Jackson Ave.
For a permanent accessory – and totally unique experience – make a stop at ACF Jewelry! Owner Caroline Farris is a pioneer of the rapidly growing trend of semi-permanent jewelry, and her famous Endless Chain™️ is a clasp-less bracelet, necklace, or anklet chain that is soldered in place.
The Old City Market transforms the historic Old City into a curated, outdoor market showcasing artists, crafters, and creative makers. The day market takes place every second Sunday from April to December, and the night market happens every fourth Thursday from April to October.
Music, Art & Event Spaces
Knoxville’s Old City is a neighborhood ablaze with vibrant art and music. Catch a play at the Old City Performing Arts Center, owned and operated by River & Rail Theatre Company. Bring your dancing shoes and instruments to Jig & Reel, where they host Old Time Jam Sessions, Open Mic Singer/Songwriter Night, Scottish Country Dance and more. Witness an up-and-coming artist at the Pilot Light, an independent and experimental music venue home to underground Big Ears performances.
Dogwood Arts is located in the Old City. They're a beloved nonprofit that puts on events and programs throughout the year including the Dogwood Arts Festival, Southern Skies Music Festival, and fan-favorite Chalk Walk! They also host rotating art exhibitions in the gallery on Jackson Ave, so stop in during the week or catch the openings and meet the artists during First Friday ArtWalk. There are several other galleries along Jackson Ave including RED Gallery, a fine arts gallery featuring exhibitions throughout the year; Abstracts on Display, a contemporary gallery featuring artists from around the country; and The Gallery, an appointment-only gallery featuring contemporary work by local artists.
Another fun stop is the STORIES Mural, an interactive stairwell mural showcasing Knoxville history, people, and culture. There's even a scavenger hunt the kids can get in on! For a hands-on experience, check out Able Trade, a shared makerspace with workshops, classes and events! The group of creative artists, makers, builders, and inventors is just another example of why Knoxville is called The Maker City.
Lastly, there are three gorgeous event spaces for weddings and other celebrations. The Standard is an urban event space with huge skylights, vaulted ceilings, and exposed brick perfect for larger affairs. Jackson Terminal is in the heart of the Old City and features arched windows and lots of natural light. The Old City Performing Arts Center is also available for private events and ideal for weddings and receptions looking for a funky downtown vibe.
The fun doesn't stop when the day is over, because the Old City comes alive at night! Head to Old City Sports Bar for 25+ TVs showing the latest sporting events, a balcony overlooking historic architecture, and plenty of beer and cocktails.
Dance the night away at Southbound, Knoxville's largest nightclub; Hanna's where they play the greatest hits from the eighties, nineties, and early '00's; and the Wagon Wheel, a country bar with live music every Sunday. When you get hungry after a night of dancing, DaVinci's serves up some of the best late-night pizza on the weekends.
Located on the corner of Central and Jackson, Urban Bar has a large smoker-friendly patio that starts getting busy after dark. Indulge in drinks and snacks that hit those late-night cravings, like cheesy bacon tots and pork rinds.
For an extra special late-night indulgence, look for the large inflatable doughnut at Back Dough at Lonesome Dove on Friday and Saturday nights. With varying doughnut flavors, you might find savory or sweet, but you'll always find a treat!
Health & Wellness
From fitness studios to salons and spas, and everything in between, the Old City is ready to help you feel your best. Dr. Jane Health & Wellness is a premiere source for local hemp products and CBD, gummies, flower, edibles and other plant medicine support. Her welcoming smile will make you feel at ease learning about new products. Then head to Lox Salon for haircuts, color, styling, nail services, lash extensions, and spa services; and Old City MedSpa for the latest in medical aesthetics and anti-aging treatments. Last, but not least, relax and unwind at Garrett Manry Studios, a board certified licensed massage therapist.
Moving on to fitness! There are two gyms in the Old City that offer everything from personal training to group classes: check out Fitness Studio 111 and the Old City Athletic Club. Or try something new at Sheer Inspiration, who brought the art and sport of pole dance to Knoxville in 2007.
You will LOVE the Old City in Downtown Knoxville, Tennessee.
It's the perfect blend of shopping, dining, and of course, nightlife! Tag us in your pictures using #LoveDowntownKnox!