Exploring the food scene in Knoxville, Tennessee with East TN Tours

*Disclosure: I received a complimentary food tour in exchange for this post. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

This past weekend, I traveled to Knoxville, Tennessee, for the first time. I have visited Nashville before, in 2014 for my first Yelp Spring Break, but that was the only part of the state that I visited. My boyfriend and I stayed with his cousins while there, and the four of us plus his great-aunt were able to go on East TN Tours' Chef's Table Tour, which was quite the foodie experience!

Pork belly croissant

The Chef's Tour is a walking tour that stops at five restaurants. We met up at the Visit Knoxville headquarters, in downtown Knoxville, and after that, we were off to our first stop: Cafe Vicolo.

We were warned to pace ourselves so I only ate about half of my pork belly croissant, but it was delicious. Half of the table had ham and cheese croissants, and half had pork belly; we were also brought some lemon poppyseed muffins as well as cherry pecan muffins to try.

credit: East TN Tours Facebook

Our second stop was Clancy's Tavern and Whiskey House, a traditional Irish pub, where we sampled flatbread pizzas, homemade chips, and an Irish boxy (like a potato cake hashbrown) topped with roasted red pepper hummus. Bloody Marys and mimosas were on special for $3 each, so I also tried one of their mimosas, which was very good.


What I really liked about this tour was that we took "breaks" between some of the stops; in between Clancy's and our third stop, Balter Beerworks, we checked out The Phoenix Pharmacy and Fountain, which has an old-time soda fountain counter, and the Maple Hall bowling alley, which is kind of like Punch Bowl Social but with bowling only; it's an underground concierge bowling alley with an extensive food and drink menu.

At Balter Beerworks, we tried hamburger sliders as well as a fried chicken slider, which were delicious. The fried chicken slider was one of my favorite foods that I tried on the tour. The restaurant is actually a rehabilitated old service station, which was pretty cool, and it brews its own beer.


Our fourth stop was Boyd's Jig and Reel, for some authentic fish and chips, as well as "Toad in a Hole" (sausage wrapped in puff pastry, topped with caramelized onions and served with spicy mustard) and lamb sausage banger. I don't like seafood, so I skipped the fish and chips portion, but the Toad in a Hole was interesting, as was the lamb sausage.


Our fifth and final stop was Sugar Mama's, which has the largest all-local tap wall in the state of Tennessee; however, we were there for the desserts! We sampled a deconstructed strawberry shortcake, as well as a fudge cream, and three types of cookies: peanut butter chocolate chip, honey, and browned butter chocolate chip. At that point, I was already super full, so I opted to take the cookies home with me in a to-go container.


Overall, this tour was a great way to experience Knoxville, especially for someone new to the city! Our tour guide, Lauren, who is also the owner of East TN Tours, gave us a few nuggets of info about the city, too - I had no idea that some of the streets are built over the "real" streets, for example, and that people actually live in the "Underground," as it's called.

first row: my boyfriend, myself, his cousin, his great-aunt, Gwen from Finding Sanity in Our Crazy Life & her husband, James

I was also able to take the tour with former Michigander Gwen, who is a blogger friend of mine and now lives with Knoxville; it was fun to catch up with her during the tour.

I'd highly recommend East TN Tours, whether you are a Knoxville native looking to branch out your food/restaurant repertoire, or whether you are visiting the city for the first time. You can choose either the Chef's Table Tour, which meets at 2pm on Fridays and Saturdays, or the Bountiful Brunch Tour, which meets on the 1st, 3rd, and 5th (if applicable) Sunday of each month.

The Chef's Table Tour is $69.99 per person (plus tax) but you can use code SAVENOW at checkout to receive a 20% discount! (making it about $55.99 per person)

I had a great time on the tour and it was a good way to experience downtown Knoxville and its cuisine without having to eat five full meals.

Head over to East TN Tours' Facebook page to see more photos from my tour's experience!

Have you ever been on a food tour? If so, what city was it in, and how was your experience?

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