Knoxville has no shortage of pizza places, especially local joints known for everything from new york style to homemade ingredients to wood-fired pizza. Hard Knox Pizzeria is one such local joint dishing up handcrafted wood-fired pizzas with artisan flavors and the finest ingredients.
And honestly, we think they have some of the best pizza in town. We’ve already been back once and that’s saying something considering when we do go out we really like to try new restaurants (at least new to us). Their pizza menu is broken down into White Pies made with no sauce, white sauce, or pesto sauce, and Red Pies made with red sauce (duh) or bbq sauce. At lunch they sell them in 8 inch or 12 inch, but at dinner they only do the 12 inch. The ones on the signs above the counter are their top selling pies, but I am sure they would make you just about any type of pie with the available toppings. However, I like to try a restaurants signature creations because they can usually craft something unique with flavors that pair really well together that I wouldn’t think of on the fly.
Hard Knox also offers appetizers, salads and a few dessert options. We’ve actually never branched out beyond the pizza yet because the pizza is most definitely where it’s at and two pies are enough to fill us up and leave leftovers.
They are currently working on an expansion space, which is sorely needed because there is limited seating and we are always nervous trying to go during a normal mealtime on the weekends, although we’ve always been able to get a seat. For now, you still order at the counter and then grab a seat wherever with your number and they bring your food to you. They do serve beer on tap as well as a few classic sodas. I hear the expansion will bring a less fast casual style of service with actual servers taking your order at your table. And no, they are not moving…I believe they are expanding into a space next door that opened up. While we love fast casual restaurants, especially for a less pricey meal out where you don’t have to also leave a tip, I do hate having to make a food decision so quickly at the counter. I always feel so rushed and I am pretty guilty of being indecisive when it comes to food choices, especially at new restaurants. I can’t have too many options or I panic. 😉 It’s the fear of making a poor choice and then regretting it.
The kitchen with wood-fire oven is completely open to the dining space so you can watch all of the action. This reminds me of the classic Big Ed’s pizza in Oak Ridge – a true pizza institution around here. Along the wall are posters of boxing legends – they have this whole boxing theme going on with the restaurant name and logo. In fact, most of the specialty pizza names are boxing themed.
But what about the pizza??? I apologize that some of these photos were taken with a camera phone because we forgot the Sony RX100 one of the times we’ve eaten here. So this is the Great White Hope – Pesto Cream Sauce, Fresh Mozz, Oven Roasted Marinated Chicken, Shaved Parmigiana Reggiano, Crushed Red Pepper, Extra Virgin Olive Oil. The crust is a traditional hand tossed thin crust that gets a great crunch from the wood-fired oven, but it has great flavor. Not all pizza crust is created equal my friends and the crust at Hard Knox is top notch. That homemade pesto cream sauce and fresh mozzarella were killer – perfect with the tender chicken and kick of heat from crushed red pepper. This is a great classic white pesto pie if that’s your thing.
The Basilio is by far our favorite pie so far. We’ve ordered it both times just because we couldn’t not get it again the second time around. It is Red Sauce, Fresh Mozz, Genoa Salami, Kalamata Olives finished with a drizzle of balsamic (this is optional, but is it really?). The rich saltiness from the salami and brininess from the olives with the fresh mozzarella and sweet balsamic is an amazing flavor bomb.
Hard Knox also offers daily or monthly gourmet specials and they typically feature seasonal ingredients. We happened to visit when it was high peach season back in June, so the special was Just Peachy – a white pie with white sauce, smoked mozz, prosciutto, peaches, rosemary, topped with a balsamic reduction. Their take on the classic Hawaiian pizza, but with peaches! So fresh and delicious.
Drooling over these right now! Early on in this pregnancy, I craved pizza like nothing else and this was so satisfying! Seriously some of the BEST pizza Knoxville has to offer. And even though they offer a fast casual environment (for now), we’ve always had great service. The food never takes too long to arrive. They keep waters filled and make sure you have everything you need!
Yeah yeah, this picture is blurry, but I like it so there. :-p
Can’t wait to see the newly expanded restaurant once it’s finished and experience more of Hard Knox’s menu, especially more of their awesome pies.
Check them out!
Hard Knox Pizzeria
Western Plaza Shopping Center
4437 Kingston Pike, Knoxville, TN 37914
Hours: Tuesday-Sunday · 11AM–9PM · Friday-Saturday · 11AM–10PM
Phone: (865) 602-2114