Knoxville has truly seen a resurgence in it’s downtown as well as it’s food scene in the last 5-10 years. I’ve always been amazed at the sheer number of restaurants our small city contains, but in the last few years we’ve grown from a town full of chains to a town full of local eateries, restauranteurs, food trucks, unique dining establishments and festivals that celebrate food. It’s really exciting to witness!! But it’s difficult to keep up and keep a budget (and a diet for that matter) when you love food as much we do. With the insurgence of food trucks and limited locales downtown for where to park them until recently, Knoxville started an event called the Food Truck Park, which is pretty commonplace in other large cities with a food truck presence. In the large parking lot of the Southern Railway Station, area food trucks set up shop in the evening for a few hours so that Knoxvillians can come out in droves to one location to try their food. Initially, I believe they tried it out on First Fridays, but now it’s a reoccurring event on the 3rd Thursday of each month starting at 6:00pm.
The day we attempted to go, crowds were insane and there were only about 5 food trucks that served full meals – there was also a coffee truck and a shaved ice truck. We were hungry though and wanted food. Our decision for which truck to try first was based on the shortest line at the time, so we hopped over to M3. M3 stands for Meatballs, Madness and More. They primarily serve up tasty homemade meatballs, but they also feature paleo or low carb options on occassion. That night they were doing meatball sliders, meatball subs, lasagna, their power bar and a paleo brownie (if my memory serves me).
Thinking we’d get to try other food trucks, we opted to just split the plate of meatball sliders – one was a traditional Italian meatball sandwich with marinara and mozzaella, while the other was a steak and cheese topped with onions and peppers. Both were served up on ciabatta style slider rolls with kettle style chips. I don’t believe the chips were housemade though. However, both of the meatballs were tender and delicious loaded with flavor. The bread was the perfect soft pairing making these easy to handle and enjoy for the most part, although as the bread got a little soggy it did make for a messy endeavor.
So while I had waited in the M3 line for about 30 minutes to just order, Remington had gone in search of our next food truck. He had already hopped in a line for a Caribbean style – Chef Deuce’s Island Grill. The menu and food looked (and smelled) amazing, but he’d already been in line for 30-45 minutes, was nowhere near the front and had barely moved. Seeing as how this pregnant lady was starving because those meatballs didn’t put a dent in my appetite, we made the decision to call it and check out a local downtown gem I had yet to eaten – Old City Wine Bar. Remington had tried their food once as a late night snack with friends while they were out getting a couple of beers and said what he had (the Georgia Peach Eggrolls) was amazing, so he was aiming to try more from their menu.
We walked a few blocks over to the Old City and found the Wine Bar located on W. Jackson to not be overly crowded, grabbed a table and waited briefly for service. They’ll take your order at the bar or come out to your table.
The decor inside is very chic – urban modern with tin stamped tiles on the walls, rustic original wood floors and a big wooden bar.
My handsome, blurry husband…clearly I was focusing on that fancy stamped tin wall.
Obviously the main event at a wine bar is going to be the wine and alcohol, so the food menu is very limited, but it’s a menu of a few well-crafted items. Primarily made up of small plates, a meat and cheese selection, and flatbreads, the food is clearly thoughtfully engineered to provide a robust, flavorful companion to the wine offerings with unique pairings like pulled pork and peaches in an eggroll or stuffed banana peppers with whipped feta, balsamic reduction and bacon crumbles.
We had to try a few different items, so for starters we selected the roasted corn crab dip served with toasted naan bread. The dip made up of cream cheese, roasted corn and sweet lump crab was served warm topped with paprika and spices.
It was delicious! This is one of those types of dips that is so addicting you want to keep eating it, but then you also want to savor it so that it’s not all gone. The flavors melded so well together, but it was also very filling!
Next, we decided to try one of the flatbreads and chose the pulled pork with pineapple and feta (don’t worry, it was pasteurized). A crispy flatbread pizza crust was loaded with a tangy barbecue sauce and pulled pork, then topped with fresh pineapple and a sprinkle of feta cheese. I could see how the flavors and textures would work well on this flatbread, BUT they were unfortunately masked by the overwhelming amount of barbecue sauce. The heavy handed amount of tangy barbecue sauce overpowered anything else.
We also ordered the special of the day! It was a seared and smoked duck with chorizo hash. The hash was flavored with fresh rosemary and the entire dish topped with parmesan cheese.
Again, the flavors here worked well together – the smoky chorizo with the smoked duck and rosemary – plus the duck was well cooked. However, it was a very dry dish as in it was in desperate need of a sauce or something creamy like a creamy goat cheese or creme fraiche.
Overall, we had a very good experience at Old City Wine Bar. With a few tweaks to the some of the items on the menu, the food could be stellar. The decor and vibe is an urban, chic laid back bar with friendly service. We encourage you to check it out for yourself! Grab a glass of wine or a beer and enjoy a few quality snacks. In addition to the hot foods we tried, they have an excellent selection of meats and cheeses to craft a decadent charcuterie board. This is one of the few casual places I’ve seen around town where an excellent cheese plate at a relatively reasonable price is offered. You can definitely make eating here into a fun experience with friends or a casual date night like we did!
Old City Wine Bar
108 West Jackson Avenue
Knoxville, Tennessee 37902
Monday – Thursday 4pm to 11pm
Friday & Saturday 4pm to 12am
Kitchen closes at 10pm nightly