A great way to start your Saturday is with a delicious, fresh breakfast at OliBea in the Old City district of downtown Knoxville. They are open for breakfast and lunch hours only, but it’s SO worth the trek downtown for their fabulous fare.
We headed into downtown early one Saturday morning for a nice breakfast date at OliBea in an attempt to beat the crowds and yet we found that the small eatery was already filling up. The only available spots were counter seats, but we totally made it work sitting in the window looking out on the Old City. Keep in mind though that window faces the morning sun, so it can get a little warm sitting there.
As you enter, there are two dining rooms – the first with a counter surrounding an open kitchen area, a specials menu on the back wall and some seating while the second features more table seating with a bar top along the window and back wall. It’s cozy and casual with a very laid back, hippie feel.
The menu features an array of breakfast items with twists on Southern classics and many Mexican style dishes like breakfast tacos and burritos. OliBea puts an emphasis on using local ingredients by partnering with farms like Springer Mountain, Circle V Farms, and Tellico Grains. They smoke their own pork belly and make their own Manchamanteles chicken. To top it off their homemade biscuits are outstanding.
Beverage choices include an assortment of coffee options – espresso, latte, cortado, americano, regular joe and cold brew – hot chocolate, orange juice, local milk, jarritos, tamarind, and horchata. Rem had a cortado that he says was potent and frothy.
I tried the horchata, which is a milk drink usually made from ground almonds or rice.
I ordered the Olibea chicken biscuit – pickle brined fried chicken biscuit, whipped sorghum, chow chow, gravy. This dish was delicious. Every single flavor was essential and came together beautifully. The biscuit was the perfect tender texture, the chicken cooked to crisp juicy goodness, the gravy thick and creamy, the whipped sorghum provided a needed hint of rich sweetness and finally the chow chow set it all off with a slight sour taste. I’m drooling just dreaming about devouring this again.
I also had a side of the squared potatoes to go along with my chicken biscuit. Tiny square potato pieces get browned and crispy like hashbrowns with a ton of green onion. While they weren’t piping hot or the star of the show by any means, they were just good crispy breakfast potatoes.
Rem tried the Tennessee Benedict – biscuit, local ham, poached egg, smashed potatoes, rushy springs hollandaise. This was OliBea’s take on classic comfort in the form of Eggs Benedict served up on a biscuit with local ham and a rich hollandaise sauce. The egg was incredibly fresh with a bright orange yolk and poached just right. It can be hard to find a place that actually knows how to cook and serve a poached egg. Those smashed potatoes though – they take the cake. Creamy in the center and crispy along the edges – just SO good.
Because no experience is perfect…I will add this…service was stellar, BUT the restaurant was not spit spot. No, there wasn’t trash lying around or anything like that, but my water glass was not crystal clean and my silverware could’ve used a better scrubbing. That’s the problem with serving so many eggs and cheesy, saucy dishes – that stuff is just hard to get off. So while I understand, I still expect the utmost cleanliness. All of that said, I would still return in a heartbeat for that chicken biscuit or to try whatever chef has whipped up as a special. The day we were there he had Steak Chilaquiles and Softshell Crab Torta!
We can definitely say we’ve discovered a new favorite breakfast/brunch spot. We may be a little late to the game since we’re pretty sure everyone else has already discovered this gem, but in case you’ve not checked out OliBea yet, we highly recommend it!