One of the best parts of the UT experience is going out to eat with friends, but it can be easy to keep going to the same two or three places and miss out on the culinary diversity in Knoxville.
Here are nine restaurants that often go unnoticed by students, but that deserve to be explored for their quality food and unique dining experiences.
KoPita Vegan and KoPita Meat
A gem hidden in plain sight, KoPita comprises the twin restaurants KoPita Vegan and KoPita Meat, which sit side-by-side on Gay Street downtown. KoPita serves authentic Mediterranean food, some of which will likely be unfamiliar, like shakshuka or bourekas, and some of which will be familiar, like falafel and kebabs.
KoPita Vegan is convenient for those with a plant-based diet, but omnivores will find things to love there, too. Guests can order food from KoPita Vegan to be brought next door to KoPita Meat to make it easier to accommodate family dining. These simple and fresh restaurants are sure to be a fun surprise for first-time diners, with their undeniably authentic food and complimentary fresh tea.
Landing House is a Chinese and Cambodian restaurant situated in an old house on the end of Sevier Avenue in South Knoxville, just off of Suttree Landing Park. Eating at Landing House feels like eating in a friend’s home, with tables set up in the front yard, the hallway and the living room.
The Asian fusion menu, however, has the sophistication of a top restaurant and includes spring rolls, stir fry, pho, noodles and fried rice, each with a flavorful and authentic twist you cannot find at any other Asian spot.
Moe Beez is a Black-owned, fan-favorite wing and barbecue joint on University Avenue, only minutes away from campus. Its simple menu includes both dry and wet rub wings, with flavors like lemon pepper and “Knoxville hot.” It also offers high-rated fried pickles and fried okra along with crinkle cut fries. With its many UT connections and a friendly staff, Moe Beez quickly makes you feel like family.
“A dopo” means “see you later” in Italian, and if you eat at this wood-fired sourdough pizza spot, you will want to come again. Though students will often default to the more casual South Coast Pizza or Tomato Head, A Dopo offers the intimacy of a smaller dining area and minimalistic toppings on their Neapolitan style sourdough crust, charred in a wood fire pizza oven.
A Dopo is a great place to take friends and family for a nice event or when they visit Knoxville, though be careful to plan for the evening, since they only serve dinner.
When a reliable Tex-Mex place like Soccer Taco feels too dressed down or familiar, Chivo Taqueria on Gay Street is a great alternative. Serving up creative tacos with names like “The Codfather” and “Limp Brisket,” Chivo has a taco for any person and for all occasions. When you’ve gotten to a certain age, Chivo also has a large selection of tequilas and whiskeys that make it an ideal night out with friends.
Sitar is the place to satisfy that special craving for naan and curry that can strike at any time. The unfussy restaurant on Kingston Pike serves a wide range of fresh and authentic Indian cuisines, including samosas, curries, biryanis and chicken and lamb dishes, as well as a lunch buffet.
Yassin’s is a family-owned falafel house situated within easy walking distance of Market Square and most downtown landmarks. The restaurant makes its beloved falafel and hummus fresh every day, as well as highly-rated gyros and shawarma. Yassin’s is able to accommodate both gluten-free and vegan diets and is known for its welcoming environment and friendly staff.
Another underrated Gay Street eatery, Anaba is a Japanese restaurant that serves sushi and hibachi, as well as rice bowls with katsu and chashu. Both lovers and newcomers to Japanese cuisine will love the relaxed, modern atmosphere and extensive menu at Anaba. And when the meal is over, you can walk along the beautiful and often overlooked North end of Gay Street.
When lunch or dinner is out of the way and you want something sweet and creamy, Emmy’s frozen yogurt is usually only a few minutes’ drive away. Located off of Kingston Pike, Emmy’s offers classic frozen yogurt flavors and toppings with a special twist: there are numerous sugar-free and dairy-free options.
You can spot students around campus sporting Emmy’s stickers on their water bottles and backpacks, and if you visit, you’ll know why it becomes a favorite place for so many people.