What To Eat in Tennessee
Between the Mountains of the east and the cotton fields of the west, in its cities and small towns, Tennessee’s incredible diversity is reflected in a state menu that has something for everyone. Barbecue? Memphis just might have the nation’s finest, both wet and dry. Fried chicken? It’s glorious in Nashville, hot chicken especially! Country ham is served throughout the state, as are superb southern vegetables as part of a meat-and-three lunch in which meat is frequently abjured in favor of a fourth vegetable.
Created in Nashville, and still best there, hot chicken is crisp-fried and imbued skin to bone with peppers' fire. It originated at the still-thriving Prince's Chicken Shack a couple of generations ago when proprietor Thornton Prince's girlfriend, wanting to get even with him for his carousing one night, sopped his fried chicken in a painful amount of pepper. Instead of screaming for mercy, he yelled for joy; and hot fried chicken soon became Prince's trademark. Hot chicken always is served with white bread, which sops up the spicy juices and becomes a delicious hot companion.
Many southern states make a big deal of country ham as well as of biscuits. Nowhere are the two put together with more panache than in Tennessee, where the full presentation also includes red-eye gravy (ham drippins and black coffee), sorghum syrup. fruit preserves and, of course, a couple of eggs.
A term used through much of the South but especially in Nashville, "meat and three" quite simply refers to a menu template that lists two to five entrees and one or two dozen side dishes. From these lists, a diner picks one entree and three sides. Among the sides will be vegetables, but also congealed salads, macaroni and cheese, spaghetti, and rice. Cornbread, hoe cakes, biscuits and/or dinner rolls are always provided on the side. Variations include meat and two or meat and three without the meat, meaning an all‑vegetable plate of three or four selections. While it is possible for a meat and three meal to be simplicity itself -- meat loaf with mashed potatoes, glazed carrots and butter beans -- the list of side dishes likely includes a number of souped-up vegetable casseroles in which squash, broccoli or spinach is transformed into a luxurious indulgence by use of butter or margarine and bread crumbs; also, greens and cabbage tend to be enriched by massive infusions of pig in the form of fatback, country ham or neck bones.
Showing 9 results:
Wedding cakes are the specialty, but for us travelers, Magpies' cupcakes, cookies, and cheesecake slices are sweet-tooth Nirvana in Knoxville.
Supple spaghetti noodles topped with thick, salty red sauce headline at Louis Original, Knoxville's old-school Italian-American restaurant favorite.
Sawyer's Farmhouse Breakfast is a reliable, full-menu breakfast spot on Pigeon Forge's bustling Parkway. Pancakes are a specialty.
A big country restaurant with small town charm and a broad menu to make everyone happy, Elvira's is a getaway in the beautiful rolling hills of East Tennessee.
Local Goat is Pigeon Forge's stylish (but casual) New American eatery with a menu of interesting burgers (& more), and a wide selection of adult beverages.
Superb German fare in a Pigeon Forge hotel restaurant includes schnitzels, bratwurst, and potato pancakes, plus a full array of Old World beers and wines.
Grandmothers Kitchen is a serene oasis of true country cooking and genuine hospitality. Smoked meats are great; coconut pineapple cake is a must-eat.
Family-friendly, comfortable, colorful BBQ just outside Pigeon Forge, Boss Hogg's serves great pork, brisket, chicken and all the right side dishes.
Tiny diner just off Pigeon Forge's busy Parkway in the Smoky Mountains, Lil Black Bear is an oasis of personal charm and country cooking with crazy twists.