Legendary | Worth driving from anywhere
Review by: Michael Stern
For memorable breakfast in Knoxville, Tennessee, you can’t beat OliBea’s. And I don’t say that because it checks all the boxes of allegedly virtuous eating. This storefront cafe in the up-and-coming Old City part of town makes food that tastes great.
So many modern restaurants aspire to virtue. They fly the banners of natural, sustainable, organic, fresh, local, etc. Even if they’re telling the truth, good intentions don’t necessarily yield a good meal. All the virtue in the world cannot substitute for talent in the kitchen.
Talent From Scratch
Talent in the kitchen: these words well describe the allure of Olibea’s. In this hip eatery, staffed and patronized by the food-savvy set, all the current culinary virtues reign. Just about everything served comes from nearby. A wall board lists local farms that supply provender. From duck or chicken eggs (your choice) to sourdough bread, the kitchen contains nothing, absolutely nothing delivered by Sysco food trucks. All the good groceries result in four-star delicious food.
Chef At Work
Each week, chef and proprietor Jeffrey DeAlejandro butchers a hog. From it he smokes strips of pork belly that become bacon of the gods. When I stopped eating long enough to tell Mr. DeAlejandro that his biscuits are the best I’ve had in recent memory, he jokingly called them “Number 7.” He meant that they were the seventh version of a recipe he had been toying with. I gulped, worrying that he might toy more with the recipe. I can’t imagine these perfect biscuits — creamy, tangy, and crisp-edged — supplanted by something else. But then, having had more than one memorable breakfast from his kitchen, neither can I imagine Number 8s being anything less than stellar, too.
So Many Good Choices
Breakfast and brunch, until 1pm, are the only meals served. I have loved the biscuits, a daily special of pork cheek tacos (topped with a brilliantly sunny duck egg), pancakes with sage sausage, cute little “squared potatoes” (elegant home fries), and espresso. I long to return for Tennessee Benedict with local ham, for a confit Cheshire pork shoulder tostada, for local sourdough, and for grilled cheese made with Sweetwater Cheddar. Heck, I suspect even the vegan tofo chorizo and vegan tempeh bacon are tasty. But as long as Chef DeAlejandro is smoking pork belly, that’s the meat for me.
Directions & Hours
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