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Out to Lunch: Honeymooners dine on Market Square munchies

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By Bethel Poston

This “Out to Lunch” article is about an adventure my wife Carol and I enjoyed at the Market Square and downtown Knoxville.

Some readers know that Carol and I ran off to Georgia to get married on my 18th birthday and her 17th birthday – Sept. 15.

We didn’t have any money for a honeymoon.  Every year since then, we have got away for a day or two, to have belated honeymoons.

When our kids asked what we wanted for our birthday/anniversary this year – we told them we were going to stay a few nights at The Oliver Hotel on Market Square in Knoxville to renew old memories and eat at several downtown restaurants.

We receive several restaurants gift certificates from them, which we used to enjoy the restaurants and food on our adventure.

The Boutique Hotel Oliver is in an 1876 building that originally housed the Peter Kern Bakery.

Our second-story room at The Hotel Oliver overlooked Market Square, with a view of Café 4 across the square.

In 1956, I sold shoes part-time on Gay Street while a student at the University of Tennessee. Carol was secretary to the housewares buyer at Miller’s Department Store on Gay Street.

Going out the back of Miller’s and crossing an alley, you could go in the back of Miller’s Annex. The Annex’s front entrance faced the former Farmers Market Square Building. 

The Annex occupied a building next door to Café 4 on Market Square, the first stop on this adventure.

We sat on the outdoor patio, with a view of all the activity on Market Square. 

Carol chose lobster BLT flatbread from he small-plate section of the menu. The lobster, applewood bacon, smoked tomatoes, Dijon creams, smoked Gouda and field greens were served on flatbread.

“It really tastes great, but I thought they brought me a pizza,” she said,

From my 2008 “Out to Lunch” article on Café 4, I found that she had a crab cake sandwich, garnished with tomato, lettuce and black pepper aioli.

My selection, tomato duet, was a large, delicious sourdough sandwich of fried green tomatoes, tomato jam, pimento cheese and bacon. Of course, Carol had to help me by eating some of my homemade fries.

Café 4’s blue-plate special changes daily. In my 2008 articlem I wrote: “The chicken cordon bleu with whipped potatoes and buttered green beans was a very satisfying choice for me.”

We were impressed that the couple next to us both ate all of their, labeled Large, salads.

Check out  www.4marketsquare.com for a complete menu, and special activities.

One of our gift certificates was for the Tupelo Honey Restaurant. It was like going downstairs to eat at home; our hotel room was directly over Tupelo Honey.

With the weather being so nice, we again chose to sit on Tupelo Honey’s outdoor patio. That added to our enjoyment of Market Square. We were able to see all the folks strolling around the square, checking out vendors and eating at other restaurants. 

We heard a strolling violin player, a five-piece brass band, and other musicians around the square. Some music we could pleasantly hear from our room.

In my 2013 “Out To Lunch” article on Tupelo Honey, I wrote: Because of Carol’s fondness of shrimp, I wasn’t surprised when she ordered “When Shrimp Met Taco. It’s described on the menu as two soft flour tortillas, filled with the perfect marriage of flash-fried, juicy shrimp, julienned Swiss chard, our house-made smoked jalapeno aioli and made-on-site Sunshot Salsa.’”

I always thought a po’boy was made with fish, so when I saw a roast beef po’boy on the menu, I had to give it a try.

Tupelo Honey Café’s menu says, “We slow-roast and season our thinly shaved prime rib to medium rare, then serve it with fried green tomatoes, shredded lettuce and cherry pepper aioli on world-famous Gambino’s bakery bread. This special sandwich is served cold so the cook of the prime rib is fully appreciated.”

Well, on this visit I yielded to Carol’s fondness of shrimp. We both ordered Tupelo shrimp and grits. Delicious large shrimp are served with chorizo, peperonata, adjuh goat cheese and, of course, cheese grits.

I was told one of the most-ordered items include grilled cheese sandwich and soup; medallions of beef; and Southern-fried chicken.

The latter is described on the menu as “crispy fried hormone-free and antibiotic-free chicken breast topped with country ham, melted havarti cheese and basil. It’s served with a mushroom Marsala sauce, cheesy smashed cauliflower and garnished with asparagus spears.”

The website, www.tupelohoneycafe.com, provides a complete menu.

Sept. 15 was the Friday before the University of Tennessee football game with the Florida Gators.

It seemed appropriate that we visit Not Watson’s Restaurant, also on Market Square, and I have the po’ boy with tender-fried alligator (Gator).

It was served on a large hoagie bun with fresh spring greens, sliced tomatoes, dill pickles and a spicy (yes it was) remoulade.

I’m not a big fan of alligator, but attacked my order while wearing a Big Orange shirt. It didn’t help Tennessee win the next day.

Carol went for the Ninth Street Philly, which the menu says is “thin-sliced steak, Cheez Whiz, fried onions with a side of cherry peppers. The meat’s from Philly, the bun’s from Philly, the ‘Whiz’ from Philly — the onions from Georgia!”
UT doesn’t play Georgia until Sept. 30.

Carol and I remember visiting Watson Department Store, particularly the “bargain basement,” in the late ’50s and ’60s.

“Growing up … my mom loved Watson’s Department Store (opened in 1907),” Not Watson’s co-owner Glenn Kirtley wrote on the menu. “It seemed as if every Saturday of my youth, was spent rummaging through the bargain-filled caverns of the store on Market Square.

“We would all pile in the car and wait for the question, ‘Where are we headed?’ We knew what was coming, and our answer was invariably ‘Not Watson’s.’ We’d all had a good laugh as we headed to Watson’s.”

I’m told that burgers are one of the most-ordered items at Watson’s. The menu says:

“Our half-pound, hand-patted burgers, are always grass-fed premium black Angus beef from Creekstone Farms, served on toasted hand-made brioche bun from our friends at Amoroso’s Baking Co.”
Check out www.notwatsons.com for the menu and more info.

Maybe the highlight of this annual belated honeymoon adventure was having breakfast at Pete’s Coffee Shop and Restaurant. It’s at 540 Union Ave., two blocks from our hotel.  

Pete’s was voted Best Breakfast for nine years and recommended as an area favorite. They also serve lunch, which we’ll try soon.  Check www.petescoffeeshop.com for a menu.

I had biscuits and gravy, with sausage and eggs; Carol had a spinach omelet.

As I write this article, I discovered that during this adventure, we did not have the traditional birthday/wedding cake dessert. Story of my life – missing desserts.  

Carol and I occasionally feel an almost magnetic pull to visit the Market Square area, and this adventure was more fun than we expected.

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Bethel Poston is a Roane County businessman and entrepreneur who writes about places of interest in our area. Email suggestions and comments to postonplace@bellsouth.net.