If your preference for high-gravity beers in the Old City and high-altitude hikes in the Smokies has left you feeling sore in the morning, you’re in luck: Knoxville’s brunch offerings just happen to be one of its culinary strong suits.
By Cate Huguelet
SAPPHIRE | 428 S. Gay St., sapphire-knoxville.com
Booze may have replaced baubles in the display cases of this former jewelry-shop-turned-bar, but the vintage-modern Sapphire’s brunch menu is the province of the rich. Crisp yet tender waffles arrive with one of seven topping combos, from good-ol’ mixed berries to the more extreme mac-and-cheese with pulled pork or peanut butter, banana and locally sourced bacon. Wash down your waffle of choice with one of seven Bloody Mary varieties. For brunch with a side of people-watching, pull up a stool in the sidewalk seating area.
CHEZ LIBERTY | 5200 Kingston Pike, chezliberty.com
Seasonality is the watchword at this eclectic spot tucked among the shops and restaurants lining the main drag of the cozy Bearden neighborhood. While Chez Liberty’s freshness obsession means its brunch offerings fluctuate, expect upscale mash-ups of Southern comfort fare and traditional breakfast favorites, like pork belly French toast sliders and country-fried veal cheeks with grits. If you’d rather go meatless, the menu also typically features seafood-centric options and salads. But what’s brunch, you say, if not a chance to clog your arteries? Dear reader, meet the goat cheese fondue.
RANKIN RESTAURANT | 2200 N. Central St.
A cash-only joint appointed with wooden paneling and vinyl upholstery in complementary shades of nondescript brown, Rankin Restaurant may lack
polish. Don’t let appearances fool you, though; as the local old-timers who faithfully pack its booths for breakfast will attest, this greasy spoon’s scratch-made biscuits are among the best in town. Go ahead, see for yourself—order one of the diner’s no-nonsense breakfast combos and receive a basket of star carbs, complete with a side of sausage gravy, on the house. Bonus: Most items come in at a wallet-friendly seven bucks or less. Closed Sundays
Late-night nosh: Whether you’ve worked up an appetite rocking its open-forum music sessions or just don’t want to dip into its 120-plus whiskey offerings on an empty stomach, the kitchen at Boyd’s Jig and Reel (101 S. Central St.) has you covered till 1 a.m. on weekends (11 p.m. on weeknights)—particularly if you fancy Highland favorites like haggis, beef pie—and deep-fried Mars bars.