We had seen the Tupelo Honey Cafe booth at both the Dogwood Arts Festival and the International Biscuit Festival. And we’d seen workmen gutting the old Soup Kitchen right around the corner from The Oliver Hotel in downtown Knoxville, getting ready for Tupelo to arrive. But we still didn’t know what all the hoopla was about.
The pimento cheese biscuits at Biscuit Fest looked mighty fine. So did the charming yellow cookbook. But still. What’s comin’ to Knoxville that has so many people (like us) signing up for a Shoo Mercy Club card at a festival booth in anticipation of a restaurant they don’t even know about?
So, we decided to do a little restaurant research. (Twist our arms!) On Memorial Day weekend, we lined up for Sunday Brunch at the Tupelo Honey Cafe in downtown Asheville, North Carolina — and it’s a good thing we arrived early . . . and hungry!
We worried that we would be the first folks for the second seating. But as luck would have it, we were seated at the bar — right where we could see the action and enjoy the first round. And action there was!
Right as we sat down, Claude, our waiter, brought out the fluffiest, soft-dough, crusty top biscuits we’ve had in a long time with Tupelo‘s signature honey and a little cup of blueberry preserves! Oh, my!
While we were filling up — and this was before we placed our order! — our bar mates Pat and Sonya Springer from Brazelton, Georgia, told us what they had ordered. Pat chose the Sweet Potato Pancake “flavored with cinnamon and sweet potatoes, topped with whipped peach butter and spiced pecans”! It covered the whole plate!
Sonya ordered Eggs Betty — two medium-poached eggs atop a salt and pepper biscuit covered with a lemony hollandaise. It comes with a side order of Goat Cheese Grits! (And a cute little flower!)
It’s what Tupelo is known for: traditional Southern cooking with farm fresh food from local vendors, but paired in non-traditional ways. Southern Surprise, I call it!
Claude went into the kitchen area to snap this picture of Nick flipping pancakes! A pizza peel might have been a better tool than a pancake turner — these are no ordinary pancakes! One’ll do you, for sure!
I ordered the same Eggs Betty that Sonya raved about, but husband Bert said he wanted the heartiest thing on the menu, and he got it: the Breakfast Bowl — seasoned salsa verde black-eyed peas and Goat Cheese Grits topped with two over-medium eggs, two maple peppered bacon strips topped with cheddar cheese and Sunshot Salsa! (Served in a deep bowl, I might add!)
Bert liked the blend of flavors — black-eyed peas, eggs, salsa. Definitely not like breakfast at home! And he barely made it to the bottom. Sooooo much food! But sooooo good!
Seated next to Bert was Tim from Cleveland, Ohio, who ordered the Fried Egg BLT: two well-done eggs set over maple peppered bacon, lettuce, tomato, and smoked jalapeno aioli on sourdough wheat! His wife Betty had Eggs Betty. (Get the drift here? That’s one popular dish, for sure!)
Something else to praise about Tupelo Honey Cafe are the servers like Kenzie who wanted me to see her honey tattoo! She’s been there two years and still loves serving guests at Tupelo! We decided it would be of some benefit to be young if you worked there. Waiters were literally running to grab hot plates from under the lights . . .
or ladle out heaps of simmerin’ black-eyed peas for the Breakfast Bowl. Quality production. Immediate service. With a little chatter and fun mixed in!
Feeding an entire restaurant full of first-round diners was something akin to making a banquet happen, except that food was prepared one order at a time! When the rush subsided, I snapped a picture of Nikita and Nick high fivin’ each other — heck, they almost hugged! The breakfast whoosh went off without a hitch, and every guest we saw was leaning back, happy, as they took their final sips of well-brewed coffee. Ah, Southern satisfaction!
And when you’ve had your fill, you can take something to the folks back home from Tupelo Honey — t-shirt, cookbook, raspberry preserves, or that golden, gooey, mighty tasty honey!
(Just so you’ll know, Tupelo Honey is harvested from the White Tupelo Gum Tree which grows mostly in Florida in the Apalachicola River basin. It’s the only honey that will never granulate! Click here for more information!)
The first Tupelo Honey Cafe is downtown Asheville on College Street, but there’s a second one in South Asheville. We’ll have to go back to check that one out!
Meanwhile, we’re looking fondly at that Knoxville Market Square property. A long line out the door for Tupelo‘s new Southern comfort food — and not just breakfast — is gonna look mighty good in downtown Knoxville! As they say . . .
“New South Flavors. Scratch Made Fun.”
Tupelo‘s a honey, for sure!
12 College Street
Asheville, NC 28801
1829 Hendersonville Rd.
Asheville, NC 28803
<a href=”http://www.urbanspoon.com/r/82/802502/restaurant/Tupelo-Honey-Cafe-Asheville”><img alt=”Tupelo Honey Cafe on Urbanspoon” src=”http://www.urbanspoon.com/b/link/802502/minilink.gif” style=”border:none;padding:0px;width:130px;height:36px” /></a>