Grub Scout: Our resident foodie picks top 10 local eateries of 2009

The Grub Scout enjoyed a 'superb' banana bread pudding at R.T. Lodge in Maryville.

Photo by J. Miles Cary

The Grub Scout enjoyed a "superb" banana bread pudding at R.T. Lodge in Maryville.

Honestly, I didn’t encounter as many standout restaurants this year as I do in a typical year. Nevertheless, I was still able to pick out my favorite 10 from 2009, presented here in the order in which they were reviewed. And as always, I include this qualifier in the buffet: These aren’t necessarily my all-time Knoxville picks, just the ones I enjoyed the most in the past calendar year.

Café 4

This full-service restaurant, along with its bakery and coffee shop components, have helped cement Market Square’s status as an overall downtown attraction. Presenting Southern-rooted comfort foods produced with an upscale flair, Café 4 offers a unique and eclectic assortment of fare that includes pulled pork quesadillas, fried chicken and herbed waffle, and a variety of flatbread sandwich creations. Read the original review.

Le Parigo

The Grub Spouse and I followed LeParigo’s French cuisine to its new downtown digs, where we once again delighted in the dining experience. Our entrée choices of braised rabbit facon Lulu and seared veal medallion with grape/foie gras sauce, were complemented by top-of-the-line service delivered in an elegant setting. Read the original review.

R.T. Lodge

Hidden away in the Maryville College woods, this standout by-product of the Ruby Tuesday corporation features an upscale menu selection presented in a one-time residential lodge that now strikes a delicate balance between high-end ambiance and rustic woodsiness. Our orders of coconut shrimp and champagne-roasted half chicken were capped off by a superb banana bread pudding. Read the original review.

Dancing Bear Lodge

Yet another presentation of fine cuisine in an out-of-character setting, Dancing Bear Lodge in Townsend welcomed us into a functioning mountain lodge that combines rustic simplicity with upscale touches and amenities. The menu similarly puts a refined spin on down-to-earth fare, thanks to entrees like almond-crusted rainbow trout and pan-seared pork chops. Read the original review.

Apple Cake Tea Room

The log-cabin look of the restaurant was a misleading cover for a refined tea-room menu that tempted us with a selection of specialties, sandwiches, salads and more. Our choices of the Tea Room Club sandwich and the Tea Room Medley (with chicken salad, glazed fruit and a banana nut bread sandwich with cream cheese filling) were capped off by the restaurant’s signature apple cake. Read the original review.

501 Arthur

This was one of our pleasant surprises for the year. Heading into the Mechanicsville neighborhood, our expectations weren’t riding exactly sky-high, but it didn’t take them long to take wing once we settled into 501 Arthur’s funky, eclectic dining room. The bruschetta-style appetizer led us toward entrees of Greek chicken with artichoke hearts and a grilled pork loin prepared with rosemary potatoes in a mushroom sherry cream sauce. Read the original review.

Coolato Gelato

This Gay Street walk-in eatery brings authentic Italian flavors and sensibilities to downtown Knoxville. The lunch and dinner fare revolves around panini sandwiches, so on our visit, The Spouse, The Grub Sprout and I tried and loved three different selections. Of course, we didn’t escape without sampling the homemade gelato, which is made daily in some 20 tasty, colorful flavors. Read the original review.

Dead End BBQ

The name doesn’t offer much promise, but if you take the time to try out this full-service restaurant on Sutherland Avenue, you’ll discover an open road leading toward delicious barbecue. I had to pack as much as I could into my solo venture, so I got a two-meat combo with pulled pork and chicken as well as a four-bone sampling of ribs. It’s a shade on the pricy side, but the food and the service help move this restaurant to the front of the ‘cue. Read the original review.

Longhorn Steakhouse

This was definitely my favorite Sevier County restaurant of the year. It’s part of a larger chain, but this location is the first Longhorn Steakhouse in East Tennessee, and it impressed me greatly with its rustically elegant American-West motif, its solid service and a lineup of fresh, hand-cut steaks. My seven-ounce filet, sautéed mushrooms and Chocolate Stampede dessert helped drive this restaurant into my year-end roundup. Read the original review.

Echo Bistro & Wine Bar

I didn’t have to reach too far back to recapture my memories of this wonderful Bearden eatery, operating on the site of the former Mango restaurant. From our wine selection and roasted oyster appetizer to the bison strip steak and grilled veal chop entrees to the fall and winter tuile dessert and amazing service, our experience will keep the name Echo Bistro repeating in my mind. Read the original review.

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Comments » 2

anne123 writes:

Disappointed to say I haven't heard of a single restaurant on this list with the exception of The Apple Cake Tea Room, which I love. Gives me a reason to look forward to expanding my dining experiences in 2010!! Thanks!

SunnieDay writes:

I look forward to your reviews every Friday. This year I tried several of the restaurants featured and liked most. If the Grubb Spouse or Sprout aren't available, I can fill in on short notice.

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