Now that the renovation of the 100 block of Gay Street is well advanced, we're starting to see more restaurants pop up there (and even fade away already). The most recent arrival is Knox Mason, which is where Harry's Delicatessen used to be. Their stock in trade is upscale Southern comfort fare.
The Grub Spouse and I stopped in last Friday evening for a thaw-out dinner on the town. The space seemed so much smaller than it did when it was Harry's. The long, narrow room squeezes in a bar area (with some seating) along the right side and a succession of 10 or so two-top tables along the left side. A lone large table is near the front to accommodate parties of four or more.
The Spouse and I took our seats and were soon greeted, watered and menued. The current menu offers a modest number of items, so it didn't take us long to pore over the listings. The unique farm-to-table creations reflect the chef's previous Blackberry Farm expertise.
I couldn't sell The Spouse on the pork rinds or deviled eggs appetizers, so we went with the country ham croquettes served with sorghum mustard. The other choices were shrimp toast with Alabama white sauce and Sweetwater brand pimento cheese.
We opted out of the soup and salad choices, which include a warm winter salad topped with Benton's Bacon vinaigrette, a beet salad, split pea soup and braised chicken and green chile stew. Also of interest on the menu are a cheese plate and a meat assortment featuring Italian dried beef, ham and salami.
As for the entrees, I was tempted by the beef shortrib, but was put off by the accompanying Brussels sprouts with Benton's Bacon and potato butter sauce, which was not substitutable. Similarly, the braised fresh bacon entrée sounded good until I got to the Tabasco sweet potatoes (I don't do those) and fried apples.
What I did find appealing on all levels was the cornmeal-crusted sunburst trout, served with a mixture of white beans, fennel and carrots. The Spouse got the roasted Georgia chicken breast, which comes with potato dumplings and roasted Loudon County mushrooms.
I was very pleased with all of our selections. The seven hush-puppy-like ham croquettes were satisfying in both their gooey texture and warm flavor. I thought the trout was a good effort, with the fish not being overwhelmed by the Shelton Farms cornmeal breading, and the white beans side was tasty as well.
My favorite dish of the night was the roasted chicken breast. The meat was a super-juicy, flavorful treat, and I really thought a lot of the dumplings and mushrooms that shared the plate.
The only dessert that piqued our interest that night was the banana pudding, although a chocolate-bourbon-pecan pie and a poached pear were also available. However, we were sufficiently sated for one meal and passed on all the sweet stuff.
The portions were fair but I felt the prices were proportionally high. Our total tab of $52 for starter, two entrees, tax and tip wasn't outrageous, by any means, but the entrees in particular struck me as being a little out of balance price-wise.
Even still, I think Knox Mason should be a welcome addition to an ever-expanding neighborhood.
Food: 4 stars (out of five)
Address: 131 S. Gay Street
Hours: 4-11 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays; 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sundays
Full bar service
Bottom Line: Enjoy Southern comfort foods with an upscale twist at this new downtown eatery on the 100 block of Gay Street.
© 2013, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
Want to use this article? Click here for options!