It’s 2020 but somehow a lot of places across the United States haven’t gotten the menu memo – people want to see more plant-based options when they go out to eat.  We’re sharing some places in Knoxville that are diet-inclusive.  Most restaurants listed below are not meat-free, but offer more than salads or reduce their veggie patrons to make a meal of side dishes.  Enjoy!

chili mac and cheese at sunspot

1. Sunspot

This sunny spot (get it) on the strip (near UT Campus) prides themselves on being the place “where tie-dyes and neckties unite”, meaning you’re just as likely as seeing a business power lunch as a group of friends with dreads.  Their vegetarian-friendly menu features a bit of this and a bit of that with Southwestern, Caribbean, and Latin American cuisine influences.  For vegans, you’re in luck – you’ll have a variety of things to try.  Start with the orange blossom special with coconut rice, avocado, pico, orange boba, and fried wontons or chickpea fries as an appetizer.  If you’re one who likes the taste of meat but chooses not to eat it, the chili mac n cheese is the bomb.com (it’s got beyond burger and black beans and vegan cheese and I promise you wouldn’t be able to tell it’s not beef).  For sandwiches, they have a tofu melt (minus cheese for vegans), and an incredible black bean burger. Our friends KnoxFoodie wrote a post about Sunspot here.

Acai Bowl at Java Juice Box

2. Java Juice Box

Millennial alert – this is the place you want to get your avocado toast.  Their menu is almost 100% vegan, with some exceptions like honey, Nutella, cream for lattes, and goat cheese.  They have juices, smoothies, and the best acai bowls around.  Their bowls are uncomplicated; pick a base, 2 fruits, and 3 toppings – my standard order: ½ acai and ½ pitaya (dragonfruit), then mango and strawberry, topped with coconut shavings, granola, and Nutella (duh).  Visit them on Broadway just north of downtown or their new location on Northshore.

Sanctuary Vegan Cafe Sandwich and Fries

3. Sanctuary Vegan Café

With a focus on organic, this restaurant in west Knoxville near Cedar Bluff is 100% vegan.  For the animal lovers, their hearts are in rescue with an eventual goal of providing a lifetime sanctuary for animals.  Dining choices include ingredients like tofu, seitan, Beyond Burger, black bean burger, lentils, Fysh, and Chik’n. 

4. Tomato Head

Considered by many to be one of Knoxville’s first vegetarian-heavy restaurants, this hotspot in Market Square is a staple by carnivores and veg-heads alike.  Start with their hummus, which can be found in local markets.  I said I wasn’t going to comment on salads, but theirs do stand out as having baked tofu as an option.  They have vegetarian and vegan sandwiches, and homemade veggie burgers (gluten-free bread as an option).  Many come here for the pizza, which of course is veggie-friendly.  When you leave, indulge in vegan cookies or cupcakes.  If you’re out by the West Town Mall, they have a location in The Gallery Plaza.

5. Landing House

For a place that not even many locals know about, head across the Gay Street Bridge to SoKno (South Knoxville) for an interesting twist of French and Cambodian fusion cuisine.  Vegetarian spring rolls, vegan tofu dumplings, tofu & eggplant frites, yaum salad, stir fry, and gai lan await.  And that’s just on page one!  Kuy teav (Cambodian pho) is offered as a vegan option, with a variety of rice combinations to round out page two.  Dessert is not to be missed with coconut tapioca with mixed berry puree or their house-made vegan almond cookies.  Their menu has a great key at the bottom, indicating vegan, gluten free, items containing shellfish, and making a note that all items are fried in peanut oil. 

Falafel Bowl at Kopita

6. KoPita

100% vegan Israeli cuisine at this falafel & hummus bar on Gay Street.  Falafel and hummus varieties sum up the majority of their menu, with expected offerings like baba ghanoush and a smorgasbord of add ons from harissa to tahini.  The cauliflower is roasted to perfection, and you won’t feel an ounce of guilt at any selection you make.

7. Kaizen

Headed back east, specifically to showcase Japan and other Asian cuisines.  This menu is hard to nail down because they are excellent at offering an ever-changing variety of daily specials.  But to at least paint a picture of what to expect, you’ll find steamed tofu and eggplant buns, mushroom fried rice, mapo doufu (Sichuan tofu dish with fermented black beans), tamarind glazed potatoes, cardamom curry vegetables, and more.  Their menu also conveniently indicates vegan/vegetarian, and also spice level for those of us (raises hand) that can’t handle the heat.

8. Seasons

Headed back west (in Knoxville, that is), this bar and grille is in Turkey Creek.  Start your meal with quick fried artichoke hearts or brie en croute.  For an entrée consider the grilled vegetable platter or the Mediterranean vegetable sandwich.  Make that black bean & quinoa burger vegan by omitting the pepper jack cheese.  If you’re around on Sunday, brunch options for vegetarians include Bailey’s French toast and praline pancakes.

9. Bistro at the Bijou

Lots of wonderful items to choose here from this downtown staple since 1980.  Start with flash fried brussels sprouts or white truffle fries.  Their fall/winter menu features butternut squash ravioli, curried vegetable bowl, hoppin’ john, and sides like roasted beets and collard greens with hot pepper vinegar.  They’re also known for having a great brunch; try the tofu scramble or the red flannel hash.  Bonus points for live Jazz Wednesday-Saturday, and of course you can always check a show at the Bijou itself.

10. Gosh Ethiopian

Our last stop for this post brings us to Africa, where the country of Ethiopia highlights a variety of vegetarian and vegan cuisine.  Right off the bat you’ll find vegetarian sambbussa (pastry shell stuffed with whole lentils, garlic, jalapenos, and onions).  Eight main courses offer a variety of split peas, red lentils, and vegetables in various spices and curries.  Make it easy and get the vegetarian combination so you can try several of them (4 or 6).  Wash it all down with Ethiopian spiced hot tea.

Hope this helps you find some veggie-friendly options in Knoxville!  For all of Knoxville’s dining options, explore more here.

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