For most, the first thing that comes to mind when Tupelo Honey is mentioned is a fantastic Van Morrison song. But for anyone within a 100 mile radius of Knoxville or Asheville, NC, it means one thing: Tupelo Honey Cafe and inevitably, their fantastic biscuits. I tout Tupelo Honey Cafe to be the pinnacle of Southern cuisine, with a twist. You can get all kinds of specialties from meatloaf to shrimp and grits all served with a choice of extensive side-dishes and always, ALWAYS, a freshly made biscuit with a side of jam. I have been one of the fore-lorn looking people standing outside the Asheville location for over an hour, waiting for a table for Sunday Brunch. I’d like to say the wait wasn’t worth it, because so few places are, but this was. Oh how it was…
As Asheville is about 90 miles away from Knoxville, my visits were few and far between. So when they announced they were opening a location in Market Square I was more than slightly overjoyed. Biscuits for Everybody!
Now, you may or may not remember a fun weekend J and I had several months back that involved a trip to Benton’s bacon and the purchase of a cookbook that made my mouth water just by flipping through the pages. Said cookbook was Tupelo Honey’s and like a good little girl with aspirations of making a true Southern meal for my Southern beau, I immediately went home, sat J down and had him pick something he wanted. It really comes as no surprise that he picked this:
The Southern Fried Chicken BLT. Not only did we currently have pound upon pound of newly purchased Benton’s bacon, but it also involved friend chicken, J’s kryptonite (though he won’t admit it…). No, this is not your standard BLT. Well I mean it is as it does have all the fixings – bacon, lettuce, tomato – but it also has a smothering of home-made dijonnaise and a buttermilk-soaked fried chicken breast.
After waiting with bated breath for what seemed like forever, the Knoxville location finally opened it’s doors a few weeks back. J and I just happened to be passing by at a rather obscure hour for dinner (9:45) we took advantage of the fact that the constant line of waiting patrons was non-existent and sat ourselves down at the Chef’s table. As we perused menu, these arrived: Perfect, as always, but J and I still had a hard time deciding what to get. I knew that the portions were large (from personal experience and fellow Knoxville blogger, Knoxville Urban Guy) so we decided to split something. This always causes a conundrum between us so you can imagine my surprise when we both agreed on the Southern Friend Chicken BLT. I was interested in comparing my version to theirs, and J, well he probably just had a hankering for bacon and fried chicken.
So it arrives in all of it’s glory: The behemoth that is this sandwich, served with a side of mac-n-cheese. (It should be noted that the chef behind the counter was gracious enough to provide some BBQ sauce and crumbled bacon for the mac-n-cheese, stating it took it to the next level – and it did).
There is a point to this story besides teasing you with photos of my food, and it is this: The sandwich tasted just like what I had made in my kitchen. I actually made something that actually tasted exactly how it’s supposed to taste from the actual restaurant itself. I was so overjoyed in the fact that I hadn’t been bamboozled that I immediately wanted to commend the authors, Brian Sonoskus and Elizabeth Sims, for creating such a great cookbook.
I rarely feel that this happens – there’s always something, I don’t know, off about what I make in comparison to the restaurant created dish. But this was not the case and as a result, my Tupelo Honey Cafe cookbook is now treasured, safely residing on my cookbook stand, displaying my next big project – meatloaf – in hopes that I can actually cook like a Southerner, at least for a day.
Point is, if you are ever in the vicinity of the restaurant, do yourself a favor and go. And if you’re not, I can happily advise you that the cookbook is a perfect portrayal of what exactly you can expect from the restaurant itself – however you still have to do your own dishes.