Autumn is definitely in the air in Knoxville! Saturday our little city was abuzz with activity because it was the University of Tennessee’s home opener with Oklahoma…that didn’t work out exactly the way Volunteer fans wanted. We were wandering our downtown and went into Frussie’s Deli at the corner of Cumberland Avenue and Gay Street on the 700 block of Gay Street in an airy, pleasant corner location with a traditional diner feel turned modern.
Currently owned by Jay Brandon, Frussie’s most recent move downtown follows a couple previous moves over their many years. First they opened in Gatlinburg in the 80’s and most recently they moved from a South Knoxville location. Their fans have followed them since those early days when founder James Dicks first opened Frussie’s. Once you have one of their sandwiches on some of the best smelling bread we’ve ever had, you’ll know why they have that following.
Jay has a history that runs deep in the food industry. After working for the Regas family at Harry’s and Riverside Tavern he was urged to go to culinary school. A big move in 2002 to New York City and attendance at what is now the Institute of Culinary Education led him to an internship with Chef Anne Burrell then stints at Eleven Madison, Blue Smoke, and Gramercy Tavern. Upon returning to Knoxville, Jay worked with Maple Grove Inn and Little Star (formerly in the Big Fatty’s building).
The islands called in 2005 as Jay was persuaded by a friend to move to St. Croix where he spent time as the Executive Pastry Chef at the Buccaneer Hotel. Two years went by, he became engaged to his now wife and it was time to come home to East Tennessee. After returning, he did what he calls “kitchen mercenary” work in the area and eventually taking over Frussie’s in 2011.
In the heart of the business area of Gay Street, Frussie’s is open from 11-3 Monday through Saturday and have quite a selection of tasty homemade sandwiches. As soon as you walk in, you will smell the fresh bread baked every day. We deferred our decision to Russ Meyer, the general manager, who also took our orders that day. He explained that they cure their own corned beef so that was an easy sell! Their most popular sandwich is the Italian so we took one of those as well. Did we mention the smell of the fresh bread? Wow. There was nothing on the menu board that didn’t sound amazing and I think next time, we’ll have to share one of the Cubans!
The Italian, served between still hot from the oven bread, arrived with creamy potato salad that reminded me a lot of my mom’s. Heavy on mustard…just the way it should be! The sandwich was quite large especially for the price. They don’t skimp here at Frussie’s. Loaded thick with salty ham, turkey, Genoa salami, Lettuce, Tomato, Onion, provolone, and plenty of Italian dressing that makes it just messy enough! It was a seriously satisfying sandwich.
The Reuben, a pile of house-cured corned beef, sauerkraut, swiss cheese, and 1,000 Island Dressing on your choice of rye, marbled rye or pumpernickel was served with a side of cole slaw. The corned beef was perfectly seasoned and paired very well with its traditional Reuben accompaniments. The cole slaw added a light refreshing bite that was lemony and not overdressed like a lot of slaws out there.
We couldn’t hold any more, but decided to take a loaf of bread and a couple desserts with us. The chocolate chip cookie seriously tastes like it came out of mom’s oven! The brownie is equally good. Walking through the farmer’s market, we could smell the bread the whole shopping trip!
We had skipped breakfast and were pretty hungry before doing our weekly Market Square Farmer’s Market shopping. By the end of the meal, we were stuffed, even (gasp!) passing on ice cream at the Market! Jay also gave us some samples of their creamy and delicious egg salad (definitely on our list for next time!), pasta salad, and a comforting chicken salad. So many great things to choose from and a great value.
Jay mentioned that the city would soon begin upgrades of the streets as part of a 700 block improvement plan, but that they would be open and easily accessible during the construction, which will provide some street parking and fresh new look. So be sure to pay Frussie’s a visit!