The Return of Knox Mason – Opening Thursday
At the end of 2018 Matt Gallaher closed the door at Knox Mason’s original location after 6 years on the northern end of Gay Street. 11 months later a new chapter for the popular modern southern restaurant begins at its new home inside Embassy Suites just a little further south on the same thoroughfare through downtown Knoxville.
Open to the public this Thursday, Matt Gallaher, Warren Weiss (chef de cuisine) and crew opened the doors to the new space by inviting friends and family last night. The Embassy Suites entrance is absolutely stunning with brightly lit interior, contemporary interior design, and a grand lobby. Knox Mason’s home is on the second floor and open to the the lobby . Allowing guests a stunning view. On the exterior, a wonderful patio area lets guests have a 180° view of Gay Street.
Knox Mason is staffed with many familiar food and beverage faces and, while there are hints of the previous version with mason jars and Le Crueset cookware hinting at it’s Southern inspiration, this restaurant has the feel of an upscale restaurant you would find in a much larger city than Knoxville. The bar offers copious seating with a well-done curated cocktail list featuring Knox Whiskey Works locally and a brief, but well-done beer selection to suit most tastes. The wine list is just as thoughtful with thoughtful wines selected for their quality rather than their brand awareness. We opted for a couple Ramos Gin Fizzes with Knox Whiskey Work Jackson Ave Gin. A foamy refreshing start to the meal.
The food will feel familiar to diners who have been to the previous Knox Mason. Many of the favorites have returned and the menu expanded with what will surely become new favorites. We started with Crayfish and Cornmeal Fritters with Aioli. Cooked to perfection. And this is where I should say, the service was perfectly on-point. It’s clear the staff was ready and few soft openings go this smoothly. There wasn’t a hiccup all night that we noticed.
After seeing a plate of Deviled Eggs go to another table, we decided to have some as well. Always a favorite at Knox Mason 1.0, these generously filled deviled eggs were perfection.
For our entrees, we had Sunburst Trout with Farro Risotto and topped with one of the most delicious salads. The large trout filet arrived with a wonderfully crisp skin. Along with the trout, we had the Shrimp and Grits with tasso ham, Cade’s Cove sausage, Shelton Farm grits, and shellfish butter. A rich shrimp and grits you’d be hard pressed to find a competitor for even in the Low Country. We couldn’t resist ordering some of the Macaroni and Cheese made with Sweetwater Valley cheddar and topped with Paysan Cheese Bread crumbs.
For dessert, we were well past our limit, but just had to have Banana Pudding to see if it was as good as we remembered from the previous location. It was! Warm, freshly bruleed marshmallow over chilly pudding and generous wafers. So good.
We missed the year that Knox Mason was preparing for this opening, but we’re so impressed with the results. It should quickly regain its spot on Knoxville’s must-visit restaurants after its opening Thursday.