New for Breakfast and Lunch: Brown Bag

Brown Bag, First Tennessee Tower, 800 S. Gay Street, Knoxville, August 2014

Brown Bag, First Tennessee Tower, 800 S. Gay Street, Knoxville, August 2014

It’s easy to live downtown and miss a few small jewels that target the downtown working crowd. I wrote about the Hot Bagel Company last summer, for example. Located in the edge of the old Whittle Building, just off Cumberland, it’s easy to overlook, but it’s a loss if you do so. The latest restaurant which could fall into the category of easily overlooked for downtown residents, is the Brown Bag, located in the First Tennessee Tower Plaza. Open from 7:30 AM to 2:30 PM, Monday through Friday, it could easily fly under the radar for downtown residents.

I had lunch there yesterday with Urban Girl and I think it’s worth seeking out if you are downtown during the day time. For starters, the plaza itself is a pleasant space. I’m not sure if it’s always looked as good as it does now and I’ve missed it, or if it’s been improved recently, but it is attractive, partially shaded and comfortable. In decent weather I’d be tempted to take my lunch outside to eat.

Brown Bag, First Tennessee Tower, 800 S. Gay Street, Knoxville, August 2014

Brown Bag, First Tennessee Tower, 800 S. Gay Street, Knoxville, August 2014

Brown Bag, First Tennessee Tower, 800 S. Gay Street, Knoxville, August 2014

Brown Bag, First Tennessee Tower, 800 S. Gay Street, Knoxville, August 2014

The restaurant decor is simple and the seating emphasizes function. It’s not a place that calls to mind the most beautiful spot you’ve eaten, but it’s comfortable enough and clean. A chalk board holds the menu of the day, which changes a bit, but maintains certain standard meals. There are various menus, including breakfast, lunch, catering and bulk/pick-up.

The workers taking orders were very pleasant and the food was delivered very quickly. As soon as we finished another worker offered to take our trash – even though a trash can was within reach of my seat.

Of course, the point is the food and it was very good. Their motto is “Food with a Purpose,” and I asked about that. I was told it is a reference to their Christian faith (not on display in any fashion as far as I could tell), but perhaps more importantly, in my opinion, their goal to deliver healthy food quickly and at a reasonable price. I’ll give them very high marks on that front.

Brown Bag, First Tennessee Tower, 800 S. Gay Street, Knoxville, August 2014

Brown Bag, First Tennessee Tower, 800 S. Gay Street, Knoxville, August 2014

Brown Bag, First Tennessee Tower, 800 S. Gay Street, Knoxville, August 2014

Brown Bag, First Tennessee Tower, 800 S. Gay Street, Knoxville, August 2014

My friend, and frequent contributor to the blog, Greg, had tried it earlier this week and he warned me that the portions were large. For that reason, Urban Girl and I ordered a chicken sandwich (baked chicken, caramelized onions, a sauce of some sort and a touch of horse radish, provolone cheese on ciabatta bread), which came with two sides. We chose snow peas and mashed potatoes and a bottle of water. It was plenty for us and came to around $11.

I really enjoyed everything I ate. The sandwich was delicious (you can get just the chicken), as were the sides. The one note I would make there is that it was all pretty spicy. I love spicy, but not so much does my five-year-old Urban Girl. There wasn’t much there she could eat. When I mentioned it later I was told they will happily make a grilled cheese sandwich, but it wasn’t on the board and how would I know that?

Brown Bag, First Tennessee Tower, 800 S. Gay Street, Knoxville, August 2014

Brown Bag, First Tennessee Tower, 800 S. Gay Street, Knoxville, August 2014

Brown Bag, First Tennessee Tower, 800 S. Gay Street, Knoxville, August 2014

Brown Bag, First Tennessee Tower, 800 S. Gay Street, Knoxville, August 2014

True to their goals, french fries and other fast-food sides were not offered. They do have brownies if you aren’t totally into deprivation of your sweet tooth. It’s pretty easy to go vegetarian and they offer a salmon burger as well as grilled fish tacos. I’m not aware if anyone else downtown offers fish tacos any way but fried. While the sides do offer kettle chips as a choice, they also offer healthy alternatives like baby spinach salad, berry slaw, and grilled asparagus.

I like what they are trying to do. They don’t claim to be a “health food” restaurant, but they are going for “healthy,” and to do that in a way that is fast, flavorful and inexpensive is nearly impossible. I spent an entire work career trying to find lunch that was easy, tasty, healthy and cheap and never really settled on it. This comes pretty close. Give them a try and see what you think.

Comments

  1. We’ve been using Brown Bag at Hardin Valley for years — both as a lunch destination and for catering. They always provide the most delicious, consistent quality foods for our meetings and gatherings. Lunch in the restaurant is even better, if that’s possible. So happy they have a downtown location — wishing them all the best!

  2. Thulam Vo says:

    Shuck Raw Bar and Ale in the 100 Block of Gay Street offers steamed fish or shrimp with their tacos if you like. They also offer a blackened tuna taco.

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says:

      Thanks, Thulam, that’s good to know. I love Shuck, but hadn’t realized that. I can’t help but get the great seafood tower with a fried oyster appetizer because I love them so much.

  3. I had an equally pleasant experience at the Brown Bag’s new downtown location. I was very impressed with my meal, which was mostly healthy and definitely tasty. The only exception, as far as the health aspect, was the banana pudding. But I’m not complaining because it was the best I’ve had in a long time. Highly recommend Brown Bag!

  4. The “purpose” is to fill you full of good food. Really good food.

    A big hungry guy will love the size of the meal served. Two adults with normal appetites could split a plate and save a wad of cash.

    That plaza is a nice lesson in design when contrasted to some of the poorly designed ones downtown (like the sunken one across the street and the sunken one by the federal office building. 50 years ago William Whyte pointed out that people hate sunken plazas, but architects kept right on designing them. Says a lot about that profession.)

  5. Evelyn Banda says:

    I had been wondering about that place! Thanks for figuring it out for me.

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