If I’ve been asked once, I’ve been asked twenty times, “When will Sweet P’s open?” or “Is Sweet P’s still planning to open?” I didn’t know any more than any of the rest of you until now. Thanks to Gina Truitt who will be the general manager (some of you know her as the former owner of The Well), I was able to get an interview with Chris and Jonathan Ford owner/managers at Sweet P’s. Josh Russell will be the kitchen manager, rounding out the supervisory staff.
Chris, who is a life-long Knoxville resident, started the barbecue business as a catering service – and they still do catering – in 2005. In 2008 he suggested his cousin move from Atlanta to join him in opening the first location of the restaurant, located at 3725 Maryville Pike in south Knoxville. Jonathan had grown up coming to Knoxville and readily accepted the opportunity. The restaurant has done very well.
A second location has been on Chris’ mind for a couple of years. He looked other places, but what he needed was very specific and seemed to preclude a downtown spot because he needed, for example, a stand-alone building with an outdoor space to cook the meat. He didn’t want to shift to indoor cooking and he didn’t particularly want to spend the money involved in venting an older building. Then his friend Mark Heinz, along with David Dewhirst, suggested the small building beside The Standard on Jackson Avenue. It had enough space, an outdoor area for cooking, the right vibe and, after some work, they developed a plan that made financial sense.
The menu will be similar to that of the south Knoxville location, but perhaps with different specials. As Chris described it, “We make barbecue and soul food and we stay in that general wheelhouse,” for other offerings. In addition to ribs and sandwiches, they will offer mac and cheese, greens, pinto beans. A fish special and a brunch entree on Sundays are likely. They’ll have smoked turkey sandwiches for those trying to be a little more careful with their diet.
Price point will be of interest to a number of downtown readers. In recent conversations, it seems many of you want restaurants at the ends of the spectrum: James Beard nominees and more affordable quick-service meals. Affordable quick-service is what you should find here. Sandwiches run around $4 to $5 while plates run from $9 to $22 (a meat and two sides), but basically meals will cost around $8 to $10. Children’s plates are available and party-sized containers of everything they make are available for take-out. Want wings and potato salad, ribs and cole slaw or a pint of collard greens to go? They have you covered.
Almost two years in the making, Chris said it feels good to be among friends. As a life-long resident of Knoxville and a long-term member of the culinary community, he has strong memories of downtown back in the day, of the Mercury Lounge and Ella Guru’s (Favorite Ella’s memory: Wynton Marsalis). He’s friends with chefs and owners of Knox Mason, Knoxville Whiskey Works and Holly’s 135 among others and they’ve all been very supportive.
I had to ask about wine and music and got a mixed response. Advocate as I did for blues bands, Chris said they will start with no music, but nothing is set in stone as they go forward, so there is hope on that front. I liked the wine answer better: An eclectic choice of wines will be offered soon, though perhaps not at opening. While the beer license has been secured, the certificate of occupancy has to be received and forwarded with the application for the liquor license in order to get the green-light for wine service. The choices won’t be extensive, but he promises they will be good.
Abram and Dayton Hanford built the beautiful bar as well as some of the similar touches behind it. You may know them as two of the owners of Architectural Antics just up Broadway. They’ve also been mentioned on this blog for their construction of the cool counter at Nothing Too Fancy. While random construction detritus obscured the final vision when I visited, the decor is comfortable and feels like a barbecue place should feel. World’s Fair and other references adorn the walls and a garage-type door opens on the front to let the fresh air in on good-weather days. It’s also a bit larger than it looks from the outside, with seating will be available for up to 67 people.
Hours may fluctuate somewhat until they find the right mix, but a starting point will likely be 11:00 AM to 9:00 PM Sunday and Tuesday through Thursday, 11:00 AM to 11:00 PM Friday and Saturday and closed on Mondays. They intend to open late next week with (what they hope will be) a soft opening. I certainly plan to be there and I’m excited about a different kind of restaurant for the city. Check them out. In the meantime, like their Facebook Page so they know you are happy to have them.