Kefi, Old City Greek Cocktail Restaurant Opens

Kefi, 120 East Jackson Avenue, Knoxville, October 2018

The wait was worth the end result. Urban Woman and I have been looking forward to the opening of Kefi since I first wrote about it nearly two months ago. We enjoyed the first night of public service along with Urban Brother last night and it was worth the wait. The best quote of the night was his, when he said, “The food and the restaurant could just as easily be in New York City.” (or something very close to that)

And that is true. It feels very “big city,” from the entrance all the way to the bar and the food and cocktails do nothing to diminish the illusion. Owners Jim and Lori Klonaris have brought in Chris Williams (Armada, Cafe Four Cocktail program) and chef Chester Miller, who, along with Lori’s sister Janet Chambers who supplied family recipes, to create a fine dining experience that doesn’t have to break the bank while unfolding like an elegant night out in the city.

Kefi, 120 East Jackson Avenue, Knoxville, October 2018

Kefi, 120 East Jackson Avenue, Knoxville, October 2018

Kefi, 120 East Jackson Avenue, Knoxville, October 2018

What you’ll see here is far more food than we would normally consume, because we wanted to try as much as possible. On a normal night, we’d eat and spend far less. Alcohol, as always, is a big determinant of price and we each had a flight to give us a sample of the cocktails available, as that is a point of emphasis. Between us, we sampled the Fig Smash, Naked and Famous, Old Fashioned, Maid in Cuba and Tears of Chios. We had a hung jury as to our favorite, but I really enjoyed the Naked and Famous.

Cocktail Flights, Kefi, 120 East Jackson Avenue, Knoxville, October 2018

Cocktail Flights, Kefi, 120 East Jackson Avenue, Knoxville, October 2018

Cocktail Flights, Kefi, 120 East Jackson Avenue, Knoxville, October 2018

We shared all our food all night and started with a Pikilia ($22) from the “Breads and Spreads” section of the menu. This comes with three spreads and we chose spicy feta, muhammara and baba ghannouj. Again a divided table, but my favorite was the spicy feta with feta, chili peppers and herbs. The breads were delicious, as well.

Kefi, 120 East Jackson Avenue, Knoxville, October 2018

Kefi, 120 East Jackson Avenue, Knoxville, October 2018

Mark Carson English Art Panels, Kefi, 120 East Jackson Avenue, Knoxville, October 2018

From the next menu section, “savory pies,” we selected the Spanakopita ($9, baby spinach, scallions, feta, filo dough). It comes with three pies, perfect for sharing at our table. All the dishes to this point are small and, shared, aren’t overwhelming. We decided to forgo the “For the Table” selections which are larger and we didn’t feel we could make it to the finish line if we went there.

Pikilia, Kefi, 120 East Jackson Avenue, Knoxville, October 2018

Saganaki, pan sautéed kesseri cheese, fig, lemon, flambé, Kefi, 120 East Jackson Avenue, Knoxville, October 2018

Saganaki, pan sautéed kesseri cheese, fig, lemon, flambé, Kefi, 120 East Jackson Avenue, Knoxville, October 2018

Saganaki, pan sautéed kesseri cheese, fig, lemon, flambé, Kefi, 120 East Jackson Avenue, Knoxville, October 2018

Next up is the “cheese mezze,” and there’s no way we were skipping that. The choice was easy: Saganaki ($12, pan sautéed kesseri cheese, fig, lemon, flambé). The cheese, we were told, is similar to white cheddar, but really, they set that stuff on fire, so what else are you going to pick? It was fabulous.

Since we were paying no attention to health, we skipped the “cold mezze,” which tends toward the more healthy, all vegetarian and mostly salads. More than one looked very good and when we’re back to our semi-healthy normal eating, we’ll probably go there.

Garides, large shrimp, garlic-butter sauce, smoky tomato, feta, grilled country bread, Kefi, 120 East Jackson Avenue, Knoxville, October 2018

Païdákia,roasted lamb chops, grilled apricots, cherry demi glace, Kefi, 120 East Jackson Avenue, Knoxville, October 2018

Instead, we skipped to the “hot mezze,” and selected two dishes to share, Païdákia ($16, roasted lamb chops, grilled apricots, cherry demi glace) and Garides ($15, large shrimp, garlic-butter sauce, smoky tomato, feta, grilled country bread). It’s impossible to say one thing was better than all the rest on a night like this, but if forced, the roasted lamb chops would have to be in the discussion. Tender, delicious, cooked just right and the sauce was worth the dish by itself. I loved the Garides, as well. I’d had the octopodi recommended by the lovely ladies pictured here, but our table just wasn’t down for that on this night.

For our “after mezze,” or dessert, we selected Kokakia ($7, Greek cream puffs with chocolate glaze, raspberry sauce) to share. It was a perfect finish to an excellent meal. I should add that I enjoyed a glass of Poggio Sangiovese ($7). They have one red and one white by the glass, but a half-dozen of each by the bottle. Also, we started our meal with a French Press pot of Three Bears coffee and ended our meal with a second pot (we loved the cups).

Kokakia
greek cream puffs with chocolate glaze, raspberry sauce, Kefi, 120 East Jackson Avenue, Knoxville, October 2018

There are a number of gluten-free and vegetarian options spread throughout the menu and, again, we ate far more than would normally be the case for us, so a couple could eat fairly economically, if they made the effort.

The beautiful space (I’ll save the words and let you look at the photographs) along with the excellent food and eclectic playlist of cool background music, plus the clear effort that went into noise control (we could speak quietly at our table and hear each other) all contributes to a place that feels like it’s ready-made for a grown-up, classy night out on the town. We lingered for three hours and that is clearly the intention. It’s not fast food, it is excellent food in a great atmosphere that might just make you feel like you visited a big city, but it’s just a short walk from everything downtown.

Friends Celebrate Opening Night at Kefi, 120 East Jackson Avenue, Knoxville, October 2018

Reservations will be available through the website but, at present, are made by phone at 865-474-1492. Hours are, Tuesday through Wednesday, 4:00 PM to 11:00 PM, Thursday through Saturday, 4:00 PM to 1:00 AM and Sunday (brunch) from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM. Happy Hour is from 4:00 PM to 6:00 PM Tuesday through Friday and a Late Night Menu is in place after 11:00 PM Thursday through Saturday. (Full Menu Here)

Comments

  1. 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟Best restaurant and bar in Knoxville…pricing…two thumbs up…had drinks & a lot of food…THE BEST!!! Will keep going back to try something different each time! 😍💘😋
    Went for soft opening too…
    KEFI is a KEEPER❣️🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

  2. The decor is amazing, the staff very welcoming and attentive and the food was good. My hubby and I went for dinner last Friday after we read your article about them having the flaming cheese-saganaki, my all time favorite. We each had an appetizer and a small entree. Hubby a glass of wine and me an unsweetened tea. Our tab was $95. Way overpriced for me. I was actually shocked that it was so high for what we had. We eat out quite a bit and I admit this is one of the loveliest places for dining in Knoxville but I dont think we’ll be going back for a full dinner again. Maybe my Saganaki and a glass of wine but that’s about it.

  3. Cant wait to try! Love the Mark English Paintings!!

  4. Enjoyed a wonderful dinning experience . Good Food, drinks ,atmosphere and friendly staff. “OPA”. Great Addition to Knoxville.

  5. Alan, I’m not sure any of your previous, excellent coverage of restaurant meals has made me SO want to visit a place and eat right away! The flights and sampler style appetizers really appeal to me as a gal who wants to try “a bite of everything!” Wow! Can’t wait to visit Kefi.

  6. Sean Martin says

    I haven’t been there yet, but from the photos it looks like they really nailed the interior design of the space… great ambiance! Congratulations to the Klonaris family for another wonderful contribution to our social scene!

  7. We had a most wonderful experience at the soft opening of Kefi. Jim, Lori and Demi were so hospitable. The food choices were outstanding. The staff was excellent and accommodating throughout the meal. We can’t wait to go again.

  8. SK Ballard Contract Interiors was very proud to be selected as the Interior Design firm for for this project. The food is fabulous! The menu is amazing and once again Jim and Lori have created a wonderful restaurant!

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