(Written by AppalachianGastroventures for Inside of Knoxville. This is the first in a planned, monthly, series of restaurant reviews, allowing for further exploration of local restaurants after their opening. I hope you enjoy this new addition.)
We have only a few culinary dealbreakers, which we should probably get out of the way first.
Joy, the better half of our partnership, won’t go anywhere near a raisin and always says no to mayo. Trying to feed Todd canned tuna fish or an olive is a mortal sin, though Joy got me to retry an olive when we began to date; they still taste like briny motor oil to me, but she nevertheless got another date, and the rest is, as they say, history.
I explain this as a bit of an introduction.
You can debate whether or not we’re a foodie couple, but there’s no doubt that we’re a couple that loves almost all food—especially food from this Appalachian region we currently call home. That fact is something we’ve been ravenously embracing since we met and we’ll continue to do so as we explore Knoxville through our appetites, both on our personal blog, www.appalachiangastroventures.com, and here on www.insideofknoxville.com. For the most part, we’ll try (almost) anything.
Which leads us to our recent trip to The Stock and Barrel, an upscale bourbon and burger joint located at 35 Market Square. Joy skews away from red meat, but it’s not a dealbreaker. So long as there are no raisins or mayonnaise on it, she’ll splurge on a steak or a burger every few months. But it takes the right kind of grub to raise her from her red meat hibernation.
To understate things, The Stock and Barrel is the right kind of red meat.
Rustic and upscale inside, with exposed brick and a cozy atmosphere, it’s been around since 2013 (they recently opened a Nashville location). And there’s a reason there is still a long wait list snaking out the door on busy nights. The restaurant has a long list of bourbons and a variety of bourbon-inspired cocktails, and they serve locally sourced beef from Mitchell Family Farms in Blaine, Tenn., with flour-dusted buns from Knoxville’s own Flour Head Bakery. When bacon is called for, it’s Benton’s all the way.
But while the ingredients are top notch, there is an artistry to Stock and Barrel’s burgers that sets them apart.
The “Bernie” burger features the perfect combination of bleu cheese crumbles and blueberry preserves paired with Benton’s bacon and fried jalapenos. The deftly assembled burger hits nearly every tastebud in your mouth, dancing from sweet and tart to salty and spicy. The result is a concoction even a curmudgeonly senator from Vermont could love.
The “Elvis” is similarly creative, drawing from The King’s dubious culinary history. While Skinny Elvis and Fat Elvis alike we’re known to slather white bread with peanut butter and mashed bananas, Stock and Barrel ups the ante with a burger that probably would’ve shaved a few more years off of Elvis’s life. Frying bananas and pairing them with organic peanut butter—with some Benton’s bacon thrown in for good measure—resulted in a burger worthy of a spot in rock and roll history.
For those who still plan to abstain from red meat, there’s also the Chicken and Waffle, which gives its beefy brethren a run for their money. Tennessee honey, maple bourbon mustard, greens, tomato, and bacon dress up a fried chicken filet on a freshly crisped waffle, conjuring the best parts of breakfast and dinner.
We had to stop there, but there’s plenty more: a Greek-style lamburger, a salmon burger with avocado, greens, onions, and garlic aioli, as well as burgers made of turkey, mushrooms, black beans/quinoa, and your good ‘ole classic ‘Merican.
Burgers are reasonably priced, from the $10 Free Bird (turkey burger) to the $18 Big Nasty (a double meat, double cheese, double bacon monster that we didn’t get a chance to try), and each comes with hand-cut French fries or beer-battered onion rings.
For starters, try the white cheddar pimiento cheese dip. With barrel-aged cheddar, pimiento, tomato jam, and goat cheese, the appetizer is a strong take on a Southern staple, and is pleasantly soupier than many other pimiento cheese dips that act as more of a spread.
If there’s room for dessert, Stock and Barrel serves several varieties of hand-crafted shakes (S’mores, Nutella and PB&J), as well as Bourbon Peanut Butter Pie. For us, the burgers and dip had filled us up, but there will definitely be a second visit.