The thirteenth location of Ruby Sunshine restaurant opened on Monday in downtown Knoxville at 37 Market Square. It becomes the second location in Tennessee (Franklin opened two months ago) for the restaurant based in New Orleans, where it is called Ruby Slipper.
Food Manager Ian Shordon, who you may know from Lonesome Dove or Landing House (he helped open it), also worked at Lucques in Los Angeles. He said the idea was born out of the devastation of Katrina when the owners, two engineers, decided to open the first location there as a way to help re-build the neighborhood. It was a way to say, “We’re open. Come home.” He and General Manager, Mary Price are, coincidentally, both from California.
The restaurant quickly became very popular and has grown rapidly since. It’s a unique concept: New Orlean’s style brunch (you’ll always hear New Orleans Jazz playing inside) from 7:00 AM each morning to 2:00 PM weekdays and 7:00 AM to 3:00 PM on weekends.
We enjoyed the shrimp omelet, Florentine omelet, banana pudding stuffed French toast and coffee, but the menu contains much more. Ian said two dishes that are signature dishes of a sort are the Costa Rican Breakfast (Gall Pinto – slow cooked black beans and rice – over a warm tomato salsa, two eggs any style, chorizo sausage, crispy plantains and avocado) and Eggs Cochon (Apple braised pork debris served over a buttermilk buscuit, topped with two poached eggs, finished with a pork tasso cream sauce).
Of course, there’s more. They offer a line of benedicts, a salad and sandwiches. Deserts are also available for after brunch or on its on. There’s a full beverage program with a range of coffee drinks, cocktails, beer and wine. They offer a set of mimosas, bloody marys and a “morning margarita” I may have to investigate when I’m feeling a little crazy and have no work to do afterward.
They will also offer seasonal specials which will change every quarter. Currently available are a Nashville Hot Catfish Benedict, the Banana Pudding Stuffed French Toast and a Goo Goo Cluster Pancake made with actual Goo Goo Clusters. “Go Get a Goo Goo, they’re good!” (Grand Ole Opry Reference from fifty years ago, sorry.)
That’s something I’d wondered before my visit: If the point of brunch (and the profit margin) is in the morning drinking (without judgement!), I see how it works on the weekend, but who is able to morning drink during the week? I found several answers. The table next to us was filled with service industry workers who get off in the morning after working all night and were having drinks. Ian mentioned nurses who similarly work all night and have brunch and a drink before going home to sleep.
I also chatted with a couple traveling through from Florida back home to Indiana and were enjoying brunch and drinks. They’d stopped off in Knoxville just to see what downtown was like and said they’d really enjoyed it. There were people who looked like retirees just a few tables away. So, I was wrong about morning drinking during the week. Apparently it’s a thing.
Ian said they are going for a Big Easy sort of post-Mardi Gras feel. You’ll find culinary references to New Orleans, of course, but also bright colors and signage that looks like it might be found in the French Quarter. They and the staff (which they said is excellent) are ready and waiting to welcome you to give it a try.
I have several events coming up to which I’d love to invite you. Check them out below to see if you might be interested.
Urban Hike, Saturday, June 1, 11:15 AM. As a part of Bike, Boat, Brew and Bark, I’ll be leading a walk and talk as I did last year. We’ll follow a similar route, starting at the Market Square Stage and walking across the Gay Street Bridge to Suttree Landing Park before returning to Gay Street where we’ll disperse. Along the way we’ll talk about the city, development and whatever else you’d like to discuss. the walk is free, but participation is limited and registration is required here.
Knoxville Writer’s Guild, Central United Methodist Church, June 6, 7:00 PM. I’ll be the featured speaker at the monthly meeting of the Knoxville Writer’s Guild, discussing the writing journey that is Inside of Knoxville. It is open to the public and a small donation (for the guild) is requested.
Arts and Culture Alliance, Emporium, June 13, 5:30 PM, “Growing Your Social Media Presence,” Cost is $5 for members and $8 for non-members. Registration and payment are required here.