Kopita Meat: New Restaurant Coming to Gay Street

Future Home of Kopita Meat, 522 South Gay Street, Knoxville, September 2020

A remarkable number of businesses have opened, or are planning to open, during the pandemic. While many downtown businesses have struggled and some have closed, several have moved into larger spaces. Several downtown business owners have purchased new spaces, seeing the pandemic as an opportunity to further invest in downtown Knoxville’s future.

Avi Zenatti brought the food he remembered from his childhood in Israel to Kopita in 2019. After opening downtown’s first vegan restaurant, Zenatti saw an opportunity when Viet Bread and Tea closed earlier this year, signing a lease on the space at 522 South Gay to open Kopita Meat.

Avi said that Kopita was very successful out the gate last year and was serving 150 to 200 meals a day by the beginning of this year. The pandemic brought about a 90% downturn. Some of the business has come back and they are serving about 50 to 70 meals a day during the week, with around 120 on the weekend. He’s confident that the business will return as the pandemic passes and the streets are once more filled with people.

As he did with Kopita, Avi wanted to bring another new concept to the city, providing food just a bit different from any other restaurant. As its name implies, Kopita will be more for the meat lovers and will feature a menu emphasizing lamb and unique cuts of beef. He describes it as a mix of Middle Eastern, European and North African cuisine.

Kopita Falafel and Hummus Bar , 522 South Gay Street, Knoxville, September 2020

He’ll offer kabobs that he promises are different from what Americans are accustomed to. The new restaurant will also serve breakfast, featuring Shakshouka a Mediterranean dish including roasted tomatoes, olive oil, onions and garlic topped with two sunny-side up eggs. You’ll find fresh-baked challah bread and dishes like snitzel made with breaded chicken breast served on the challah.

Avi will also offer a special Moroccan sausage ground and made fresh in-house from lamb meat, spices and beets. “I want to educate people to eat different parts of the animal.” Mediterranean deserts, including baklava will also be made in-house. He’s applied for beer permits for both Kopita Vegan and Kopita Meat and is planning to add nice patios in front of each of the restaurants, with flowers, plants and umbrellas.

He’s also excited about a collaboration with the U.T.K. Culinary School. Interns will supplement the staffing at the restaurants and he’s set to deliver several hours of lectures to the culinary classes this fall on spices, Mediterranean food and Moroccan food.

He made it clear that the original Kopita will remain Vegan, using no animal products. The two restaurants will operate out of separate kitchens, both delivering top quality food, but maintaining complete separation. He hopes to offer classes in the new restaurant teaching others how to prepare the dishes he serves.

He said the best part of operating Kopita has been meeting so many people over food, saying he has “made many friends through the restaurant. I provide jobs for 20 people and it makes me happy to do that during Corona time. We have to be healthy with spirit. It is part of the solution. We cannot stop living.

He plans to open early in October.


  1. Kopita is one of my favorite restaurants, and I congratulate Avi on launching this new concept!! I hope he’ll consider choosing another name, however, besides Kopita Meats. I thinks there’s a real risk for confusion with new customers that the restaurants will share kitchen space, which would be an issue for vegan and vegetarian diners. Just a thought. Again, congratulations and thank you for investing in downtown.

    • No, we vegetarian/vegans are not confused about the kitchens being separate, and I doubt Knoxville has any appreciable number of vegans who only dine at vegan-only restaurants. If so, they probably didn’t go to Kopita because it’s public knowledge the chefs worked (I think even owned) at Rebel Kitchen which as an actual veg*n I found very vegan unfriendly. The only possibly vegan option was a slab of cauliflower. But I do find the name choice weird, maybe even disrespectful. I don’t understand why not just name it a totally different name. It’s hard to pinpoint my feelings on it, but I just feel not great about going to a vegan restaurant with a counterpart that is specifically not vegan.

      • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

        To be clear, Kopita and Rebel Kitchen were never owned by the same person. The original chef at Rebel Kitchen was briefly the chef at Kopita, but left shortly after their opening.

  2. I hope there is a way to take food from one to the other to dine. My youngest son is vegan and loves Kopita. I do, too…but some of what they will make at Kopita Meat sounds amazing.

    • If they have an issue with the name, that’s silly. It’s clear they are remaining separate and have separate kitchens. I guess the old saying is true–you can never underestimate the intelligence of the average consumer.

      • I think the point is that a vegetarian or vegan person, who has never heard of this restaurant, might just see the name and not even consider eating there, not realizing that there are menu options for them, too. They might not even take the time to learn that there are separate kitchens.

  3. I like Kopita and would definitely be ordering takeout from them if there was an easy way to do it. The website needs to show the complete menu and offer a way to place an order online. I like to patronize downtown restaurants, and those who make it easy to order and pickup are the ones I will that I will be supporting for at least the next six months.

    • I was in Kopita yesterday taking photos of their menu items for DoorDash. I’m sure those will be posted in the near future for your ease in ordering. I was impressed by the environment, staff, and menu. It’s truly going to be a great place to have a meal. Try their hot tea, it’s delicious!

  4. Congratulations to Avi and his family on this second restaurant space. I know the level of care they put into everything they do so I imagine this new space will be a great place to take friends and family to experience good food and culture. Can’t wait to try it!

  5. KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

    For everyone’s information: I removed a comment (and responses to it) from earlier this morning and, since I rarely remove a post unless it is attacking others, I wanted to acknowledge that and explain.

    The post linked to a video which is apparently narrated by our county mayor, though he is identified as “Glenn Jacobs,” not “Mayor Glenn Jacobs.” Against a broad range of images, the video seems to attack the evil forces which are out to destroy our country and then suddenly calls for an end to divisiveness (after a minute or so of pretty extreme divisiveness).

    I removed the comment simply because it was unrelated to this article. That said, it was leading to attacks on the person who posted it, with people seeming to think he supported it when, he clearly said, he finds it disturbing.

    Let’s try to keep comments related to the article on which they are posted and to be careful before attacking anyone. If you, as this person did, would like to ask me to respond to something like this video, you are welcome to contact me directly.

    • Thanks, Alan, for everything you do for Knoxville.

      It is so wonderful to see local business that are doing well, despite the pandemic.

      Also, I am super-excited about Kopita-vegan. That sounds wonderful. We haven’t been going downtown because of the pandemic, but I love middle eastern vegan food.

Leave a Reply to Kevin Cancel reply


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.