Owner Jenna Baker, Vid'l, 111 East Jackson Avenue, Knoxville, September 2022
Vid’l is in the midst of a soft opening. Yesterday, the restaurant opened to friends and family, and today and tomorrow were registration-only events that are now full. The restaurant will be closed Thursday through Sunday this week to prepare for their official opening on Monday, September 19.
If you were familiar with the space at 111 East Jackson, Suite 103, which used to be Blüen, you’ll see the basic footprint is the same. Jenna Baker and Vid’l (you many know her business as Cook to Be Well) have made changes, such as literally raising the bar. Seating on the front side is more comfortable as they are now open to dine-in customers. Design and décor will be an ongoing project for a while.
They also have new retail refrigeration cases displaying their grab-and-go meals. They will also offer a la carte, so you can build your own meals, in addition to continuing their Be Well Box (after a two-weekend break to get the restaurant moving along) for those who wish to subscribe. The construction of the bar and shelving (that is still underway) is being completed by Tony Cheatham of Artifact Custom.
As she designed the space, Jenna designed it with growth in mind. Her original space was very small and she knew it need to immediately have more capacity, but it also needed to leave room for future developments. She is catering now and the new kitchen gives her plenty of room to grow that portion of the business. “We can do events up to 200.”
The restaurant will offer kombucha (hard and softer) and a natural wine list that Jenna is excited about. The wine list is small, but “curated to find those smaller producers that have natural bio-dynamic practices. They are lower alcohol, since this is lunch. They are beautiful natural wines: sparkling, two whites, an orange, and two reds.” Counter Culture coffee is also available.
They will have a case filled with their baked goods, all “sweetened naturally with maple, honey, date, or banana and we use high quality local grains. It’s not your typical bakery good.” They use no white sugar or refined flour. I enjoyed a chocolate chip cookie and it was delicious and very filling. My 86-year-old uncle also had one after his Vaquero Beans w/ red cobb and cornmeal muffin, which he said he very much enjoyed. Of the cookie, he said, “It’s got a lot of chocolate.” And yes, it does.
The restaurant has a combination of bar and table seating for about sixty people. The grow room, previously filled with hemp plants, is now beginning to fill with vegetables. Jenna showed me a tomato vine nearing the end of its cycle and smaller, younger vines grown from the seeds of the original plant. “The pieces are still coming together,” for the grow room, according to Jenna. They will grow their microgreens in the space and they are placing soil beds to grow more of what they use.
Patrons will order at the front and then be seated to wait for their food to be brought to the table. That food, as you might guess, will be plant-based and all-natural. They will bake their own bread and cook all your food from scratch. Being able to serve their food directly, as opposed to placing it in a box, will allow them to be creative, according to Jenna. All her products are plant-based. “Our most important goal is that we’re making delicious food, and secondly that the food is intended to support your health.”
She describes the menu as “casual and approachable . . . but we are excited to get creative.” The menu remains the same all day, but some items may be more breakfast oriented, while others are more traditional lunch items. We enjoyed the Grits and Greens with local mushrooms and got a chance to split a BBQ Buckwheat & Beet Burger on soft spelt roll w/ pickled red onion rings, lettuce and beetjonaise along with a side of Mediterranean Quinoa and it was all delicious. They have hot cereals, sandwiches, salads, soups, a daily market bowl, and sourdough bread.
Jenna said they continue hiring and she acknowledged that is a struggle, right now. She has eight people now and could easily use two more for front-of-house. She has found that she enjoys offering people jobs and wants to make a great work environment with good pay and benefits where “people can thrive.”
Her starting salary is $15 and each tab will have a 20% surcharge added which “supports the operation being able to offer higher and stable pay rates rather than a lower rate with a fluctuating tip subsidy.” This contributes to stable and equitable earnings for everyone. “I want to make jobs better in food and hospitality and I think it’s possible . . . Making good jobs comes first, then making good food.”
Hours for dine-in will be 8:00 am to 3:00 pm, seven days a week. Grab-and-go items will be available until 4:00 pm, though that may be extended.