71 South, 3726 Sevier Heights Road, Knoxville, April 2023
It was eight months ago that Ryan Steffy and the ownership group announced that a new restaurant, 71 South (which is the official designation for James White Parkway, which officially terminates near the entrance to the restaurant), would come to the former Sevier Heights Baptist Church chapel. They celebrated a soft opening this past weekend and officially opened yesterday.
Situated adjacent to Baker Creek Preserve, it sits in the perfect spot to catch mountain bike enthusiasts as they enter or leave the trail. It is the first of several businesses planned for the former church buildings. The chapel in which the restaurant is located is in a building that is almost 100 years old. It had been abandoned and was covered in graffiti. The pulpit was heavily damaged.
In the eight months since the announcement was made, a lot of hard work went into transforming the chapel into a restaurant. The pulpit was preserved and restored to serve as a host stand greeting diners as they enter. A center partition divides the room, with church pew seating backing up to the partition on each side, facing two-top tables. The partition itself was built with wood found inside the building.
Three large sections of lattice-work hang suspended from the center of the ceiling with lighting suspended from each. The altar has been removed and the bar in its place features three arches containing the alcohol, echoing the arched windows lining each side of the room. The windows were replaced, but the framed arches retained, and they are truly the star of the place, providing a beautiful light in the daytime.
Adam Atchley developed the branding, while Shanthi Appelö is responsible for the design work. Benefield Richters served as architects. With a goal of developing a casual dining experience in an elevated space, the group has met the mark. It’s a place that works for a couple’s night out, a drink with friends, or a place to hit before or after a day on the trails which are, literally, visible through the windows.
Chef Matt Petro developed the menu, which includes sandwiches, mains, and bowls, along with a brunch menu (served until 3:00 pm every day). Additionally, there are ten beers on tap, including local favorites from Gypsy Circus, Alliance, Crafty Bastard, and Shulz Brau. A wide range of packaged beer is also available, along with a few wines and a full bar.
Urban Woman enjoyed a Baker Creek bellini and I enjoyed an urban sour as we waited for our orders to arrive. Both were delicious. She ordered a 71 Smash Burger and reported it delicious, while we both enjoyed her house-made chips. I was pleased with the Baker Creek Bowl (I added chicken) and was so anxious to get started, I messed it up a bit before the photo included here, but you get the idea. We shared a piece of cheesecake to top it off.
Ryan wanted me to be sure to let everyone know about the restaurant’s Urban Wilderness Fund. A receipt round-up program is in the works and, once it is set up, the proceeds will “go directly to organizations responsible for the maintenance and preservation of Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness. The same is true for proceeds from events and merchandise sales. The organizations benefiting include the Appalachian Mountain Bike Club, Ijams Nature Center, and Legacy Parks.
It makes sense. This and many other new businesses in south Knoxville would likely not exist, let alone thrive, if not for the presence of the Urban Wilderness and the attention it has drawn. I lived in south Knoxville forty years ago and it would have been completely impossible then to imagine the kind of development it has seen recently.
The restaurant is open seven days a week and initial hours are Monday through Friday 11:00 am to 11:00 pm, Saturday and Sunday 10:00 am to 11:00 pm. There are daily specials every day. Follow the restaurant, make reservations, or place a to-go order through their website, and follow along on Facebook and Instagram. You can also reach them directly by phone at 865-240-3900.