Stir-ring Up Some New Development in the Old City

Stir Knoxville, 125 Willow Ave., Rendering provided by Square One Holdings, June 2023
Stir Knoxville, Rendering provided by Square One Holdings, June 2023

Stockyard Lofts opened as a 5 over 1 in the Spring of 2022 after a lengthy development period. Until recently, we didn’t know what the 1 would be, but if you’ve driven by lately, you have seen the sign for Stir Knoxville. This will be the 4th Stir to make its debut since the flagship location opened almost 7 years ago in Chattanooga, TN. Stir is an in-house, all-scratch-made concept that is known for its oyster bar, craft cocktails, and artisanal ice.

Stir Knoxville, 217 Willow Ave, under construction, June 2023

I sat down with Myrandia Hankal, the General Manager of Stir to hear the plans for the restaurant and what makes it stand out in a crowd. She describes it as seafood with an Asian flair and Southern comfort food perfected. Bringing Stir to Knoxville’s Old City was a relatively easy decision with the stadium’s development and the desire to bring high-quality foods and unique cocktails to the area. The brand already had ties to Knoxville through Blaine Wedekind, who is the co-founder with Will Rutemeyer of Balter Beerworks, along with Square One Holdings, which is the umbrella company, if you will, for nine other restaurant concepts, including Balter Beerworks. Blaine serves as the Director of Operations for Stir and worked closely with the owner of Square One Holdings, Allen Corey, to bring Stir to life in Knoxville.

Stir Knoxville, 217 Willow Ave, under construction, June 2023

Myrandia has been in the service and hospitality industry since she was 16 and has a good bead on what works and what doesn’t in the restaurant world. Her intro to Stir impressed her right away. She told me that every dish is wholly prepared in-house, from the pasta to the sauces and dressings, as well as the syrups and tonics for the craft cocktails. While I’m not an oyster fan, their oyster program was impressive to learn about. They purchase from harvesters in the coldest waters of the U.S. with a 10-day turnaround. If the harvest date is more than 10 days passed, they reject the shipment to preserve the quality of what they serve to customers.

Stir Knoxville, Photo by Stir Chattanooga, June 2023

Their artisanal ice service should get cocktail fans excited. Stir freezes the water in-house in 2-300lb blocks that are continuously purified in the freezing process producing ice that is as clear as glass. It gets cut into 5×5 shaver blocks and down to as small as 1×1 cubes to pair with specific cocktails. The filtration process that purifies the water also lowers the melting point of the ice, so your drink is not watered down while you sip. They also have a unique ice shaver that allows them to serve frozen drinks tableside for those hot summer days and nights. Myrandia tells me they have over 400 spirits on hand but have a heavy bourbon focus. Old Fashioned, anyone?

Stir Knoxville, Ice Shaver, Photo from Stir Chattanooga, June 2023

Stir will serve brunch on Saturdays and Sundays with exciting dishes, a brunch bar, mimosas, an espresso martini featuring Jameson whiskey, and Bloody Mary’s with a housemade mix you can purchase to take home. She describes the space as comfortable, quaint, and intimate. The concept is upscale but versatile enough that you will want to make a reservation for your special event and stop in for lunch in your shorts and t-shirt. They will have roughly 300 seats combined with indoor and outdoor patio seating. Roll-up doors and windows will bring the outdoors in and allow for the open-air vibe that the concepts are known for.

Stir Knoxville, 217 Willow Ave, under construction, June 2023

I also had the opportunity to meet and chat briefly with other team members. Esteban Mejia, who is rooted in Knoxville already, is serving as the Executive Chef with over 25 years of experience in the industry, and Zach Trapuzzano is the Sous Chef. Roco Geyne is the Assistant G.M. Brian Sims, who has served with the Copper Cellar concepts, will be the Front of House Manager. Drew Houts is the Bar Manager, and Blaine Wedekind is the Director of Operations. Brian tells me he is excited about Stir and ready to get it off the ground.

Stir Knoxville Team June 2023
L-R, Esteban Mejia, Roco Geyne, Myrandia Hankal, Brian Sims, Drew Houts, Zach Trapuzzano, Blaine Wedekind
Stir Knoxville, 217 Willow Ave, under construction, June 2023

Another key player has been architect Jim Bray who designed the restaurant with feedback from the team. They wanted to bring in the warm tones and feel of the Old City with brick and dark wood beams, and hardwood and tile in the interior, with deep blue tile on the exterior, and red roll-up doors/windows that will draw the eye without being overwhelming. T.U. Parks Construction Co is doing the construction work. Will Sims of Oliver Smith Realty and Company brokered the lease of the space. The marketing team is South Made Marketing out of Knoxville.

Stir Knoxville, 217 Willow Ave, Rendering provided by Square One Holdings, June 2023
Stir Knoxville, 217 Willow Ave, Rendering provided by Square One Holdings, June 2023

Their initial hours will be Monday-Friday, 11am-12am, and Saturday/Sunday, 10am-12am. Brunch hours are 10am-2:30pm on weekends. On weekdays, you can get lunch from 11-4pm with dinner service from 4 pm-close. They do take walk-ins, but reservations on the Open Table app will guarantee you a table without a long wait. They are currently in the hiring process, so if you are interested, head down to Stockyard Lofts and meet them for an interview. Click HERE for a listing of job openings.

Stir Knoxville, 217 Willow Ave., Rendering provided by Square One Holdings, June 2023

Something I appreciate about any for-profit is when they recognize needs in the community and work to help solve those. Square One Holdings created the Square Up Foundation, in which all of their concepts participate in community giving through nonprofit partnerships. They range from Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to Children’s Hospitals. Locally, Balter Beerworks partners with Emerald Youth Foundation. Stir Knoxville will also be participating in this, with that community partner to be released soon.

I was in the Chattanooga area when Stir opened at the Choo-Choo. I was optimistic about the concept there and felt the same about the concept here. It’s exciting to see a restaurant I loved in another city follow me to Knoxville, especially one as interesting as this.

Stri Chattanooga, June 2023

They are targeting late July for opening. You can follow them on Facebook and Instagram to make sure you don’t miss it!