Sweet P’s Downtown Dive, Knoxville, Tennessee

We stopped in Knoxville on the way to Birmingham to see family.  The older downtown office buildings there seem to be turning into lofts and the area has something of a college student/hipster feel, with a leavening of young professionals.  The downtown is small and a self-guided tour points out interesting buildings and locations that helped make Knoxville the Cradle of Country Music.  Downtown has a real theatre (plays and concerts), a nice artists’ cooperative, and an unusually diverse range of restaurants and bars.  And just beyond the Arts District, on the extreme end of downtown is Sweet P’s Downtown Dive.  The folks at the Marriott recommended it, so we went.

Sweet P’s Downtown Dive is a spin-off of Sweet P’s Barbecue and Soul House, which seems to have the same menu and also has live music.  As you enter the Downtown Dive, you immediately see a large posted menu and place your order at the counter.

sweet pea menu

I zeroed in on the beer list and the pork plate, as usual, but when I was reading the side offerings, this caught my eye:

sweet pea menu p c

An unwonted moderation kept me from ordering the fried pickles (Sweet P’s properly fries pickle slices rather than spears; fried spears are just wrong), but I did order the pimiento cheese dip.  Good call.

sweet pea p c

The dip was warm, liquid (at least at first) and tasted really, really good.  The home-made potato chips were probably the best home-made potato chips I have ever had – thin and perfectly crisp.  Home run.

I chose greens and potato salad while Nancy got a chicken plate with slaw and green beans.

The pork was pretty good.  It was roughly chopped, fairly smoky and moist. It came with some bark, but it was box-smoked bark rather than pit bark.   All in all it was well above average for non-pit barbecue.

Nancy really liked the chicken, especially with their hot sauce, which is not so much hot as tasty.  (Their thin vinegar-based sauce is way too sweet, and their thick sauce is treacly.)  The greens were good.  They had just the right amount of bacon and were, for reasons lost on me, studded with carrots and black eye peas, which neither added nor detracted.   I liked the potato salad but Nancy thought – accurately – that it needed celery.  Nancy pronounced their cole slaw good, but I have to say that their green beans were not what you expect to find in a barbecue place.  With no pork, no salt to speak of, and cooked beyond tenderness, they reminded me of the vegetables at my Ohio elementary school cafeteria.  The pinto beans and the macaroni and cheese looked good.

Sweet P’s is worth a stop for the pimiento cheese dip and potato chips alone, but the barbecue and the chicken are good as well. And they have a great beer selection.   You should eat there.


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