Peerless, a longtime west-Knoxville restaurant on Parkside Drive, of which I was not a fan, recently rebranded itself as K-Town Tavern. It’s close to our house and even though I didn’t care for Peerless at all, we decided to give it a try.
We’ve eaten at K-Town Tavern twice now, and I would say I was mildly satisfied with some of the food on the first trip and extremely dissatisfied the second. The only reason I’ll give it another chance is because of my “wait 6 months and see if they work out the kinks” policy. Since the main issues I have with K-Town Tavern are people/service-related - they ought to be fixed over time if the management is good.
What I liked
So far, the main thing I liked from K-Town Tavern is the Big Orange Ham & Jam Fritters. These are good enough that, if I weren’t so irritated by the terrible service we received last time, I’d go back and just order a couple plates of these as my meal if I were eating alone.
The fritters were truly excellent. I liked the pimento cheese, I liked the red pepper jam, and even our 3 year old admitted they were great.
I also liked the burger I ordered on our first visit, but only the burger itself. The Mac-n-Cheese on it tasted funny. Not like something in it had gone bad, but like one of the 3 cheeses they used was unusual - like a gouda or something. The burger itself, ordered medium, was very good. If I’d just scraped the Mac-n-Cheese off it, I would call it one of the best burgers I’ve had in a while.
What I didn’t like
In general, I’d say I didn’t like the lack of familiarity of the servers with the menu and its offerings, although as a just-opened establishment, I’m willing to cut them some slack on that, especially if they own up to it. I’m less willing to be tolerant of what I experienced during our second visit, which I’d call confident and assertive ignorance, combined with a seeming lack of interest in customer service.
I was completely underwhelemed with the desserts. Called out as “hand-crafted” on the menu, but having eaten plenty of “homemade cheesecakes” that come from a food service business, I have my doubts about K-Town’s. I was also disappointed when I left the restaurant after trying the desserts the first time, as I was asked if I would like dessert to go, and I noticed a plain New York Cheesecake - something I would’ve vastly preferred over what I ordered, but unfortunately plain cheesecake wasn’t on the menu and I wasn’t told it was an option.
Here’s one of the desserts we ordered - a Baklava Cheesecake. It was only OK, and not nearly as good as I expect for $8/slice.
Another disappointment was the Tavern Hash on our first visit. I asked what it was, and while the server mentioned a couple of vegetables, what he did not mention was mushrooms, and it was full of them. I didn’t bother to take a picture because I didn’t want to remember it.
What I really didn’t like
Our entire second visit. In fact, if I could go back in time and warn myself, I would have skipped it entirely. But a friend was in from out of town and he wanted to meet us for dinner had asked me to pick a place, so I picked something close to home and new.
The entire visit was a wreck. We were seated in the open area with the slide-up doors and the ridiculously overpowered ceiling heaters. I’ve been in places before with this setup that weren’t physically uncomfortable to be in, so I know it can be done right, but we even joked that it was painful to stand up in the room and a relief to sit down.
We were seated in a room that had quite a few open tables, and our drinks were brought to use by a manager or hostess who noted our server would be over shortly. That evening’s definition of shortly definitely didn’t match ours, because by the time he showed up with 3 glasses of water we hadn’t asked for, for the 4 people at our table, we were beginning to regret our choice of venue.
Everything took too long that visit. Drink refills took several minutes. Our son’s burger came out first, which was fine, then my wife’s pizza arrived 5 minutes later, and it was a good 15 minutes before my Taco Board and my buddy’s Fajitas arrived. Luckily we’d ordered the Ham & Jam Fritters as an appetizer, so we didn’t go completely hungry for that time.
The true tragedy of the evening, though, was my entree, the “U” Build Taco Board. Here’s how the menu describes it - something I didn’t pay a ton of attention to then, because I assumed if I ordered something from the menu, I’d get what’s on the menu. I know, crazy, right?
Jose Corn Salsa, White Mexican Cheese, Black Beans, Guacamole, Sour Cream, Lettuce, Jalapeño, & Southwestern Rice. I bolded the items that did not arrive with my Taco Board, as you can see in this picture.
That’s right - what I was served was the fried catfish (wouldn’t make that mistake again), black beans that obviously had any trace of liquid drained from them, the driest and most tasteless two tablespoons full of rice I’ve ever had, 3 bone-dry tortillas, and … a random handful of tortilla chips someone seemingly just threw on top of the board as it was being carried out of the kitchen. I wish I’d taken a picture of it as it arrived at the table, but like I said, my meal arrived a good half hour or more after we ordered, so I was hungry.
So I sat there trying to make sense of “build your own tacos” consisting of dry meat, dry beans, dry rice, and tortillas so dry that they cracked even more as I folded them around the items I’d been served, and I just couldn’t imagine this was correct. It wasn’t, of course, so I managed to get our server’s attention and asked him if there was supposed to be some salsa or sour cream or anything with this, pointing at the board and its contents.
And this was where the confident ignorance made its strongest appearance that night, which in hindsight made me question all of his other assertions about the menu earlier. He said, and I’m pretty sure this is an accurate quote, “We don’t have salsa. I can bring you some sour cream.” What he brought was the tiniest of sauce containers with maybe a tablespoon of sour cream on it and, wonder of wonders, a mexican-style pottery jar containing corn salsa - almost as if they had something in the kitchen specifically designed to hold a garnish he’d just asserted they didn’t have.
So I made do with the salsa and enough sour cream for half a taco and had the worst meal I’ve eaten in quite a while. It might have been drastically different if I’d been served the items listed on the menu under the Taco Board - who knows?
Bottom Line - Can’t Recommend Right Now
Like I said above - I’ll give K-Town Tavern a second chance in 6 months. It may well be possible to get a decent meal there right now, but that Taco Board screwup really soured me on the place, and there are way too many great options in Knoxville for me to risk it again for now. I might be willing to meet some buddies there for a giant 32oz mug of cider and an order of those fritters in the meantime, but when it comes to taking the family out for dinner, I’m looking elsewhere.