Named for George Washington’s Secretary of War, Henry Knox, Knoxville is home to the Tennessee Valley Authority (created by FDR in 1933 to provide “electricity for all”) and is also the adopted home of “Roots” author Alex Haley.
But most importantly, Knoxville is the birthplace of the hyper-caffeinated sparkling beverage, Mountain Dew!
Slang for moonshine, Mountain Dew was invented here by the Hartman brothers in the 1940’s and was originally intended to be used strictly as a mixer for whiskey. Below is a picture I found online of a vintage advertising banner, which, incredibly enough, featured a hillbilly with a giant jug of hootch. Awesome!
Located at the western edge of the Great Smoky Mountains, where the French Broad and Holston Rivers converge to form the headways of the snaking Tennessee River, Knoxville is truly “Do The Dew” country, with beautiful, flowing rivers everywhere you look.
We stopped here for dinner and a quick driving tour on our way to Nashville and were not disappointed. Home to the University Of Tennessee, Knoxville is a hip college town with a thriving music scene and a beautifully-restored downtown.
Although we arrived too late to visit the Women’s Basketball Hall Of Fame (which had a super cool giant basketball out front) or seek out the Alex Haley statue downtown, we did come across a huge line of big old “Claymates”, emphasis on the BIG and OLD, waiting in line to see Clay Aiken in concert.
Pictured above is one of their many festively-adorned minivans. The driver actually slowed down so I could get this shot as we passed them. Nice gals, those Claymates!
For dinner, we settled on a cool-looking place with a sweeping view of the river, called Calhoun’s – Taste of Tennessee.
Although famous for their ribs, we were saving our rib lust for Memphis, so Mom and I ordered the hot wings, which were good, but a little sweeter than we were used to. To wash it down, we shared a pint (yes, I said shared. We still had a three hour drive to Nashville ahead of us) of their Bohemian-style lager, Thunder Road Pilsner, which was hoptastic! Really good stuff.
But the true star of the meal was the side of Tennessee Corn Puddin’ (their spelling, not mine) that came in a small, unassuming ramekin with Christine’s Southern-Fried Catfish dinner, pictured below.
I’m not kidding, I could do some seriously nasty things to that creamed corn puddin’, it was that delicious. Even Courtney — who ordered a salad — loved it. Pictures do not do that heaven-sent puddin’ justice. Whew…amazing stuff.
So, our bellies full, Clay Aiken probably well into his second encore of “Mandy”, we hit the road to Nashville.