Torta al Pastor
El Girasol, 4823 Newcomb Ave., 865-588-0202
Really, you could be happy with any of the options available for these Mexican sandwiches: chorizo, lengua, asada, etc. The whole experience rests on the indulgence of the preparation—a soft butter-soaked bun is grilled to a perfect, golden crisp and then filled with a slice of avocado, a sliver of pickled jalapeño, plenty of mayo, shredded lettuce, tomato, and whatever meaty filling you prefer. The al pastor option is filled with generous hunks of spit-roasted marinated pork (cooked like your favorite gyro filling). These are best eaten hot and on the spot.
Bida Saigon, 8078 Kingston Pike, 865-694-5999
East meets West in this mouthful of Vietnamese sausage and ham with cucumber, cilantro, and carrot that’s surrounded by a crunchy French baguette. The banh mi comes in different forms that include pâté, fried egg, and shredded pork, and while all are tasty, there’s a particular magic about Vietnamese sausage and ham in the banh mi dac biet (or #25) that makes it a consistent favorite. Usually there’s a noticeable slice of fresh jalapeño in the mix that brings an exciting jolt of fresh and lively flavor (and some heat) when you get it in a big bite of everything—part of the banh mi’s appeal is its blend of both heating and cooling flavors. Unless you’re allergic, go for it.
Restaurant Linderhof, 12740 Kingston Pike (Renaissance Center), 865-675-8700
Truthfully, this indulgent sandwich is very much like a grilled Reuben, but anything made with stuffed pork belly merits a second look. The meat itself is a thinly sliced cold cut that’s reminiscent of good bologna (and, yes, there is such a thing) that delivers a nice porcine flavor with a silky texture. The combination of meat with dark ale mustard, Swiss cheese, and butter-grilled rye is elevated by good house-made kraut that walks a pleasant line between savor and tang. The sandwich comes with a choice of several good sides, but I wouldn’t miss the kassespaetzle—it’s a tasty scoop of soft little flour dumplings cooked with four different kinds of cheese.
Dennis Perkins' Home Palate is a tasty exploration of local options for eating out and eating well by way of restaurant reviews, features on fun or unusual foodstuffs, and interviews with local food purveyors and tastemakers. It’s a candid and personal look at what’s right (and sometimes what’s wrong) with eating in Knoxville and its environs. He is also the artistic director of the Knoxville Children’s Theatre, has directed and performed at the Actor’s Co-op and Black Box Theatre, and is a foodie par excellence.
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