It’s only logical that 212 Market Restaurant would be featured in an issue that spotlights the arts. From the plates they serve to the surroundings their patrons enjoy, art is central to everything 212 does.
When they opened their innovative establishment almost 20 years ago, the Moses family wanted the decor to be as unique as their cuisine. To that end, they bought and commissioned original artwork from local artists. Over the years, their collection has grown and includes pieces from world-renowned creators. Some of the art on the walls at 212 is even for sale!
212 Market goes a step further than the rest in more areas than just decor. One of 212’s hallmarks is the use of fresh ingredients from local farms, and they often host “Meet the Farmer” events at the restaurant. On Tuesday, Aug. 28, for instance, Eddie McKenzie of Sale Creek Honey will visit for an exciting evening featuring live music and snacks highlighting the sweet nectar.
The restaurant’s focus on sustainable sourcing made them a natural fit for the Tennessee Aquarium’s Serve and Protect program with Alton Brown, which aims to raise awareness about responsible (and delicious) seafood options. On Sept. 27, they’ll host a dinner with an Asian-inspired menu featuring sustainable choices emphasized by the campaign.
I started my meal with one such option, calamari, which was one of the daily specials when I visited. Breaded, fried and then tossed in a sweet, tangy glaze, it had a mildly spicy finish that kept me coming back for more.
Switching to their seasonal menu, I tried the crispy pork belly, served with a grilled peach salsa and basil funnel cake. Innovation like this is always on the menu at 212 Market. The dish was fantastic, with each element balancing the next.
A sizable roasted beet and orange salad was next. A pleasantly sharp sherry and shallot vinaigrette was cut with creamy chevre, and earthy sweetness from the beets and a bright note from the oranges joined walnuts in providing a variety of contrasts.
Both entrees I sampled were equally as impressive. The shrimp and grits were a revelation, served with fried green tomatoes and a black-eyed pea salsa that was more like a side dish than a sauce. It’s easy to see why the dish was featured on Andrew Zimmern’s web series, “Appetite for Life.” Well-spiced shrimp are joined by smoky Benton’s ham atop creamy grits in doing this classic proud.
The flatiron steak was another innovative option. The steak is marinated for 48 hours, producing an intensely flavorful cut that was lightly charred and perfectly cooked. It was joined by locally-grown kale, mashed sweet potatoes and pineapple sage salsa to elevate “meat and potatoes” to a whole new level.
At any given time, 212 Market has 10 options for dessert. I had a heavenly slice of peanut butter pie, with a light mousse filling and chocolate crust and topping. The sampler trio was also fantastic, featuring a dark chocolate truffle cake, crème brûlée with a ridiculously thick shell, and a classic New York-style cheesecake.
212 Market stands out as a choice that suits all kinds of diners. If you’re a burger-and-beer kind of guy, 212 has you covered. Are you into locavore cuisine and boutique bottles of wine? They’ve got that, too. They even have a kids’ menu that will keep the little ones happy while you enjoy whichever of the fresh, flavorful selections you decide on.
Every flavor at 212 Market reflects the ideals its owners embrace, with creativity and freshness at the heart of every dish. What’s even more outstanding is that you can enjoy these tastes in a relaxed atmosphere adorned with artwork as beautiful at the plates that come out of the kitchen.
Giving you your money’s worth when you dine out is an art form that many restaurants aspire to, and some achieve. The folks at 212 Market are masters of that art form. Drop in and enjoy a masterpiece.
212 Market Restaurant
212 Market St.
(423) 265-1212 212market.com
Lunch: Daily, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Dinner: Mon.-Thur., 5 to 9:30 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 5 to 10 p.m.;
Sun., 5 to 9 p.m.