Best of Knoxville 2009
Café 4 is a restaurant with a simple menu of modern American fare: flatbreads, salads, upscale hot dogs (“Yazoo Pale Ale Bratwurst”), and a “grits bar” (mainly a series of dishes served with grits). Run by Lori and Jim Klonaris, veterans of several well-regarded West Knoxville eateries, most recently Kalamata Café, it’s actually part of an intuitive and locally unprecedented combination of attractions known as Four Market Square. Named for its address, it also houses roughly four enterprises: the restaurant, a bakery, a coffee shop, and a small auditorium called the Square Room, which is sometimes sort of a bar/nightclub with a mix of singer/songwriter-oriented entertainment, and sometimes sort of a church.
The concept has perplexed some. Four Market Square was a project of the Cornerstone Foundation, a quietly faith-based non-profit that has helped fund several community-building projects in recent years, from the Nine Counties/One Vision project to the glass-brick sidewalks on Gay Street. The upper floors of Four Market Square are the site of Christian leadership functions, including dormitories for students. Some have seen cause to worry for the secular soul of Market Square. Several rationalists have stepped gingerly into the place, on reconnaissance for telltale evangelism, without much to report just yet. (For what it’s worth, one of downtown’s most outspoken atheists is a regular.)
Café 4 promises only to be “an urban retreat...a third place, neither home nor work, a place for nurturing community life and creative interaction.” It does seem to be that.
See Also: Best New Restaurant in Food and Drink