Best of Knoxville 2009
For a very quick egg-over-easy with bacon and grits, or biscuits and sawmill gravy, or just a bowl of cereal and some coffee, Pete’s is very hard to beat. Forget Wi-Fi—Pete’s doesn’t have it. They don’t even accept credit cards. And though the meaning of “coffee shop” has changed since Pete’s started using the term, he doesn’t have an espresso machine. Pete’s excels in what the best American cafes delivered 50 years ago. His crew has mostly worked there for years, and knows their customers by name. And they offer an amenity neglected by many restaurants: They don’t throw leftover newspapers away. But what people go there for is good food, fast and pretty cheap, and a general atmosphere of familiar jollity.
In praising Pete’s, we shouldn’t forget the serendipitous origins of its space. The city needed a parking garage. They could have just built only a parking garage, and 10 years earlier, they would have. But they were persuaded to entertain the idea of street-front retail in the plans, and specifically to accommodate Pete’s, a refugee from the condemned Sprankle building a block away. Some doubted whether the long, narrow space would work for a busy restaurant, but it turned out to be a perfect fit.