9 Dishes Every UTK Student Must Try Before Graduating

Photo: University of Tennessee
Photo: University of Tennessee
Photo: University of Tennessee

By Samantha Trueheart

Because the University of Tennessee has the Great Smokey Mountain National Park conveniently located outside its back door, our favorite recipes and restaurants of Knoxville intertwines classic southern comfort with an Appalachia-hippie vibe.  We’re the students who wear Chacos and flannel to class, and most likely know our way around Beale Street in Memphis or Music Row in Nashville. Tennesseans have two passions—music and food—and that makes for a good party.

That said, before you cross the stage at graduation, make sure you’ve crossed all of these dishes off your bucket list:

1. Cheese Bings

Cheese Bings are a local favorite at Goal Post Tavern (the locals call the restaurant “OCI”) among students who want to watch the away game with a basket of fried mozzarella cheese balls.  Located on the Strip, a street with restaurants close to campus, it’s an easy walk back to your dorm or apartment.
: A “Big Gulp” of beer

2. Orange Sweet Tea

Walk over to the University Center and try out Petro’s orange sweet tea. The orange slices in the tea add a unique twist to this southern classic.
Compliment: The “Petro” original. It’s a cup of chili with Fritos—perfect on a late October game day.

3. BBQ from Sweet P’s

Tennessee is famous for its Memphis-style Bar-B-Que. Pulled Pork sandwiches with a vinegar-based sauce are served at every afternoon tailgate in Big Orange Country. We take our pork very seriously—I once went to an event where an entire pig was roasted and served. Sweet P’s is a popular venue and was featured on the Travel Channel.

Photo: Samantha Trueheart
Photo: Samantha Trueheart

4. Biscuits

Fluffy buttermilk biscuits are like a blank canvas down south. Pour gravy on them, put fried chicken in between them or spread jam over them; everything tastes better on a biscuit.

>>Get the recipe

5. Fried Pickles

If you haven’t figured it out by now, Southerners love anything fried. Can you think of anything we haven’t tried to fry? Me either. Fried pickles are one of my favorites and perfect as an appetizer.
Compliment: Mix mayonnaise, horseradish, ketchup and Cajun seasoning for a dip that doesn’t disappoint.

6. Grits

Grits are broken grains of corn normally served alongside breakfast. Although other states mix their grits with shrimp, Tennesseans prefer butter and cheese.
Compliment: Bacon. Always bacon.

7. Moonpies

Moonpie is a dessert made of two graham cracker cookies filled with marshmallow and dipped in chocolate —perfect when you’re craving a s’more! Moonpies were created in Chattanooga, Tennessee and a festival is held every year in its honor.
Compliment: An RC Cola

8. Tomato Head Pizza

Every college town needs a popular pizza place. It must be a rule that college students must love pizza in order to get in. But Tomato Head is not your typical greasy pizza parlor. Located in the historic Market Square, Tomato Head offers pizzas, salads and sandwiches made from fresh produce.
Compliment: The acoustic music and live shows you’ll be surrounded by

9. Moonshine Whiskey

The tradition of distilling moonshine in Appalachia was kept secret among families and passed along to neighbors for a century before state law made the practice legal. Ole Smoky Tennessee Moonshine makes a variety of flavors from the grain bill of corn. (Careful—this stuff is strong!)

Apple Pie Shot
Prep time
Total time
Recipe type: Drinks
Cuisine: American
Serves: 1
  • 1.5 ounces of Apple Pie Moonshine
  • Whipped cream
  • Ground cinnamon (to sprinkle on top) OR cinnamon stick (for garnish)
  1. Pour moonshine into a shot glass, top with whipped cream and garnish with cinnamon.

Samantha Trueheart is a senior at UTK and a web producer for Oprah.com. Follow her on Twitter: @samtrueheart for witty one-liners, fashion and lifestyle news, and all-around awesomeness.

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