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Creme de la Creamery

Fountain City Creamery and Restaurant
114 Hotel Ave.

by Ally Carte

Eavesdropping is not something I intentionally do. Really. I swear. Most of the time, while hanging around in a public space, the last thing I'm focused on is what the people around me are saying. Usually, my mind is so far adrift in its own little world that the voices around me become nothing more than an indistinct murmur.

That's where my brain was while waiting in line at Rita's Bakery (the best bakery in Knoxville, in my opinion) last Saturday, spaced out and staring at key lime chess pies, waiting to buy a loaf of wheat bread and a couple of gingerbread men.

Slowly, a conversation between the counter women and a cookie-buying man filtered into my consciousness, mostly because it was about food. "They have good pasta," he was saying. She agreed, and added "but it's usually more than I can eat."

I was hooked and horned in on the conversation to ask where they were talking about. Turns out the restaurant of their affection was just up the road in Fountain City. Called the Creamery, it is housed in the same brick complex where the scandalous and venerable Fancy's lingerie shop used to be, across the street from the Duck Pond.

I'd actually been to the Creamery a couple of years ago, when I was in Knoxville from points much further South interviewing for the job that eventually brought me to this Scruffy Little City. What I didn't realize was that this cozy little place served much more than rich ice cream treats and that, in fact, there was a whole dining room tucked upstairs. My dinner plans last weekend, which involved an ill-advised trip out to West Knoxville on a home game day, were scrapped as we opted instead for a meal closer-to-home that didn't involve fighting squadrons of orange-bedecked SUVs.

This time, eavesdropping served me well. The Creamery, a well-kept local secret, fills a niche for folks like me who live in North Knox. One can only eat so many burgers at Litton's, or so much corporate-casual out by the mall, or low-rent but well-cooked Mexican at Senor Tacos or heavily-spiced and -cheesed take-out pizzas from Harby's. What always was missing is what the Creamery is: an unintentionally charming place that serves well-prepared, interesting food, which proves false the notion that non-West Knoxvillians only want Krispy Kremes and Krystals.

While the night's special salad—an oriental chicken concoction with orange slices and fried wontons—sounded mouth-wateringly good, I steadfastly stuck to my first choice, the Provencal Pasta ($10.95). The large plate of linguine with chopped spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, red onion, red pepper and fresh basil is tossed in a goat cheese and parmesan-infused cream sauce, topped with either chicken or shrimp (or neither, I opted to go meatless and never missed the flesh). Perfectly balanced on this mound of colorful noodle were two crisply toasted rolls that added crunch. Even without the meat, there was more than enough to bag up and eat the next day for lunch.

The spouse, who one of these days I'll think of a charming nickname for, dove into the Piggy Back ($8.95), a grilled chicken breast smothered with ham and Swiss cheese. While this part of his dinner was on the good side of average, what really stood out were the unusual sides—a baked sweet potato, served with its own cups of brown sugar and butter, and a unique version of the standard seven-layer salad. A sweet, creamy, mayo-based dressing was plopped in the middle of a bed of greens, topped with tiny tomatoes, red onions, green peas, and shredded cheddar. It was hard to not just make a meal out of this calorie-dense (and addictively yummy) offering.

Those fat grams are best saved for the tantalizing dessert options, like a slice of Southern Fudge Pie with a scoop of ice cream ($3.75). Or your could assemble a hot fudge or caramel or butterscotch or pineapple sundae ($3.29) or a milkshake, float or malt ($3.29). Or dive in to a stuffed cookie ($4.25), two chocolate chip cookies or a white chocolate blondie filled with a scoop of vanilla. A warning: the Creamery's desserts are really built for two.

Soon, of course, I'll have to head back to investigate the sandwich offerings, like the chipoltle melt ($6.50), a grilled chicken breast or hamburger patty topped with gouda, caramelized onions, and chipoltle-studded mayo on sun-dried tomato bread. One of these days, I'm sure, listening in on other people's conversations is going to get me in trouble. But, this time, it led to some great eats.

Editor's Note: You can help keep Ms. Carte unscathed by sending the names of your favorite eateries to her at [email protected].

October 4, 2001 * Vol. 11, No. 40
© 2001 Metro Pulse