Many a song has been written about Tennessee. Countless artists have dedicated their work to her beauty, drawing inspiration from her mountains and waterways. And now, the Volunteer State can claim another love letter of sorts—a luxury hotel called the Tennessean that honors its birthplace at every turn.
Each floor is named after a state river—Clinch, Hiwassee, Ocoee, Holston. Locally made furniture fills the rooms, and marble bathrooms nod to the area’s many quarries. Headboards above each bed bear a map of the Tennessee River.
Taken together, thoughtful touches like these add up to something grand, helping make the Tennessean, which opened in 2017, one of the most talked-about hotels in the South. Condé Nast Traveler has twice ranked it among the best twenty-five hotels in the region, and Southern Living named the Tennessean its top hotel in 2018.
The accolades are apt. Guests are charmed from the moment they step inside the lobby, which has soaring ceilings and a giant bookshelf showing the Tennessee River along the spines of its books. I took full advantage of the hotel’s concierge services, which included a complimentary car that took me anywhere I wanted to go within three miles.
But that left me to wonder: Why leave? The hotel’s restaurant and bar, the Drawing Room, is reason enough to stay a spell, thanks to its rotating menu, showcasing the bounty of Tennessee. Three items truly stood out for me: sheep’s milk cheese from Blackberry Farm (in Walland), cured country ham from Benton’s (based in Madisonville), and the local veggies, including pumpkin, corn, and butter beans. The restaurant feels both lavish and intimate, the sort of place locals go on special occasions—in fact, when I was there, the group next to me was celebrating a birthday.
No doubt, part of the Drawing Room’s appeal is the bar, which has one of the largest selections of bourbons and whiskeys in Knoxville (173 bottles!). It also shakes up unique cocktails that capture the spirit of Tennessee. Two stand out: the Tullahoma Dew, made with George Dickel No. 12 Tennessee Sour Mash, Mountain Dew syrup, and rhubarb bitters, and the Orange You Glad You Tailgated, a vodka drink with smoked ice that celebrates the nearby University of Tennessee. Both are solid and sweet reminders: The Tennessean belongs to Tennessee.
531 Henley Street, Knoxville, Tennessee • (865) 232-1800 • thetennesseanhotel.com
While You’re There
Knoxville is home to Tennessee’s official state theater—and it’s a beaut. The Tennessee Theatre opened in 1928 as a movie house and now serves as a performing arts center. The stunning interior showcases design elements from around the world, including Asian carpets and drapes, Italian terrazzo flooring, and chandelier crystals from the Czech Republic. Take in a show, or attend one of the open houses held throughout the year.
This article appears in our Spring/Summer 2020 issue of Southbound.