Grilled North Carolina catfish, Carolina gold rice, tomatoes, squash, basil pistou and tomato vinaigrette. This was my order and it was fantastic. Beautiful, too, don’t you think?
I awoke this morning to the terrible news of a fire in the building housing J.C. Holdway, the thrilling new restaurant that was opened just last night by James Beard Award-winning chef, Joseph Lenn.
J.C. Holdway, located at 501 Union Ave., in the historic Daylight Building, is named for Lenn’s late bachelor uncle, a great socialite and raconteur who dined out for every meal. The opening has been much anticipated as Lenn, formerly executive chef at The Barn at Blackberry Farm, is among our area’s small cadre of “celebrity chefs.”
It is unclear at this moment when the restaurant will re-open. But, rest assured that when it does, you will want to have your name on the reservation list.
The space is spare and lovely with a large open kitchen rimmed by a bar on two sides. A dining area on the Walnut Street side of the space, which used to be a photography studio, leads to a larger dining room in the rear, which is where my husband, Alan Carmichael, and I were seated last night.
The food is anything but spare. It’s over-the-top fantastic. I think it has huge nods to the fare Lenn used to turn out at Blackberry Farm, which is an awesome thing. Take this, for example: slow cooked farm egg, mushroom broth, chives, crispy mushrooms. Or this: hearth-roasted shrimp, grits, andouille sausage, preserved tomatoes, shellfish emulsion. Oh, my. I plan to order everything on the menu. Hopefully, in the not too distant future.
View as you enter the front door.
Chef Lenn, standing, greeting guests in the large back dining room.
Here’s a better look at Chef Lenn.
Very cool light fixtures. (Disclosure: Johnson Architecture, which worked on the restaurant, is a great Moxley Carmichael client.)
Fires were roaring in the oven and grill.
The menu truly has something for everyone, from seafood to chicken to pork and beef with several vegetarian options, as well. The most expensive entree is the wood-grilled Denver steak for $26.
Chef Lenn’s proud parents, Jerry and Emily Lenn, were there last night.
Mary Constantine, second from right, the food editor at the News Sentinel, scored the “chef’s seats” overlooking the busy kitchen. With her are, from left, Trystan and Shelley Kimel and Mary’s fiance, Matt Graveline.
Alan and Karen Sims were there. He is known as “the Urban Guy” and writes a blog called “Inside of Knoxville,” which you can find listed as one of my favorites here on the Blue Streak.
My first course was the aforementioned hearth-roasted shrimp and grits. It was fabulous.
The centerpieces reminded me of Blackberry Farm, as well. Very simple little flowers. Also loved that the eatery uses Cruze Dairy Farm milk bottles as water bottles for every table.
Speaking of Cruze Farm, here’s Colleen Cruze Bhatti posing with me (at her insistence).
From left, Whitney Dawson, Mariane Whittemore, Jen Mowrer and Channing Dawson.
Ellie Moore, left, and Charlotte Tolley of Nourish Knoxville and the Market Square Farmers’ Market, respectively.
From left, Anne Avera, Maureen Hafford, Flossie McNabb and Pat Hardis. These ladies go back a long time together, they said.
Le Creuset is a colorful partner.
Now, here’s a good use for a big ole pot!
From left, Wayne Christensen, Bill Parsons, Terri Parsons and Sara Christensen.
Dennis Perkins and Cindy Moffett.
Here’s Alan’s order: wood oven-roasted half chicken, creamed corn, fried okra and roasted onions. (They had him at fried okra!)
From left, Patricia Bible, her children, Paula Chesworth and Charley Bible, and Sol Holcomb.
Deborah Franklin, left, with Kim Trent.
Peggy Hambright of Magpies.
Laura and Mark Heinz.
Larry and Deb Fauver.
From left, Susan and Jim Turner, Jerry and Emily Lenn and Martha Hill.
Alan’s dessert choice: Olive and Sinclair chocolate cake, Cruze Farm coffee ice cream with candied cocoa nibs. He let me taste it and, holy cow, it was so moist and deep, deep chocolate.
Yep. Pretty happy guy.
These are some boxes that will always look good in my refrigerator!
A special touch in the bathroom was J.C. Holdway-branded peppermint eucalyptus hand soap.
Chef was tired but happy at evening’s end.
The kitchen had settled down.
Alan was waiting for me at the bar. (I think that might become my favorite spot to eat dinner.)
Here was the view as we left.
And then, the news of the fire this morning.
Most of the damage was to one wall separating the restaurant from a common area in the Daylight Building. (Photo by Scott Bird)
Second floor damage in Daylight Building. The restaurant itself did not appear to have been seriously harmed. (Photo by Scott Bird)