Where to Find Vegan Breakfast and Brunch in Knoxville
Going out for breakfast or brunch as a vegan can be a real challenge. Many places don't even have a non-dairy milk, so the bare-minimum oatmeal is off the table unless you want it made with (gasp!) water. Carb-y staples like biscuits and pancakes are made with milk, and everything is served with a side of bacon. Is it so hard to offer a tofu scramble?
Ranting aside, there are some vegan breakfast and brunch options in Knoxville, some better than others. Here are the places I would suggest that you check out:
Sanctuary Vegan Cafe
Sanctuary offers a full vegan brunch on Saturdays beginning at 11:30, with options like biscuits and gravy, breakfast sausage, hash browns, and tofu scrambles. If mimosas are non-negotiable, be forewarned that they do not currently serve alcohol, but for most of us, the range of options should fully make up for that!
Bistro at the Bijou
This is my personal favorite brunch spot in town. I always pretend like I can't decide between the vegan gingerbread waffle with spiced apples and dried cranberries and the Hoppin' John, but at the end of the day, there's nothing like collards and black eyed peas over rice with hot pepper relish. I like to get a side of sweet potato fries and add those to the mix. If I'm feeling particularly indulgent, I might add the flash-fried Brussels sprouts as an appetizer.
There are other vegan items on the menu that you could steal for brunch, too. Try the veggie bowl with sweet potatoes, kale, pumpkin seeds, tempeh and red quinoa. Bonus: the coffee is great and so are the mimosas.
THE TOMATO HEAD
For a place that's usually so veg-friendly, The Tomato Head doesn't exactly make it easy for vegans at brunch—though if you aren't afraid to ask for a few substitutions (and you shouldn't be!), there are some great options.
When I go, I usually get the Eva huevos rancheros with "soysage" and substitute potatoes for the eggs, vegan cheese for regular, and nix the crema. You can take a similar approach to any of the other huevos rancheros, one of the burritos, or even one of the egg sandwiches (my favorite is the Eula). As a former Tomato Head server myself, I can promise that if you ask your server to help you make a few vegan substitutions, they'll be happy to oblige.
OliBea may not have a ton, but what they do have is pretty good—and they have the strong position of being the only vegan-friendly place open for breakfast daily. They offer both tempeh bacon and tofu chorizo, and you can get the smashed potatoes made with olive oil instead of butter. I suggest that you get all three and top it with some of the local hot sauce they keep on the tables. For a real treat, ask for the Abuelita mocha made with almond milk.
Another veg-friendly local favorite that drops the ball at brunch is Sunspot, but you can make it work if you really want to. I would get the white bean and roasted garlic hummus, which comes with cucumber, blistered cherry tomatoes, fried chickpeas, and pita, and then add the home fries or a side of fresh fruit.
I have to give Tupelo Honey a provisional spot, because even though I've only been for lunch and dinner, their brunch menu lists a Field of Greens bowl with crispy Brussels sprouts (which seem to be trending), black eyed peas, wilted baby kale and arugula, and roasted red pepper sauce, served over farro. Sounds pretty good!
There are a few other places, like Holly's Gourmet's Market, where you can get a very nice bowl of oatmeal made with soymilk and fresh strawberries, but that about does it for the more substantial fare. I'm sure I'm missing somewhere great, so please let me know where you love to go for breakfast and brunch.