I don’t recall how I learned about The Nolia Grille, but I do seem to remember reading some very positive online reviews. That was enough to justify me putting the Magnolia Avenue eatery on my list. After a couple of initial attempts at a drop-in lunch — only to find that the restaurant wasn’t open during advertised hours — I called to confirm their hours of operation one day last week and successfully stopped in for dinner.
Right now, they’re not allowing dining-room service, so all orders are placed at the outside window. They have a menu posted there, so I took a few minutes to decide what sounded good in the moment. The Grub Spouse wasn’t able to join me, but I would be ordering for both of us; I would dine in the Grubmobile and take The Spouse’s meal to go.
You’ll find a little bit of everything on the menu: chicken pieces (thighs, legs, wings) and tenders, jumbo shrimp, chicken and waffles (includes four whole wings), pork chops and swai fish. Sandwiches include beef or fried bologna, a BLT, and chicken tenders served on Texas toast or a bun. They also offer hot dogs and a build-your-own rice bowl, which allows you to add the vegetable and protein toppings of your choosing to a rice base. The proprietor really talked up the rice bowls. I may have to go back and try one, but on this visit, I wanted to go in a different direction.
I was craving a burger that evening and chose the beef patty ($6) over the turkey burger. I ordered mine with cheese (50 cents extra), mayonnaise, mustard, lettuce, tomato and grilled onions (50 cents). I ordered a Philly sandwich ($8) for The Spouse. The Nolia Grille will make them with grilled beef, chicken or Buffalo chicken, but I chose regular chicken for this order. I took a wild guess at how The Spouse would want it prepared and requested Swiss cheese (50 cents), onion, mayo, bell peppers, lettuce and mushrooms.
I had a variety of side items to choose from, including fries loaded with cheese, bacon, ranch, banana peppers and green peppers. They also make French fry baskets topped with steak, chicken or shrimp. I kept things simple and got an order of onion rings for me and a basket of fried okra for The Spouse. They rang up at $3 each.
I hung out in the Grubmobile while our orders were prepared. While I waited, I watched a steady stream of customers place and pick up orders. When mine was ready, I picked it up from the window and took it back to my vehicle. The owner had also talked a good game when it came to the burger, and this one did not disappoint. I’m estimating the patty weighed in around a half pound. I was pleased with my selection of toppings, and all the parts worked well together to deliver a complete burger experience, from the juicy beef to the fresh buns. I literally gave the staff inside a thumbs-up while enjoying it. The onion rings seemed to be the standard, from-the-bag variety, but I had no complaints.
I didn’t get to sample the Philly until I got back to the Grub House. It was a hefty monster, with lots of grilled chicken and other ingredients packed inside the hoagie roll. My sampling also delivered on flavor, and I even liked my bites of okra, even though I’m not a big okra fan in general. Sadly, the restaurant had already run out of banana pudding by dinnertime, and no other desserts were available.
Although the business hours posted on the front door are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, I understand that they’ve not been opening until closer to 1 p.m. lately. I recommend calling ahead of time to confirm their hours of operation on any particular day. But between the tasty and satisfying food, the friendly service and prices that are really hard to argue with, I would say that the good buzz about The Nolia Grille was well deserved.
The Nolia Grille
Address: 1920 E. Magnolia Ave.
No alcohol service
Hours: Call restaurant to confirm
This neighborhood eatery serves up a wide variety of tasty sandwiches, baskets and comfort foods — all made to order.
This article originally appeared on Knoxville News Sentinel: The Grub Scout: Nolia Grille offers Southern-flavored smorgasbord