Each year, Matt's company gifts a holiday meal to their employees and their families who live too far away to attend the company Christmas party. We usually choose to go the week before Christmas and it's fun trying to decide which restaurant to attack with some serious nutritional debauchery. Our choice was a little trickier this year knowing that we needed to take our new baby and toddler along with us. The Turkey Creek location of Connor's Steak & Seafood in Knoxville, TN fit the bill with their tasty menu options, varied kid's menu, and family friendly atmosphere.
It was 7 days before Christmas, so I dressed up our little Santa Baby and hoped she and Jasper would give us a fun and relatively stress-free dinner outside of the house. Hey, look at us going out like real people and stuff! It's a Christmas miracle!
Connor's currently has four locations in Tennessee, Alabama, and Florida. The restaurants specialize in fresh seafood and premium aged steaks, gourmet salads, and a variety of pasta dishes.
The dimly-lit interior and warm dark wood furnishings offered a cozy vibe and welcoming atmosphere. A few tasteful holiday decorations were placed around, and the art on the walls had been temporarily wrapped up like two-dimensional Christmas gifts.
The meal started with a loaf of bread with pesto in olive oil. The bread was soft and warm and the pesto in the olive oil was a pleasing addition of flavor. We were off to a good start, for sure. Knowing that we were planning to order every course during this dinner, we tried to limit ourselves to one small piece of bread each... no easy feat.
I started with the soup of the day, chicken poblano, which proved to be a wise choice.
Warm and spicy as well as cheesy and comforting, though I had planned not to finish it to save room for the courses to come, my bowl was empty before I knew it. Whoops.
Matt started with the spinach and strawberry salad topped with walnuts, blue cheese, and a balsamic vinaigrette. This is one of Matt's favorite salad combinations and one of mine as well.
Our shared appetizer was pan seared ahi tuna, cooked rare, encrusted with sesame seeds, and served with marinated vegetables with a to die for orange ginger sauce. We were using the tuna and vegetables to lap up every bit of that sauce, it was the star of the show. The dish was also served with two pillows of wasabi, one much stronger than the other.
My main course was shrimp and grits - a generous portion of fluffy, toothy cheese grits topped with shrimp, andouille sausage, bell peppers and onions and garnished with chopped scallions. The shrimp was cooked well and the sausage added a little extra spice. The cheese grits were the best part of the dish. I like my grits to be coarse and still have some "bite" to them, and these were perfect. If I had to complain about something, it's that I prefer shrimp and grits to have more heat. The sauce had plenty of flavor, but lacking that extra kick in the teeth that I love. Matt, on the other hand, thought this offering was perfect as-is and loved it!
Matt's main course was Applewood smoked duck breast, served with a dark cherry demi glace, mashed potatoes, and plump grilled asparagus. He thought the duck was the slightest bit dry, but that the rich sauce more than made up for that shortcoming. He found the mashed potatoes to be creamy and delicious with the faultless dark cherry demi glace, and the asparagus was impressively plump. I tried this dish and didn't find the duck to be dry at all. In fact, I thought everything about his entree was amazing and wish I had ordered it for myself. Different strokes for different folks, especially when it comes to marriage (amiright?)
Connor's has a wonderful kid's menu with plenty of common favorites for the little ones. We ordered chicken tenders and smiley fries for Jasper with sides of ketchup and honey mustard for dipping.
Smiley fries are a nostalgic classic and we knew we wouldn't have problems getting him to eat them. The chicken was juicy and the batter was crisp. Jasper gave them his seal of approval.
Though we purposely didn't finish our entrees (took the rest home for leftovers!) in a weak attempt to save room in our stomachs, and were already stuffed, there was no way we were missing out on dessert! They say we eat with our eyes, and that couldn't be more true when looking at the large double-sided dessert menu.
The photos made it really hard to choose - everything looked amazing!
To let our food settle before splurging on sugar, we decided to order some coffees. Jasper was in a good mood and the baby was taking a second nap after nursing a bit, so we took advantage of the situation and didn't rush the evening. I had a basic coffee with cream.
Matt, ever the cappuccino lover, ordered the cappuccino royale prepared with Bailey's Irish Cream, Frangelico, and Kahlua. I believe it was supposed to come with a dollop of whipped cream, but we didn't realize that until later, which wasn't a big deal. Matt had never had this particular drink before and judging by the noises coming out of him while he sipped his way through it, it's safe to say it's one of his new favorites. I may or may not have sneered at him over the table for being the non-breastfeeder of the two of us and able to order such a decadent after dinner drink.
We were thrilled to discover it is possible to have a night out with the little 'uns without any chaos or meltdowns. I even managed to tame Jasper's crazy wavy hair for the evening, which means I turned it into an immobile football helmet with a generous application of mega-hold hairspray. The kid's amazing hair has a mind of its own.
We know that this level of peace won't be the case every time we go out and we we were thankful for a good evening.
Drumroll, please! We finally made our dessert selections, and this chocolate mousse cake right here, oh man... kill me. Let's just have a moment of silence for this cake. It is layers of white and dark chocolate mousse between thin layers of chocolate cake, frosted with chocolate ganache, and finished with a chocolate syrup drizzle. The light mousse layers prevent this dessert from being too heavy, which also makes it way too easy to eat.
Jasper went ape over it. "Mo' chokkit!" He'd exclaim after each bite, already reaching for the fork for another. It's been fun trying to raise another little food lover.
Since it was a special evening we couldn't resist also trying the strawberry shortcake. That photo on the menu was too appetizing to ignore. This dessert is made with a warm buttery pound cake, homemade vanilla ice cream, fresh strawberries and whipped cream made fresh before it's brought to the table. Does it get any better than this? Not really. I don't even know how to describe this other than to say it was damn delicious. Eating at Connor's anytime soon? Order this!
If you're in search of a family-friendly dinner appropriate for a night with the kiddos but don't want to sacrifice a higher end special occasion feel, Connor's might be a good option for you.
Question for you - leave me a comment! Have you ever eaten at a Connor's Steak & Seafood location? What did you think?
This post is not sponsored.