This post is not sponsored by or in any way affiliated with Hard Knox Pizzeria. We just like pizza and want to share our experience with you.
It's time for another Knoxville restaurant review, takeout style, and this time we're taking a look at Hard Knox Pizzeria. This is a local pizza eatery that has blown up in popularity and we've been itching to try their pizza for a long time now. They have recently expanded to double their size and have gone from counter service to full service. The newly-expanded space sits 80 people inside and around 20 outside.
Regular readers of our blog are probably familiar with this new style of take-out restaurant tour that we've been toying with the past several months. With a spirited strong-willed toddler and a 6 month old baby, going out to eat often ends up being more stressful than enjoyable, so more often than not we find ourselves ordering takeout so we can enjoy our food at home without the need to rush or constantly wrangle our kids or keep them from melting down and disturbing other patrons.
So let's take a look at this place. Here are the details:
Hard Knox Pizzeria (website)
4437 Kingston Pike
Knoxville, TN 37931 (in the Western Plaza shopping center near The Fresh Market)
See website for hours, etc.
Hard Knox is a women-owned pizzeria that serves up a menu of authentic wood-fired pizzas using locally-sourced ingredients whenever possible. Everything is prepared in-house and the pizzas are fired in a 750 degree oven. There's also a selection of 13 local and regional artisan craft beers that changes frequently based on the season or what the Hard Knox folks are loving at any given time. Word on the street is that wine will be added to the menu soon.
The menu is separated into white or red pies. The red sauce is prepared in house using an original recipe that includes fresh red plum tomatoes. The white sauce is the restaurant's personal take on the traditional virgin olive oil base of an authentic "white" pizza. Hard Knox's white sauce is a bit creamier, but they won't give up the secret ingredients that make it so tasty. The pizzas are all lightly coated to remain authentic to the traditions of Naples, Italy.
The pizzas are available in 8" (lunch only) or 12" sizes. There aren't any specific kid-sized options, though I found that an 8" size was more than enough to make last through ~3 meals for a toddler.
First we ordered a 12" Graziano - a red pie with fresh hand-laid chunks of mozzarella and baby Bella and button mushrooms - that I customized by choosing Ashley Farms cage-free chicken as my protein and adding onions.
When I opened the box I detected the lovely smoky aroma that can only be achieved when a pizza is cooked in a real wood-fired oven. The thin crust was a nice balance of being flexible with a bit of chew in the center that's contrasted with a woodsy crunch around the outside.
The toppings were applied liberally and the chicken and mushrooms were tender and well-seasoned. I appreciated the light coating of the flavorful red sauce so that the crust wasn't weighed down with too much liquid. My favorite part of this pizza was the fresh sliced mozzarella - you can taste the difference in a good quality cheese.
My blue cheese obsessed husband had to try The Butch Please, a white pie topped with fresh mozzarella, buffalo chicken, applewood smoked bacon and a blue cheese drizzle.
Oftentimes when reading reviews online I see negative comments mistakenly referencing their "burnt pizza crust" especially when referring to a restaurant that wood fires their own pizzas. Though people are entitled to their own opinions, it's widely accepted that an authentic wood-fired pizza is just not done correctly unless it has a bit of char and blistering on the crust. There's a tightrope to be walked between having that slight bit of char and being overcooked, and Hard Knox's pizza crusts were perfect. Those charred bits add a delightful smoky crunch.
The Butch Please was a complete flavor bomb and was the undisputed stand out of the pizzas that we tried. The creamy white sauce played well with the seasoned buffalo chicken and generous thick chunks of crispy bacon and that tangy blue cheese drizzle was the perfect way to finish everything off. Though the description of the pizza looks heavy on paper, it sat well with us and didn't make us hate ourselves after eating it.
Though I didn't get photos of my toddler's pizza, I ordered him a simple 8" pepperoni pizza. I placed our order just after the cut off for the availability of the smaller lunch-sized pizza, but they were kind enough to allow me to order it anyway. When Matt went to pick up our order he was told that Jasper's pizza had initially been made with basil by mistake and so they had already made another one and gave us both pizzas for the price of one. Unfortunately, his corrected pizza was missing the pepperoni and only had cheese and we didn't discover the oversight until arriving back home. I had some pepperoni in our pantry that I crisped and added to his pizza (since the boy has to have his pizza with pepperoni) so it ended up not being a big deal, and getting the second pizza for free made up for the mistake.
Regarding the price, these pizzas aren't cheap, so be prepared to pay for quality. Our 12" The Butch Please was $17 and my Graziano ended up being even more expensive at $19 because of the changes that I made (I didn't know exactly how much the up charge would be when I placed my order). So while it may not be a frugal option for your weekly pizza night, it's worth treating yourself to a Hard Knox Pizza.