A new restaurant in Jackson Square emphasizes a “farm-to-table” concept, and the owners use, as often as possible, food and beverage products purchased from local farmers, bakers, and brewers.
“There’s not a meal that we have that doesn’t have a local product in it,” said one of the owners, Bo Shipley.
“We keep it as local as possible, keep it as fresh as we can,” said the other owner, Dan Tremaine.
Shipley and Tremaine opened The Market House restaurant on East Tennessee Avenue in Jackson Square on May 8. Local officials and business leaders celebrated with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday.
In a recent interview, the two entrepreneurs said their meals include affordable grass-fed beef and free-range chicken, popular with health-conscious diners.
The menu includes burgers, sandwiches, steaks, soups, and salads, and it can vary seasonally. It also features locally roasted coffee and wild-caught fish.
The Market House, which has a $5 burger-and-fries special through Saturday, has seven to eight suppliers, rather than one distributor like other restaurants. They get cheese from a local cheese maker and bread from a local baker, and they shop at local farmer’s markets for products such as vegetables.
Everything is made from scratch, including sauces, dressings, and soups, Tremaine said. The restaurant does not use frozen products.
Specials can vary from lasagna to Spanish dishes, from Italian food to Mexican. During a recent visit, a lunchtime blue-plate special was fried chicken, collard greens, and mashed potatoes.
Entrees range from $7 to $12, and dinners vary from an $8 sandwich to a $20 filet.
Shipley, whose mother is an Oak Ridge High School teacher, said the restaurant does buy a few products that don’t grow locally, such as oranges and potatoes.
The Market House also serves liquor, wine, and craft beers, including some brewed in Knoxville, Nashville, Atlanta, and Asheville.
While striving to prepare quality food, Shipley and Tremaine said they are also working to serve diners quickly and keep meals affordable.
The two have been friends since they first met at Farragut Middle School more than 10 years ago, and between the two of them, they’ve worked every position in a restaurant, but neither has ever owned one.
The first-time entrepreneurs are optimistic about their chances of success at a site that has had a string of restaurants open and close in the past several years.
“We’re trying to overcome that by trying something different,” Shipley said. “We’ve had pretty good response from the community.”
Local officials say Jackson Square is undergoing a rejuvenation, with a longtime farmers market, two new restaurants, a bank under construction, recent renovations at the Oak Ridge Playhouse, and a $800,000 state traffic enhancement grant.
“This is where Oak Ridge as a town actually started,” Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce President Parker Hardy said during Thursday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony.
“This is a place where the community gathers,” Mayor Tom Beehan said.
Shipley and Tremaine said their restaurant approach is unique in Oak Ridge and unusual even in the Knoxville area.
“We’re not doing it for the money,” Tremaine said. “We’re doing it for the concept. We think this is how it should be done.”
More information, including restaurant hours, is available at www.themarkethouserestaurant.com.