Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A New Business Slips into Downtown in the Waning Moments of 2011

11 Cafe, 122 A South Gay Street, Knoxville
Just when I thought the news was pretty much finished for 2011, I got a pleasant surprise. I'd already started mentally composing my end-of-the-year stories about businesses coming and going during the past twelve months. Out for a walk to take pictures for those blog posts I realized business news hasn't quite finished for the year.

As I walked down the 100 block of Gay Street, I noticed bistro tables on the sidewalk in front of what was, until just over a month ago, a clothing store. Rumors had surfaced that a bagel/pastry shop might be in the making and, in fact, there it was. There wasn't much in the way of signage out front of 122A S. Gay Street, but inside hummed a little, fully operational bistro: 11 Cafe.

Barista Michael Brock prepares an Americano at 11 Cafe
You'll find Cafe Americano (which I can vouch for - very good) and pastries with tables and lounge seating and a growing number of menu items to which, owner Mustapha Moussa tells me, more is being added daily. Additional food and drink offerings such as imported craft beers, cheese plates and Mediterranean lunch and dinner items will be offered along side the cakes, pastries and bagels now available. Based on a Facebook post it appears Kim Trent hardily endorses the Chicken Shawarma Wrap and hummus.The bistro is currently in a "soft opening" phase and getting kinks worked out for a grand opening on First Friday in January.
Menu Board at 11 Cafe, Knoxville
Mustapha encouraged me to come back and just hang out and it looks like it will be a place which is very comfortable for a hang-out spot. Having owned cell phone distributorships in the past, he has some retail experience, but this is his first foray into a coffee shop and into the downtown market. He says opening a coffee shop has been a long-term dream and he is very excited to have his current location.

It's time for the 100 block to come into its own. The city spent a fortune making it functional, structurally sound and beautiful. Several new businesses have opened with rumors of more on the way. If we want it to be the vibrant area it can be we need to support these entrepreneurs. Buy lunch at Harry's, buy athletic wear at Lululemon, purses at Julie Apple and buy a bagel from Mustapha and meet barista Michael Brock. You'll enjoy some good food and coffee and make new friends. What can be better than that?

11 Cafe, owner Mustapha Moussa foreground, Knoxville

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At December 21, 2011 at 9:10 AM , Anonymous Suzanne said...

I noticed 11 Cafe yesterday and stopped in. Nice atmosphere, and loved my mocha and my hummus and chips! I will definitely be back.

At December 21, 2011 at 9:49 AM , Blogger John in Knoxville said...

This is a place that I want to try. There really is no reason why the 100 block can't come into its own. IIRC, the 100 block has the highest population density in downtown (maybe the most densely populated single block in Knoxville). I am always saddened by the loss of an old place, but when they are replaced by something creative and promising, it makes me smile.

I've written about the loss of an interesting place, just west of downtown, that is now destined to become a Chick-Fil-A. That transition is somehow not as pleasing as 11 Cafe.

At December 21, 2011 at 10:04 AM , Blogger Knoxville Urban Guy said...

Hey guys,
Suzanne, I haven't had the hummus, yet, but you aren't the first person I've heard raving about it, so it must be good and I'll have to give it a try. John, I hope you are right about the block taking off. It seems when the corner building is occupied there will be even more reason for it to thrive. I'll have to read your blog post. I really enjoyed the last one.

At December 21, 2011 at 3:07 PM , Blogger Andrea said...

So glad you discovered 11 Cafe! I've been in there already and I just love it. Mr. Moussa is great. And any time you want to keep up with the happenings on the 100 Block, please follow us on twitter @100BlockKnox or "Like" us on Facebook. Or follow our website I try to keep the twitter up to date with all the specials and sales going on. And yes, we do appear to be having 2 more restaurants opening in the near future. A wine bar in the old Havanna Night's place and then Nama will be opening something in their space. They've already started clearing it out. 2012 is looking very promising for the 100 Block!

At December 30, 2011 at 11:57 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Urban Pug, the BF and I ventured in last night for a Pint of Marble City Beer and some Hummus to go. Best Hummus in Knoxville by far!! Thanks for the recommendation! They said that people have been all the way from Farragut because of this Blog post. Great job Urban Guy!!


At December 30, 2011 at 6:49 PM , Blogger Knoxville Urban Guy said...

I'm so glad you liked it. The hummus is excellent. Pretty cool if folks are driving all the way from Farragut to check it out! What was Urban Pug's favorite dish?


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