The Public House: Low Key Cool on the Northside

The Public House and Tennessee Valley Bikes, Magnolia Ave., Knoxville

I found myself happily surprised when the Public House opened about a year and a half ago. I say “surprised” because I didn’t expect a pub to open on Magnolia with the aim of drawing a downtown crowd. I didn’t think we had spread that far, yet, and Magnolia not having the best of reputations, I wondered if they could make a go of it. I did note that it was positioned nicely between downtown and Old North.

Who knew it would take me this long to get there or that I would post about it? I did finally make it there, recently. I had a week off, the weather was mostly beautiful, and I walked there from home to meet friends.

300 Block of North Gay (flowers by Regas) Knoxville, March 2012

Along the way I took the picture of flowers adjacent to the 300 block of North Gay. The interesting thing there was that a fellow was tending the flowers and doing other gardening up-keep on Regas Square. As I walked up, I thought, “That’s really nice that the Regas family is paying to keep the place looking nice while they try to find a new purpose for the site after the closing of the signature restaurant.” My appreciation increased when the fellow introduced himself as “Grady Regas.” He seemed  a very nice and very down-to-earth guy and I enjoyed our brief conversation.

The Public House, Magnolia Avenue, Knoxville, March 2012

Around the corner from Regas, on Magnolia, I found the inauspicious building that houses the Public House. It is adjacent to   Tennessee Valley Bikes and the external decor of the two businesses makes it difficult to know where one ends and the other begins. The front doors to each are at a right angle from the street and not readily visible. The front wall of the Public House is a retractable garage door with windows which was was closed the day we were there, though the weather was such that it could have been opened to delightful effect.

I met three friends for drinks and light fare. We were there at opening time and stayed for a couple of hours and were joined only by a couple of other customers the entire time. I hope it gets busier later in the evening. There were high tables, seats at the bar and booths which, in keeping with the light fare offered, have low narrow tables between them shaped liked bleacher seats, but featuring beautiful finishes.

George! The entrance to the Public House

The Bar at the Public House, Knoxville, March 2012

I had a four dollar cheese plate which was more filling than I expected and included some tasty bread and relish. One of my friends ordered the hummus, but the cooler had malfunctioned and the hummus had been frozen, so that didn’t work out. They brought out a sweet potato souffle that he didn’t care for, but I thought looked pretty good.

George negotiates a Souffle at the bar. Real men love a good souffle.

It was a nice, out-of-the-way place to meet friends, though I’m still wondering if it was a case of premature placement since it doesn’t get much in the way of foot-traffic of the sort who would come inside. It has to be a destination and I’m not sure if it has become that. A visit later in the evening would be in order to see how the crowd might grow at night though, again, its placement might hurt in the evening hours, as well.

Marie’s Olde Towne Tavern on Magnolia

There was also a bar in the adjacent building which looked a bit older and more in keeping with what people might think of when Magnolia is mentioned. It was open when I passed by, but I didn’t go inside. I’ll have to return, if nothing else, to check out the bike store next door which, according to my friend Shaft who slipped inside for a minute, carries some pretty fine upscale bikes for city cyclists.