Have you ever noticed how different something looks when you see it through someone else’s eyes. Maybe you’ve assured your friend that a movie is fine for their child, but as you sit with them you realize it had a whole lot more of something in it than you remembered. Or you’ve dragged a friend to a concert you tell them they will love, but as you sit with them you become hyper critical and doubt they will like it at all. Taking guests around town can feel the same way. For better or worse.
I remember a couple of years ago Cynthia Moxley did a very nice article on her Blue Streak Blog about just this sort of thing. This past weekend I had the experience while we entertained Urban Brother-in-Law and Sister-in-Law. On the negative side, I realized going in that the weekend was the lightest we’d had in sometime for festivals or other planned activities. That worried me – what would we do? The good news? The weather was the best it had been in a half-dozen weekends.
They arrived Friday afternoon and wanted to eat at Tupelo Honey. In fact, we agreed we’d eat out all weekend – waistlines and budgets be damned. After a little shopping, Tupelo Honey proved to be a good choice. We were seated after a brief wait and everyone agreed the food was good, though the servings could be smaller. The biscuits got raves, of course. And I think they’ve surpassed Trio in my rating of best restaurant downtown restaurant coffee.
After wine in the courtyard at Kendrick Place, we went for cocktails at Sapphire. We arrived around 9:00 and I learned about the transition. What transition? Well, early in the evening it’s a nice dinner spot where friends, lovers and business people meet. As 9:00 PM becomes 10:00 PM, the volume level of the music begins to rise, ambient lighting darkens and flashing lights emerge. A DJ arrives and begins pumping the sounds. The average age drops by around thirty years.
We hit the sweet spot in between the two crowds and really enjoyed our drinks. Here’s the sweet chocolate martini I included in Monday’s post – complete with smiley face. We got window seats which meant we could people watch on the sidewalk, though later we turned our chairs because the more interesting action was on the floor inside. We had a great time, but by 11:00 we were out of our element.
Saturday morning we eased into the day and arrived at the Knoxville Visitor’s Center just about when Kid Stuff started. We’d promised Urban Girl she could see the “pointy house guy” (you’d have to attend to understand), so that was a must do. I had been a bit evil and promised her that her aunt and uncle would do all the motions. They gamely went along. As a bonus, One World Circus did a pirate show which Urban Girl loved so much that she forced me to talk like a pirate the rest of the day.
We enjoyed a bit of the Farmer’s Market, but didn’t eat at a food truck, as planned, because they were selling out of many of their items by the time we made it back there. So, we just had to walk to the Bistro at the Bijou for brunch. Of course it was awesome. I had the crab cakes with poached eggs and hollandaise sauce and it was delicious. The highlight of the meal was explaining to three-year-old Urban Girl why that woman (in the painting over the bar) would be in bed with no clothes on. I also enjoyed showing off Eric Smith’s excellent concert photography hanging on the walls.
Like everyone, we ran into families and students in town for the Destination Imagination. Apparently, thousands of smart kids meet up to do smart-kid competitions over a several day period. All I know is they must have a tremendously wonderful impact on the economy and they all seem like great kids. I hope we keep that event and add more like it.
After checking in on the Monsanto protest – which they don’t see a lot of in Monroeville, Alabama, we retreated to the house for a little rest before going out again. Along the way we stopped in at Fizz, Bliss, Earth to Old City, The Peanut Shop (which they loved) and Mast General Store. Urban Brother-in-law and I did make one excursion to the Old City for “short cigars.” I have no idea, you’ll have to ask him. To balance that out with a little healthier fare, we stopped into Tree and Vine and he dropped nearly a hundred dollars for olive oil and vinegar.
By late afternoon, we’d gathered in the courtyard for wine, cheese and humus. Urban Girl watered every plant at least twice and managed to get more water on the ground than anything. The weather was absolutely perfect. After we ate for a while it was time for – you guessed it – dinner. Somehow we managed to get in a stop at Orange Leaf Yogurt, first. I didn’t really expect it to happen, but I find myself there on a pretty regular basis.
We went to Tomato Head for dinner and split pizza and chicken quesadillas. The only downside to the experience was that the food arrived very slowly. I don’t remember that ever happening there before and I hated that it happened when we had company. By the time we finished it was late, Urban Girl needed to get into bed and everyone else was tired. Eating can be so exhausting. Market Square crackled with life as it had all weekend. We took the leisurely stroll home and called it a night.
Sunday morning we hung out at the house drinking coffee and playing with Urban Girl before her parents picked her up. Of course, we were hungry, so we walked to Cru Bistro for brunch. Cru has become one of our first choices they accomodated several special requests for our meal and the waitress didn’t seem to mind when I asked about GMOs. (Great app suggestion on that front: Fooducation). It was a great meal, but Urban Sister-in-law admitted that the Bloody Mary at Bistro at the Bijou was just a little more to her liking.
An afternoon of rest and a little shopping ended with a stop at Style of Civilization on the 100 Block, where Urban Woman snagged a pair of shoes she really loved for around $50.00 and everybody got to meet Nina. A very short walk down the sidewalk brought us to Shuck. It was a brave choice given that the in-laws live so close to the gulf, but we all wanted some sort of oysters. Urban Woman and I got the fried-oyster appetizers and I got a bowl of chowder while she got a salad. The Urban in-laws got the variety dozen of baked oysters and the Tower which is “shrimp, lump crab, pico de gallo, avocado, romaine, honey chipotle dressing,” and it was absolutely smashing.
The weekend ended perfectly as a last-minute show with the Lonetones was added at Barley’s. The audience was very small (mostly the four of us and family) and it felt like the band was in our living room. Obviously, they always do a great show and we really enjoyed the set. Urban Brother-in-law is a musician and song-writer, so we all enjoyed talking to Sean, Steph and Cecilia.
So, I think Knoxville came out looking pretty good for a “nothing special” sort of weekend. I wouldn’t have minded if the Bob Dylan Birthday Bash had been last Friday on his actual birthday, but it all worked out. It was about the right amount of excitement at a leisurely pace and they were able to sample a number of businesses and restaurants and I think they left town happy, if a bit poorer and heavier than when they arrived.
So, where are your must-go places when you have company in the city? Have you had good experiences or bad when shuttling people around downtown?