Last year I introduced you to the Icon Ultra Lounge with its groovy lighting inside the Sunsphere. The bar has recently undergone a transformation and had its grand re-opening, yesterday, opening officially as the Icon Restaurant and Lounge. The business now features a farm-to-table menu which will change with the seasons and which will, no doubt, evolve a bit from its current rendition as the restaurant gets its bearings.
The hope is that families and others wanting good quality food and the best view in Knoxville will find their way to the fifth floor of the Sunsphere. With little foot traffic in the area much of the time and with limited parking in the immediate vicinity, customers will need to make a deliberate decision to seek it out. I would point out, that parking in the Locust Street Garage is free at night and a simple walk over the pedestrian bridge over Henley puts you right at the base of the Sunsphere where an elevator will whisk you to the restaurant. Actually, the elevator doesn’t “whisk,” but it gets the job done.
The décor isn’t that much different than the lounge, though the notable and significant exception is that the wide seating areas of the lounge have given way to more narrow spaces with a table. The seating is the same style and is wonderfully comfortable. Each table sits adjacent to the window for optimum views. There really isn’t a bad spot to sit. A bar sits at one end and lines the wall on the other end. The tall tables that sat toward the northern side of the lounge have been removed in favor of shorter tables more suitable for dining.
The menu, as it currently stands, is a simple sheet, front and back. Included are a house salad and a side salad and four different small plates including chicken wings, stuffed banana peppers, sliders and a veggie hummus plate, ranging in price from $7 to $12. Entres are served with two sides and the choices include steak, chicken and fish. The steak and fish are listed as “market price,” which, I’ll be honest, always scares me away. The Bourbon Glazed Chicken is $14. The four sandwiches range in price from $8 to $10 and include a German Beer Burger, a blackened chicken sandwich, a bacon apple brie sandwich and a fried eggplant sandwich.
A wine list and a cocktail list include $6 house wines and a pretty nice list of other choices. Cocktails range from $8 to $10 and they have nearly twenty beers to choose from. Happy hour is from 5 – 7 and includes a $7 burger and fries and drink specials.
So, how was it? It was good. I’d say very good for their first day. Urban Brother got the fried eggplant sandwich, I got the bourbon glazed chicken and Urban Woman got the German beer burger. We were all happy with our choices which, in true southern fashion, included a side of grits for all of us. They were very good, as well. The house Chardonnay also was good.
On this first night, the two deserts were a cheese cake and a chocolate cake from Magpies. Easy choice. The three of us shared (though I think my share was bigger) the chocolate cake and it was very good. Of course, those of you who have read this blog for a long time know that my evaluation of the coffee is critical for my experience. The waitress won my heart when she told me they serve Three Bears Coffee. That’s my friend Jeff’s coffee and you can find it at Just Ripe which is where I buy mine. They prepare each cup as requested in a French press, so every drop is fresh.
The thing that surprised me the most was the price of the food. We ate more than normal as we do when a new restaurant opens, just so we can sample more of what they have. Urban Woman got the burger, I got the chicken and a glass of wine, we shared the cake and each had coffee and the total was just over $50 with tax and tip. That’s comparable to most places downtown and we could have easily trimmed $10 or so by forgoing dessert, which we typically do.
We’ll, no doubt, return. It’s a relaxing atmosphere with good food and the best view in the city all for an affordable price. It’s a pretty easy choice.
After the meal, Urban Brother and I heard some great music. First we stopped into Preservation Pub and listened to Chris Padgett in the smoke-free speak-easy on the second floor. I saw Rusty Odom of Blank Magazine there and he told me Chris’ band, Stereofidelics, was one of his favorite regional bands, playing idie pop in the vein of Hudson K. Chris played acoustic guitar and sang a little, but mostly he played incredible cascading licks all over the neck of that Martin guitar. If you get the chance to hear him play, you really should jump at the opportunity.
Next we walked to Barley’s to hear Flow Tribe. The New Orleans band could be correctly called a funk band, but that wouldn’t really cover it. They played funk, soul, Caribbean and Latin music. At times they jammed like a hard rock band before switching back and covering “My Girl,” or even “Suspicious Minds.” With their versatile line-up of musicians they bounced all around the musical map and always landed on very, very good. It was my second time to see them and I’ll be looking for a third.
Urban Brother, who at first wasn’t sure he wanted to fit in a second show for the night, decided we needed to stay through the second set. Easy for him, right? I’m the one sitting up and writing this blog while he snoozes. We got home around 1:00 AM and now, dear friends, it’s 2:30 AM and I’m ready to give it up.
Watch out for Blank Magazine today which includes my debut print article. Also, consider catching the “Venus in Fur” which is wrapping up its run, soon. If you’ve already seen that, consider joining Urban Brother and myself at Preservation Pub for what will, no doubt be a great show with Jodie Manross, Laith Keilany and Russell Tanenbaum.