Knoxville Pubs and Other General Goodness From an Outside Perspective

Women's Basketball Hall of Fame and Knoxville Skyline, 2014
Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame and Knoxville Skyline, 2014

A few more of those rankings by outsiders have been circulating and I always think they are interesting. One of these is even more so because they purport to rank pubs across the whole state, not just inside the city. We’ll save that for last. The others look inside the city and note their favorites in particular categories or other points of interest.

The first is a blog entry on The Ego Tripper that notes we have both Quentin Tarantino and an episode of the Simpson’s to our credit, but that we have more to offer, though there seems to be some ambivalence about the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. The author calls us, “hip, lively, musically wonderful, small and cosy (sic).”

Then it gets a little strange. It refers to Tennessee’s “kick-ass football team,” which I’m not sure is an expression even the most ardent fan would use in the last few years. After complimenting the Oliver Hotel, the Tennessee Theatre and Strong/Armstrong Alley (which it calls “artist alley”), the author notes that we have music venues, “that will blow your mind, as long as you’re into country music.” Pretty much lost me with that statement as I think one of the few bars we could use locally is a bar dedicated to live country music. A few additional general statements praise things  like our Farmers’ Market, outdoor sports, friendliness and barber shop?

Marc Nelson Denim, 700 East Depot Ave., Knoxville, September 2014
Marc Nelson Denim, 700 East Depot Ave., Knoxville, September 2014


The next is another list from the Travel Channel which sets out to rate “The Best of Knoxville.” Interestingly, each category is “bested” by something that is either downtown or very near downtown. The first category “best” surprises me because the business has been closed for six months, but the article was published recently. Gallery Nuance is named “Best Place to Find Local Artists,” and it was a place I loved and visited often, but it’s not re-opened to my knowledge. Rala and Marc Nelson Denim also get shout outs as does Ijams and the Urban Wilderness.

The “Best History Walking Tour” is an odd choice, in my opinion and not because I don’t love the tour – I do. It may be my favorite, actually. But it is self-guided and we have actual guided tours. Also, many of the original signs have been lost to this tour, which is a shame. Some of the stops on the tour are only identified with numbers which is fine for someone with the brochure in their hands, but to anyone else, they are just numbers. With the original signs the person could learn about the spot without the brochure and might be inspired to find the booklet and take the whole tour. Also, one stop is Country Music Park which no longer has the pedestal referenced (I believe) in the brochure.

The Oliver and the downtown Holiday Inn are praised (“Classiest” and “Budget Friendly”). Food nods go to Knox Mason, Tomato Head, Oli Bea and Chandlers and it’s hard to argue with those choices. The Sunsphere is mentioned for “best view,” which is OK, though the view isn’t nearly what you get from Club LeConte, for example or some of the offices downtown. Maybe they meant public space.

Kevin Abernathy, Preservation Pub, Blankfest, Knoxville, May 2014
Kevin Abernathy, Preservation Pub, Blankfest, Knoxville, May 2014

Finally, perhaps the most interesting and surprising is the list of “Top 16 Tennessee Pubs,” from Scoutology. Since it isn’t just about Knoxville, there would be no reason to expect any of the 16 pubs to be here, or all things being equal, maybe one or two. After all, there are two larger cities and one that has a cool factor going on, while there are plenty of other places like Johnson City,  or others that might be expected to snag one here and there. Instead, Knoxville landed four of the sixteen.

For those keeping score at home, that is Nashville at three, Clarksville, Chattanooga, Franklin and Memphis all at two and one for Murphreesboro. And Knoxville four. All of which are downtown. It is certainly surprising to me, if not downright odd. Not so much the local choices, but the apparent lack of pubs of character elsewhere. All things being even, Nashville and Memphis should have eight spots or so just based on population, without considering the great blues and country music roots of each of these spots.

Suttree's High Gravity Tavern, Knoxville, July 2012
Suttree’s High Gravity Tavern, Knoxville, July 2012

The local choices are solid: Preservation Pub, Suttree’s, Boyd’s Jig and Reel and Crown and Goose. Each spot is given a single line of explanation. Preservation Pub (#2), “is a cool, modern pub located in Historic Market Square. They offer over 300 beers and 7 different bars.” Boyd’s Jig and Reel (#10), “is dedicated to celebrating the area’s Celtic roots through musical performances and jam sessions. They also have amazing burger specials.” The Crown and Goose (#11), “serves authentic English cuisine, bourbon and some exclusive brews.” Suttree’s (#12), “prides itself on a beer list, featuring high gravity brews.”

Clearly much more could be said for each. Just looking at downtown, I’d add a number of others that have a great atmosphere and a good product, but as to how we stack up to every pub in the state, I have no idea. Maybe we’re just really that good.