New Amsterdam Bar and Grill
KNOXVILLE — New Amsterdam is the kind of place you should go with a large crowd on a Friday or Saturday night.
Amsterdam has the kind of go-all-out, throw-down approach that bars like Hanna's have. It's not the kind of place to stop by for a drink on an arbitrary Tuesday night. It's the kind of place you make a night out of. You either wander down from the Fort or designate a driver well in advance and pull out all the stops.
It has the energy of the other bars on the Strip, which stems mostly from the college crowd that believes that every Friday and Saturday night is worthy of celebrating to the fullest extent. But unlike the rowdy nature of Hanna's or loud, cramped environment of Roaming Gnome or Bar Knoxville, New Amsterdam isn't obnoxious. For the most part.
On a recent Friday night my former roommate and I hit New Amsterdam for nostalgia's sake, which is interesting considering it was never a regular stop for us. As we paid the $5 cover and stepped into the venue's downstairs bar, we immediately remembered why we were never regulars at New Amsterdam.
It's not because we don't like the place - it's because the only times we ever went were with a large group, and usually for some semi-special occasion (like a mediocre holiday or the end of midterms). Specifically, we used New Amsterdam as our home for the four- to five-night celebration that is Halloween in Knoxville. We'd trek down from the Fort on evenings when our neighbors dragged us along.
Every time we went we had a blast. We danced on Amsterdam's spacious upstairs dance floor (despite not being gung-ho about dancing). We watched our friends' bands play lengthy sets until the early-morning hours. We celebrated by doing shots, even though we were all more fond of beer.
Given the right settings, New Amsterdam can really pull something out of you, and our recent trip reminded us just how important it is to find those right settings.
The downstairs bar, on the other hand, has a tendency to be tamer. But that's not to suggest it's low-key. Loud music blares, crowds roar, and if you show up after midnight you're probably not going to get a table, as people in their 20s occupy just about every square inch of the place, gripping cheap pitchers of domestic beer.
It's not the kind of place to sit and chat, it's more of an environment to catch a small breather before jumping back in upstairs. We were conflicted, not having the energy to dance with strangers, but still wanting an exciting evening, so we took our time with a few drinks downstairs, hoping the spirit would move us.
Upstairs blasted different tunes, appropriate for the more dance-oriented atmosphere. However, to my surprise the dance floor remained mostly unoccupied. It was like a middle school dance, where it seemed everyone was waiting for someone else to kick it off. Maybe everyone else felt as ambivalent as we did, partially wanting to let go but not quite having the energy. In my past experiences there the crowd hasn't been so reluctant to get into the groove. There had to be something about that specific night. Or maybe I just didn't stick around long enough, as my evenings keep ending earlier and earlier these days.
But the fun I've had at New Amsterdam has always been a result of me and 10 or more good friends making idiots out of ourselves in a public place and being OK with that. It doesn't work the same way with only two people.
We certainly didn't have a bad time. The point of our evening was to experience a taste of the Strip (which, incidentally, tastes a whole lot like Miller Lite). We remembered why no one had to twist our arm to go to New Amsterdam, but also why we only went when others suggested it.
Next time I'm going to make sure we invite everyone we know.