Soccer Taco the spot for World Cup camaraderie

A crowd gathered at Soccer Taco to watch the United States vs. England match in the World Cup.

Photo by Greg Wood

A crowd gathered at Soccer Taco to watch the United States vs. England match in the World Cup.

A crowd gathered at Soccer Taco to watch the United States vs. England match in the World Cup.

Photo by Greg Wood

A crowd gathered at Soccer Taco to watch the United States vs. England match in the World Cup.

Soccer Taco

  • Address: 6701 Kingston Pike; 9 Market Square; and 2312 Market Place, Maryville
  • Phone: 865-588-2020
  • Website: SoccerTaco.com
  • Hours:Opening daily at 9 a.m. during the World Cup (until July 11)
Adria and Terry Amos enjoy the World Cup soccer action at Soccer Taco on Bearden Hill.

Photo by Greg Wood

Adria and Terry Amos enjoy the World Cup soccer action at Soccer Taco on Bearden Hill.

Ernest and Kim Johnson show their World Cup spirit at Soccer Taco.

Photo by Greg Wood

Ernest and Kim Johnson show their World Cup spirit at Soccer Taco.

— World Cup play is the one month out of every 48 that many Americans have any interest whatsoever in soccer. In case you haven’t checked the calendar recently, that time is upon us again.

In a city like Knoxville it’s hard to tell if the excitement is really about enjoying a worldwide display of athletic ability and fierce human competition or if it serves as an excellent excuse to start drinking in the morning. With this year’s games in South Africa, the early games begin around 7 a.m. Eastern time.

Whatever the case, one Knoxville establishment serves as the greatest host imaginable: Soccer Taco.

I’ve been going to the Soccer Taco in Bearden since the week it opened in 2005. Since then it’s expanded, opening a downtown location in Market Square as well as a restaurant in Maryville.

The name drew me in years ago. The awkward combination of the sport and Hispanic food in the title is endlessly entertaining.

Perhaps their strange juxtaposition of musical selection reflects that of their word choice, as it’s roughly 99 parts Latin music and 1 part rock band Genesis. I swear to all that I once heard Genesis’s “Greatest Hits” playing at Soccer Taco. Maybe it was just a Phil Collins solo album. My point remains the same.

Amusing name aside, Soccer Taco always fits the bill. When I was a poor college student their $7 entrees kept me from being emaciated. When I grew into a poor young 20-something, I learned to take advantage of their circa $5 enormous draft beers during happy hour. Now as a poor mid-20-something, I’m still ordering their margaritas (which are only rivaled by nearby El Charro) by the pitcher without my bank account taking much of a hit. They’re $17.95 apiece, but you get at least six drinks out of it.

Though Soccer Taco’s food draws in most of its customers, it’s also on the ball with its nightlife aspect. After about 10 p.m. there’s a mass exodus of customers as they finish their meals, the lights get dim and the decibel level drops. The place takes on a serious vibe but shows that the party certainly isn’t over, it’s only just beginning. There’s a shift in the crowd, with smaller parties gathering at tables to chat and watch sports.

On Friday and Saturday night Soccer Taco welcomes nightlife-goers, staying open until 1 a.m. But since it’s World Cup time, my group made the pilgrimage to the Bearden Hill Soccer Taco at 1 p.m. on a recent Friday to catch one of the first games, marking the earliest time our “nightlife” has begun outside of college football season.

The crowd didn’t quite fill the restaurant, which surprised me, even though it was the middle of the day on a weekday. Most people seemed more interested in lunch than the competition. Although I loved getting one of the corner booths with two TVs directly above me, I wasn’t satisfied. So I went back the next day to see the U.S. vs. England soccer game and found the crowd I was looking for.

It was impossible to even set foot in the door. People were waiting for tables in the entryway, clutching frosty brews, having nowhere to set them down. The bar had no empty seats. People were cheering for the most simple accomplishments while sipping margaritas and snacking on chips and salsa. The entire bar focused intently on soccer.

With most games starting early in the morning, Soccer Taco has extended its hours, opening at 9 a.m. and serving breakfast. For those not afraid to get a beer or two in the morning, Miller Lite drafts are $1.50 and Dos Equis drafts are $2.50. You only have three weeks left to take advantage of these opportunities. Or you might have to wait another four years.

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