KNOXVILLE — Ever since Public House opened several months ago people have been raving about it. Friends repeatedly tell me how great it is. I even overhear people talking about it at other bars.
So on a recent Thursday night a friend and I decided to head down.
As I entered the dark, one-room establishment something stuck out to me: There aren’t any TVs. In fact there’s practically nothing on the walls. They’re painted dark forest green and a thick red hue. Complemented with the low lighting, there’s a calm ambience.
The lack of TVs make you feel cut off from the rest of the world. Frequently when I’m at a bar (especially when I’ve had more than two drinks) the TV just glares at me, demanding my attention. It can be anything — from an episode of “CSI” to any given sporting event — but I’ll get sucked in and end up ignoring my table.
Fortunately, at Public House this isn’t possible. The place is centered on conversation. Since I started writing about bars I’ve been expressing my desire for a place where people just get together and hang out. Finally, we have such a venue.
Along the left wall are spacious, slim wooden benches that can easily seat four people to a side with a thin wooden rail serving as a place to set your beer. The back part of the room has outlets and a thin railing for those who like to bring their laptops to the bar.
The bar’s on the right side of the room with cubbies of bottles outlining a portrait of an artfully painted nude woman. (My friend commented, “It’s always good to be at a place with a naked lady painting.”)
The front end of the venue is a glass sliding door similar to a garage door that separates a few high tables from the road. I’m eager to see what this is like in the coming weeks when it’s warm enough to actually open the front door.
And speaking of warmer weather, out back at Public House is a beer garden surrounded by brick walls. There’s a small handful of tables and a smoking area, which on my recent visit was far too cold to check out.
Public House’s setup has a lot going for it, but what also impressed me was the crowd. On this dreary weeknight evening, at least 20 people had made their way down for some beer and conversation. Most of the crowd was in their 20s or 30s and sat in small groups. The men mostly wore plaid, had beards and wore glasses.
Everyone chatted over the appropriately quiet music (the only act I recognized was Grizzly Bear, which seems to be popular among men in their 20s who wear plaid and have beards) and enjoyed their drinks. No one seemed out of control or as if they had too many.
I stopped by a table of two guys in their 20s who gave me a brief rundown of why they come to Public House. “I like that it’s a bar that doesn’t have Fox News on constantly,” one said, pointing out the lack of TVs.
For a place whose focus is on good drinks and conversation, perfecting that pub environment, I was surprised to find they only had five beers on tap. Though to be fair, their taps were unconventional (the Sweetwater IPA being one). I only grabbed two drafts, but based on that selection the venue’s beer prices aren’t anything out of the ordinary. Their Facebook page indicates they have occasional drink specials.
Public House has a lot of promise. And given its proximity to the Old City, Happy Holler, and even downtown, I’m going to be stopping by for a drink anytime I’m close.
© 2011, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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