Stillhouse Tavern, a new addition in a familiar spot, brings a top-notch nightlife environment back to the Homberg Place area.
Formerly Sidestreet Tavern, Stillhouse opened only in the past two months with some large shoes to fill. Sidestreet has always been one of my favorite spots. I was there the night it opened, and I've since covered the venue several times. It's never disappointed me, and I've almost never had any complaints.
Stillhouse steps up to the plate. The interior has been redecorated, boasting a light green and yellow color scheme far different than the venue's previous incarnation. The art scheme has shifted toward pin-ups and more avant garde art, shying away from band and movie posters (like Sidestreet had). It works - it shows you that the place has changed, and maybe even grown. It's less a college student's apartment and more a young adult's stylish pad.
My friends and I went out for the purpose of watching an NBA finals game. And having never been to the new Stillhouse, we weren't entirely sure we were going to find a great game-watching environment.
Fortunately, the setup remains almost the same - there's a bar downstairs surrounded by high pub tables, there's an open seating area toward the back of the venue (with more tables than Sidestreet had) and, much to our surprise, we found a 50-plus-inch TV screen surrounded by large couches and love seats packed into the back corner, which were unoccupied as we walked in.
We realized instantly we had found the perfect place to watch the game.
What's even more perfect, at least for us, is that the sound wasn't on. Instead, the PA inside the bar was playing the jukebox. At Sidestreet, the patrons had famously great taste in music, selecting the highlights of the late '80s and early '90s. This hasn't changed at Stillhouse. Thus, we spent the evening listening to Jane's Addiction, Soundgarden and Dinosaur Jr. while watching a muted basketball game.
We essentially took over this back corner of the room. I even plugged in my cell phone to charge it. We put our feet up on the large coffee table, talked loudly, and ordered many beers over the course of three hours (which our waitress always delivered promptly).
Stillhouse has the comfort of someone's living room with the service of an experienced venue. You can't get much better than that.
Even such, the crowd was sparse. There were a handful of people ages 25-40 sitting at the bar chatting with the friendly bartender, and it became clear that this was the die-hard Sidestreet crowd. When Sidestreet closed in December, I don't know where those loyal patrons went, but since the opening of Stillhouse they've found their safe haven once again.
The venue still has a large outdoor seating area ideal for a mixed drink or beer on a warm summer night.
Only time will tell if Stillhouse branches out in the ways that Sidestreet did, with beer pong and live entertainment. Stillhouse has the venue for both, but I dare say that the new, more refined vibe indicates the bar might not try something as low-brow as beer pong.
That said, Stillhouse manages to at least live up to the excellence of Sidestreet. It might take a while before people start to catch on, but it's going to at least draw in its core crowd once again (which it's already doing, slowly, via word of mouth).
I've always respected a bar where I can watch a game but don't have to be completely absorbed in it and I can still enjoy conversation and good music. Stillhouse has that formula perfected.
© 2011, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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