Buffalo Wild Wings a good break from the typical chain

Marcus Finchun, left, and Cory Smith enjoy the wings at Buffalo Wild Wings.

Photo by Greg Wood

Marcus Finchun, left, and Cory Smith enjoy the wings at Buffalo Wild Wings.

— Although it's not football season, which always seems to be the most popular of all sports around here, the next couple of weeks feature some top-notch competition with the NBA and NHL playoffs winding to a close.

With these two being best-of-5 or -7 competitions and drawing out through the week, on any given night there's a high chance that there's at least a moderately interesting game on TV.

Knoxville's fortunate enough to have its share of sports bars, but there's one that's always a staple of the scene: Buffalo Wild Wings, which has two Knoxville locations.

Most people don't have to have their arm twisted to head out to Buffalo Wild Wings. It's never objectionable, and it spells the entire sports-viewing experience out for you with its always cheap beer and well-seasoned wings.

In the recent past I've been to both the Cumberland Avenue location and the Turkey Creek one, and I'm not entirely sure which one I prefer.

I've spent my time at the one on the Strip. When I lived near campus my roommates and I frequently headed down to watch the Vols away games, often finding it so full we were forced to sit (or stand) outside and watch the game on the outdoor screen.

On days like that there's a real sense of camaraderie surrounding everyone at the bar. People cheer loudly, high-five strangers, and sing along to "Rocky Top" at least five times during the course of the event. People tend to have one too many and let the evening take them away (as is common on the Strip).

The Turkey Creek Buffalo Wild Wings has a different vibe. It's far more upscale, fitting in with the area's establishments. There's a larger onslaught of flat-screen TVs, with one hanging from about any segment of the building imaginable. The tile floor (as opposed to the Strip's ugly carpeted floor) provides a classier, cleaner vibe, and the overall state of the building is far more modern.

It's less of a gathering spot for huge games, though. It still draws a crowd, that's for sure - but it lacks the classicism of the spot on the Strip. The one on Cumberland is the archetypal bar-for-the-big-game in the area.

Like I said, I'm not sure which one I prefer, but it really doesn't matter. I'm usually the type of person who avoids major chain bars and restaurants. They don't have the character that independently owned spots do. They're a little too corporate, their staffs are usually more distant, and it's just off-putting for me.

Buffalo Wild Wings is one exception. I've mentioned in past articles that sometimes you just want the dependability of a major chain. The chains have more consistently good food, usually the service is high quality, and you know exactly what you're getting from your evening. That's the appeal for a place like Buffalo Wild Wings.

Some bars have big screens or at least have the proverbial big game on, but sometimes the sound isn't on, or maybe it's only on one screen, or so on. Usually at these bars the staff's fine with your asking them to turn the sound on or change the channel, but it's still kind of a disappointment.

This never happens at Buffalo Wild Wings. The game's always the focus. I was there months ago for the NCAA tournament when there's often more than one game going on, and the restaurant had them all going on different TVs. Just two weeks ago I dropped in to catch a Dallas Mavericks playoff game, and although I was one of only about 10 people there, the game was still roaring on every TV in the house.

At the very least, Buffalo Wild Wings is never a disappointment. And it's one corporate chain that I'm always fine with visiting.

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