Evolving nightlife scene brings diverse array of bars to Knoxville

matt ward/special to knoxville.com
Icon Ultra Lounge is set to open in the Sunsphere in May.

matt ward/special to knoxville.com Icon Ultra Lounge is set to open in the Sunsphere in May.

So far since I took over this nightlife column in August of last year, I have covered 33 different bars and entertainment venues around the vicinity of Knox County. A few times I strayed into neighboring counties but much of my time was spent exploring places that had received little press or media exposure. Over the course of seven months I developed some personal favorites, which I would like to share with you now in my "Top Five Nightlife Spots" of late 2011 and early 2012.

1. The Well: The Well is a live music venue first and foremost. It has a dedicated stage built in with house sound. The ceilings are low and the atmosphere geared toward live entertainment. The bar only allows smoking in designated separate smoking areas so you are not inundated with smoke immediately upon arriving. Great vibe from owners who are well known in the Knoxville bar scene.

2. Asia Cafe: Asia Cafe has great food combined with inexpensive drinks and weekend entertainment. Variety of food, sushi and other Asian offerings, oh yeah, and Phillip. I didn't get to meet him, but just by talking to the regulars I knew the owner truly must be someone special. You can't beat a place with live music AND sushi. Also, from my experience, the sushi at Asia Cafe is more affordable and the rolls are larger then many other sushi joints in Knoxville. But you know what else those other sushi joints don't have? Tables that change color and 99 cent Japanese Draft Beer. Yum.

3. Central Flats and Taps: A very recently visited location that is in the Happy Holler neighborhood, one of my favorite areas in Knoxville. The design is simple and sleek, that patio vast, and the selection of beer and foods is awesome. This will definitely become a late-night food stop as well as comedian hang out because we all love good beers.

4. The Bearden Fieldhouse: Let me first start by saying I hate sports bars for the most part. I never really got in to watching sports as a young adult because my teams were always terrible and it was freaking humiliating. Regardless, it was college basketball time when I visit The Bearden Fieldhouse and I was very pleased with the variety of games playing as well as the quality of the TVs the bar installed everywhere you turn your head.

5. The Jig and Reel: Probably the most fitting bar concept for the neighborhood, The Jig and Reel seems to be quite a hit in The Old City. Since writing the article on them I have been by the establishment on many occasions and consistently find the place full of beer-drinking, smiling patrons. I enjoyed the Celtic jam session when I visited. I do feel like a creeper seeing cute young girls in plaid skirts, but hey, getting old and having a child affects everyone differently.

It was hard to pick just five choices for my top bar visits over the last seven months. I had to base much of my decisions on one question: How likely would I be to suggest this bar/venue to someone who was into that style of place? That is why I hit a few different types with various themes to include in the top five. I have to say, only one of the top five has been around for more than a year.

Knoxville has been opening more and more quality live entertainment and general nightlife venues. As I type this I see plans for Sky Bar & Grill on Gay street to open soon, and right next to it opening by the end of April is Suttree's High Gravity Tavern. Also on tap for a May opening is the new bar in the Sunsphere, called Icon Ultra Lounge. Things are looking up for Knoxville nightlife.

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