I don't make a whole lot of trips to the west side of Knoxville. I am decidedly biased against this part of town due to its heavy commercialization and incessant traffic. However, it was time to venture back out to that area to restore a little balance to the geographic meanderings of my nightlife column.
I was looking through the event calendar on Knoxville.com and noticed a venue I had never heard of before was having an acoustic act. The name was "Just 1 More," and it had a very neighborhood pub-type vibe to it, so with camera in tow, I headed west on I-40 to check out the place.
The address is 9355 Kingston Pike and for as many times as I have been to different addresses on that road, I still couldn't remember which exit to take to get there. I finally decided on the Cedar Bluff exit and found after a quick turn I was right on top of where the address showed on my GPS. I pulled into the shopping center and past a Home Depot in a corner was the bar.
As I headed to the venue, I was struck by how perfectly minimal the design of the room was. High-top tables lined the wall to my right, and on the left was a long bar with a sleek glass block design. On the walls all around the place were photographs of various scenes from a local UT photographer. They added a nice touch to the room and definitely helped give it a classier vibe.
I bellied up to the bar and introduced myself. The bartender pointed me to the owner, Robert Weed, who was sitting down at the end of the bar taking it all in. I introduced myself and Robert met me with a wide smile and quickly retrieved a beer as we began to talk.
Robert told me of his years down the road at Bakers Peters, another establishment on Kingston Pike. With nearly a decade spent bartending there, he developed a lot of ideas to help business. The most interesting of these concepts to me was the menu he originally conceptualized with his brother back in Michigan.
Just 1 More is a slider bar. That may make you think of one of two places, Krystal or White Castle. Oddly, I had just stopped at Krystal to tide me over until I got home. Well, this was the opposite end of the slider spectrum. The menu featured such interesting selections as a crab cake slider and a BLT slider with Benton's Bacon. Even the "Bar Slider" is listed on the menu as "tender seared steak, caramelized onions and gorgonzola piled on two butter toasted rolls and complemented with arugula and horseradish crema." This made me regret my Krystals decision earlier.
I took a few minutes to take in the rest of the long, narrow bar that Robert told me used to be a nail salon, I believe. The ebb and flow of customers was constant, including a fun group of folks from a doctor's office sitting in the front near the music. One of them had a tie around her head in traditional "just got off work" fashion. They posed for a few pictures and were very cordial.
The acoustic act that evening was Mike Essex, a jukebox of covers armed with a friendly handshake and warm smile. Mike brought out some tunes that got the ladies up and dancing, dragging the fellas with them on to the dance floor. Everyone talks to you at Just 1 More. They have a "Cheers" vibe in their friendliness. It was a perfect combination of locals and transplants that to me makes Knoxville so great.
I got back to my table and, after a little convincing, Robert put in an order for the bar sliders with a side of onion rings. The food arrived with two sliders perched on top of a pile of thinly sliced buttermilk-breaded onion rings. I took a bite of this "pub" food that isn't really pub food and was thinking up culinary accolades as if I were Guy Fieri.
In summary, if you stumble into this place with the idea of getting a few drinks before heading off somewhere for dinner and just happen to to try ANYTHING on the menu, you aren't going anywhere else for dinner. There are plenty of places in Knoxville with great traditional pub food, but none in Knoxville I have experienced with as brilliant a spin to it as Just 1 More. Kudos to their executive chef, Hana.
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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