Latitude 35 first opened its doors in the spring of 2010. The economy was in the throes of a recession and more places were closing down than opening up.
Flash-forward two years, and Latitude 35 has become a fixture to the upper-middle-class sports fan in downtown Knoxville. Any big game day, weather permitting, you can find their patio packed full of folks enjoying drinks and food. Since its beginning, the establishment has become known as much for being a place to get dinner as it is a place to grab drinks. Located in the heart of Market Square, Latitude 35 nails three important details: location, location, location. Just like Realtors talk about but never fully explain, Latitude 35 is an ideal location for foot traffic.
I arrived at Latitude 35 on a Friday night. The weather had cooled down significantly from our record hot summer. Passing street musicians meandering on Market Square, I could see the patio full of patrons. A sign was poised out front to let the passers-by know about the specials for the evening and a teaser to the event that was going on downstairs, Blankfest.
Before heading down the steps, I took a seat in the front of the restaurant portion of the venue and watched the Olympics for a little bit. One of the nice things about Latitude is that the upstairs is covered with flat-screen TVs for catching just about any sport worth watching any time you come into the place. Despite my general distaste for sports in general, I am still kinda one of those medal tally bandwagoners who wants to see the U.S. outwin China so that they don't own us in sports as well.
The front table at Latitude is a large wooden fixture placed above the stairwell to the basement bar. It is large enough for about 12 to 15 people to sit around it and each seat at it has a flat screen on the wall the seat faces. I checked my gear and headed to the stairs.
The stairway to the basement at Latitude 35 meets you right as you walk in the front door. A sign was perched at the top of the stairs with further details about the happenings down below. I walked down the stairs and ended up at a juncture with another individual who has chosen the same side of the stairs to come up as I had chosen to go down. Come on people, keep to the right! This isn't England, even if the Olympics are on!
I made my way past this young lady and ended up at a long slender table with a few folks sitting behind it. On the table they had pitchers where they were taking donations for people who wanted to watch the show. Peering across the room I could see a stage positioned to the right; farther back was a smaller lounge area where another bar was located. On that stage were the Cathouse Prophets. I added a donation and grabbed a sticker then headed for the lounge bar in the back of the downstairs area.
When I arrived I immediately recognized the bartender who'd hit our comedy open-mic a few times. James was his name. Upon request he quickly got me a glass of ice water and a sugar-free Red Bull so I could function.
As I drank the Red Bull, I peeked around the room to see who I was sharing company with. To my left at a table watching the Olympics, were two out-of-towners from Gaffney, S.C., named Beau Hudson and Don Kier. We got to talking and they reminded me of the reasons I like Latitude 35. They said the food was good, the service was prompt and they enjoyed seeing live entertainment from the various musical acts taking the stage that night.
I bid them adieu and headed back to watch some more music. At this point the band O Youth was on stage. Their members thrashed about as their music wafted from sleepy and folky to distorted and rocking. Blankfest seemed to be a success, just like Latitude 35. Stop by and try the chicken wings; Don said they kicked butt.
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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