August marked a year that I have been faithfully going to various Knoxville bars and nightspots under the guise of writing as unbiased a review as is possible. In that time I have rarely dissed an establishment. Now don't get me wrong, not all of the places I have been have been perfect. I just choose to allow the positive elements to outshine the negative. After my first 30 articles, I wrote a summary that included a "best of" list of the places I had reviewed. It has been nearly 30 more articles since that piece, so it seemed fitting to do it again. This time around I am going to take it a step further and give specific awards out to some of my favorite Nightlife spots I have covered in the last six months in East Tennessee.
Best North Knoxville Bar: Spicy's North, 950 W. Emory Road
Spicy's stands out from the crowd when it comes to bars in North Knoxville. Now this area is by no means packed full of drinking establishments, but out of all the places in the Powell area I have visited, Spicy's has the most options for its patrons. Spicy's is more of a restaurant then a bar, but with the addition of a live band on a pretty sizable stage, you wouldn't know the difference. Boasting some of the best wings in Knoxville (and acquiring all their meat from local vendor Chicken City), Spicy's has a little something for everyone. I also do want to report that in my previous piece about the place, I claimed they were beer only, which indeed is not the case. The options for adult beverages are great and do include liquor as well.
Best South Knoxville Bar: House Tavern, 5903 Chapman Highway
This is a new establishment on Chapman Highway in South Knoxville called House Tavern. The name implies it is a house converted into a bar similar to maybe a smaller Sassy Ann's, but this is not the case. House Tavern is a bar; there are no booths set up where bedrooms used to be or anything. Just a friendly staff and a wonderful selection of beers considering that all bars surrounding it answer the question "Do you have any IPAs" with "No, but we have Miller Lite!" House Tavern is a perfect neighborhood bar with its location in Colonial Village, on the way to Seymour.
Best Live Entertainment Venue: Relix Variety Theatre, 1208 N. Central St.
Relix has been around about as long as Latitude 35. It is a former White's grocery that seats around 250 and has entertainment ranging from live music to live comedy to film screenings to circus acts. Although the venue does not maintain regular hours like a normal bar, it is quite often kicking with some type of event on any weekend. The feel of the place changes as owner Daniel Schuh sees fit, and the look and amenities continue to progress.
Best Cocktail Bar: Latitude 35, 16 Market Square
Located right in the middle of Market Square in the former space of World Grotto, Latitude 35 has been going strong now for just about two years. They continue to offer a popular dinner menu and provide a fun, clean place for business folks to come for a cocktail after work. The upstairs has lots of TVs, giving it more of a sports bar feel, and the downstairs often hosts events from live music to dance nights. This seems to be one of the destinations for cocktail bars other than Sapphire (which I have not reviewed yet) in downtown Knoxville. Kudos also to Latitude for their ties to the Scarecrow Foundation, a charity dedicated to ending hunger in America.
Overall Best Bar: Suttree's High Gravity Tavern, 409. S. Gay St.
Sometimes a simple plan is the best plan. That is what landed Suttree's High Gravity Tavern in the top spot. Their concept was created for the true lover of beer, a group that proves to be quite abundant in downtown Knoxville, hence Suttree's immediate popularity without so much as a single press release or media blurb. Since my article, they have added a patio area out front that is constantly full of folks enjoying a rotating selection of craft beers. Great atmosphere and a solid simple concept spell success for Suttree's.
Knoxville is moving the right direction in terms of its nightlife options. When I first started this column, I felt it would be difficult to find a place to cover each week, but that has not been the case. I am continually impressed by the new venues and establishments opening in the area.
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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