Saturday, May 31, 2008

Downtown Handyman... Sort of

I used a gentleman by the name of Bill Harding to do some home remodeling work for me recently and I feel compelled to do a glowing write up on him in order to do his work justice. Bill is a full service kind of guy, he came out to my place twice prior to working and sat down with me discussing all of the options.

He does electrical, plumbing, carpentry, and anything else you can imagine and his work is incredibly solid. He will shoot you straight on estimates, materials and labor and is a guy you can trust not to tear up your house when he comes (unless thats what you hired him to do).

The only down side is he is not exactly from downtown, though I'm going to forgive that for now. His location is more than made up for by his trustworthiness and fair dealing, his hard work and task oriented approach, and his willingness to not kick me out of my house while I watched him do his thing.

I highly recommend him for whatever you need done around the house, the church, or the office, he does it all and does it well.

Bill Harding

Friday, May 30, 2008

The Crown & Goose: A Second Look

Well, I think it’s time to post a review on the Crown & Goose, a few months after its opening.

Being a recent transplant to the area, I was told repeatedly about the awesomeness that is The Crown & Goose. This affection was given with one caveat: the service leaves something to be desired.

So for my inaugural visit, I was a mixed bag of emotions – excited about the food, but scared that poor service would damper my potential love of the neighborhood foodery.

Let me just say that I was completely awestruck at the level of service I experienced. Our server, Andrew (Andy) knew everything about the menu, and gave great input for sampling the local fare. He was prompt with all orders, and never once left us out to dry (so to speak). I cannot stress how good a server he was (especially in light of earlier critiques). If there once was an issue with the wait staff, I can safely say that it has been rectified.

Now onto the food: Fish and Chips – very easily the best I’ve ever had. And let’s not forget the Crab Cake – second only to The Bavarian Inn (South of D.C.). I also had their IPA and Boddingtons (on tap). Oh and the Toffee Pudding – not to be missed.

Regarding price: you get what you pay for, and in a city brimming with ho-hum eateries, The Crown & Goose offers a delightful alternative at a slight price premium.

Overall, this has been one of the best dining experiences I’ve had in our budding town. Three cheers for aesthetics, food AND service!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Bar Denim Blues

Perhaps you've notice a sexy new strip mall on Kingston Pike in Bearden. This would be "Cherokee Plaza at The District of Bearden." I am not making this up; that's the official name.

It's an effort not to call a spade a spade. Who wants to shop at a mucky old strip mall when you can have a plaza? A crisp, clean, fresh plaza with cupcakes! And blue jeans!

I'll admit, I hate strip malls and malls in general; and I avoid them as often as I can. This plaza, however, is rather easy on the eyes. And just looking at it, I dont feel nearly so creepy or wasteful as I might normally. Let's call this Western Plaza 2.0. Cleaner, happier, more productive...

I digress.

Lord I love me some expensive blue jeans. Call it a character flaw, but I just do. I cant get enough Sevens or Citizens. I just feel good in them.

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Enter Bar Denim Blues, at 5508 Kingston Pike No. 130, Knoxville 37919, happily situated in the heart of Cherokee Plaza next to Kristi (new location) and the Cupcakery, a soon-to-open haven of deliciousness with roots in St. Louis, MO.

Bar Denim Blues is a jeans junkie's dream-come-true. I stopped in last Saturday with my girlfriend Jess. We had spent the early afternoon strawberry picking in Madisonville and were severely under-dressed for this shopping experience. But we wanted to see all the jeans! And jeans we saw! Hundreds of them! Brands galore!

We didnt stay long, but we were offered champagne. Had I been interested in trying on some jeans, I would have had a glass. Ladies, I'm sure you'll agree: you've got to feel hot when trying on jeans, and the post strawberry field dirtiness wasn't doing it for me. Believe me, though, I will go back. And jeans I will try on.

I didn't take the time to do my research, so I didnt ask the official price point or list of brands, but by glancing at some tags I know enough to say that we're in the 200 dollar range. Which is high, I admit, for a lot of people. But if you like you some good, fancy jeans (and I know a lot of women and men out there do), you're going to love Bar Denim Blues. I think it's the sort of store Knoxville was looking for.

And that's how you write a post that's not about downtown. (Who gets THIS reference?!).

A Quick and Inexpensive Fix

So one of my pet peeves is of course the superhighway that runs through our little city, I-40. I have been day dreaming a lot recently about the total destruction of that urban blight, though it will never happen.

Friday, I went to Sevierville to see the Smokies play (please don't get me started on downtown's loss of a baseball team to Sevier County) and had to take 640 as the detour. That's when it hit me, the solution to our problem has been there all along:

It's the simplest solution and few would mind. Everyone I have asked about the detour says it isn't that bad, so why not make it "permanent". Oh we'll fix the road through town as planned, it'll be big and ugly and unnecessary, but if we change the names it will at least be less congested.

To make 640, 40 would relieve much of the truck traffic through downtown and get them along their merry way to wherever in the same amount of time, probably even quicker, as they wouldn't be fighting local traffic.

What to do about the existing 40's name, get creative call it "The Sunsphere Skyway" or something.

We can't get rid of the beast but we can urge people who are just blowing through town anyways to use a more sensible road, one that doesn't contribute to the noise and air pollution of a urban community.

Come on TDOT, throw us a bone.

Write-In Spellings, Oh come on you know you want to.

[update: didn't some brilliant writer already broach this subject?]

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

coming soon: downtown's deluge of frozen desserts

Last summer, it was pretty hard to please one's sweet tooth downtown. Coffee and Chocolate popped up this winter and offered a cozy, high-end option for dessert. But it's not exactly the kind of place you take a big family.

So where to go when yer jonesin' for some sweet stuff?

I don't think that will be a problem in Summer '08.

Recently the Marble Slab chain made an appearance on Market Square. Local-business-only naysayers aside, the ice cream shop was a welcome addition to Square's emerging "Dining District." Problem solved, right?

Apparently local entrepreneurs think we need more options. Today I saw a new poster in the window of recently renovated No. 26 (next to Preservation Pub) for another dessert shop that will be going in there soon.

Rita's is another chain, which, if you look at their logo closely, purportedly sells italian ice, frozen custard, and "happiness." Happiness? That must be some shop.

Rounding out your new deluge of choices, something called "The French Market" is going into the bottom floor of the Farragut Building on Gay Street. Along with flowers and crepes, they'll sell, you guessed it- ice cream. Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

View from the Top

Today was an exciting day for me in a number of respects. Not only is it my 2 year wedding anniversary, and I got a new golf bag, but I also got to go up in one of the new units at The Holston. I have been eying this building for the past year dying to see it open and see if it would live up to the hype. It does.

My friends have purchased a unit on the 11th floor and it is gorgeous, the workmanship is fantastic, the views are incredible (as you can see below) and the location is perfect.

This is another example of Dewhirst's great work, hopefully we'll see many more of these in the near future.

I didn't take pictures of the inside of their unit, as I thought it might be a little rude, so these shot of the surroundings will have to do. I think I know where I'll be enjoying Sundown from here on out.

BTW: And a little bird told me that there is a movement afoot to get at least a part of Krutch Park dog feces free in an attempt to keep the ground cleaner for little children, keep an eye out. Maybe we can keep the real little Knoxvillians worm free in '08.

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Friday, May 23, 2008

at last, i can worship in romanian!

Down in the netherworld of Third Creek/James White Parkway, where Central Street becomes a lot less central, one aspect of Knoxville's surprising cultural diversity asserts itself:
Who knew that we had a Romanian Church?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

from knoxville with love

after two glorious years in knoxville, i am moving to st. louis and figured i'd make one last post. so without further ado, here is lucas's best of knoxville:

best overall spot: back room bbq - the barbecue is great, they have DEEP FRIED CORN ON THE COB, the back patio is a great hangout, they have horseshoes if you are so inclined.

best bar: barley's - huge selection, great deals, spacious interior, cool patio, good food

best bar atmosphere: patrick sullivan's - the booths are straight from 1762

best nice restaurant: northshore brasserie - if you ever get the chance to eat here, i would recommend it wholeheartedly

hidden gems of knoxville: ijams nature center, sam's cafe (locust & main), the bowling alley in the basement of the UC

best place to play darts: downtown grill and brewery

best fish tacos: la costa

best blog: the sunsphere is not a wigshop

it's been a wild ride, knoxville. thanks for all the memories.

It's a Bird, It's a Plane, it's a guy in nothing but spandex?

My friends, I have recently been made aware of a planned "gathering" for the month of June in our fair city. On June 13th through the 15th our fair city will be invaded by evil villains and super heroes. Representatives from Starfleet, the Rebel Alliance, Chief Commissioner Gordon, Xena, and likely an assortment of Smurfs will be gathering at the Downtown contention center for some sort of "meeting".

I bring this up because this event is likely to overwhelm the meager resources of the Wigshop crew. We need pictures, stories, anecdotes, confessions, and nik-naks from AdventureCon 2008. Ironically a great vantage point for scoping out much of the action will be the Sunshpere itself.

I can safely say that Stan and I will likely be stay as far away from this happening as possible as we are both recovering from an adolescence filled with mostly George Lucas and Gene Roddenberry as adult role models.

So we are calling all readers, if you see any ewoks, Klingons, storm-troopers, or possibly a Kevin Sorbo look alike, please take a picture and get it to us. This sort of monumental event happens rarely... like once a year.

Though I am rather tempted to vote for this guy come November... hmmm.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Monumental Knoxville

On a whim I grabbed my camera and set out in search of history. This is what I found in just a few block radius, Hopefully there will be more soon.

These first two are of the Cemetery for First Presbyterian on State Street.
A Splendid Little Monument...
(If you get that joke you as big a loser as me)
This is for a Doctor- man, he must have been good.
No clue who this is, except that she's named Sevier and had a beautiful monument carved for her.
I don't care who you are, this is an amazing epitaph.


Robert is recently returned to Knoxville for “School Take Two: Master’s Edition.” Fresh from the streets of New York, Robert brings with him a passion for urban living, and is excited to bear witness to Knoxville’s current evolution.

Robert has a thirst for travel, and enjoys: looking up words, fine cuisine, talking about planning to play tennis, reading about design and being a full time student.

If you ever find yourself on the 100 Block, feel free to give a shout out to the humble blogger. Sadly, he posts under his real name, so identification should not be an issue

Monday, May 19, 2008

a wigshop freshman

The writer line up is shifting at the Wigshop. We say farewell to Lucas, though we hope he will stop by and post occasionally from his new city. Reginold has been put out to pasture as a occasional contributor, though I suspect we haven't seen the last of his nonsensical ramblings here.

You may notice a new face in the sidebar: Robert, recently of Nashville, has unwittingly volunteered to the time-consuming obsession that is this blog. Not knowing the fame and legions of blog fans that will soon be his, he has foolishly chosen his real name as his handle. So be kind if you see him on the sidewalk. We hope that Robert will bring the fresh insight of a person new to Knoxville life, unstained by the cynicism that countless Vol football seasons induce. I'll let him tell more about himself in his upcoming debut post.

Unfortunately, Wigshop fans, the winds of change have not stopped blowing. We'll keep you updated as we plod along, figuring things out.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

blogging professionals

i'm sure most of you were as taken aback by the tumultuous shift on this blog yesterday morning as i was. in an era where change is the only inevitability, it's nice to have at least one constant in my life. the sunsphere is not a wigshop is my rock.

every morning, i stumble into work half-awake and flip on the computer. the caffeine may have my blood moving, but my brain typically remains stubbornly asleep, fending off reality to the bitter end. the first site of the day? you guessed it. in spite of the fact that i write for this blog and that we rarely get up more than one post a day, it is essential that i get my wigshop update AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. what if an entire productive hour went by without my knowing the exact time of the last post? the answer is too damaging even to comprehend. afterward, i spend the better part of my day burning the refresh button. you never know and firefox just takes too long...

but that is all backdrop. yesterday morning, i typed in the address (surprisingly, this blog is not my homepage. not surprisingly, it is for other contributors) and look what i found!

it was nearly catastrophic for me. i thought "some hooligan and his friends have undoubtedly loaded one of their blog-viruses on here and it's all over now."

but then i took a closer look.

we have a personalized icon. ck, our hats are off to you for having time, wherewithal, and keen insight into the needs of this blog.

so that's all this overblown, windbag of a post was about. enjoy our icon.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

nama (west)

Last night I had the pleasure of attending the soft opening of the new Nama location in Bearden. It's in the building formerly known as Cha Cha.

I love Nama, especially since it's conveniently located a stone's throw from where I live. A great, easy place to grab a drink or a snack. The problem is, I only ever eat at the downtown Nama at odd hours (either very early or very late) because it's very tiny and is always packed.

Gregg White has made great use of a larger space while maintaining the brand's aesthetic. The space is cozy and inviting, and dare I say trendy. It's properly lit, too - a good mix of "mood lighting" and "I can see my friends while they're talking to me lighting." Both important considerations (for me, at least) when choosing a dining spot. I love the green walls (like Nama Originale), and the larger bar, and the cozy lounge area. The patio was packed and we didnt get a table out there, but it looked fun, if not terribly close to the side of the road.

Last night's menu was limited, but the choices we had were all on par with Nama's high standards. Sweet mother of mercy the warm shrimp and crab dip must be made with angel tears and smack; it is soooooo good. Sinful, but disgustingly good. We got the rainbow roll and the maui wowie among a few others. Everything was delicious.

A perk of this Nama location is the full bar, and Gregg's offering a full list of drinks. Not my bag, but there are definitely a lot of fun cocktails on that list.

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Often I daydream of turning it all in and becoming a server at Nama. (I love the restaurant industry and was a damn good server/bartender/manager back in my day). Thing is, I just dont think I'm cute enough or trendy enough to work at Nama. That's a big lot of happy, attractive people right there. With sexy black outfits.

And speaking of servers, the service was surprisingly really good for an opening, which means that Gregg and staff have their system down. Things'll be a little slower than usual for a while, but that's to be expected; and like I said, things ran much more smoothly than at a typical first night.

New Nama opens tonight for regular service. Have at it.

(oh, and selfishly, I'm sort of hoping the new Nama might free up some space at my neighborhood location...).

Oh, I've got to give it some wigs. 10 wigs. Take that!
(Add those wigs, CK!--thanks!)
[there ya go- ck]

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

a taste of havana

The Cubans have invaded Market Square! But unlike like Red Dawn, they bring delicious entrees instead of hunting down high school guerrilla fighters.

"A Taste of Havana" is the latest of several food venues that World Grotto has tried on its upper level. The Grotto, for those of you who haven't been there, is the strange hippyish/new age underground bar on Market Square with a pretty decent concert venue (that's another post). The underground part has been humming along for a few years now, but the upper level has seemed to give them trouble. First an art gallery, then some kind of market/spa, most recently an organic deli. Currently, a strange culinary marriage is taking place. The original "Taste of Havana" (a Cuban restaurant up in Fountain City) has teamed up with the Grotto and colonized a smaller version downtown.
In a word, A Taste of Havana is genuine. Full disclosure: I haven't been to Cuba, but have been to Haiti and the DR, which have similar cuisine. The rice and beans that aToH cooks up are as the best I've ever tasted in the States. And plantains! That lovechild of the banana and the potato, fried perfectly to a golden crunch. The meat is all delicious: pepper beefsteak, spicy pork, and lime chicken. My favorite is the beef.

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The portions are huge, and the prices used to be some of the best on Market Square- lately they've jacked up the prices, so go for dinner. Definitely try the Cuban coffee (i.e. strong espresso and lots of sugar). The interior atmosphere leaves something to be desired- a negative byproduct of haphazardly going into the Grotto's space. Don't expect a Cuban feel, this is still a New Age-y place that happens to serve Cuban food. But I think the food more than makes up for it. My recommendation is go sit outside on the Square. And then you can light up a big cigar, which as we all know is the perfect side dish to Cuban food.

Rating: 7 out of 10 wigs on the Wig-O-Meter

[update 7.30.08] A Taste of Havana is going to a new location- see here. -ck

Monday, May 12, 2008

wigshop in transition

Well folks,

Some things will be changing around the ol' Wigshop soon. Don't worry! The razor sharp observations sprinkled with dry wit you've come to expect here won't stop. But some of our Little Knoxvillians are (gasp!) leaving Knox Vegas and some new faces might start popping up in the sidebar. We're also still figuring out what this crazy blog is all about. Downtown? Lifestyle? Beer? Squid?

So here's your chance to laud/blast us. What do you like about the Wigshop? What do you absolutely despise about the Wigshop? What would you like to see more of? What needs to shrivel up and die?

Let us know your thoughts, and keep checking back to see what's going on.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

the green machine

what?! knoxville's own green taxi service. could this be a step in the right direction?

i don't know what's more shocking, learning that this business actually exists in knoxville or seeing robin wilhoit "searching" for emission info online.

will wonders never cease?

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

photoblog: sundown in the city

last thursday, my wife and i took a turn around market square to see knoxville's favorite spring pastime--sundown in the city. when i say "took a turn," i mean we walked down wall avenue and then back to gay street. navigating crowds like that only leads to one place: hopeless frustration. anyway, here are the pictures.

i knew i was in for trouble. just look at gay st! its like waiting in the carpool line after high school.

is there some kind of law against this many people in one place?

seriously. is there a law?

have no fear, in the midst of all the mayhem, you can still get your tomato head fix. they even pulled out the heat lamp pizza turntable!

i just liked the colors on this one.

btw, i'm planning on braving the frenzy once again for josh ritter this thrusday--come out and enjoy the music.

Who needs the new Grand Theft Auto IV?

"I wanted to do hoodrat stuff for my friend."

hat tip: my man Rob B.

Monday, May 05, 2008

More fun with squids

This has nothing to do with Knoxville, per se; but it does have everything to do with 2 little knoxvillians and our unspoken awesomeness.

Stan and I are friends and dare I say colleagues. We were far away from each other last week (puts a strain on all of our extremely intelligent and never, ever, ever at all inane conversations). Because I missed him, I emailed him a story from Yahoo news titled "New Zealand Scientists Thaw 1000-pound Squid Corpse." Perhaps you read it online last week.

In response to my email, Stan wrote back, saying:

i think that this is a recurring theme in our relationship. scientists discover some abnormally large squid. you forward me the email.

and i appreciate that.

i also appreciate any reference to american tail.

In reference to the American Tail, I had told Stan that even though squids were dying and thawing world-wide and we were working from far locations, we were still "underneath the same bright stars." I am a poetic genius.

Anyway, I wanted to share because I havent written in a while; and also because I think the email sums up everything you would ever need to know about both me and Stan.

In other news, Happy Cinco De Mayo!

stop spreading out, ut

The University of Tennessee, like Knoxville, loves to spread out to the west. 50 years ago, about the same time Interstate 40 was cutting a scar across downtown, UT bulldozed a historic neighborhood the size of Fort Sanders to expand. Few people realize that Circle Park was once ringed by some of the most beautiful mansions in Knoxville. A whole vibrant neighborhood was turned into ugly brick dormitories and asphalt parking lots.

Recently, UT seemed to be reversing this destructive tendency. New buildings have filled in the parking lot gaps, which in turn have been replaced by more efficient parking garages. Unused land already in the main campus has been put to good use with new facilities that blend with The Hill's historic Collegiate Gothic Style. The Baker Center, on Cumberland Ave., is an admirable example of this.
But old habits die hard. The University is now proposing a research center on the Cherokee Farm site, just across the river from the Ag Campus. It seems that all that pristine empty land is just too tempting to the UT bigwigs.

Fortunately, there are several roadblocks in the way: 1) ancient Cherokee buildings have been uncovered near the river and 2) rich, well-conected people live across the river in Sequoya Hills and don't want their view spoiled. I'd say there's a number 3) UT already has plenty of room. The campus is thinly spread across one bend in the river- let's keep building and filling in there before we tackle another bend. Face it, UT is an urban campus, a rare thing for a southern university. That's a good thing!

Part of what makes a campus good for students and faculty is walkability. This fosters random interaction of colleagues that garners a sense of community and academic collaboration. Some of the best campuses in the world are the smallest. Many elements of UT are practically cut off from the main campus- the Medical Center and the Ag Campus come to mind. Campuses need cohesiveness. UT doesn't need another arm spread out that people have to drive to get to. And no matter how "green" they may try to make the buildings, this suburban planning model will negate any environmental contribution that they may have had. If UT is serious about becoming green, then it needs to stop spreading itself out.

UT: Use what you already have.

Friday, May 02, 2008

market square elvis sez: "don't be cruel," to 'suspicious minds'

The Wigshop posted on Market Square Elvis last year, and since then he has become a fixture on the Square. But apparently The Man doesn't want a soulful singer in a white jump suit to disturb the tourists.

So now our Elvis is gone.

Don't get me wrong. He had probably pushed the limits of good taste with three hour sets everyday. Probably too much of a good thing. But he was our Elvis, tolerated with good humor like an uncle who gets a little drunk at Sunday dinner. However, it wasn't the nature of his performances that got him canned by KPD- it was the electricity.

Market Square Elvis's act depends on his karaoke machine and his mic, 'cause you can't really do Elvis justice without a full backing band, or at least a recording of one. The general rule in the city is that unplugged musicians are OK, but you can't set up impromptu concerts without a permit. Because of his karaoke machine, Market Square Elvis falls in a gray area. Given a free hand, KPD would probably run off most of our street musicians for "panhandling." The city guidelines have restrained them from that, but poor Elvis gets the boot because he doesn't fit the government mandated definition of what a street performer should be. Elvis tried to stage a comeback after the Village Marketplace shop let him plug in there. But the police still ran him off. C'mon.

Market Square Elvis, aka Jeff Martin, wrote a sad letter to Metro Pulse this week:

"My fans are very upset because I can't perform on the mall. I went to the City County Building, and they will not let me have a meeting with the mayor of Knoxville. I would like to have an honorary license to perform on the mall... When I sing to my fans, it makes them happy... I am very hurt because the cops told me to unplug my karaoke machine."

Why pick on this old guy who just trying to do the thing he loves? Knoxville needs to toughen up on true panhandlers, not street performers. I get aggressively panhandled every week in downtown, yet the cops are on Market Square hassling this guy. Why? Knoxville needs more inclusive guidelines for street performers, and KPD needs to lighten up. I leave you with a few words from Market Square Elvis himself:

"When I sing to children on the mall they dance around me. Here is an important message for me to tell my fans:
Jesus loves you all and so do I!"

Save Market Square Elvis!