Thursday, April 30, 2009

heck yeah !

The Wigshop is the best blog in Knoxville:

"The whippersnappers at (“The Sunsphere is NOT a wigshop”) aren’t cynical and jaded about Knoxville like some of the rest of us. Most of the eight contributing bloggers aren’t natives; for them, alternative transportation, sushi, movies on Gay Street, and downtown as a destination aren’t the newfangled trends that some of us expect to disappear any day now. They think this is what Knoxville is really like. And they’re enthusiastic about all of it, holding forth on local restaurants, concerts, and downtown development with an effervescent charm that doesn’t always present itself around here."

Thank you, dear readers, for all your votes. Everybody here at the Wigshop writes as a (strange) labor of love, with no compensation except for the occasional day like today. We're glad we've contributed in some way to life here in Knoxville. Hopefully the information we've put here has helped show you what a cool town Knoxville is.

Yours with Effervescent Charm,

The Wigshop

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

BBQ Quest: Scruggs

Click here for previous BBQ Quest entries.

Working downtownish, I've been looking for a barbecue place near my office to satisfy my midday barbecue cravings. Max and I aimed for Dixons on Magnolia last Thursday only to find they weren't quite open yet (here's a hint: Th-Sat but go AFTER 4 p.m.). Fortunately, Scruggs is just down the road, and it keeps a much more regular schedule.

Scruggs might be easy to miss unless you know this detail: it's attached to a liquor package store. Now let me tell you, Scruggs has the hole-in-the-wall barbecue joint ambiance down to a T, which I absolutely loved. Dark wood-paneled walls, pictures hung of UT football teams from the '50s, a (possibly inoperable) Shaq Attaq pinball machine and an overgrown plant that looked like a cousin of Audrey II's.

photos by max., who forgot to take photos of the actual food.

Upon ordering it occurred to me that I'd forgotten to stop by the ATM on the way over and only had three dollars cash to my name. Here's the Modern Gal's first tip in eating at hole-in-the-wall joints: always have cash. Fortunately, the lady at the counter told me I could pay with credit card. In paying by credit card, I had to take my bill, walk next door to the liquor store, where everything was encased in plexiglass, pay the lady behind the plexiglass and bring my bill back to the restaurant before they'd start putting my order together. Max ran into his own barrier in getting his order filled in that the Coke he ordered was locked in a cooler.

Now, about the food. It was another case of the pulled pork being more chopped than pulled, and it really didn't have the flavor I've been searching for. Or maybe it did have the flavor, but it was oozing with so much wonderfully thick, sweet, tomatoey sauce that I didn't notice. Seriously, Scruggs needs to bottle its sauce and sell it.

The baked beans were perfect too, cooked in the same sweet sauce as the barbecue and, as Max noted, absent of giant vegetables that didn't belong (a reference to F.A.T.S.' jalapeno-laden beans). Scruggs doesn't have straight-up mac and cheese, but they do have this amazing macaroni salad, prepared almost identically to potato salad and every bit as good. Max says the slaw was a smidge dry but still tasty.

Unlike some of the other places we've been we weren't overcome by the food coma by the end of the meal so we also tried some cookies -- a chocolate chip and an M&M. They were edible, but I think they may have also been a week old.

I'll probably go again just because it's a place that's close to work and open during lunch hours and not named Buddy's. The macaroni salad might be enough to bring me back, but I'll probably try either the ribs or the chicken next time.

Scruggs Bar-B-Que
920 E. Magnolia Ave.
(865) 524-4333

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Bit of Potpourri from The Pol

Some thoughts, observations etc. from the past 24 hours.

#1 Some people just take laziness to new heights. (ps - that's a christmas tree on top of a car in April)

Because the disappointment of having to take down the tree after Christmas can be avoided by simply never putting it up.

#2 - Went to see State of Play last night at the Riviera, couple of sub points:

A. Ticket prices have jumped again. $9 a pop for a ticket (good thing we got free ones as a gift) and a small popcorn and drink alone set us back $10.25. listen I get that the theatres have to turn a profit, I respect that. I just think they may be overplaying their hand. I love movies, but not more than a love a good meal. If I have to chose between the two, which I would because full price for both is insane, the movies lose. That's why God invented Netflix.

B. State of Play reminded me of the big picture problem with the red light cameras. If we continue down a path of corporatizing law enforcement we will all soon be left without basic protections in our legal system. It truly will be "us vs. them".

Seriously, there was so much trash on the ground I thought I was at a football game. Please don't litter, it's ridiculous and if you see someone doing it call them out. That's definitely something worth swinging a punch for.

Thank you for your time and attention.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Knoxville, TN = Adventure!

I have a running list of places in Knoxville that I have heard about but never seen. I've recently been inspired to start visiting them, even if it's just a drive-by. As I go through this list, I'm sure I'll be writing about my findings in an effort to inspire others to go on their own local excursions. Knoxville has a lot of great things to offer (as if we haven't proved that already)

Last Friday, I decided to finally visit the Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum with my friend Tracy (Yes, Knoxville has a botanical garden and arboretum. crazy!) We stopped in the visitor center on the corner of Gay street and Summit Hill to get directions (which was funny and sort of refreshing considering we both live in Knoxville). We found out the drive was only eight minutes, so we got in my car and headed east on Summit Hill.

To fall in line with the theme of the day (which was adventure!) we decided to take detours along the way. So when we saw a sign for a historical landmark, we went there.

We saw the Mabry Hazen House, a beautiful historic home on top of a quiet hill just outside downtown. I know it's sad, but I haven't taken five seconds to learn the significance of this home yet. But it's pretty and sometimes that's all that matters in the moment.

Ramsey House

We got back on track toward the Botanical Gardens, missed a turn, and stumbled across signs for the Ramsey House, a landmark I've been wanting to see for quite some time. We kept following the signs there, and after about 15 minutes of driving through neighborhoods with big yards and beautiful old houses, we were there.

The Ramsey House sits on more than 100 acres of land near the forks of the French Broad and Holston Rivers. It's big and stoney and gorgeous. It was the home of surveyor Francis A. Ramsey who, from what I understand, helped found UT (aka big shot). We didn't go inside, but we wandered around the grounds and across a foot bridge that led into a big grassy field. There wasn't a person in sight.

We decided to backtrack and finally found the botanical gardens. We parked, grabbed a map near the entrance, and walked around. We started out near the offices and walked through terraced gardens on gravel paths that led to large stone-walled greenhouses. Then we decided to take the loop around the whole plot of land which is about 44 acres. We came across old greenhouses that were in ruins. Most of the places meant for gardening were not maintained, but the grass was trim and the vast array of trees were, well, magical, really. We only saw about three people while we were there.

Since we visited, I haven't been able to look into what's going on with the Knoxville Botanical Garden. I wonder why it's so desolate and abandoned in areas and well-kept in others. I'm not sure what the deal is. It would have been nice to see the greenhouses decked out in plants, but it was kind of cool to see it all run-down and creepy.

Does anyone know what's going on there?

all photos except the Ramsey House are by Tracy Jackson

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Appropriate or Ignoring Knoxville's Past?

Say goodbye to the JFG facade that has for so long been a defining element of Knoxville's industrial past, and say hello to the look indicative of its new use. 

Overall, I'm fine with the cleaned up look. Considering the number of new windows they've added I think something needed to be done. Note how they're adding grey, blue and white paint to create variety and reinforce a horizontality to an otherwise dull facade. 

What are your thoughts on this updated JFG?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

rossini festival: downtown knoxville, etc.

Downtown Knoxville has a LOT going on this weekend. It's going to be a beautiful, fun weekend! You've got Sundown tonight, and you can read all about it below.

Friday night is the Dogwood Mile and Party on the Square. Associated with the ongoing Dogwood arts festival, this mile race begins at Summit Hill and Gay St and quickly races south down Gay and across the Gay Street Bridge. Crossing the Gay St. Bridge is one of my personal favorite runs, and it's actually really fun to race and see how fast you can run a mile. After the race, there's a party on Market Square. There will be food vendors and Brendan James Wright and the Wrongs will be playing. Activities begin at 8:30, but I am sure you would want to arrive early to register if you are going to run. I think there's a "Dogwood Parade" before the run begins. Go here for more info.

Then, Saturday the 25th is one of the most fun events of the spring: The Rossini Festival in Downtown Knoxville! The festival takes place all day long (noon to 9) along Gay Street (beginning at the 400 block and heading South) and in Market Square. There's an Italian Street Festival (read: delicious street food...and beer!), which is a really, really good time. The festival is a mix of opera performances, art and craft exhibitions, wine tasting, street food, and music. It's an odd mixed bag of stuff going on, but it is a LOT of fun. Other than the street fair, the Rossini Festival is featuring Pagliacci at the Tennessee Theatre. There are performances on both Friday and Saturday night. You know was made (more) famous by Seinfeld. Then there's a fully-staged, costumed UT Opera Theatre production of Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” (Don Juan)at the Bijou Theatre, running Thursday through Sunday night. The fair is free and the performances are all priced reasonably. Go here for more info.

Remember that the 100 block is closed to traffic and parking, so leave yourself time to find a parking spot (don't take mine!) and plan your route around that block.

sundown : karl denson / brent thompson

Knoxville gets FUNKY tonight with Karl Denson's Tiny Universe. Sounds good. I'm sure there'll be a lot of spastic dancing with eyes closed on the Square tonight. On a side note, Denson is the former sax man for Lenny Kravitz. As a life-long Kravitz fan, this alone is tempting me to brave the sweaty under-aged masses.

Paired with KDTU like cheese to a fine wine is the bluesy, funky (eh?) sound of local Brent Thompson and His Wandering Circus. Bring on the da funk! This is probably one of the better Sundown in the City lineups, so be sure to check it out.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

S.O.S: save our Skybox

Friends of the Wigshop: It has come to our attention that our Wigshop HQ aka the Skybox at the Sunsphere has fallen on rough times. WBIR reports that Southern Graces, the company that caters all the private functions at the Sunsphere and operates the Skybox, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The story says Southern Graces will continue to operate, but the company owes about $204,000 to creditors and holds assets of less than $50,000.

We're asking you to throw some biznass their way. We know the drinks are a little pricey, but consider it to be taking one for the collective city of Knoxville team. How many other cities can say they have a gold disco ball hung in the sky WHERE YOU CAN DRINK? Let me repeat: gold disco ball sky drink.

Thank you in advance for your help with this urgent matter.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Tennessee Valley Bicycles (moving)

Your friendly downtown bike shop Tennessee Valley Bicycles at 214 W. Magnolia is moving! Don't worry. They're only scooting over a unit or two to a bigger space. If you haven't had the chance to stop by and check the place out, go on down and meet Scott Smith. Basically he's the man in charge and will take care of your bike needs. If you don't know where it is, remember Marie's Olde Towne Tavern? Same block.

The new digs.

I stopped by last Friday to buy a lock because my old bike was stolen. That's a whole other story. Scott mentioned that they are moving and handed me a flier for what looks to be a fun weekend of bikes and skinned knees. Just kidding.

Their Grand Opening party takes place May 1-3. Here's the rundown.

May 1 : Music, art and drinks. It says 5pm to whenever. Bar tips go to AMBC-SORBA. Musical guests include Steve Greene, I Need Sleep, and Three Man Band. Artists include Sarah Shebaro and Eric Lee.

May 2 : Bicycle photo scavenger hunt: 2-6pm, meet at TVB. Woohoo!

May 3 : Kona bike demo at Haw Ridge: 10am, meet in the parking lot.

Or you could just read the flier at the top of the post.

The new space is bigger and will have more bikes, more gear and a big garage door that opens the front of the store to the street. After driving by Sunday I noticed that the old place had already been cleaned out and the new one was in the process of being stocked. Bicycles for all ya'll!

This is the old space.

Monday, April 20, 2009

the pol gets warm and fuzzy

Lu Lu was on the way to be euthanized after the prior owner could not afford to properly care for her broken leg. In a last ditch effort to save her life, the nice people at the veterinary clinic were able to obtain enough donations to pay for the required surgery on the broken leg. Now, one week post surgery, Lu Lu's leg is healing nicely and she is moving around like nothing was ever broken. She has four pins and one external rod holding the bone together, all of which are set to be removed in six weeks. There will be no adoption fee- we just want to find her a good home.

- 3-4 month old black lab
- Very well behaved for her age
- Gets along with other dogs and cats
- All puppy shots and puppy veterinary exams will be provided for free
- Potential owner(s) will be interviewed

I'm hoping that my blogging fame will help this puppy find a home. Email me if you're interested!

/// ck update:

well, we got the word out to the "blogosphere" and "twittersphere" to "thousands" of people, and now Lulu has a home. But it turns out we didn't need to go further than our own blog- the Wigshop's own "Lo" has fallen for Lulu "at first bite".

Friday, April 17, 2009

BBQ Quest: Back Room BBQ

I was a little worried for Back Room BBQ because all I'd heard about the food there from my friends was 'Texas style, Texas style,' and here B and I -- the two Memphis natives who reside here at the Wigshop -- decided we were going to have dinner there. I figured that meant Back Room was screwed from the get go. I was wrong.

As it turns out, Back Room, despite having a menu full of beef briskety options, also offers a few pulled pork sandwiches, which is what B and I both ordered. Holy smokes, that pork was tasty and thick. Exactly what was missing last week at F.A.T.S. You have the option of ordering your meat on either Texas toast or a kaiser bun. I love Texas toast very much, but it seems to suit chicken fingers better than barbecue so I stuck with the bun. The bun came soaked in butter and toasted, which was a nice touch EXCEPT the butter totally overwhelmed the tomato-based sauce, which was pretty runny and flavorless, even though I dumped nearly half the bottle on my sandwich. Back Room also offers vinegar sauce, if you like that sort of thing.

They have most of the traditional sides, like beans and slaw. B and I both got the country style green beans, which had a sort of sweet kick to them but were really good. I got the traditional Patrick Sullivan's fried corn on the cob, and oh my goodness. It was fried bits of heaven, but it will stick with you for a while.

Like the good Old City establishment that it is, Back Room has a bar, pool table room, darts and a patio. And because it's a bar/pool table/darts/patio kind of establishment, Back Room is the place to go if you just want to chill with a super-cheap PBR and catch up with your friends. It is not the place to go if you want to be waited on hand-and-foot.

B and I grabbed a spot on the patio just as dusk was approaching and the Christmas lights were being plugged in. There were basically two people working -- one at the bar, one floating around everywhere else -- and we had to keep stalking them out. It wasn't too bothersome since we were just chatting the evening away and there was always someone at the bar, but just keep that in mind.

So recommended? Absolutely, though if you're a snob about your sauce, you may want to sneak some with you in your purse (or that of your lady friend's). There's a cuban-style barbecue pork sandwich that has piqued my interest, and CK is already trying to get me to try something forebodingly called 'The Fix.' I gather I'm going to have to fast for three days before I tackle that one.

Back Room BBQ
100 N. Central St., Knoxville
(865) 637-4255

Thursday, April 16, 2009

sundown : cowboy mouth / phil pollard and the band of humans

This week the Sundown in the City concert series has the band Cowboy Mouth, with local Phil Pollard and The Band of Humans opening. As always, the concert is free to all, the beer flows like wine, and women instinctively flock like the salmon of Capistrano.

Cowboy Mouth (from a few listens) is Rock. Rock via the 90s via Barenaked Ladies via a dash of The Presidents of the United States of America via Southern Fried via simple, catchy songs that occasionally "rock" and will appeal to a 35-and-up crowd. Check out their myspace page and make the call. Personally, I'll be skipping it.

On the other hand, I may stick around to catch the opening act. Phil Pollard and Co. (henceforth known as PPATBOH) seem to be interesting. They're definitely experimental, and Pollard is a percussionist which for me bodes well. One of their songs uses the entire Gettysburg Address as lyrics. I've heard of PPATBOH around town, but never seen them. This is how they describe themselves:

Phil Pollard is a drummer, percussionist, and teacher. He is fond of the classics and believes everyone should know them; but he also knows the importance of living in the moment. Therefore, he combines the written, often classic Literature, with dance and improvised music so that live audiences can live in both worlds at once.
He plays a variety of styles in a host of venues, including bars, theaters, and churches; he does a little radio; he led his Band of Humans in playing a set at Bonnaroo 2006, and he led the Bonnaroompah Band at this past Bonnaroo. Lately, he has been playing a series of solo shows, mostly singing with djembe accompaniment. Look out for the flexitone and ukelele though.
He is a lover, not a fighter.

My advice: Show up early for PPATBOH and then jet to get a good spot at your favorite bar, preferably outside on a patio. It's going to be a beautiful evening.

Tea Party Recap

Ok so I went to the Knoxville Tea Party. I got there at 5:30 and left around 5:50, so I was not involved as much as I would like but got to see alot and hear a good deal.

What struck me most was the broad range of participants that were at this rally. It wasn't just one group it was lots of different (and seemingly random) people. You had parents with children, bikers, business people, hippie-type students, working class, blogging class, and everyone in between.

What really stood out to me was just the overall sense of enjoyment and ease that everyone there exuded. Everyone I saw was smiling and happy even though the day was a bit chilly. Perhaps it was a common sense of purpose, though each person seemed to have their own.

Some people were protesting "Big Brother", some were protesting high taxes, some wasteful spending, some people just wanted to say they loved the principles the country was founded upon. One lady had a sign (which I posted below) equating Bush and Obama as one and the same, yeah I didn't see that one coming either.

Anyways, it was a really well attended rally by lots of different Knoxvillians and all in the shadow of the Sunsphere, a very worthwhile event, at least in this wigshoppers opinion.

Enjoy the Photos (see if you can pick out my favorite sign)

"The Approach"

"What? It's the Sunsphere."

"Yeah it was packed in there"

"People of all political shades turned out"

"My that sign is witty"

"The ere mentioned sign."

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

If you build it, will they come?

Some comments on B's busy spots post got me to thinking the other day. Let me preface this by saying I'm not disagreeing with any of the comments that were made, I just like to be difficult sometimes.

Pianoman mentioned that Knoxville didn't do the best job with its urban planning a few decades back, leading to a number of wonderful buildings being torn down (I quite agree and am not here to argue that point) and an influx of ugly parking garages and poor transportation options.

We obviously can't go back in time to fix that, but I wonder what could be done in Knoxville now that isn't already being done or considered?

I can't tell you how many times while sitting in traffic on Kingston Pike I've cursed the city of Knoxville and prayed for a subway system to magically tunnel its way through the city. Obviously that's out of the picture.

What would it take to get Knoxvillians (I mean the greater community, not just the smaller group of progressive-minded individuals) to rely less on their cars and more on public transit or their own two feet? A better KAT system? A downtown streetcar? A commuter train? More sidewalks? Overhead moving walkways? Hovercrafts?

How many of those options are actually feasible for this city?

In my humble opinion and to its credit, I think Knoxville tries to promote better transit options. Consider this KnoxSmartTrips website and the greenway system. I appreciate the free nights and weekends parking downtown because it allows me to park and leave my car without fear of towing while I hoof it around Market Square and Gay Street.

But even if the city found money to spend on a fabulously improved transit system, would enough people take advantage of it to make it worth it?

Just some thoughts I've had. Discuss amongst yourselves.

/// ck update:

an interesting video from Pianoman's blog, analyzing what makes a good downtown (using Ann Arbor):

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

You Say You Want a Revolution...

Last night I sent Uncle Sam my dues. It's a painful, but healthy exercise that keeps me interested in what my government does with my money.

Recently though, many people (me included) have started to think the government is doing too much. More than it is legally commanded, and more than is morally proper. In response, all over the country people have been holding "Tea Parties" and Knoxville is getting in on the action.

Tomorrow, Tax Day, a number of different groups will be holding a "Tea Party" in Worlds Fair Park. I use quotations because you really wont be able to dump your Jasmine China Green Loose Leaf into the Worlds Fair Reflecting pool... sorry.

Here's the website

I'll be there towards the end since it is from 3:00 to 6:00.

I'll snap some photos and try to talk to some of the presenters and get a feel for the message.

update from .max:

update #2: Knoxville's own Glenn Reynolds gives his point of view in the WSJ.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Busy Spots of Knoxville in 1921

artist: Joseph F. McCamish

I ran across this at work yesterday and thought it was pretty sweet. (Click on the image to view a larger version of it) I thought it would be interesting if someone did a 2009 rendition. Notice the Market House that used to be in the center of Market Square and the trolleys on Gay and Union. I wish I could have seen it all like this.

Some Updates on our Camera Friends

Over the past few weeks I have come across some articles regarding the red light cameras in Knoxville and elsewhere, their effectiveness, use, and ways to beat them.

Here are a few for your consideration.

Driver cited for hitting 2 red light camera workers on Broadway

Speed and red light cameras going up in Oak Ridge


All interesting stories, some about more intrusion into our lives under the auspices of "safety" and some stories giving some interesting ideas on how to beat them.

I'll just mention this one good point from the WSJ article above. If we stop running the red lights, the cameras lose money and they go away, that is their achilles heel. I want to encourage everyone to take extra caution at intersections with cameras. Make no rights on reds unless you have a turn arrow. Never try to get through on a yellow. Just wait it out. (Especially if there is a police officer behind you) This will not only create inconvenience and frustration to help drive home the point to others, but alos reduce the revenue strem to the city.

I have often wanted to encourage physical harm to the cameras, but I think this is a more practical way to get them removed from Knoxville.

ck update: REBUTTAL from Cas Walker:

Insert "red light" in place of "supermarket". We gonna beat the hell out of you red light running bastards!

via Refuse!Blog

update #2: good article:

Friday, April 10, 2009

Speaking of life on Gay Street ...

I was recently enjoying a little time off campus for lunch a Little Havana, and after finishing my plantain walked out onto Gay Street to find my car being towed by my good friends at Floyd's Wrecker Service.

Now, clearly I was at fault. I parked in the loading zone on the Viaduct. However, all this to say that functioning on Gay Street is a pain in the neck (read: wallet). After paying off Floyd's Wrecker Service, I was talking to the cops there and they said that they waited a while (30 min) before calling Floyds, and that the loading zone was full of cars. At which point I began thinking about how my $10 lunch was now going to be an $80 lunch, and that I probably should have just stayed on campus and eaten the turkey sandwich that now sat alone and uneaten at my desk. 

Sadly my pleas for more lenient parking enforcement during this crap time on Gay Street went unabated. 

Diners and residents beware!

Photocredit - Todd Sparks' iPhone

2 upcoming 100 block meetings

There are two meetings coming up regarding the progress of the 100 block construction project. One is on Monday the 13th at 5pm, and the other is on Tuesday the 28th at 5pm. Details regarding agendas and locations can be found at the 100 block construction blog. It looks like the block is set to shut down on the 20th.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

deep thoughts on business by a studio art major

I used to work at Regas.

With all due respect, I can't say I was necessarily "behind" the establishment, not in the way that I'm "behind" working at LaCosta in Market Square. I realize writing about Regas may be a touchy subject. I know how important it has been to Knoxville. It's been here since the early 1900s, 1917 to be exact? ( I know I was supposed to have memorized that.) My grandparents love the place and took me there when I was a student at UT. And Bill Regas, well, he's one of the kindest men I've ever met.

So I was a hostess, and, as all low-on-the-totem-pole employees do while they're windexing front door windows, I'd dream up ways to make the place better, finishing the sentence, "If I owned this place, I'd ___________"

Every Knoxvillian knows Regas has seen its fair share of problems over the years, closing for a short stint a few years ago and struggling to maintain its rank as one of Knoxville's most popular restaurants. Presently, I don't hear much about the place at all. When I worked there, their problem seemed clear to me, but who am I to know anything about business? Or do I? It doesn't seem difficult to spot a successful place when I see one. (obvious example: The Tomato Head)

This may be an oversimplification, but I think Regas holds so tightly to their past success that they can't make the proper adjustments to compete with newer restaurants. With good intention, they aim to please the people that have been going there since the place opened but tend to forget about the twenty and thirty year olds that makes up such a large part of Knoxville.

I'm pretty sure my parents and grandparents ate there when they were attending UT, but no one I know ate there while I was a student a few years ago. When and why did it lose its appeal to the younger crowd?

Everyone higher up blamed Regas's problems on its location at the intersection of Depot and Gay Street and the construction of I-40. Of course, I agree, it is not in the best area, but the more I look around Knoxville, I tend to disagree with the motto 'Location! Location! Location!' I think if a place has a good enough appeal, people will come. (Oh, yes, people will come, Ray.) A few examples? Sassy Ann's, Senor Taco, Tennessee Valley Bike Shop, Savelli's, Harby's Pizza, Chandler's, Three Rivers Market. (Feel free to add more examples via the comment option) Then there are those businesses in great locations whose lives are just a vapor (The Cube and every other business in the Bermuda Triangle on Cumberland and Seventeenth)

I've heard recently from my friend who still works at Regas that it seems to be doing fine. I'm really not trying to knock the place, but I think a lot about the life and death of businesses and what works and doesn't work in Knoxville. I almost think if someone were to sit down and think about it, they may find a pretty strong formula new establishments could follow to survive in Knoxville. (Or maybe they'd find it's completely random)

I wonder if maybe in a few years Regas will come back in style like big sunglasses or gold jewelry. Maybe the hipster will one day say, "Let's ride our bikes to Regas for some cheese from the cheese cart and a couple of shrimp cocktails. I've gotta see that sweet poster of Dave Thomas again."

I, for one, would absolutely love to see that happen.

sundown : arrested development

The first concert for the Sundown in the City concert series is tonight! We're going to try and give you info on the bands here at the Wigshop every Thursday, so you can make an educated decision on whether to brave the crowds.

If you're over 25 years old (which approximately 50% of Sundown's audience won't be) you may remember Arrested Development as the hip hop group, not the TV show. AD was part of what may be termed "enlightened, positive hip hop" scene of the early 90s, before rap got overshadowed by "gangsta" rap later. So if you were turned off to rap by Snoop and Dre, it might be worth giving hip hop another try tomorrow night. Expect good beats and a good message.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

BBQ Quest: F.A.T.S. Barbecue

While my fellow Wigshoppers were busy chowing down on sushi last week, I was in Memphis splurging on good barbecue so I'd have a good base for comparison for my Knoxville barbecue quest. What can I say, I am nothing if not dedicated to this quest.

Max and I hit the ground running on Saturday afternoon, deciding to try F.A.T.S. barbecue on Whittle Springs in North Knoxville because, well, it was the first one that was suggested. They say first impressions count, and if that's the case F.A.T.S. does it right. It doesn't fuss with appearances, which usually means in the barbecue world that it's busy fussing over the food instead.

photos by max.

I particularly loved that it has a sign advertising a drive-thru which no car will ever access because the two smokers are planted in front of it. The smoker on the cinder blocks was an especially nice touch.

I was a little bit overwhelmed by the menu. It's plastered all over the counter and there are basically tons of ways to order the same four or five different things. The guy taking our order talked me out of the half-rack of ribs, saying it was probably too much for me, which was fine since it's good pulled pork that seems to be more elusive in this town. I ordered what I thought was a pulled pork sandwich, though it turned out to be kind of chopped, and Max did too. Between the two of us we got beans, slaw and mac and cheese as a side.

The pork was decent, but didn't knock me over. It was tender but not terribly flavorful and chopped a little too thin for my taste. But the sauce, boy howdy -- they got that one right. It's tomatoey and sweet. It's so thick it could be its own meal. The beans were pretty good too, though they come with humongous hunks of jalapeno, so eat at your own risk. The mac and cheese was garlicky and tasty but seemed to have been sitting around for a while, so it was a little stiff. And though I'm a barbecue snob, a slaw snob I am not for I am far too picky. Max says it would have been good had it not been drowning in mayo.

The best part of the meal was the ambiance, in which I mean the great outdoors. There's nowhere to eat inside. You either take it and run or you take it to one of the picnic tables in the parking lot. I love picnic meals, and sitting in the warm sun on Saturday afternoon was a perfect antidote for some spring fever. I'm guessing the experience would not have been quite as pleasurable if it had been raining.

So even though the sandwich didn't satisfy my search for good Knoxville barbecue, I'll still recommend F.A.T.S. on a beautiful sunny day.

F.A.T.S. Barbecue
2701 Whittle Springs Rd
Knoxville, TN 37917
(865) 524-1929

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Beth Meadows - Featured Artist at the Tomato Head

My dear artist friend Beth Meadows is a lovely soul and is now showing in downtown Knoxville. You can see for yourself some of her work at the Tomato Head on Market Square from now until May 2 in a show titled "The Sound of a Train at Night: Paintings and Prints by Beth Meadows." After that her work will magically transcend from downtown Knoxville and alight on the Tomato Head in Maryville from May 3 - June 7.

The show went up this past Saturday at TomHead HQ so I stopped in to check it out. Despite the fact that it is a sit down joint, the Tomato Head is a great place to view art. While savoring your Kepner Melt you can get a taste of something even better and you don't have to eat it (and it's free)! Beth's work, based on memories from childhood, will evoke memories of your own as it takes you through dark lit streets with power lines hanging overhead or into an empty living room set aglow by the light of a television set.

Whatever your taste demands, Beth's show is worth checking out. See my personal favorite between the windows on the right wall in a small frame. Stop in, grab a bite and enjoy one of Knoxville's best kept secrets.

UPDATE: Beth also has work hanging at Blackbird Coffeehouse in Sequoyah Hills. Check it out:

Monday, April 06, 2009

jackson avenue

I was riding my bike down what may be my favorite street in Knoxville, Jackson Ave, and had to stop and record this view. Sometimes when you least expect it, Knoxville is really beautiful.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Dogwood Arts Festival

The Dogwood Arts Festival has already kicked - off in Knoxville, but here is a quick rundown of what is going on around town according to their website

April 3 (Tonight!):

-Bela Fleck and the Africa Project are taking stage at the Tennessee Theatre. Banjo master Bela, Toumani Diabate, D'Gary of Madagascar, Vusi Mahlasela and Anania Ngoliga will perform songs from the documentary "Throw Down Your Heart. I've seen the documentary and without too much fanfare, you need to go see them perform. You will be moved. $30 and $40 plus fees. 8pm.

- Comedian Louis C.K. takes the stage at the Bijou for a raucous evening of laughter. $31. 8pm show.

- Artists Joe Parrott and Brad Bittle are presenting at Hanson Gallery tonight. Parrott has street scenes of Knoxville and Charleston.

April 3, 10, 17, 24: Uniquely Friday takes place at the Knoxville Visitor's Center and showcases local artists, attractions, events or performers. Sounds like a good time.

April 3-18: Photographer Hei Park presents black and white photographs at the Three Flights Up gallery. I'm going.

April 4 : Matt Wertz @ Square Room. Great songwriter and performer. The ladies will like him. If you haven't seen a show at the Square Room I suggest going. It is intimate and you can drink beer, coffee, whatever. I suggest an Uptown Burger from Cafe 4 before hand. $12 advance. $15 at door. 8pm.

That is just a quick rundown of things that caught my eye for this weekend. I don't know if tickets are still on sale, but Anthony Bourdain is speaking at the Tennessee Theatre April 4. I enjoy his show, No Reservations on the Travel Channel. Don't go hungry because he'll probably talk about food.

The photos above and below are sculptures in Krutch Park downtown. They went up this week and should be admired while you are downtown.

NAMA - The Knoxville Favorite

Alright folks. It's not that complicated. If sushi's your bag and Knoxville's your town, then Nama's your choice. Done. 

It's the downtown stalwart that's been beckoning Knoxvillians to think outside the stripmall for over five years. Heck, in the grand scheme of things Nama is probably due some credit for downtown Knoxville's recent commercial boom. It certainly has been THE hub for life on the 100 block of Gay Street for as long as this writer can remember, and the fact is, that if you're reading this blog then chances are that you've probably already been to the downtown Nama, and I really don't need to convince you otherwise.

For me, there really isn't any more typical a "Knoxville night" than starting off with dinner at Nama. The sushi is, hands down, the best in town, the ambiance is perfect whether day or night and the location is in the heart of downtown - I know there is some bias here in that I live on the 100 block, but I stand by my word, it's the perfect mix of quiet city street meets recent urban chic. 

While I'm not going to woo you with all the diverse offerings of Nama, I will tell you that my default roll - the Tempura Roll is, in a word, incredible. It's much more than a full meal, and will readily satisfy those friends of yours that have a 'problem' with sushi - it's fried for goodness sake, what else do you want!? Nama also has excellent Maki rolls - that are half price on Monday, as well as some very good Sashimi. 

I cannot stress enough Nama's role as a forebear to so much that downtown Knoxville has become - so much that this blog has covered. It's THE downtown sushi place, and even in spite of the construction site Gay Street has become, I'm sure that it will continue to flourish. 

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Raw Knox : Shono's in the City

Knoxville has alot of funky, chic, and traditional sushi spots all fighting for their slice of "Real Sushi" or "Sushi Fusion". Well my favorite spot focuses on "Decent Sushi", great prices with fun presentation.

(Writers note: This is live blogging as I sit here at Shono's with the puppy)

Located on Market Square, Shono's is a great alternative to the flashy joints of Tomo, Nama, Sapphire, etc. It's Wednesday night (all you can eat for $18.99 night) and the place is hopping. On tap you can get Bud, Kirin Ichiban, Shono's brew, Zima, or Bacari Raz.

The sushi is good. It's not the best in town and it isn't the worst. The rolls are creative, the flavors good, but there is just something lacking. The sushi here tends to fall apart from the inside out, the rice stays on the wrap, but the middle stays on the plate. Not all of it but just enough to be annoying at times.

I have ordered the "Kamikaze Roll" and a bowl of Miso. The Miso is quite tasty, though Bella (the puppy) did spill half of it on the ground, she seemed to enjoy it as well. The "Kamikaze" is flash-fried tuna, cucumber, spicy sauce, topped w/ crushed red peppers. Spicy is good, especially when accompanied by a cold beer.

I've had the Kamikaze before and it is tasty-delicious. You can run the gambit on sushi here, Maki, Nigiri, Fashion, Inside out. The prices range from $4 to $13, and the portions are very generous. Eel, octopus, whitefish, tuna, you name it they've got it. And Happy hour is $5/ $7 pitchers of beer and $5 off bottle of wine. (A favorite date of the Mrs.) I just asked the server what time happy hours was and she said, "whenever"... "always". So I'll admit to being slightly confused on the details of this at the moment.

The hours are definitely a little hard to adjust to as they are only open for dinner Wednesday through Saturday, though they are open for lunch everyday, but Sunday. And as for non-sushi types of food, you can get very good, filling, and inexpensive rice bowls. CK can be found here many weekdays for lunch so you know it must cheap... err good.

I give it 7 wigs (maybe 8 for the classy christmas light decorations)

Address, Etc:

#5 Market Square
Knoxville, TN 37902