Friday, October 30, 2009

a few observations while walking

My delightful lunch bike ride came to an abrupt stop today with a flat tire. Sadly, yours truly has not gotten a new patch kit (depleted from so much glass on our streets) so I had to walk back to work. However, it did give an opportunity to observe and take some pictures. I came upon what might be my favorite architectural feature downtown:

Just up Church Street I saw something interesting:

I've heard rumors that there's a historic building hiding under that green brick travesty- is that exploratory demolition I see? Hopefully the owners find something worth saving and get rid of that awful skin.

Finally, I saw activity and a new sign at the woefully underused side of Koi on Market Square:

Looks like the "Dining District" will have yet another choice soon.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Pigeon Forge will never let go

It's sad but true that in the same breath I can say I loathe Pigeon Forge BUT am also pretty intrigued by the fact that someone is building a life-size Titanic there.

I won't get into all the ins and outs of why Pigeon Forge is an atrocity; you either agree or disagree. But people, LIFE SIZE TITANIC!

Maybe it's not as cool as I think it's going to be, but upon visiting, one will have the experience of actually being a passenger on the ship. There is even an ice wall you can touch. Ooooo!

They plan on opening in the spring of 2010 and admission will be somewhere around $25. It may be the only thing that lures me to spend some time in that area. Well, that... aaaand the Apple Barn Restaurant.
photo courtesy of Carri Jobe

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

BBQ Quest: Ott's

Y'all probably think I've forgotten about the BBQ Quest. The quest has been kind of slow-going lately because I've gotten crazy-busy at work and I've almost knocked out all the restaurants in a 5-mile radius, which means it's hard to find enough time to visit some of the far-flung joints.

I am still working on it though, and some friends and I took a field trip out to Ott's Bar-B-Que in Farragut a while back. Ott's has what I gather is a newish place after relocating a couple of years ago. One thing about this place is it isn't your typical hole-in-the-wall barbecue joint. There was a fancy flat-screen TV on the wall over the counter which happened to be showing golf the day we were out there. As much as I like the hole-in-the-wall joints for their character, it's still nice to be able to kick back with a beer and some 'cue while taking in a sporting event. Yes, beer. They had your run of the mill variety of bottled beer, so there's that too.

Photos by The MG.

Now, about the barbecue. I've said before that the thing East Tennessee barbecuers seem to struggle with is smoking their pulled pork to perfection. Well, Ott's knows what it's doing. The pork was tender, juicy and smoky and in no way overdone. Very quality. When it comes to barbecue sauces, Ott's offers something like five or six different variety, so if you are one of those heathens who don't like the Memphis-style thick and sweet sauce or you're planning on dining with one of them, there's a chance they'll have a type of sauce you will like. Ok, I'm not being fair. I tried all the sauces and liked several of them. But to get my kind of sauce I had to mix two of their options together.

But as good as the pulled pork was, Ott's totally blew it on the sides. We tried potato salad that didn't look or taste like any kind of potato salad I've ever encountered. It was a sort of mayo/ranch combo that wasn't awful but was incredibly bland. The baked beans weren't memorable and the corn was a little too buttery.

One of my companions was impressed with the selection of ice cream novelties in a freezer right by the door. I don't recall there being any banana pudding to sample, but I can't remember for sure.

So while M&M may still be my favorite, I have no problem recommending Ott's for a good sandwich if you're way out Farragut way AND if you choose your sides wisely or if you just need a beer and some high-definition TV to go with your barbecue.

Editor's note: Before anyone says anything ... Yes, I do plan on trying Dead End BBQ very, very soon.

Ott's Bar-B-Que (Can't find a website)
12828 Kingston Pike
Knoxville, TN 37934

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

"rave runs"

Rave Runs is a regular feature in Runners World magazine, which allows readers around the world to send in photos and descriptions of their favorite running locations. It's one of my favorite features in the magazine, and oftentimes when I am running here at home in Knoxville, I think about all the cool routes that would be worthy of Rave Runs write-ups. (In fact, maybe I should get Max to come and shoot a submission with me).

I had the wonderful opportunity to run in Washington DC last week, and I spent a great deal of time running along the Mount Vernon trail from where I was staying in Rosslyn, Virginia to however far I could get in the amount of free time I had. It's a beautiful trail along the Potomac and there you go one-by-one past the monuments on the other side of the river. I don't think that I am overly patriotic but there's something sublime about running right there; it's a feeling I am grateful for every time I get to run in DC. And so last week I was feeling jealous of the local DC runners, and I felt very much that we had nothing so great here in Knoxville.

But yesterday I happily reminded myself that I was quite mistaken, and I was once again truly inspired by beautiful Knoxville. I felt 100 percent lucky and blessed to be a runner who calls Knoxville home. Knoxville has over 40 miles of paved Greenways for runners, walkers and bikers; and besides those Greenways there are tons of amazing running spots throughout the city and surrounding area (don't even get me started on the National Park!). And it's fall, and the colors are amazing, so running now is even more beautiful and inspiring.

My Rave Run:

I set out from home somewhere on Gay Street and run south to Hill Street. A lot of the time, I will keep going along Gay, since crossing the Gay Street bridge is probably my most cherished running activity in Knoxville (especially during football season--it provides an incredible view of the river, the stadium and the Vol Navy). But I need a quick way to get down to the river, and taking Hill east by Blount Mansion and James White Fort provides that transition. I run down the hill and into the Ruth's Chris Parking lot, and from there I connect to the Greenway along the river. From there it's a few miles along the river (including the smells of yummy goodness coming from Calhoun's), on and of Neyland, and the Greenway. There are 2 different spots where you get to cross under the road, and you toggle between being adjacent to the river or across the street. Of course this route includes passing Neyland Stadium and Thompson Boling Arena. Then you hit campus, the gardens and the vet school. I like to turn East up Joe Johnson because there's a challenging hill going up to campus, and then I head down Volunteer and back uphill to Lake Louden Rd. That connects back to Neyland. From there, depending on how I feel, I have a number of small routes that take me home through downtown. Depending on the minor turns I choose during any given run, this route can be anywhere from 6 to 8 miles, and, to me, is the perfect way to spend a lovely fall morning.

What are you Knoxville "Rave Runs?"

Monday, October 26, 2009

the importance of a local record shop

I've heard rumors that business has been a little rough for The Disc Exchange in recent months. I know this isn't very shocking news considering all the factors that are detrimental to record stores these days, especially (do I even have to say it?) the economy. It still makes me very sad, however, to think that I could know a Knoxville without The Disc Exchange. I dislike this thought very much.

It's had me thinking for a long time, though. Should we just blame the economy and/or the internet for the demise of record shops? Or could it be possible that the problem is bad business practices?

I've always been so proud of The Disc Exchange. Over the years, I've heard many out-of-towners claim it's better than any other record store out there, which makes me raise my head a little and say, "Yes, yes. It is wonderful, isn't it?" as I chalk another one up for Knoxville.

These thoughts lead me to another question: How vital is a local record shop to a city?

I just recently went to Asheville, NC and heard about Harvest Records. Apparently in the five years they've been open, they've laid claim as one of Asheville's most successful businesses (this is hearsay. correct me if I'm wrong) Every cool kid in Asheville (which is everyone) has a record player. And where do they buy vinyls? At Harvest Records, which also promotes shows and are vital in bringing live music to Asheville. They even state on their website, "(we) won't scoff at or judge your musical tastes." This is something I appreciate knowing, as my taste covers a wide range of musical genres, some of which I know not to brag about.

Two things I've always thought The Disc Exchange could stand to lose are a) (for some employees) the pretension and b) the fake vomit, figurines, lunch boxes, all the crap that makes them feel like Gadzooks. Then they can focus on...wait for it...this is profound... music. I think they should stake their claim as Knoxville's hub for new music. No gimmicks, just good people trying to spread one of the best things around.

My thoughts may be futile on the matter. I do think it wouldn't hurt for some of Knoxville's superheroes (the initials A.C. come to mind) to realize Knoxville's need for a local record store and work with The Disc Exchange to give it the boost it needs not only to survive, but to also flourish. Who knows. Maybe one day our children's children will be able to peruse the rare and vast array of vinyls down at The ole D.E. That'd be nice, I think.

PS It's their 22nd birthday this week so show them some love.

Friday, October 23, 2009

red rocket

There was some kind of electric vehicle event/demonstration on Market Square yesterday. I rode my bike through, checking out The Future when I saw the above vehicle on Market Street. It was one of those double-take moments: "That thing looks like a... No, of course not [pedal back for a closer inspection] Wait... it does look like that." So of course I took a picture for the blog and here we are. Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Wait is the engine in the boot or the bonnet?

Just in case you were wondering who would take you from your loft in the Holston to the pub for a pint....

Has anyone utilized this before? Also it was parked in front of the Brewery. Even the Brits know who makes the best pint in this town.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Cute Mr. Exhaust Pipe

If there ever was a cute muffler, Mister Muffler is he. Located in Maryville, he's one of my favorite signs in the Knoxville area. Because who doesn't enjoy a little anthropomorphism (word of the day) from time to time? I know I do.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Pre-opening Review of the S & W

Yesterday, (as B stated earlier this week) was the preview of the S&W Grand on Gay street. There were hundreds of people there, a host of serving staff, and a lot of reasons for me to go back once it opens.

I took loads of pictures but will try to limit to the best available, you'll just have to go see for yourself next week what the place is like if you didn't go last night.

First of all they have done a great job of restoration. Keeping as much of the original feel of kitschy American cafeteria as one would want, but adding the modern comfortable surrounding that everyone enjoys.

The seating capacity is around 150 in the restaurant with split seating up and down. There are two bars, up and down, and plenty of large and small booths for any size party.

The banquet room has a very different feel to it than the restaurant. It's on the third floor and has views over Gay St and Crutch park and would make a great location for a wedding reception. That space can hold (I'm told) about 100 or so more people. One of the most interesting parts about that space is the skylight, it changes colors thanks to the miracle of LED lights. Which by the way, are what lights the bulk of the place.

Now onto the food, which is really what you'll go for. I talked to a server (see picture below) and a host who told me about the food. Apparently the new owners got ahold of the original menu from back in the day and have incorporated 30% of that into the new menu. What they called, twice, "A new take on your old favorites." I expect to hear that alot at first. they also refereed to it as "Retro-American", that's a new one to me.

I'm going to assume that the food they served at the event is to be a taste of what is to come. There were mini-Reuben sandwiches topped w/ slaw and french fries. An interested little crab cake think sliced onion rings, and a roast-beef/ french dip that were also quite tempting.

Finally the wait-staff. Apparently S&W Grand is going classic in this way as well. The servers are in white chefs coats w/ S&W Grand on them while the Bartenders are in the same, but in black.

OK enough regurgitation of what is. I think this is going to be a great improvement for this part of Gay St. More dining to serve the venues is only going to benefit everyone. Two bars, good food, great location, this place should do well.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Preserve. Restore. Transform.

It can be difficult for me to describe how much something has an effect on me, especially when it's something moving or profound. For example: the Bijou. One of my most favorite things to do ever, is to watch live music there. It's something I can't explain in words very well but would rather have you experience while you're in the seat next to me.

With that being said, each time I'm inside the Bijou, I can't help but think about the handful of people who kept it from being torn down a few decades ago. To think, without them, I wouldn't have the experience of watching music at the Bijou at all. I feel like they should each be rewarded a medal of honor.

With the victory of the Bijou under their belt, the group, now known as Knox Heritage, became a force to be reckoned with. They've helped save so many extraordinarily attractive buildings in Knoxville, and today are even joining the battle to preserve green spaces and mountaintops.

I don't say this lightly. I consider it a blessing to be among their staff today, and I'm so excited to be among the first to see the newly restored S&W Grand this Friday on Gay Street. I'm especially excited to see the expressions of those Knoxvillians over twice my age who will take a step back in time for an evening.

You can be a part of this epic Knoxville event as well by becoming a Knox Heritage member on Friday night at the S&W. Yeah, this is sort of a sales pitch, but I wouldn't make it unless I was really passionate about it. The event is from 5-7 pm, and you can become a member at the door.

If you can't make it then, the S&W will be open next week to the public. Its opening is an event in which all of Knoxville should take pride.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign

I have a slight fascination with a lot of signage you can find while driving around Knoxville. Over the past year, I've seen a few of my favorites disappear so I've started taking photos of them in case more fade away with time. I think some of the best ones are hand-painted and mostly found in North and South Knoxville. I imagine the owners of these establishments never considered using a graphic designer but just went out there with a paint brush and did it themselves.

Today I bring you the Clark Bros. Piano Co. on Broadway. They also have (none other than) Ronald McDonald holding a keyboard on their roof. Does this make any sense whatsoever? Not really to me, but it's North Knoxville. Maybe I was too busy eating chicken McNuggets as a young girl to learn that Ronald's a wiz on the keys. I do know that all this is a little creepy and has kept me from ever going inside of the place, though it's always piqued my curiosity.

The sign below is bonus material. It's currently outside of Clark Bros. and reads:

' "Welcome to Knoxville," Five thousand dollar's reward of stolen 1987 White Cadillac also 5x8 trailer to the arrest and conviction. call 865... Clark Bros. Piano 1307 N. Broadway.'

Yes, welcome to Knoxville.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

A love letter to Barley's

Some of you may have noticed a few changes being made at Barley's in recent weeks. A new bar is going into place on the ground floor, the upstairs is being renovated and is currently closed, the patio will (from what I've heard) be covered and more seating will be made available as a result of the redesign. Kudos to Barley's on this....

But what about our beloved Trolley? The pint night hostess told me last night that it will disappear when the renovations are finished. Why oh why!? I'll be the first to admit, I have been going to Barley's for several years now and only recently noticed that the downstairs bar is a trolley. After this revelation however, my beloved Monday and Tuesday (and sometimes Wednesday and Friday) hangout spot became even more special to me. I love to think that my IPA addiction is fed by a Trolley. The Trolley.

So Barley's, what is it? What will you do with the Trolley? After talking to several people about its imminent disappearance, they either A) didn't realize it was a trolley, but when they did instantly loved it or B) were shocked and saddened by the news.

I would like to suggest something... If it is indeed going to be firewood in a couple of weeks, why not just auction the thing off for a worthy cause? I'd pay good money for one of those windows with the beer listing chalked on it. Seriously, dibs on the IPA listing.

For now, I suggest enjoying a pint or three while gazing longingly into the mirrored windows behind the bar. I look forward to a new improved Barley's experience but with a little bittersweet feeling as I will miss a component that gave the place a lot of character.



Tuesday, October 06, 2009

A Favorite Shoe Service Shop of Mine

I am one of those types of people who tends to hold onto something they like for quite a while. This is especially true for shoes. I find a handful of pairs of shoes that I like and I wear them, and wear them, and wear them out.

But after the soles are worn I'm still disinclined to give them up. My feet worked so hard to get them to where I want them to be, why should I have to start all over. This is where the genius of shoe repair comes into play....


"Great Pol, you got your shoes fixed. Sure they look shiny and awesome and wow you've got great taste, but seriously why should we care?"

Because this post isn't about my shoes it's about a great local business that keeps my shoes in good repair...

once again VOILA!!!

Pendergrass Family Shoe Repair up on Bearden hill is where i take my shoes when they need love. You've probably passed it 100 times and never really noticed it. It's in a non-descript strip mall with a couple of other shops that are similarly non-descript.

When you walk in the doors you get overwhelmed by the smell of shoe polish and other chemicals that nearly knocks you over. (Probably gives you brain cancer, but the outcome is worth the risk.)

The surroundings are nothing special, rather haphazard in organization and very much a "family" feel. Just tell them what you need done, or show them the problem, and they'll do the rest. If it can be fixed it will be and you'll soon be reconnected with a re-freshed and re-loved pair of shoes that are ready for another whirlwind tour of Knoxvegas.

Contact info: (No website or email, strictly shoes folks)

Pendergrass Family Shoe Repair
6707 Kingston Pike
Knoxville, TN 37919
(865) 588-0384

Look out, NYC

Yee-Haw, who we all know and love, is having an art opening tonight at Chelsea Market in NYC. The show runs until January 2. Just wanted to say congrats and good luck from the Wigshop!

Monday, October 05, 2009

First Friday musings

First Friday was a couple of days ago. It was one of those rare nights for me where everything seemed to go smoothly; the weather was incredible and I had one of the best art-viewing companions around, The Modern Gal. We rode our bikes around and I was able to see almost everything I intended to see and more. We ran into friends and our group grew as the night progressed.

A few general observations about First Friday: Everything I look to experience in the way of art is typically not found downtown, but in North Knoxville at places like the Florescent Gallery and the Birdhouse. There is an energy there, something more raw and more dynamic, obviously more youthful.

Downtown has its exceptions, Gallery 1010 and UT's Downtown Gallery, but being on Gay Street and Market Square during First Friday is not as much about the the art for me as it is to enjoy Knoxville, to see people out and about enjoying themselves. There was a slew of people watching Casablanca in the Square and others walking in and out of restaurants rubbing their bellies. It's so much fun to see.

We went to the Museum of East Tennessee History, which was my first visit. I think the people working were surprised to see people under forty walk through their doors. At least they seemed that way. It's a quieter side of First Friday which I enjoyed.

One artist I was glad to have been able to see again was Jason Amos Oaks, a former UT student who lives and works in Knoxville. He had a show at Florescent in February that I was really impressed with. I immediately recognized his work when I went into Abode on Friday. I'm sure it will be there for the rest of the month so check it out if you have the chance. The painting below is an example of his work and not one of the pieces currently at Abode.

In conclusion, I give this past First Friday 8.73 wigs. Good, good time.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Fools hope is better than no hope...

A late bloomer in my garden. Come on little guy, I believe in you!!

Also for all of you downtowners, a few quick updates.

#1 A dog park is finally underway, I had given up on it

#2 My neighbor is getting his own road closure. Yeah it's a little inconvenient, but the final product should be worth it. So to summarize W. Hill turning onto Henley closed until mid December. Got it?!

Thursday, October 01, 2009


I had the privilege of attending Tennessee Shines at the Bijou yesterday evening for the first time. It's a really great show that I encourage you to attend next month if you're able.

Last night I was in and out, but caught singer/songwriter Amy Speace and Mike Farris and the Roseland Rhythm Revue. The latter got a fairly packed out Bijou on their feet on the last song, which is always nice to see.

Honestly, I didn't know much about Tennessee Shines and went on a whim without knowing who the performers were last night. I have a greater appreciation for it now that I've finally witnessed it. It's the last Wednesday of each month and features musicians from all over Tennessee. Jim Lauderdale is the host, who is sweet as he can be. The whole show is broadcast live on WDVX. There's even an "Applause" and "On Air" sign up on stage for the in-house listeners, which, for some reason, always delights my soul to see.

I hear next month looks like a good line up: Samantha Crane, Sara Watkins, Tyler Ramsey, and Dave Alvin and a Few Guilty Women, so please go if you're able. I think it's the kind of thing you go into not knowing what to expect from so many performers, but in the end, it's a great Southern experience. You can learn more about it here or here if you'd like.