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Food & Drink
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Best Place to Indulge Your Tastes Without Worrying or Feeling Guilty
Knoxville Community Food Co-op
You can find all the food you need to survive here, but it's not really a grocery store. It doesn't make a profit, and technically, it's owned by the people who shop here. And it doesn't look like a grocery store, not the kind we've grown accustomed to.
It's more of a throwback to times when food was connected to the world, the old-fashioned soil and earth and farming world we don't even think about any more. The hardwood floors creaks as you step inside, and the staff (many of them volunteers) always says hello. Most of the fresh produce comes only in its proper season, and it doesn't have a suspect genetic and chemical perfectionthere may be a bruise here and there, and the apples don't have quite as much gloss as the ones you get at Kroger. But take a bite, and you begin to understand what the term "whole foods" really means. A lot of the food is grown locally, and other products are produced at worker owned cooperatives around the world, not giant agricultural companies that over-work and under-pay migrant workers. You can trust the food you buy here, whether it be a bag of coffee beans, frozen burritos, a pound of barley flower, spaghetti sauce, miso paste, honey, or blue corn chips. Even the chocolate bars are healthy. There are bizarre kinds of spices and grains, for both the special diets and the adventurous. Need a recipe or advice on herbal medicine? Check out the reference books. Or, if you just want some really good beer, they've got one of the best selections in town. And as you check out, you will not have pangs of guilt watching the clerk double bag all your itemsthe co-op uses only recycled plastic grocery bags (which you can return when they start to pile up in your home).
It's amazing what a little TLC can do for a place. The Bijou used to be the kind of scary old theater that looked like it was straight out of a horror flick, full of dark, decrepit corners and smelly, cramped restrooms. Now this historic venue is a true show palace with a fabulous paint job, comfy seats, and incredible acoustics. While this is only the first phase of the work that is planned for this little-theater-that-could, it is proof that historic buildings are worth saving.
Best Product With the Word Knoxville On It
New Knoxville Brewing Co. Beer
I've been drinking beer on a weekly if not daily basis since the Ford administration. I've gone through spells of favoring Budweiser, Old Milwaukee, Blatz, Stroh's, Coors, PBR, Schoenling's, Jax, Heileman's, Heineken, Mickey's Big Mouth, Rolling Rock, Michelob, Olympia, Miller High Life, Miller Genuine Draft.
Not that I ever noticed much difference between them. Favoring one or the other was mainly a matter of whatever image I was vainly trying to project at the time. Budweiser seemed grown up and predictable, like President Ford (when I was 18, becoming grown-up and predictable was my biggest challenge). Old Milwaukee had a sort of redneck-subversive mystique. Michelob conveyed the elegance and savoir-faire of a paunchy divorced golfer. PBR had a kind of rebellious I-don't-care-what-the-hell-I-drink punk rock thing to it. When I had a beard and wore hiking boots and a down vest all the time, I drank Stroh's. For a time Rolling Rock seemed like the choice of an educated but poor married man, downscale but plausibly sophisticated.
Sometimes, of course, I picked one just for the sheer enjoyment of saying a word like Blatz.
But it's funny. These days I can't stand any of it. It's all watery bilge to me now, and I don't even know why they bother to manufacture it. If I were in charge of the FDA, I'd order that they should all be labeled Beerlike Beverage Product.
New Knoxville's brewery on the east end of Depot Streetand in particular, their India Pale Alehas ruined me for all other bottled beers. I don't want something that's less filling. IPA is exactly filling enough. It's more expensive, but then you drink much less. In the long run, I think I actually save money on beer. The sharp, hoppy flavor of New Knoxville's IPA will hit that spot I used to reach for, but never quite touched, with a whole six-pack of Budweiser.
And the money you do spend isn't wasted. When you buy New Knoxville, you have the assurance that you're supporting the local economy. That's a warm feeling you'll never get from all those Yankee beers.
Best Place to Find Yourself Singing a Techno Version of "Rocky Top"
As any in-the-know South Knoxvillian will tell you, King Tut's is THE place to dine in Vestal. Despite its rather nondescript cinderblock exterior, within you will find a three-ring circus of novelty toys under the direction of owner Mo Girgis. Mo, you see, is not just an ace restaurateurhe is an entertainer. As you dine upon King Tut's delicacies (remember: Wednesday night is Egyptian night), Mo will regale you with his vast collection of curious items. There's the bouncing trampoline doll, the deadly rotating helicopter, the talking pepper grinder that looks like an Italian waiter. Then there are the sneaky practical jokes, such as the persnickety light bulb that only works for Mo ("You make it light, you get free dessert!"); if he knows you well, Mo will make you fart at 20 feet by simply pressing a button. But on special nights, when Mo is happy and his patrons content, he will pass out the musical instruments (toy drums, flutes, whatever's on hand) and cue up the stereo system for a unique singalong. And you will sing, despite the fact that this is a song that some people try to evade at all costs: "Rocky Top." But this is no ordinary "Rocky Top." This is some sort of electronicized thumping rendition that only Mo could find. Puzzled diners may hesitate for a moment as the tune starts blasting, looking around as the regulars unhesitatingly chime inbut soon, they find themselves smacking their tiny drums, then singing those immemorial lyrics, and finally the entire room is filled with surprised smiles. Why am I doing this? you might ask yourself as inhibitions drop away. Because Mo wants you to. And it makes for a memorable evening.
Best Place to Unplug
Bird's Eye View
When we first heard of Keith Waller's plans to turn the old Amigo's/Brickhouse into an Old City acoustic venue, we thought he was a little confused. This is a rawk town, we thought, the louder the better. Boy were we wrong (which, granted, isn't the first time). Some great local acts have become regulars, like the dynamic Jodie Manross, the lyric Louise Mosrie, and the poetic Casey Jones. Some great national acts have taken the intimate stage as well, like The Nields, Fred Eaglesmith, and Iris DeMent. Not only does Bird's Eye offer a wide beer selection, it also creates some of the finest java and yummiest onion rings around.