Monday, November 7, 2011

Two Business Monday: 31 Bistro, Julie Apple Handbags

31 Bistro (formerly La Costa), Market Square, Knoxville
I'm no food critic and I know nothing about women's handbags - or men's for that matter - but I found myself in each of these businesses recently, so I thought I'd send out a few thoughts. Take them for what they are - one guy's opinion.

Omelet at 31 Bistro, Market Square, Knoxville
Most of you probably know by now that 31 Bistro has taken place of long-time Market Square restaurant La Costa. I've eaten at La Costa many times over the years and I've almost always enjoyed the meals. It was always just a little different and a little surprising. A year ago it was purchased by a former Knox County teacher Sabrina Brittain.
Cheese Grits, Eggs and (Benton's!) Bacon
In the last year I've eaten there less. It seems I end up there for brunch most often. Several months ago we arrived after opening time, but the restaurant seemed to be closed. When we opened the door and looked inside none of the employees gathered acknowledged our presence until we said something. They didn't know anything about the coupon we'd gotten via e-mail that morning and said they'd ask about it, but never mentioned it again. Service was poor and the coffee, which had once been good, was awful.
Biscuits and Gravy, 31 Bistro, Knoxville
We gave it a try once again last week and the service was better. Our waitress was very patient and worked with our special requests. The food was good. I don't think anyone at the table would have had a major complaint. Still, it just didn't seem quite as different from other brunches as it had seemed before. My dominant impression of a brunch will likely always be the quality of the coffee. I found it odd that as the restaurant shifts emphasis to local, farm-to-table food they would use industrial coffee. There are a number of great local roasters, including one I'll soon feature on this blog. Ironically there is another fine roaster who used to provide coffee for La Costa before the change in ownership.

I'll try them again and I only wish them the very best, but my most recent impressions haven't been positive. Weigh in below if you've had a better experience or have eaten there for dinner recently.

Julianne Applegate schools Urban Woman on Handbags
The other business is quite different. Julie Apple Handbags on the 100 block of Gay Street is the brainchild of Julianne Applegate who left the high-flying life of the fashion industry to pursue her dream of making sustainable, fair-labor handbags of her own design. I first heard her present at Pecha-Kucha a year or so ago and Urban Woman has been scoping out the place ever since. 
Julianne Applegate gives Urban Woman some options

Bags at Julie Apple, 100 Block of Gay Street, Knoxville
Friday night the stars finally aligned that we were on the 100 block at the same time the store was open. Ms. Applegate was on hand to personally welcome customers into the colorful, cozy and inviting shop. She took time to explain the versatility of the bags, many of which may be worn different ways. She also emphasized that the purses are made from recycled materials assembled with fair-labor and are, themselves, recyclable when they are to be retired.

Urban Woman continually returns to her favorite bag - It's getting serious!
 As with all products developed and manufactured with such standards in mind, they are not cheap. Want a ten dollar handbag? Go to Target. A thirty dollar handbag? Steinmart. A great quality bag with a unique design and sustainable ideals infused in its very fabric? Some were available for just over fifty dollars. The newer designs, which naturally caught Urban Woman's eye? Extremely close to one hundred after taxes.
Celebrity Clerk Steven Dupree completes the deal

Is it worth it? I suppose part of the answer is that it depends on whether that price is justifiable in your financial world and how much you are willing to pay to support products and producers which represent high ideals. Would I pay that much for a purse? No. Of course, I don't carry a purse and I wasn't making the decision. So, at the end of the night I pulled out the debit card because you know what? The bag may be worth a hundred dollars, but a happy Urban Woman is priceless, my friends.

Watch for her about town as she sports the bag pictured below and be sure to check out Julie Apple handbags. It really is a cool business.

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At November 7, 2011 at 7:25 PM , Blogger 31 Bistro said...

We have always got our coffee from the same vendor since I have owned the restaurant. They might have changed vendors before I took ownership. I agree with you about the coffee. I have spoken with the chef several times about getting a new brand of coffee. I am always open to ideas. Send me your idea for a coffee vendor and I am more than willing to check it out. I am sorry you have had a bad experience. Our food is from local farms and I would be more than happy to share with you where we buy our produce and meats from. I hope you will give us a second chance. Our head chef used to be the Sous chef before I took ownership. The quality of the food has only gotten better. I am very sorry you had bad service on your first experience. I would love to meet you. I am there almost every Sunday. I was there the Sunday you visited us almost all day. Please ask for me next time you visit. Sabrina Brittain

At November 7, 2011 at 7:46 PM , Blogger Knoxville Urban Guy said...

Hello Sabrina,
On the coffee, they must have made the change before you bought the place, then. It used to be purchased from Alan Zeigel who owns the Golden Roast and can be contacted there. He roasts his own coffee as does Jeff Scheafnocker of Three Bears Coffee Company whose coffee I buy from Just Ripe - but who also had a booth outside 31 Bistro last Saturday. I walked outside, got his card and passed it to our waitress who said she would pass it on to the chef or to you, I'm not sure. It just seems an obvious thing to do if the new emphasis will be local. I'll try to introduce myself the next time I'm in. I wish you guys the very best.

At November 7, 2011 at 8:32 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I haven't tried the coffee, but I got the hamburger with bacon and the honey-cream ale on tap. Nice combo.


At November 8, 2011 at 7:17 AM , Blogger 31 Bistro said...

I will look into it. Thanks so much for the tip!! I stopped drinking coffee a while back and honestly have not thought about buying it local. I love coffee but it does not like me. It is an excellent idea. I will look into it. I really appreciate your comments and tips. It helps so much when customers give their input and advice. I would love to meet you. Please stop by!

At November 8, 2011 at 9:40 AM , Anonymous John said...

My wife and I tried 31 for the first time on Friday. We shared a strip steak. Overall I was impressed. The steak was great (as were the greens and mushrooms surrounding it). The flavor of the beef was obviously that of local, organic feed cattle. That made me happy. I had a couple of suggestions, one of which escapes me, but the other was to have some sort of ambient music going as the conversation noise in the place was a bit on the "high school cafeteria" side. Overall though, I was impressed with the place and especially the locavore vibe.

At November 8, 2011 at 9:46 AM , Blogger 31 Bistro said...

John,we normally have music playing. We actually all argue over which type of music to play. I love Keith Urban, but the kids(the servers, I am consider them my kids) hate it. You are right about the noise level when there is no music playing. Please just make a suggestion to your server. I love for customers to give me suggestions and advice. Please always feel free to ask for Sabina or email me at The meat you ate was from Big Creek Farm. The greens and mushrooms were from Brewer's.

At November 8, 2011 at 7:59 PM , Blogger Knoxville Urban Guy said...

Thanks John and Sabrina, I'll definitely try dinner, soon. I wish I'd thought of the music, John, and I agree. Sabrina, I'll have to go with the kids on the musical taste. No Keith Urban, please, please, please. I also have another suggestion I forgot to put into the blog: Sit on the varous benches in the boothes. At least one of them needs some real help. It was pretty uncomfortable. I think I've sat on it before. It sinks down enough that you feel the boards beneath the cushion - and I'm not that big a guy. Guys, this has been pleasant - thanks especially to you, Sabrina, for have such an open spirit. Best wishes for continued success.

At November 9, 2011 at 8:29 AM , Blogger 31 Bistro said...

Thank you for the coffee advice. I called Three Bears yesterday. I loved them!!! I know about which booth you are talking about. That is on our long lists of things we want to fix. We have a budget, and that is on our lists. We have actually had new smaller tables made to replace the big tables in the front. We are just putting the finishing touches on them. They were also made local, by my dad. I will try to curb my Keith Urban music!! Let me know if you think of anything else. David is talking with Three Bears about the coffee. My husband and I are so glad you brought this to our attention. I love customers and friends like you!

At December 8, 2011 at 8:16 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

nice post


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