Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Public House: Low Key Cool on the Northside

The Public House and Tennessee Valley Bikes, Magnolia Ave., Knoxville

I found myself happily surprised when the Public House opened about a year and a half ago. I say "surprised" because I didn't expect a pub to open on Magnolia with the aim of drawing a downtown crowd. I didn't think we had spread that far, yet, and Magnolia not having the best of reputations, I wondered if they could make a go of it. I did note that it was positioned nicely between downtown and Old North.

Who knew it would take me this long to get there or that I would post about it? I did finally make it there, recently. I had a week off, the weather was mostly beautiful, and I walked there from home to meet friends.

300 Block of North Gay (flowers by Regas) Knoxville, March 2012

Along the way I took the picture of flowers adjacent to the 300 block of North Gay. The interesting thing there was that a fellow was tending the flowers and doing other gardening up-keep on Regas Square. As I walked up, I thought, "That's really nice that the Regas family is paying to keep the place looking nice while they try to find a new purpose for the site after the closing of the signature restaurant." My appreciation increased when the fellow introduced himself as "Grady Regas." He seemed  a very nice and very down-to-earth guy and I enjoyed our brief conversation.

The Public House, Magnolia Avenue, Knoxville, March 2012

Around the corner from Regas, on Magnolia, I found the inauspicious building that houses the Public House. It is adjacent to   Tennessee Valley Bikes and the external decor of the two businesses makes it difficult to know where one ends and the other begins. The front doors to each are at a right angle from the street and not readily visible. The front wall of the Public House is a retractable garage door with windows which was was closed the day we were there, though the weather was such that it could have been opened to delightful effect.

I met three friends for drinks and light fare. We were there at opening time and stayed for a couple of hours and were joined only by a couple of other customers the entire time. I hope it gets busier later in the evening. There were high tables, seats at the bar and booths which, in keeping with the light fare offered, have low narrow tables between them shaped liked bleacher seats, but featuring beautiful finishes.

George! The entrance to the Public House

The Bar at the Public House, Knoxville, March 2012

I had a four dollar cheese plate which was more filling than I expected and included some tasty bread and relish. One of my friends ordered the hummus, but the cooler had malfunctioned and the hummus had been frozen, so that didn't work out. They brought out a sweet potato souffle that he didn't care for, but I thought looked pretty good.

George negotiates a Souffle at the bar. Real men love a good souffle.

It was a nice, out-of-the-way place to meet friends, though I'm still wondering if it was a case of premature placement since it doesn't get much in the way of foot-traffic of the sort who would come inside. It has to be a destination and I'm not sure if it has become that. A visit later in the evening would be in order to see how the crowd might grow at night though, again, its placement might hurt in the evening hours, as well.

Marie's Olde Towne Tavern on Magnolia

There was also a bar in the adjacent building which looked a bit older and more in keeping with what people might think of when Magnolia is mentioned. It was open when I passed by, but I didn't go inside. I'll have to return, if nothing else, to check out the bike store next door which, according to my friend Shaft who slipped inside for a minute, carries some pretty fine upscale bikes for city cyclists.

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At March 28, 2012 at 8:18 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

You owe it to yourself to go to Marie's Olde Towne Tavern some afternoon. It's a typical dive, and a good one.

At March 28, 2012 at 10:10 AM , Blogger tthurman said...

Makes me wonder what other places like this that are "off the beaten path", may be out there that could be hidden gems. I read an article about Frussies Deli & Sandwich Shop on Knoxnews back a couple months ago.

For those interested:

I drive out this way nearly four to six times a month, and never had a clue this was there. Being a big deli fan, I'll be sure and check this out some time, and who knows, I may find myself over on Magnolia at some point too.

At March 28, 2012 at 10:21 AM , Anonymous Greg said...

In your photos the Public House certainly looks like it has style. Somebody has done a good job on the improvements. The retractable front wall is a cool touch, although with it open there might be a lot of noise and fumes from I-40.

At March 28, 2012 at 11:24 AM , Blogger MB said...

TVB & The Public House are two of my favorite places!
TVB is super active in the biking community (see the cool bike repair station at the food co-op) and it's the most convenient bike shop to downtown.
The Public House is most certainly not always a ghost town. The atmosphere is super chill, the food is mostly locally produced and there is always a cold beer on tap that I'll drink.

At March 28, 2012 at 11:29 AM , Blogger John in Knoxville said...

I have been trying to get to the Public House ever since it opened. The biggest problem is that the food offerings are too light. My posse and I generally like to eat where we drink and that means something more than humus. I will get there soon though. On another note, there is no reason to fear Marie's Olde Towne Tavern. It's a lot like Toot's out on central. A rough-around-the-edges friendly place. At least last year, the place seemed to attract a fair amount of hipsters (in other words, people not likely to break out into a knife fight). You should check it out, I'll happily have a beer with you there sometime.

At March 28, 2012 at 11:30 AM , Blogger Sean Martin said...

My wife and I live in Fourth & Gill and both work downtown; we find ourselves at the Public House quite often and we always have a great time. It's usually hoppin on Friday and Saturday nights - and I've seen it get quite busy on weekday nights as well (usually closer to 8pm). We often walk there from our house and have never had any problems from street people, etc.

Their food and their signature cocktails are both top notch. I am friends with Kristen at Just Ripe and I knew when she recommended the food that it would be great!

I understand your thoughts about it possibly being premature to open a business in such an "edge" location but I think it's position between downtown and Emory Place/4&G/ONK make it less of a stretch than it might first appear. I am really hoping that similar businesses will open in Emory Place soon; I think that location has such potential and would really benefit from additional (legit)night life.

At March 28, 2012 at 2:06 PM , Blogger Andrea said...

I enjoyed reading your post. I've been wanting to go to Public House since they opened, but haven't made the time to do it. Maybe I'll have to remedy that soon.

At March 28, 2012 at 2:10 PM , Blogger Knoxville Urban Guy said...

Good points, one and all. Perhaps I'll try Marie's. High praise, MB, I'll try to check out the bike shop and the Public House at a busier time. I'd love that, John, though I'm not a beer guy. Your latest post was great, btw. Sean, I think you are right about it being poised between two places from which it draws. I hope that's enough.

At March 28, 2012 at 4:21 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a place that you love more each time you go. Like you, the first time I went I thought it was "ok." Now, my husband and I find ourselves there each time we are in the mood to hang out somewhere with some great snacks and a cocktail. They have GREAT food items (the truffle popcorn for $3 and the Benton's Bacon cheese spread are to die for) and their cocktails are inventive and old school awesome. The place is packed most nights we are there, but remains a quiet and pleasant place to relax with your friends. You owe it to yourself to give it another try!

At March 28, 2012 at 7:31 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let me know when you check out Marie's, UrbanGuy. We'll double up and do Public House again to see what's happening.



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