Friday, June 23, 2006

Time to eat

I originally went to Macleod's because I figured an Irish bar would have good fish and chips, but by the time I arrived the kitchen was closed. When I left World Grotto about 1 a.m., I was starving so I headed down to the Strip in search of Jimmy John's. The waitress at the Urban Bar and Corner Cafe said Jimmy John's had the best sandwiches and stayed open late.

I found the spot easily enough and was relieved that there wasn't a line. It's a sub shop with fancy names for typical sandwiches. For example, I ordered the Vito, an Italian sub. The food was decent and considering that I paid $3.75 for an eight-inch sub, I was ecstatic. Their giant sandwiches were only a $1 more. Heck, their Jimmy John's potato chips were only 75 cents and they were yummy too. If you're in Knoxville and doing the late night thing, I highly recommend Jimmy John's.

Oh, did I mention that clubs here stay open until 3 a.m. and the bars have a real happy hour, typically from 3-7 p.m. In North Carolina, drinks prices must remain fixed all day so happy hour is based on food specials. Oh, and gas is 20 cents cheaper per gallon here too.

Today, I'm headed to Soccer Taco to watch World Cup. Oh, and to the bike rally.

My kind of place

After Macleod's I headed up the block to World Grotto, and that was a whole other experience. See for yourself:

The concept is a little forced, but the energy was undeniable. World Grotto is a middle-Eastern themed nightclub, marketplace and gallery. On the first level it's a gallery with exhibits and downstairs is a spacious club with a dance floor, stage, bar, lounge and huge VIP lounge. I say the concept is forced because the downstairs is made of faux rocks to give you the feeling that you're in a cave. The furniture is cushioned benches covered in exotic fabrics and pillows. Still, it's something different and I like different.

While I wasn't feeling the whole incense-burning, fountain nightclub theme, I loved DJ Slink. Just when I was ready to leave he put on an electronica-backed mix of Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" followed by Ol' Dirty Bastard's "Got Your Money" then Gorillaz's "Dare" followed by the Police's "Message In a Bottle."

No one in Charlotte spins like that. No one.

I would love to have Slink spin in Charlotte, but we'd need to transport the World Grotto partiers to Charlotte. They are what made World Grotto so eclectic. I saw spiked hair, peasant skirts, baggy cargo shorts and studded belts. A break from the khaki and button down or strapless and spandex uniform of Charlotte nightlife.

There were breakdancers, twirly-whirly jam-band girls and rising video vixen. Men and women danced together or by themselves, but they danced. The floor stayed busy, but if a particular song came on, someone would ultimately step into a clear area and groove. For example, a strutted onto the floor, spun around on his back a couple of times, two-stepped, spun some and then walked off the floor, like what!

Do you think a place like World Grotto would make it in Charlotte or is the city way too stiff? We have several colleges here but don't have that eclectic energy in our nightlife. College nights in Charlotte are meat-market, drunk fests. And most of the times, it's older men trying to pick up college-aged girls.

Crunk karaoke

After the concert ended, I walked around Market Square trying to decide where I wanted to eat. Earlier, I stopped by a brewery, but I wasn't feeling the crowd. It felt too much like Charlotte and I was in the mood for something different. I walked past Macleod's Restaurant & Pub and saw a packed house and a gaggle of people on stage doing karaoke. I stopped there.

Before I could get to the bar, two guys asked to touch my hair. We talked for a minute and I turned around and another guy wanted to stroke the hawk. I ended up hanging out with a guy named Terry Massey and his friends, and couple of guys from the Knoxville NBC affiliate TV station.

Karaoke annoys me because I loathe bad singing, but Macleod's was nuts. The only time I've seen karaoke this hype was black night at Wet Willies in Memphis, but this was even better. Groups of college-aged partiers got on stage and sang. The crowd danced and sang as if a DJ was spinning their favorite tunes. Most of the songs were country and rock. A cute old man hanging out to. He looked like somebody's grandaddy, but he was chilling on stage singing and flirting with the young girls. Go ahead daddy!

The vibe was so rowdy that I didn't mind the bad singing, and trust me some of it was real bad.

I've been to Yellow Rose at Touchstone in south Charlotte on a week night and Dixie's Tavern on a Monday, but I've never seen karaoke as hype as Macleod's. Where's the best karaoke bar in Charlotte? And what night should I go?

Getting' down in the Square

We walked toward the music and saw a throng of people stretching for at least two blocks. We were looking for a restaurant and stumbled on the Sun Down Concert Series, a free outdoor concert series on Thursdays.

I had to stop.

It's kind of like our Alive After Five, but way bigger. They've got big-time sponsors such as Regal Entertainment, the City of Knoxville, Pilot and of course Budweiser. Music ranges from lesser known acts such as Thursdays Rhett Miller and the Believers to such as their April kick off band Little Feat. See their lineup at

The series starts in April and runs through June. It picks up again in September and it's called Autumn on the Square. The lineup for that includes Donna and the Buffalo, the Guards and Blues Traveler.

Both events are in the Square's shopping and restaurant district in downtown Knoxville. Several restaurants had their doors open and let people sit on their patios. A few shops were open as well. At least a dozen vendors sold funnel cakes, beer and hotdogs. People trying to organize a skatepark were out as well soliciting donations.

What impressed me more than the size and quality of the acts were the people hanging out. Our outdoor concerts, okay most events in Charlotte, tend to draw the same yuppie young professionals, but Knoxville was more eclectic. Walking toward the stage I saw a punk crew and a guy with a Mohawk, I passed the skatepark people, a group of young men and women playing hackysack and young parents with kids. The wine and cheese folks sat in the restaurant patios watching the performance. I met a lady name Karol Hamilton who was dancing her head off and says she has a brother who lives in Charlotte and she travels to Charlotte to shop.

I didn't know anything about Rhett Miller and wasn't overly impressed with his music, but I Ioved crowd's energy was contagious so I hung out there before I discovered a karaoke bar...

Hoot it up

I would pick the hottest day of the year to ride down to Knoxville for the annual Honda Hoot motorcycle rally. By the time my buddy Anne and I arrived at our hotel, we were drenched and exhausted. This rally used to be in Asheville, but because of its increasing size and Anne says politics in Asheville, organizers moved it to Knoxville a few years ago. It's scheduled to be here until 2009.

Since we were tired when we arrived Thursday afternoon, we skipped the motorcycle events. We waited for the heat to abate and hit the streets. This is my first time in Knoxville. Since I'm an Alabama grad, I was anxious to see the home of the Crimson Tide's rival, University of Tennessee.

I love Alabama, but I have to admit going to college in the town the size of Knoxville would have been fun. The Strip gives you the college town feel, but places such as Old City and Market Square make it feel more like a real city. Tuscaloosa is a college town period. When I was at Alabama there was nothing to do but hang out on the strip or go to college parties.

Our first stop was Old City. It's a cool historic area that reminds me of the French Quarter, but not nearly as many interesting people. We had a couple of drinks at the Urban Bar and Corner Cafe. The place was huge with three rooms and a patio on the street. It had exposed brick and would've been a killer place to hang, but it was totally dead. So, we headed to Market Square a couple of miles away.

Have any of you all been to Knoxville? How does it compare to Charlotte? Although, it was dead I dig Old City area. Post your replies below.