The Bijou’s origins stretch back through American history, but it didn’t become a theater until relatively recently: 1908. For nearly a century prior to its dramaturgical reinvention, the building was a high-class hotel that housed high-ranking military commanders, influential civic leaders, and even President Andrew Jackson for a spell in 1819. When General Ambrose Burnside took the town of Knoxville during the Civil War, the hotel was converted into a hospital, makeshift war room, and oil-wrestling arena for Generals William Sherman and Phil Sheridan. The latter portion of the 19th century showed the building more favor, and during the lavish 1870s another president—Rutherford B. Hayes—paid call, and delivered a speech from the hotel’s balcony.
The early 1900s saw the hotel’s biggest renovation to date when it was purchased and upgraded by the Auditorium Company. The newly rechristened Bijou Theatre opened to a sellout crowd, and was a major outlet for vaudeville from 1913 to 1926. Hard times began to pile up soon afterward, and the lapsed theater would have been demolished in 1975 were it not for its eleventh-hour listing on the National Historic Record. Since its most recent renovation in 2006, the stage has hosted pop stars and musical blockbusters.
Using locally sourced meats, produce, and baked goods, the chefs at 11 Cafe cultivate a selection of artisanal drinks, desserts, and Mediterranean fare that is a testament to Knoxville’s culinary chops. The café’s baristas combine The Golden Roast coffee beans with milk from the nearby Cruze Farm on a menu of lattes and espressos that beg in sweet, overcaffeinated voices to be paired with treats from local sweetshops such as Sugar Buzz Bakers, The South's Finest Chocolate Factory, Magpies Cakes, and Hot Bagel Co. The café’s bar houses a large selection of beers on draft and in bottles ready to overflow mugs as guests munch on Mediterranean favorites such as shawarma sandwiches, cheese boards, and excerpts of Plato’s Republic written on a pita.
At Old City Entertainment Venue, revelers sip stylish libations, dine on gourmet snacks, and find time to dance amidst rustic brick walls and creative lighting. Patrons savor cocktails such as the Caribbean Bliss or 007 martini ($9) and absorb glasses of the signature sangria ($4). Bottles of wine ($16+), like lonely chefs, find their matches on a menu of sophisticated snacks such as the Four Cheese flat bread pizza with asiago, jack, feta, and mozzarella ($6.50). The roasted corn and feta salsa with blue corn tortilla chips or pita bread ($5) makes a colorful nosh, and the chocolate plate poses desserters with a threefold choice of blends, selected from dark, milk, strawberry-drenching, and sun-blotting chocolates ($14). Thursday through Saturday, the dance floor comes to life as kinetic lighting ricochets off brick archways and hanging curtains, sealing meals with bumping beats and good vibes.
You can squeeze a lot of jokes into a decade—and even more into two. The masterminds behind Side Splitters use more than 20 years of experience in the comedy industry to create rich experiences for audiences and comics alike. A jam-packed roster of performers with credits as impressive as Saturday Night Live, The Late Show with David Letterman, and Comedy Central file onto the Knoxville club's stage to explain in great detail exactly how the audience's refrigerator is running and what they might wish to do in order to catch it. Regular open-mic nights let budding and established stand-ups hone their skills and sets, and a menu filled with drinks, sandwiches, and snacks provides visitors on both sides of the mic with sustenance.
Bronzing Bar Tanning Studio keeps its clientele looking sun kissed with an array of tanning services. The studio boasts both UV tanning beds as well as airbrush tanning, which employs a DHA-based formula to leave skin looking evenly bronzed for up to seven days.