For more than 70 years, jewels used to fill the African mahogany cases lining Sapphire's walls. The dark wooden cabinets remain, although they now brim with more than 40 kinds of vodka, Tennessee and Kentucky whiskeys, and rums from Central and South America. Sapphire may no longer drape its customers in precious gemstones, but it does aim to preserve the sense of elegant refinement that characterized the historic building for decades.
This commitment is readily apparent in the menu of upscale southern cuisine, which includes Tennessee cheeses from Sweetwater Farms, bacon and ham from nearby Benton's, and seasonal produce from local farms. These ingredients appear throughout the selection of regionally inspired dishes. Some dishes, such as the Louisiana-crawfish-stuffed hushpuppies with cajun remoulade, assertively announce their southern roots, whereas others show a bit more restraint, such as beef-tenderloin medallions, which arrive with a simple southern succotash.
On Thursday through Saturday evenings, the elegant environment in the long, narrow room becomes livelier as the night progresses and DJs begin their sets. Upbeat rhythms echo off the high ceilings and the vintage mahogany woodwork while patrons enjoy one of the martinis that earned Sapphire a spot on Metro Pulse's Best of Knoxville 2012 list.
The multiple YMCA locations in metropolitan Chattanooga serve more than 37,000 members a year and fulfill the mission of uniting guests regardless of gender, age, faith, background, abilities, or income. Founded in London in 1844, the YMCA spread to its Chattanooga home in 1871 and continues to operate with help from local community volunteers as stalwart as I Love Lucy syndicators. Each location caters to the needs of children, teens, seniors, and families with afterschool programs and fitness-based activities. Cardio machines pump hearts, racquetball courts host fun competitions, and pools allow goggles to fulfill their original purpose: snapping the face with their elastic band to make a diver jump off the blocks faster. A sauna and steam room heat clients up after they cool down in the pools, and parents can drop their young children off at the nursery before participating in group fitness classes.
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.
The Knoxville Jazz Orchestra's 17-piece big band—a medley of brass, bass, piano, and drums—aims to spread jazz like an infectious case of the cooties. Dozens of local concerts and festivals throughout the US and Europe have benefited from their playing, and four CDs have made it so fans can bring the magic home. To add zest to their stew of performances and bring new voices to the area, the ensemble also hosts regular guest artists, including world-renowned soloists. And the group further instills appreciation with a "Jazz in Schools" initiative and a free, annual "Jazz on the Square" concert that lets audiences take in the music in the open air.
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.
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.