Man-about-town Dennis Perkins visits Knoxville's latest (and soon to open) beer-brewing pub, Blackhorse Pub and Brewery in Bearden for a preview:
Western Plaza's restaurant space of a thousand faces is awake and active again with the sounds of buzz saws at work, providing accompaniment to the stream of people responding to the large banner that proclaims "Now Hiring." Since the legendary Half Shell opened the location in the mid-'80s, the space has been filled with a succession of restaurants including Kiva Grill, the Mill, Green Hills Grille, Sequoyah Grille, and a previous incarnation of the current tenant, Blackhorse Pub and Brewery. So many places have come and gone that many folks figure that the place is cursed.
"We thought a lot about it before we decided to come back," says Assistant General Manager Buffy Dove, who's on site to oversee hiring and final touches for the opening. "We left here because on January 22, 1999 at 4:15 a.m. an F-4 class tornado tore the whole second story off the Clarksville location." Since that location was effectively the mothership, the disaster took all of the attention of owners Jeff and Sherry Robinson. So when Green Hills Grille expressed interest in taking over, Blackhorse relinquished the lease.
Still, Knoxville is home to Sherri Robinson and, Dove opines that "Sherry and Jeff wanted to come back since this is where Sherri grew up, and they met here, at UT." In thinking over their reoccupation, Dove says that they committed to a total make-over: "Jeff didn't want to hear anybody say, 'Oh, this is the old grill...' so we've completely gutted it."
Barring any unexpected permit issues, Dove expects to open the Blackhorse on July 5th. And they're well on their way: Brewers Kevin Dimmock and David Baugh already have four of the seven house beers working away in the fermentation tanks; and Dove and her staff are adding final hires to the staff of 125.
Dove is optimistic about Blackhorse's future because, "We really are a friendly neighborhood pub with a range of food and drink for everybody. You can sit down with a $12 glass of Pritchard's Rye or you can have a good drink or great beer for $5 or less. And we've already had great response from the community--people seem really happy that we're here."
Blackhorse offers a variety of menu items including flatbreads, pizzas, sandwiches, and a full slate of entrees. Of course there's a working brewery on site, a nice wine list and a full bar.
As for the bad Juju, perhaps it's time for breaking curses--just down the street Brazzerios is steaming right along despite the alleged curse left on that location, which has also seen a string of unsuccessful ventures. When asked if she believes in curses, Dove doesn't hesitate: "Hell, no! I believe in good management. That's not to say anything bad about anybody else; but I manage with my heart, and I know people are going to love it here."