While I’m not usually a bar person, there is something to be said about the downtown Knoxville specialty breweries and bars. A certain air of invention and creativity fuels the upbeat and timeless atmosphere of a number of locations, but only one has a retro swagger. That is Suttree’s High Gravity Tavern, located at 409 S Gay St, Knoxville, TN 37902.
I recall the first time I walked into Suttree’s. It was a Wednesday night. Yes, I know, a school night, and I was out with friends downtown.
Mind you, I have lived in Knoxville for 17 years, but I never felt a real need to ingratiate myself into the nightlife. I was, admittingly, a pretty square kid upon graduating high school and coming to the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.
But that all changed the first time I went to Suttree’s.
The bar is not a “bar” aesthetic per say, rather, it offers up some relics of yesteryear with the vintage arcade games and change machine it houses in the additional room attached to the primary bar area.
While there is indeed a second bar in the attached room, it isn’t the focal point. The games and vibrant energy patrons give in it are.
And that is what grabbed me and made me feel a sense of induction into the world outside of my suburban life. That being said, the charm to Suttree’s isn’t seen in cheap gimmicks or tired party tricks.
Where old arcades feel cheap and dirty, Suttree’s feels like a clean and casual place you can dress up or down for. With that atmosphere, Suttree’s is able to capture the heart I imagine old pinball machines and quarter games had back in the days of drug store ice cream parlors and arcades.
Quite effectively, Suttrees takes that heart and clear influence from decades’ past establishments and brings it into the modern day with lighting and style symbolic of the new age of motley fashion we live in.
Staples like skee ball and pool are certainly prominently featured amongst the games, however, my personal favorite is an elaborate hockey-inspired foosball game. Complete with the sights and sounds one may experience at a real hockey game.
Suttree’s has very carefully cultivated a dedicated following of attendees who come to it for a slew of reasons.
For myself, the house made custom ramen soup dishes and other indie bar foods coupled with the vintage arcade games is more than enough reason to spend time there with friends. And for others, a fancy drink and Pacman may sound like more fun.
And there is the truly wonderful thing about Suttree’s, it caters what feels like a tailor-made experience for each and every person that enters in its old wood doors.
For some, it is a classic bar experience with drink and lively conversation. For others, such as myself, it’s a place to get fun foods and play arcade games that aren’t anywhere else and engage in games that have greater reward than just online trophies. That being the invaluable memories made with friends and laughs shared among familiar and new faces.
For a kid growing up in the suburbs and living a relatively cozy and home-oriented life at the time, Suttree’s provided me a place to take in the fun aspects of night life without the sometimes-rowdy aspects of it.
If not already a place of note in your phone, be sure to add this peach of a place.
Grant Mitchell is a junior majoring in public relations. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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