Best of Knoxville 2013: Drink

Best Sweet Tea

Petro's Chili & Chips

Oh man, this tea is good. A hint-of-orange-flavored sweet tea that isn't too sweet and goes great with chili and chips. On the best days, the Petro's food truck comes downtown and blesses a Friday with a gigantic plastic cup of it that lasts all day, sweating on my desk and getting all my "important papers" wet so that I just have to throw them away and voila: a clean desk. (Travis Gray)

Runners Up: Calhoun's, Chandler's Deli, Dead End BBQ

Best Martini

Sapphire

Runners Up: Baker Peters Fine Dining & Lounge, Crown & Goose, Peter Kern Library

Best Margarita

Chez Guevara

The full complement of margaritas from this icon that originated in the '80s are all tasty, but it's the total Chez Guevara experience that makes them super special. The place shouts "festive"—a nice blend of swinging bar scene and big plates of wonderful Mexican food like Alaskan king crab enchiladas, for example. Some chips and green salsa are the perfect foil to the margaritas if you want to get acquainted slowly, but the place is humming most every night except perhaps Wednesday—so try them then if you want a calmer trial run. (R.K.)

Runners Up: Cancun Mexican, Senor Taco, Soccer Taco

Best Bloody Mary

Bistro at the Bijou

We like to think that when Bistro owner/cook Martha Boggs famously told State Sen. Stacey Campfield to go to, ah, another restaurant for brunch last year, he was all set for one of her savory-spiced Bloody Marys and didn't get to have one. And while drinking them may not help to defeat Campfield in his 2014 re-election bid, it couldn't hurt—and shouldn't we all do our part? (R.K.)

Runners Up: Crown & Goose, Downtown Grill & Brewery, Preservation Pub

Best Happy Hour

Downtown Grill & Brewery

What draws people to happy hour at the brewpub is partly the scene. A great big Edwardian room with a big central island bar, surrounded by a mezzanine and fronted by a sidewalk patio, it sometimes looks like a miniature city of people of all ages and stripes, who have nothing much in common except that they all look pretty happy. Call it "the brewpub" or "the Grill," it's an institution, after well over a decade, often crowded by 5 p.m., all of it: the tables, the bar, upstairs, and especially the Gay Street patio, where a seat on a perfect evening is so prized people might offer you money for it. The passing scene is so interesting that a certain columnist has made a sort of second career of it. See also: Best Appetizers in the Food section. (J.N.)

Runners Up: Bucket Head Tavern, Central Flats & Taps, Preservation Pub

Best Beer Selection (Restaurant)

Barley's Taproom & Pizzeria

Runners Up: Central Flats & Taps, Downtown Grill & Brewery, Suttree's High Gravity Tavern

Best Wine List (Restaurant)

Naples

See Best Italian in the Food section.

Runners Up: Bistro by the Tracks, cru bistro & wine bar, oodles uncorked

Best Neighborhood Bar/Pub

Central Flats & Taps

See Best New Restaurant in the Food section

Runners Up: Bearden Beer Market, Downtown Grill & Brewery, Preservation Pub

Best Liquor Store

Best Wine Store

Bob's Package Store

So, it turns out a package store is not just a package store, not when it's Bob's. It's plainly pleasant, and educational, to stroll through the wide aisles and well-lit displays tended by friendly sales staff who can make a suggestion or nod and leave you to browse, that's up to you. They've got lots of liquor and just as much wine, organized within an inch of its life, right down to the lavishly stocked shelves of mini-bottles. Who else has a whole section of organic or kosher wine, or at least a dozen vermouths all cuddled together? "Bob's Weekly Specials" pepper the store, and they are very special prices, on things you really want, like Cuervo Gold and Cook's champagne, and things you didn't realize you wanted, like flavored vodkas and nifty whiskeys. There is a Bob, and he works there, and also Bob W., the wine manager, who slings some specials of his own, along with notes from Wine Spectator and multitudinous other rankings, and hand-lettered signs like, "If you think you don't like Cabernet, don't give up till you've tried this one." The same thought could be applied to Bob's—it's actually fun to shop there, even if you leave empty-handed, or only take a couple of empty bottle boxes home. (R.K.)

Best Liquor Store Runners Up: Farragut Wine & Spirits, McScrooge's Wines & Spirits, Toddy's

Best Wine Store Runners Up: Ashe's Wine & Spirits, Downtown Wine & Spirits, McScrooge's Wines & Spirits

Best Knoxville-Brewed Beer

Saw Works Brewery

When the former Marble City Brewing Company was trying to get off the ground, it seemed like nothing was going right. There was a lawsuit over the name, there were quality control issues—owners Adam Palmer and Johnathan Borsodi couldn't catch a break.

Two years later, a lot has changed. Marble City is now Saw Works. There's a new head brewer, Dave Ohmer, and his seasonal creations are garnering rave reviews. (This winter's Double Chocolate Porter sold out as fast as the brewery could make it.) Sales have improved so dramatically, the company is investing in more equipment and staff to keep up with demand. And even bigger things—much bigger things—are on the horizon, although we can't tell you about them quite yet.

There are a couple more breweries scheduled to open this year in the Knoxville vicinity. Here's hoping they all have the same success as Saw Works. (C.W.G.)

Runners Up: Downtown Grill & Brewery, Legit Brew, Smoky Mountain Brewery

Best Beer Market

Bearden Beer Market

On a warm, sunny spring afternoon, there are few better places to be in Knoxville than the Bearden Beer Market. (It's even better if you can make it when you're still supposed to be at work.) This spacious yet cozy beer garden is tucked just off of Kingston Pike but feels like a bucolic retreat in some hip mountain town like Asheville or Boulder, Colo. But it's more than just a drinking oasis; the market, staffed by some of the city's best-informed beer slingers, stocks craft-brew staples as well as a surprising rotation of beers from around the country. (M.E.)

Runners Up: The Casual Pint, Three Rivers Market, Vic's Beer Store

Best Sports Bar

Rooster's Sports Bar

Runners Up: Bailey's Sports Grille, Soccer Taco, Wild Wing Cafe

Best Bartender

Amie Snyder at Sapphire

Runners Up: Ashley Caruso at Urban Bar, Cara Courtney at the Casual Pint, Gina Truitt at the Well

Back to the full list of Best of Knoxville 2013 winners!


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