Being from Knox County, I remember when the downtown was a thriving business and cultural district. Miller's, Woodruff's, Grants, and Sears were all thriving department stores, with the Bijou and Tennessee theaters having the best of performances and movies. It was sad to watch Knoxville deteriorate and as we travelled and lived in other parts of the world, the demise of the downtown haunted us. It is with great joy and guarded enthusiasm that we have watched the rebirth of this great city.
Under a string of successful mayors and with much public investment of time and money, Knoxville has done the unthinkable: It has reinvented itself and preserved its historic past with consistent improvements to our downtown and historic districts. We enjoy the amenities of Knoxville and with this in mind we chose Knoxville for our recent anniversary weekend. The Crowne Plaza was our choice of accommodations and from check-in to check-out, the entire staff was excellent; in fact, from San Diego to New York we have not received better treatment from a staff so genuinely concerned with taking care of their guests.
The Sunday started with brunch at the Downtown Grill and Brewery, which was excellent, both in quality of food and in service and atmosphere. This was followed by a viewing of Miracle on 34th Street at the Tennessee Theatre; I am always impressed with the renovation of this wonderful facility and with the Mighty Wurlitzer. Our adult children had joined us for brunch and the movie and afterward returned to their homes. The rest of the time was ours. We perused the shops and enjoyed the lights, watched the ice skaters and reminisced on our December wedding. We had researched restaurants online and after a thorough lookover, ended up back at the Downtown Grill and Brewery. We had just walked in and were told of a 20-minute wait when another employee piped up that a table for two had just been vacated and we were promptly seated. After another wonderful meal we walked to Market Square, through the park and back to Gay Street to the Bistro at the Bijou for desert and coffee. We had often frequented the Bistro when we were dating and always enjoy going back. It was a delightful end to our evening and we returned to the Crowne Plaza to find a personal note from the staff hoping that we would enjoy our anniversary.
The second day was late breakfast/early lunch at Sangria's on Market Square. Absolutely excellent! Atmosphere, food, service, and price are unbeatable. We then explored the streets and stores, including several new venues which had been established since our last visit. Some last-minute Christmas purchases, and a few for ourselves, and we returned to our room to get ready for the actual anniversary dinner. The bell staff arranged for our taxi, Anthony and Jimmy, our drivers to and from the restaurant, were professional, sincere and entertaining. Dinner at Savelli's is a wonderful experience. The restaurant was crowded but we were seated promptly and our wine was uncorked, reservations are great. Our waitress was exceptionally knowledgeable and gracious. We were there for an enjoyable and relaxing anniversary dinner and the staff ensured that happened. The appetizers, soup, salad and entrée were excellent, and, oh what a desert! If you haven't been to Savelli's, you are missing out.
We returned to the Crowne and then walked through downtown again, wishing we had another night. In the morning prior to check-out we went in search of breakfast and were directed to the French Market. That is how omelets were intended to be prepared, and of course, another Christmas present was bought. We then checked out of the Crowne and began the return home.
Twenty years ago if someone had told me that a romantic anniversary, or any occasion, could be had in Knoxville I would have, sadly, laughed. But today Knoxville once again has a thriving downtown, with unique restaurants and shops, book stores and coffee houses that we will continue to frequent as often as possible. I encourage every one to make full use of the many treasures which are now part of downtown Knoxville.
Alan B. Watts