Things I Love About Knoxville #9 - The Fruit and Berry Patch
Located in Halls just a mile or so off of Emory Road, my family has been enjoying The Fruit and Berry Patch for several years now.   Just yesterday we picked 5 pounds of the most beautiful and delicious strawberries you’ve ever seen (Claire is eating the merchandise in the above picture).   
At various times in the spring and summer months, you’ll be able to find fresh strawberries, peaches, blackberries, blueberries, apples, pumpkins, and more.    We try to go a minimum of twice a year (strawberries in the spring, apples in the fall) but we’re going to try to get some blueberries this year too.   
If you’ve never been, you’ve got to check it out.   Stop in at the old barn when you pull in and they’ll give you a map of the property and tell you what’s in season.   From there you’re on your own.   The whole place is on the honor system… you pick what you want in buckets, bring it back to the shop and they’ll weigh it for you and then you pay.   Their prices are really great.   A giant bucket of 5lbs of strawberries only set us back $10 which is way, way, way below grocery store prices for a much better product (fresh AND local… can’t beat that). 
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention 2 other great reasons to visit.   First, you’ve got to stop by and visit the goats.   The kids love feeding the goats rotten fruit and grass through the fence.  Well, Connor does… Claire will get sort of close but when the more aggressive goats start climbing the fence, she’s convinced that their only ambition at that point is to eat her.   The second thing… they have the most delicious fruit pies you’ve ever had.   In the barn where you get your buckets and where you pay, look over to your left and help yourself to one of those amazing warm pockets of goodness.  I recommend the apple but the blackberry is great too.  
I’m so glad to see a place like this succeed.   It’s a really fun place to take the kids… we always make an afternoon of it.    You can look them up online right here. 

Things I Love About Knoxville #9 - The Fruit and Berry Patch

Located in Halls just a mile or so off of Emory Road, my family has been enjoying The Fruit and Berry Patch for several years now.   Just yesterday we picked 5 pounds of the most beautiful and delicious strawberries you’ve ever seen (Claire is eating the merchandise in the above picture).   

At various times in the spring and summer months, you’ll be able to find fresh strawberries, peaches, blackberries, blueberries, apples, pumpkins, and more.    We try to go a minimum of twice a year (strawberries in the spring, apples in the fall) but we’re going to try to get some blueberries this year too.   

If you’ve never been, you’ve got to check it out.   Stop in at the old barn when you pull in and they’ll give you a map of the property and tell you what’s in season.   From there you’re on your own.   The whole place is on the honor system… you pick what you want in buckets, bring it back to the shop and they’ll weigh it for you and then you pay.   Their prices are really great.   A giant bucket of 5lbs of strawberries only set us back $10 which is way, way, way below grocery store prices for a much better product (fresh AND local… can’t beat that). 

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention 2 other great reasons to visit.   First, you’ve got to stop by and visit the goats.   The kids love feeding the goats rotten fruit and grass through the fence.  Well, Connor does… Claire will get sort of close but when the more aggressive goats start climbing the fence, she’s convinced that their only ambition at that point is to eat her.   The second thing… they have the most delicious fruit pies you’ve ever had.   In the barn where you get your buckets and where you pay, look over to your left and help yourself to one of those amazing warm pockets of goodness.  I recommend the apple but the blackberry is great too.  

I’m so glad to see a place like this succeed.   It’s a really fun place to take the kids… we always make an afternoon of it.    You can look them up online right here. 


Things I Love About Knoxville #8 - Glass Bottle Soft Drinks at the Mast General Store
When asked where is the best place in town to get a cold drink, I suppose most people would give the name of their favorite spot to get a cold beer on tap.    Most people would be wrong.   
The best spot to grab an ice cold drink in Knoxville is in the back corner of the Mast General Store on Gay street.   Lift the beat up old lid to the cooler and you’ll be taken back to a different world where Coke, Dr. Pepper, and Mountain Dew still come in glass bottles.   
Truth be told, I’ve never had any of those drinks.   My first choice is usually Cheerwine (Ch-Ch-Ch-Cheerwine… you really gotta try it… Ch-Ch-Ch-Cheerwine… original or diet!) for two reasons… (a) it’s totally delicious and (b) in a glass bottle it’s extra-totally-delicious.   
They also carry several really good root beers, creme sodas, ginger ales, and even sarsaparilla soda (which I’ve not tried).   The highlight of that bunch and something you MUST try if you haven’t is Blenheim Ginger Ale.  It comes in three varieties… diet, mild, and HOT.   You want to go with the hot… it goes down smooth and delicious but then there’s a spicy, ginger flavored heat that follows.  I won’t lie… this stuff will light you up, but it is delicious and really unique.   I let Connor try it and at first he hated it (freaked him out) but then he wanted another sip.   That’s my boy.  
There is a lot to love about the Mast General Store… the candy, the toys, the apple butter, the rocking chairs, and the hardwood floors, but the glass bottles in the back of the store are what keep me coming back.  Most are only $1.00… a few are $1.25.   

Root beer and a rocking chair on a Saturday afternoon.   

Things I Love About Knoxville #8 - Glass Bottle Soft Drinks at the Mast General Store

When asked where is the best place in town to get a cold drink, I suppose most people would give the name of their favorite spot to get a cold beer on tap.    Most people would be wrong.   

The best spot to grab an ice cold drink in Knoxville is in the back corner of the Mast General Store on Gay street.   Lift the beat up old lid to the cooler and you’ll be taken back to a different world where Coke, Dr. Pepper, and Mountain Dew still come in glass bottles.   

Truth be told, I’ve never had any of those drinks.   My first choice is usually Cheerwine (Ch-Ch-Ch-Cheerwine… you really gotta try it… Ch-Ch-Ch-Cheerwine… original or diet!) for two reasons… (a) it’s totally delicious and (b) in a glass bottle it’s extra-totally-delicious.   

They also carry several really good root beers, creme sodas, ginger ales, and even sarsaparilla soda (which I’ve not tried).   The highlight of that bunch and something you MUST try if you haven’t is Blenheim Ginger Ale.  It comes in three varieties… diet, mild, and HOT.   You want to go with the hot… it goes down smooth and delicious but then there’s a spicy, ginger flavored heat that follows.  I won’t lie… this stuff will light you up, but it is delicious and really unique.   I let Connor try it and at first he hated it (freaked him out) but then he wanted another sip.   That’s my boy.  

There is a lot to love about the Mast General Store… the candy, the toys, the apple butter, the rocking chairs, and the hardwood floors, but the glass bottles in the back of the store are what keep me coming back.  Most are only $1.00… a few are $1.25.   

Root beer and a rocking chair on a Saturday afternoon.   


Things I Love About Knoxville #7 - Pizza Palace

The Pizza Palace has been rockin Magnolia Avenue for over fifty years now and just this past weekend I ate there for the first time since I was a little kid.   Oh my.   Why did I wait so long???

If you’ve never been, Pizza Palace is an Italian drive-in.   You read that right… the guy in the truck to our right was chowing down on a massive bowl of spaghetti right there in the front seat of his Ford F-150.    The folks in the Nissan Sentra on our left had a large pizza balancing precariously on their dashboard.   As for our family, the kids climbed over the seats and had a pizza picnic in the back while Jessica and I enjoyed a greek salad, lasagna, and onion rings in the front.   

The food is just fantastic.   You’ve GOT to try the lasagna… maybe the best I’ve ever had and the greek salad was amazing also.   The kids raved about the pizza and from the one slice of cheese they saved me, I can’t argue.   

There’s not too much to say that isn’t covered in the video.   We’re big fans of “Diners Drive-Ins and Dives” so when we found out Pizza Palace was the only area restaurant ever featured on that show, we had to check it out.   For another great review, check out my friend Kris’ blog.



Things I Love About Knoxville #6 - Knoxville Botanical Gardens

Even though I’ve lived in Knoxville for every one of my 35 years, this city is still capable of surprising me.   I had never even heard of the Knoxville Botanical Gardens four months ago.   Then my friend Bill Wolf invited me to play in his band for a Good Friday concert and the venue was the botanical gardens.   I couldn’t believe I had never heard of this place… it blew me away.   Incredible stone work is everywhere… the greenhouse looks like it would be an incredible place to have an evening wedding… really old trees are everywhere… it’s just a really cool place to walk around.   How did I miss this place all these years?  

The gardens are remarkable as much for their beauty as they are for their unexpected location.  The gardens are actually really close to Chandler’s deli, just a couple of blocks off of Magnolia Avenue.  The area surrounding the gardens is densely populated and very urban… it’s definitely not where you would usually expect to find 44 acres of nearly untouched natural beauty.  The piece of property was originally founded as the Howell family nursery in 1786.   Seriously.   224 years ago.   

If you want to find out a whole lot more about the Knoxville Botanical Gardens, you should check out their website.  

The above pictures were all taken at the gardens… a few of them were taken in May and the rest were taken on Claire’s 3rd birthday in July.   If you’re looking for a place to take some great pictures or maybe a scenic spot for a family picnic, Knoxville Botanical Gardens should definitely be on your list.  


Things I Love About Knoxville #5 - Chandler’s Deli
If you held a gun to my head and forced me to choose my favorite Knoxville meal, most days I would pick Chandler’s Deli.   Bring me one pork rib, a rotisserie chicken thigh, some macaroni and cheese, and a roll and I’m one happy man.  
Chandler’s is one of those places that most people have never heard of but once they go, they usually go back and bring a friend.   

If you’re the type of person who needs a place to look like it’s in Turkey Creek before you’ll eat there, Chandler’s might be a little bit intimidating for you.   It’s in a rough neighborhood.   It’s in an abandoned Taco Bell.   It isn’t much to look at, that’s for sure.   Don’t quit on me just yet though… you have to go inside. 

Okay, so it’s not much to look at inside either… if that sort of thing is important to you, that’s okay… Chandler’s might not be for you.   But if you can put that aside for a minute and just step up to the counter, you will be rewarded with some of the finest food Knoxville has to offer.   

Everything is offered a la carte at Chandler’s.   My favorite is 1 pork rib, 1 rotisserie chicken breast, any one of a number of great sides (mac and cheese is awesome… sweet potatoes are the best ever… man it’s hard to choose!) and maybe a roll.    You can’t go wrong.  

Jesse suggests you try the greens.   I don’t even like greens and these are delicious.   Don’t ask me how much butter is used in this place… seriously, don’t ask.   
Do you want to know the very best thing about Chandler’s?   Your drink choices are soft drinks, sweet tea, and Kool-Aid.   OH YEAH!   This is straight-up real-deal Kool-Aid like your momma used to make… that means loads of real sugar.   It’s always cherry because everyone knows that cherry Kool-Aid is the best.
I know some of you are still shaking your heads saying “no way” but trust me.   Trust Me.   TRUST ME.   Best chicken in town… best ribs in town… best sides in town… and definitely the best Kool-Aid in town.  If you’ve never been, you are absolutely missing out.   

Things I Love About Knoxville #5 - Chandler’s Deli

If you held a gun to my head and forced me to choose my favorite Knoxville meal, most days I would pick Chandler’s Deli.   Bring me one pork rib, a rotisserie chicken thigh, some macaroni and cheese, and a roll and I’m one happy man.  

Chandler’s is one of those places that most people have never heard of but once they go, they usually go back and bring a friend.   

If you’re the type of person who needs a place to look like it’s in Turkey Creek before you’ll eat there, Chandler’s might be a little bit intimidating for you.   It’s in a rough neighborhood.   It’s in an abandoned Taco Bell.   It isn’t much to look at, that’s for sure.   Don’t quit on me just yet though… you have to go inside. 

Okay, so it’s not much to look at inside either… if that sort of thing is important to you, that’s okay… Chandler’s might not be for you.   But if you can put that aside for a minute and just step up to the counter, you will be rewarded with some of the finest food Knoxville has to offer.   

Everything is offered a la carte at Chandler’s.   My favorite is 1 pork rib, 1 rotisserie chicken breast, any one of a number of great sides (mac and cheese is awesome… sweet potatoes are the best ever… man it’s hard to choose!) and maybe a roll.    You can’t go wrong.  

Jesse suggests you try the greens.   I don’t even like greens and these are delicious.   Don’t ask me how much butter is used in this place… seriously, don’t ask.   

Do you want to know the very best thing about Chandler’s?   Your drink choices are soft drinks, sweet tea, and Kool-Aid.   OH YEAH!   This is straight-up real-deal Kool-Aid like your momma used to make… that means loads of real sugar.   It’s always cherry because everyone knows that cherry Kool-Aid is the best.

I know some of you are still shaking your heads saying “no way” but trust me.   Trust Me.   TRUST ME.   Best chicken in town… best ribs in town… best sides in town… and definitely the best Kool-Aid in town.  If you’ve never been, you are absolutely missing out.   


Things I Love About Knoxville #4 - The Airplane Gas Station
If you’ve never seen this, it sits on Clinton Highway just up the hill from Walmart on the left.   At one point many years ago, this was a functional filling station.   It closed down and slowly began to fall apart but some folks in the community are working hard now at restoring it.   This is a more recent picture of it.    I have no idea if there are any plans to reopen it but I sure hope they do… it’s just one of those cool little things that make you fall in love with a place.    

Things I Love About Knoxville #4 - The Airplane Gas Station

If you’ve never seen this, it sits on Clinton Highway just up the hill from Walmart on the left.   At one point many years ago, this was a functional filling station.   It closed down and slowly began to fall apart but some folks in the community are working hard now at restoring it.   This is a more recent picture of it.    I have no idea if there are any plans to reopen it but I sure hope they do… it’s just one of those cool little things that make you fall in love with a place.    


Things I Love About Knoxville #3 - The Little Caesar’s Shakerboard Girl on Cedar Bluff Road

I told you this list would be random and I’m not sure it can get more random than this but seriously, have you guys seen this girl?   I’ve seen her a few different times and just about wrecked each time from laughter.   In some small way though, I find her inspiring… I mean, if she can get this excited about a $5.00 hot and ready pizza, maybe there are some things I need to be more excited about in my own life.   


Things I Love About Knoxville #2 - Ciderville Music
This place is the dad-gum real deal now, let me tell you folks.   If you are into bluegrass music, I’m sure you’re already aware of Ciderville and have probably been there before but if you’re a West Knox Rocker, you might think that Guitar Center is all this town has to offer in the realm of musical instruments.  
Ciderville music opened in 1958 on Clinton Highway just outside of Powell and has been there in that same location ever since.   From the outside, it’s a rundown looking shack of a music store… when they’re closed it almost looks abandoned.   On the inside it’s a different story.    Every wall is lined with acoustic guitars, banjos, mandolins, fiddles, and as their website says “electric guitars for the city folk”.   The walls are covered with old posters, street signs, license plates, and other bits of nostalgia.    We’ve all been in places that look like this except most of the nostalgia is manufactured… it’s just made to look old (think Mast General store maybe) but Ciderville is the straight-up real deal.   The nostalgic signage isn’t a gimmick… it’s living history.    Music seeps out of the walls… I think I become a better guitar player just walking through the doors. 
Saturday nights at Ciderville have always featured bluegrass concerts and singalongs.   Knoxville icon Cas Walker used to be a regular here and an incredible list of country and bluegrass royalty have been through their doors.   
I’ve been in there just on a random weekday afternoon and seen impromptu jam sessions begin just among customers.   I’ve never seen 4 random punk kids launch into an impromptu “Enter Sandman” down at the Guitar Center.   
If you’re in the market for an acoustic instrument, you owe it to yourself to check out Ciderville.    You’ll be supporting local music and they have a bunch of great instruments in all price ranges.   Humphammer’s is on the way so maybe grab a burger to go on your way there.  

Things I Love About Knoxville #2 - Ciderville Music

This place is the dad-gum real deal now, let me tell you folks.   If you are into bluegrass music, I’m sure you’re already aware of Ciderville and have probably been there before but if you’re a West Knox Rocker, you might think that Guitar Center is all this town has to offer in the realm of musical instruments.  

Ciderville music opened in 1958 on Clinton Highway just outside of Powell and has been there in that same location ever since.   From the outside, it’s a rundown looking shack of a music store… when they’re closed it almost looks abandoned.   On the inside it’s a different story.    Every wall is lined with acoustic guitars, banjos, mandolins, fiddles, and as their website says “electric guitars for the city folk”.   The walls are covered with old posters, street signs, license plates, and other bits of nostalgia.    We’ve all been in places that look like this except most of the nostalgia is manufactured… it’s just made to look old (think Mast General store maybe) but Ciderville is the straight-up real deal.   The nostalgic signage isn’t a gimmick… it’s living history.    Music seeps out of the walls… I think I become a better guitar player just walking through the doors. 

Saturday nights at Ciderville have always featured bluegrass concerts and singalongs.   Knoxville icon Cas Walker used to be a regular here and an incredible list of country and bluegrass royalty have been through their doors.   

I’ve been in there just on a random weekday afternoon and seen impromptu jam sessions begin just among customers.   I’ve never seen 4 random punk kids launch into an impromptu “Enter Sandman” down at the Guitar Center.   

If you’re in the market for an acoustic instrument, you owe it to yourself to check out Ciderville.    You’ll be supporting local music and they have a bunch of great instruments in all price ranges.   Humphammer’s is on the way so maybe grab a burger to go on your way there.  


Things I Love About Knoxville #1 - Humphammer’s Market
This begins a series of posts where I will share some of my favorite things about my hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee.   Some of them will be things everyone around here knows about and some of them will be a bit more obscure… and that definitely describes Humphammer’s Market. 
My first experience at Hump’s was sometime around 1998 when I was working at Lighthouse Christian Church.   I can’t remember exactly how I ended up going there for the first time but I’m pretty sure Jason and I went to check it out based on a recommendation from someone in the church.   If that’s wrong I’m sure Jason will correct me.   I ordered the Hump Burger and I’ve never looked back.   In fact, it’s the only thing I’ve ever ordered there. 
The burgers at Hump’s aren’t anything unusually special.   There are no bizarre ingredients or gut-busting portion sizes.   It’s just a good old-fashioned flat-top skillet made burger just like your granny used to make.   If you didn’t have a granny who made you burgers like that well, I feel sorry for you.   The fries that come with it are the krinkle variety and are always just the right kind of slightly crispy on the outside-soft on the inside that I like.   A hump burger, fries, and a coke can be had for under $5.00.   
Other than the Hump-burger (I hear the Hump-dogs are good too) my favorite thing about Hump’s is that it’s a gas station that doesn’t sell gas anymore.   It still has a convenience store in it but the gas station part of their business went under a couple of years ago.   Gas was $2.99 at the time and they haven’t bothered to change the sign.   There’s something I really like about eating in a gas station…. heck, it’s one of the reasons I moved to Powell from West Knoxville.   The working class lunch crowd at Humps is a lot more fun than the crowd you might find anywhere in Turkey Creek.   
If you’re ever in the Powell Area, turn left onto Clinton Highway from Emory Road and you’ll find Hump’s up ahead on your right.   Try the Hump-burger.  I wouldn’t do you wrong.   

Things I Love About Knoxville #1 - Humphammer’s Market

This begins a series of posts where I will share some of my favorite things about my hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee.   Some of them will be things everyone around here knows about and some of them will be a bit more obscure… and that definitely describes Humphammer’s Market. 

My first experience at Hump’s was sometime around 1998 when I was working at Lighthouse Christian Church.   I can’t remember exactly how I ended up going there for the first time but I’m pretty sure Jason and I went to check it out based on a recommendation from someone in the church.   If that’s wrong I’m sure Jason will correct me.   I ordered the Hump Burger and I’ve never looked back.   In fact, it’s the only thing I’ve ever ordered there. 

The burgers at Hump’s aren’t anything unusually special.   There are no bizarre ingredients or gut-busting portion sizes.   It’s just a good old-fashioned flat-top skillet made burger just like your granny used to make.   If you didn’t have a granny who made you burgers like that well, I feel sorry for you.   The fries that come with it are the krinkle variety and are always just the right kind of slightly crispy on the outside-soft on the inside that I like.   A hump burger, fries, and a coke can be had for under $5.00.   

Other than the Hump-burger (I hear the Hump-dogs are good too) my favorite thing about Hump’s is that it’s a gas station that doesn’t sell gas anymore.   It still has a convenience store in it but the gas station part of their business went under a couple of years ago.   Gas was $2.99 at the time and they haven’t bothered to change the sign.   There’s something I really like about eating in a gas station…. heck, it’s one of the reasons I moved to Powell from West Knoxville.   The working class lunch crowd at Humps is a lot more fun than the crowd you might find anywhere in Turkey Creek.   

If you’re ever in the Powell Area, turn left onto Clinton Highway from Emory Road and you’ll find Hump’s up ahead on your right.   Try the Hump-burger.  I wouldn’t do you wrong.   


New Series Starting Soon
I’ve always been a sucker for lists.   It probably all started when my dad started letting me stay up late in junior high to watch David Letterman.   Anyone who knew me then might remember my notebook full of top 10 lists, both ones I made up and ones copied from the Letterman show.   I also was a huge fan of the American Top 40 radio program.   “The hits get bigger as the numbers get smaller”… “Casey, could you please play Endless Love for Karin?”… “The number one song in the land is…”   Good times.  
Even now, if I come across “top 25 celebrities punching papparazi in the face” or “top 25 most outrageous dog grooming disasters” on cable, I get hooked.   I’m not sure what it is but lists suck me in. 
So, as part of the new blog, I’ll probably do a few things in handy list form.   The first series is called “Things I Love About Knoxville” (how’s that for a creative title?) and it will start in the next day or two.  
I’ve lived here in Knoxville, TN my whole life and I absolutely love it here.   I’ve traveled a lot and have seen a lot of great places, even a lot of other places where I would probably enjoy living, but I’ve yet to find a place that tops Knoxville.   I realize that a large part of my affinity for K-town spawns from nostalgia, comfort, and a long family history here.   Even still, Knoxville has a lot to offer… small town feel with big city amenities, low cost of living, close access to the mountains, plenty of lakes, great college sports, vibrant music scene, a vibrant downtown, and tons of great restaurants. 
Look for the first entry in the series later today or tomorrow.   If you have any suggestions for this series or maybe for other series I could do, post them in the comments.   

New Series Starting Soon

I’ve always been a sucker for lists.   It probably all started when my dad started letting me stay up late in junior high to watch David Letterman.   Anyone who knew me then might remember my notebook full of top 10 lists, both ones I made up and ones copied from the Letterman show.   I also was a huge fan of the American Top 40 radio program.   “The hits get bigger as the numbers get smaller”… “Casey, could you please play Endless Love for Karin?”… “The number one song in the land is…”   Good times.  

Even now, if I come across “top 25 celebrities punching papparazi in the face” or “top 25 most outrageous dog grooming disasters” on cable, I get hooked.   I’m not sure what it is but lists suck me in. 

So, as part of the new blog, I’ll probably do a few things in handy list form.   The first series is called “Things I Love About Knoxville” (how’s that for a creative title?) and it will start in the next day or two.  

I’ve lived here in Knoxville, TN my whole life and I absolutely love it here.   I’ve traveled a lot and have seen a lot of great places, even a lot of other places where I would probably enjoy living, but I’ve yet to find a place that tops Knoxville.   I realize that a large part of my affinity for K-town spawns from nostalgia, comfort, and a long family history here.   Even still, Knoxville has a lot to offer… small town feel with big city amenities, low cost of living, close access to the mountains, plenty of lakes, great college sports, vibrant music scene, a vibrant downtown, and tons of great restaurants. 

Look for the first entry in the series later today or tomorrow.   If you have any suggestions for this series or maybe for other series I could do, post them in the comments.