At Central Flats and Taps, fresh, local food and an extensive beer selection have earmarked the company as one of Knoxville's most up-and-coming venues on the restaurant scene.
"We have an amazing vibe here," said manager Zack Klappich. "We're a neighborhood bar and restaurant, not a young college or corporate bar. I know 70 percent of the people here eating here right now. People who come here once always come back."
Sandwiched between North Knoxville's Relix Variety Theatre and Raven Records, Central Flats and Taps opened almost two years ago. Since their opening, they have developed a niche following which enabled the business to take the gold for "Best New Restaurant" and "Best Neighborhood Bar" as well as runner up for "Best Patio" and "Best Happy Hour" in Metro Pulse's 2012 competition.
Klappich, a UT graduate with degrees in philosophy and women's studies, cites the freshness of ingredients as one of the reasons customers consistently return for more.
"People come here and are blown away by the food," he said. "Most of our produce is local and we use the most quality cuts of meat. We make our own cheese blend and our own sauces and we use only high-end Naan bread. It makes a huge difference in just how the food comes out."
The menu at Central Flats and Taps includes black bean hummus, sun dried tomato dip, crab artichoke dip, salads and paninis.
Sandwiches are filled with fresh ingredients, including artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, portobello mushrooms, pork belly, avocado and herbs. The cheese list is extensive with everything from smoked Gouda to mozzarella to Pecorino Romano.
Quality and unconventional cuisine alone is not enough to keep bar-goers coming back, however. Central Flats and Taps has developed a reputation for their extensive beer selection and surprisingly competitive pricing, according to Klappich.
"While I was at UT, I would go to the brewery or go to the strip and beer was cheap, but it was garbage beer," Klappich said. "What I've found is the younger crowd comes here and sees that all our beer is pretty much $4, which can be a lot for some kids. But then they realize we have great beers."
With 26 brews on tap and nearly 60 bottled, there is something for a wide range of taste buds.
"All of our high gravities that we'll do for $4 to $5, you'd get at Suttree's for $7 to $12," he said. "The liquor is also good. We don't even keep college garbage like Kentucky Gentleman. Even our well is things like Jim Bean, Pinnacle and Bombay."
Hostess Emily Centko, senior in English literature, said she believes that the restaurant's ambiance is another considerable draw.
"It's nice because it combines the atmosphere of an eating place with that of a drinking place," Centko said. "At a lot of places, it's usually one or the other. It's a good synthesis of food and alcohol, plus it's relaxed and comfortable. There are two bars and a patio so you can sit inside or go outside."
Central Flats and Taps keeps their entertainment and event agenda full, as well. This weekend, that consists of the Happy Hollerpalooza Street Fair.
"This area, Happy Holler, is a historic neighborhood that's been pretty much the same for 150 years," Klappich said. "Hollerpalooza is a neighborhood festival that's a lot of fun and brings together a lot of the North Knox neighborhoods. It's all local businesses, local artists, local everything.
"We do great business, but it's more than that. It's nice to be a part of something that's been going on for seemingly forever."
Central Flats and Taps hosts trivia every Wednesday nights and all day happy hour every Sunday. No matter what day of the week you pay your visit, Klappich said he is convinced customers will like what they see.
"We try to keep everything quality, from liquor to food to service," Klappich said. "Everything here is good."