We had come out of the North Carolina side of the Great Smoky Mountains on our vacation there last year and were headed to Nashville, TN for a couple of days. We got near Knoxville around lunch time and decided we'd stop for a bite to eat. The only problem is that we really didn't know where to go to. My wife suggested that we look up to see if there were any brewpubs in the city. A quick search showed that there was a place called the Blackhorse Pub & Brewery on the west side of Knoxville. We put the address into the GPS and within no time we pulled up to the Blackhorse Pub.
The history of the Blackhorse Pub dates back to the early 90's when Army veteran Jeff Robinson and his wife, Sherri, opened a small brewpub called Franklin St. Pub in Clarksville, TN not far from where he was stationed as a helicopter pilot at Fort Campbell. In 1995, the space next door opened up and they knocked down the wall and reopened as the Blackhorse Pub and Brewery.
Sherry Robinson had grown up in Knoxville and the couple had met at the University of Tennessee before Jeff went into the Army. They saw a need for a brew pub in Knoxville and they opened up a second location in the Western Plaza shopping complex in 1998.
Exactly 17 years ago today, a freak January tornado hit Clarksville with winds of over 200 miles an hour. It tore the roof off the Blackhorse Pub and effectively shut down that business. Because most of their attention was focused on getting the original location reopened after the storm, the Robinson's could not concentrate on the Knoxville location like they wanted. When their lease came up 4 years after they opened, they decided to relinquish the spot to another restaurant that wanted to move in.
The corner spot that housed the Knoxville location for Blackhorse Pub then became sort of a bad luck charm for restaurants. Since the Robinson's left in 2002, no less than four restaurants came and went in the location. The Robinson's always regretted leaving Knoxville and when the Sequoyah Grill closed in 2012, a friend of Jeff Robinson sent him the newspaper article on the closing and include a note that said that he could "fix his mistake" that they made by leaving Knoxville 10 years prior.
The biggest worry the Robinson's had was that people would come back into the original location, take a look around and say that it was the "same old brewpub". To counter that mentality, the Robinson's gutted the place and came up with a completely new floor plan. They also built a functioning grain bin in front of the place as sort of their beacon to people trying to find the place. Because of larger tank capacities in Knoxville, they decided to focus more of the brewing there, hoping to become a regional brewery. (They began to offer their beers in bottles in 2014. And they continue to brew beer in Clarksville.)
The second incarnation of the Blackhorse Pub and Brewery in Knoxville was a huge success. In fact, they may have already outgrown the spot as they have been making noise that they need more room for their brewing operation. The company that owns the shopping center the Blackhorse Pub is located in doesn't really want them to expand with more fermenting tanks on the spot. While they won't confirm that they're looking for a new spot that will allow them expand their beer production in Knoxville, word is that the Robinson's are truly looking for options.
The Blackhorse Pub and Brewery is located on Kingston Pike in west Knoxville. (see map) As I said, it's part of the Western Plaza shopping center and you can't really see it in the street. We knew we were in the area and pulled into the shopping center's parking lot and just drove around for a bit. Back in the NE corner of the complex, we saw the large silver grain silo with the Blackhorse Pub logo on it.
Walking in to the place, we found a very nice bar area. It had a lower ceiling with a copper color to it, a nice back bar area and Edison lights hung from the front of the bar ceiling over the bar, itself. It was a nice place to belly up to.
The brew pub had a nice outdoor seating area with wire table and chairs, a couple of step-up decks with small trees providing a bit of shade in the area. It had been raining off and on during our trip into Knoxville and it was too damp to open up the patio for lunch.
We took a seat at a table next to a wall of windows that looked out into the patio. We were given menus by the hostess and our server, Erin, stopped by shortly after that to check in with us. I got one of their pale ale's they brew on site, while Cindy got the White India Pale Ale. We exchanged drinks when we got the beers and we both agreed that the White IPA was the better of the two. When it was time to get a second beer, I signed up for one of those.
The menu at Blackhorse Pub was similar to what one would find at other brew pubs. They had sandwiches and salads, shareable appetizer plates, flatbread and specialty pizzas. They had a handful of burgers on the menu, and the special that day for lunch was the classic burger basket with fries for $6.00.
I was looking at either getting a reuben sandwich or the prime rib sandwich until I looked over on the other side of the menu and saw that they had fish tacos. It featured three tacos filled with grilled mahi mahi, topped with a cabbage and tomato slaw, and finished with a Cajun tartar sauce. I had to have those. To my surprise it came with a black been and sweet corn mixture with rice. I would much rather have black beans than refried beans any day of the week.
Cindy went with the burger special, but she didn't want the fries to go with them. Erin told her that she could pick any of the other sides - such as sweet potato fries, onion rings, broccoli with almonds - for a $2.00 upcharge. Cindy got the mac & cheese. That turned out to be an excellent choice.
Cindy's burger was cooked a perfect medium with a hint of pink in the middle. It was topped with a slice of American cheese, and came with tomato slices and leaves of lettuce. The bun was light and spongy. She said it was a great burger. I was sort of jealous that she got the burger.
But it turned out that the fish tacos were very good on their own. The grilled mahi was not fishy smelling at all, the cabbage slaw was fresh and crispy, and the taco shells were sort of crispy, yet pliable. I added some of the black beans, corn and rice to the tacos and ate them like that. As good as Cindy's burger looked, I couldn't complain about the fish tacos in the least.
The mac & cheese, however, was the winner on her plate. It looked like it had three different types of cheese mixed in with the macaroni noodles. She gave me a bit and I have to say the mac & cheese was simply outstanding. The mac & cheese would have been a great lunch just by itself.
We're glad we found the Blackhorse Pub in Knoxville. Actually, it was sort of tough to find if you've never been there before, but once we did go in to the place we were more than happy with our meals, the quality of the beer and the level of service we received. It would have been nice to sit outside on the patio, but the damp day sort of put a kibosh on that. Still, the ambiance of the place was comfortable. Good beer, good food, good service - we were more than happy with our visit to the Blackhorse Pub.