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What makes a good bar great? A bartender who can juggle pint glasses? The physical bar itself? Happy Hour specials? At Jig and Reel, I would say it’s the overall essence that makes it so unique. Just as scotch is one of those special spirits that manages to distill the essence of Scotland into a bottle, Jig and Reel has managed to capture the spirit of the Old City into a bar.
"I love the fast-paced environment as well as the cozy, comfortable, know-your-neighbor environment."
Right on the corner of Central Street and Jackson Ave, Boyd’s Jig and Reel has become a downtown staple since it opened back in 2011 by its namesakes, Randy and Jenny Boyd. During a trip to Scotland, the two fell in love with Scottish pubs and the tradition of musicians just stopping by for impromptu jam sessions. As a fiddle player herself, Jenny wanted a place to play like that in Knoxville – so after purchasing the old Manhattan’s building, they made that dream come true.
Randy and Jenny believe that the heritage of a place can be preserved and passed on through its music. This belief helped shape the bar’s mission (yes, a bar with a mission statement!) to “celebrate and preserve the regions’ musical heritage by playing the tunes and passing them on from musician to musician.”
When you walk in, you immediately feel the genuine down-home ambiance. It’s cozy and unpretentious. As the kids would say, it’s a vibe. The main bar area has comfortable booths, a fireplace, and beautifully displays one of the largest scotch selections in the world. After talking to the Bar Manager, George Talley, I learned they are currently housing nearly 800 scotches, including their blends, with the majority being single malt (or as Ron Swanson from Parks and Rec would say, the nectar of the gods).
If you’re like me and know more about Ron Swanson quotes than actual scotch or whisky, fear not! Jig and Reel offers a full bar and doesn’t play second fiddle to anyone when it comes to regular music sessions. There is live music five days a week- hosting everything from Old Time Jam sessions to regular Irish, Scottish, and Celtic Jam sessions throughout the month. Fun Fact: the instruments hanging up in the stage room aren’t just there for decoration. Anyone can grab a guitar, fiddle, or banjo right off the wall and join in on the fun. Anyone. Seriously, how many bars do you know that have this option? This is a musician’s paradise.
It’s exactly that spirit of community Gina Truitt, general manager of Boyd’s Jig and Reel, loves. “I love the community that we have. I love the live music aspect. I love the fast-paced environment as well as the cozy, comfortable, know-your-neighbor environment. And I like being able to be in a place that likes to do things that benefit the community.”
Not only is Jig and Reel a comfortable pub atmosphere – they’ve also been a host to tons of local and national acts while participating as a venue in the past for the beloved Big Ears Music Festival, Rhythm ‘N Blooms, and WDVX’s Weekly Live Radio Show. Just as their logo states, Jig and Reel is truly a musical pub whose main mission is sharing music that highlights the region’s Appalachian culture with the community.
In addition to good drinks and music, you may also be surprised to learn they have a full menu of traditional Scottish fare including bangers and mash, haggis, and scotch eggs. Best part? All this delicious comfort food will be served to you by staff wearing traditional kilts. While I was there, I had one of their most popular items, the fish and chips, and it did not disappoint. Pro-Tip: They are also one of the only places downtown that offers a full late-night menu.
So, the next time you want to get Jig-gy with it (please excuse my millennial Will Smith reference), head to Boyd’s Jig and Reel for good music, good food, and all the good vibes.
Publish date: 11 May.
Images by: Emilie Stooksbury
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