I hadn’t seen the elder Grub Sprout in a minute, so The Grub Spouse and I met him for dinner last week at Tap 40 Grill, a Powell sports bar owned by former UT football player Billy Ratliff. It just so happened that the restaurant was a short drive from The Sprout’s North Knoxville residence. The young lady who turned out to be our server greeted us at the door and escorted us to a table in the main dining room.
Tap 40 fulfills its sports-bar mission in every sense, from the abundance of TV screens displaying a wide range of sporting events to the pool table and dart boards to the pub-grub menu. The appetizers offer no surprises — everything from giant pretzels and fried pickles to fried cheese curds and nachos.
We didn’t go with any of those items, but we did decide to try some chicken wings and thighs, which we had intended to function as an appetizer. We ordered a pound of parts and chose the garlic Parmesan sauce from among their selection of eight house-made varieties. Five different dry rubs are available as well. All wing orders come with fries, and our server offered celery and both ranch and blue cheese dressings as additional accoutrements. We said yes to all.
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The Sprout tried one of the main entrees, a chicken quesadilla, which came with fries. Other main dishes include chicken tenders and catfish with chips. They also have a modest collection of pizza and calzone creations, including the Carnivore and the Hornbuckle — pesto, tomatoes, extra mozzarella, feta cheese and a balsamic glaze.
The Spouse and I both ordered from the burger and sandwich section. My first choice was an item called The Beast, a burger made with a half-pound blend of ground elk, bison, wagyu beef and wild boar. However, our server informed me that this item had recently been discontinued, much to my disappointment. In fact, she said, many items on the current menu are being phased out as new ones are being introduced.
My backup plan was Billy’s Big Club Sandwich ($14.75). It’s a textbook club, made with ham, turkey, bacon and smoked cheddar cheese on toasted wheat berry bread. Lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle are also available. I asked for the works and chose tater tots as my side. Finally, The Spouse went with the Appalachian Cheese Steak ($13.75), a Tennessee take on a classic Philly, featuring grilled steak, onions and smoked cheddar on a hoagie bun. The Spouse asked for onion rings as the included side.
Our server was very helpful throughout our entire meal. She did an excellent job of answering all our questions and helping us navigate the menu, particularly when it came to sorting out items that were no longer available. The only hiccup in the proceedings was that our wings were not served early as an appetizer. And that was possibly due to the fact that I may not have actually specified that we wanted them delivered first.
We had noticed when we were seated that the table tops in the dining area were unusually large, but we were grateful for all that extra real estate once the food started shuttling out from the kitchen. Between the wings and our three meals and all the various side items and condiments, we had quite a spread in front of us as we dug in.
None of our selections were game-changers in any sense, but it was all serviceable sports-bar fare. The wings were meaty, and the different notes in the garlic Parmesan sauce were distinctive. The quesadilla was a no-frills presentation, but between the built-in chicken and cheese and the sour cream The Sprout added as a topping, it was enjoyable enough.
The Spouse’s cheese steak sandwich was loaded down with meat, and the flavor was true to what I would have expected from this sandwich staple. The bun was fresh and soft, but I have to admit I was more interested in the onion rings. These batter-dipped rings were hot, juicy and lots of fun to munch on.
My club sandwich was a monster, so much so that even after removing the middle of the three slices of bread, I could still barely manage to get my mouth around a full bite. This stack of a meal was everything a club should be except for the bread being overtoasted, in my opinion. It was crispy and brittle. I like my club toast to be a little firm and crusty on the outside but still have some sponginess left in the middle. My tots (as well as both fry sides) were fine but not noteworthy in any way.
We passed on dessert, but current menu postings indicate that store-bought cheesecake is typical of what’s in store. But overall, the food at Tap 40 Grill does the job. The place offers a laid-back sports-bar atmosphere, and the service we experienced was commendable. Those who live in the Powell/North Knoxville ZIP Codes should find it to be worth the stop.
Tap 40 Grill
Address: 7535 Conner Rd., Powell
full bar service
Hours: 2 to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; 1 p.m. to 1 a.m. Fridays; 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Saturdays; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays
This Powell dining/drinking spot offers a complete sports-bar experience, from the food and libations to on- and off-screen competition.