Central Avenue’s Happy Holler district is now even happier. Located at 1204 N. Central, Central Flats & Taps is the newest addition to the strip of North Knoxville businesses that now includes Relix, Raven Records, Club XYZ and The Time Warp Tea Room. While there is always plenty to do in the up-and-coming neighborhood, serious food has been tricky to come by, especially since the closing of Veg-o-Rama. Central Flats & Taps fills the restaurant void with aplomb.
Those who recall the space when it housed Veg-o-Rama will be surprised at the transformation. What used to be a quiet, pretty cafe is now a pub-style bar and restaurant with big, sociable wooden tables, neon signs, and a bustling crowd of college students and North Knoxville neighborhood folks. on warm days, the patio is just as full. In fact, Central Flats & Taps is staying so busy that they’re expanding into the space next door.
The “flats” in the restaurant’s name are flatbreads, and they’re the centerpiece of Central Flats & Taps’ menu. Thin, but with a soft texture, the flats resemble Indian naan bread, and the restaurant tops them, much like pizzas, with their own inventive combinations of fresh, local ingredients. The simple Formaggio & Herb Flat is tasty even without meat or vegetable toppings — probably because it uses fresh herbs, herb-infused olive oil, and five kinds of cheese (not mediocre cheeses, either — the good stuff, like Gouda and Pecorino).
The wings at Central Flats & Taps rival those at places famous for them. The secret? They’re slow baked, not fried, which brings out the flavor, while keeping the meat tender. Both the rubbed and sauced versions are exceptional. The menu warns that they take time to prepare, but they always seem to be served speedily, even on busy nights.
Other appetizers on offer include a variety of house-made dips, both hot and cool, a far cry from the standard, tasteless, fake cheese goop served elsewhere. Rounding out the menu are sandwiches and salads, all made fresh with flavorful local produce. The difference is one you can taste. Try an appetizer sampler and get a taste of three different dips before deciding on a favorite — if you can.
The beer list is a good one — the “taps” deserving their place in the restaurants name as much as the flats. Beers on tap include locally-brewed favorites like Saw Works, a selection of seasonal beers, and even a hard cider. Bottled beers run the gamut too. Check out the full beer list, or be brave and order a beautifully bitter Hopsecutioner, served in a hefty snifter. You can also find a full bar, an assortment of wines, and some clever signature cocktails.
So, is Central Flats & Taps a bar or a restaurant? The answer it seems, is that the hot spot is a bar, but with something few bars have: really, really good food.
Examiner-recommended menu items:
Crazy Cajun – Flatbread topped with bleu cheese cream sauce and Cajun chicken, red onions and finished off with feta and blue cheese crumbles. (Try it doused with Cholula — there’s a bottle on every table.)
Sriracha Chicken Wings – Slow-baked chicken wings sauced with sriracha. Not as hot as you would expect, but with a slightly sweet, flavorful heat.
East of Cali – A simple sandwich made exceptional by the use of exceptional ingredients: free range turkey breast, smoked gouda cheese, red onion, and fresh avocado. Served with pesto basil mayo.
Greek Salad – A generously-topped salad with marinated baked chicken breast, kalamata olives, red onions, and Feta. Try any of the salads just for the chance to try some housemade Bacon Fat Ranch Dressing or the tahini-tinged Aphrodite Dressing.
Crab-Artichoke Dip – A bubbling hot crock of crab, artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes and real cheese.
Hours and menu at Central Flats & Taps